All is quiet and the room is still for the moment. I hear a faint beeping but I’m not sure where it’s coming from. As I turn my head slowly to the right, I see a faint blue glow from the nightlight above the sink which is casting shadows across my side. I lay here in this bed and my senses are trying desperately to come to life. I can smell a disinfectant, alcohol I think, or is it? Now I see the line and hear the beeping that was so distant. As I try to turn on my side, I feel the knife’s edge of pain as it sears through my foot and makes my stomach leap, along with a tug at my fingertip and the needles’ prick in my arm. My mind, which was fuzzy just a moment ago, is now screaming in silent agony as it tries to send its own signal in an effort to voice what it feels. I don’t know which is causing more pain, my foot or my head and I am crying but no tears fall. As the alarms start sounding and the nurses come rushing in, a flood of memory hits me; like the sharp sting of a slap across the face. I remember all too well…just why I am here. “I’m sorry” the doctor said. “We’re going to have to amputate…the second, third, and fourth toes from your right foot…we may be able to save the second…you see the bone is exposed here…there is no skin…infection…” but before this memory completes, my mind shuts down and I am out cold, into the bliss that is nothing.
I awaken again, only this time more smoothly. I am on my left side and my right foot is gently cradled in its bandages atop several pillows. My eyes travel to the sight and sweet scent of flowers as I see a colorful bouquet blossoming from a tray near my bed and simultaneously, I wonder who it came from and when it got here. I vaguely recall the night and its passing; nurses in, nurses out, doctors, pain, ringing the bell, reaching for the button that would give me that extra bolus, bright lights, no lights, as I faded in and out. The nurse asks me how I feel as she opens the drapes. Now there’s a loaded question I think; as my voice finds its escape and through my mouth, releases a faint and weak ‘fine’. As my younger son approaches this side of the bed, he looks to me with those sad, hazel eyes of his, and I see the slight remnants of salt that betray the tears that have fallen on his now rosy nose and cheeks. I sense my oldest son’s presence before I actually see or feel him. He is in the room too, behind me, and I feel the warm, moist drop splash on my forehead as he sheds the tear he thinks he caught, and gently kisses my cheek. I am trying so hard to keep it together, not to cry, but I just can’t do it. The dam has burst and all is destroyed, never to be the same again.
I roll down the hallway on a gurney from hell; listening on my way for treatment, as the man speaks to me of hyperbaric oxygen treatments, HBO for short. He explains this treatment is used to force blood flow to the extremities and increase circulation which in turn, speeds healing and reduces further degeneration. As we approach the treatment area, I begin to shiver and shake all over. He disappears for a moment, quickly returning with some of those heated blankets from the emergency room next door and wraps them around me…ahhhh, I sigh.
I am hooked up to an EKG and oxygen supply, then rolled into a glass chamber. I start to feel the gentle air flow as I hear the whoosh and resounding click that encloses me. Through a mike, a technician explains how to balance the pressure as I think fleetingly, how nice death might be. I see several men and hear a new deep and reassuring voice come through the mike, telling me all is going well. Slowly I feel the increase in pressure as we begin. Suddenly, I’m dripping with sweat and I can’t breathe. The heat is unbearable yet I was freezing just minutes ago. My ears are about to pop and my heart is trying to leap from my chest with each beat. Something is going wrong. I am in state of panic as I hear the heart monitor chirping wildly through the open mike; along with the fading voice telling me to pinch my nose through the mask and swallow deeply. In this millisecond, I think to myself, maybe the fleeting thought I had just minutes ago has come to fruition…I am dying and this is my glass tomb. NO! Not like this; my mind instantly rejects and demands my lungs expand and fill with air. Voices become clearer and I realize they’re trying to bring me up and out. I weakly ask them to please let me try a little longer; I think I’ll be ok, and I am. One and a half hours later, I have successfully completed this momentous task and am trembling all over again. Feeling the amplified pain in my foot, I know it has worked.
My physical pain is managed well with the fioranol drip going directly through my spine and surging straight to my veins. I see my un-bandaged foot for the first time since the amputation and I cringe mentally and physically at this mangled and crusted sight, as the doctor tells me how good it looks. I wretch into the basin what little bile is left in my stomach as an avalanche of thoughts invades my mind and sucks at my very being, now underscoring the depth of my despair.
A young pecker faced doctor arrives to release me. He tells me how well I am doing and I thank God he can’t see inside me. My older sister flew in to be with me for a few days and has arrived to take me home. I look on in a catatonic daze. My body is healing itself but my mind and soul are raw like the open wounds on my foot. I am soooo tired and long to be left alone with my misery; to curl myself in a ball like the roly-poly bugs on the patio in the back of my home.
It’s been five days now and my sister must leave. Our lives are so vastly different and I so enjoyed the distraction of her company; the meaningless banter as we sipped our coffee on the sunny patio and spoke of nothing and everything. “You’ll be fine” she said as she left, as if she had a clue. Awhile later, my son finds me in a sullen stupor on the sofa in the living room and begins admonishing me.
“Why are you just sitting there?” When I don’t respond, he forces ahead full throttle. “Yes, the podiatrist let your toes rot on your foot, and he cut off a piece of your toe without telling you and YES, we wouldn’t believe you when you told us it was happening before your very eyes! There! He yells, I said it! So WHAT? He’s the asshole not you, not me!” My throat is closing and the rush in my ears sounds as though a locomotive is running through my head. I rock as he continues. “I’m sorry, we’re all sorry!” “Stop blaming yourself. You didn’t do this, he did! Your toes are gone, they are not coming back. This has to stop! Biting my lip in an effort to staunch the tears that are now flowing I think to myself, how dare he talk to me like this and reach for my crutch to hit him, to make him stop; but he has cleverly kept his distance. He’s out of my reach, for now. He resumes his tirade “Enough of this pity party. You can’t just sit on your ass and let this bastard take any more from you than he already has!” I am reeling from the bite of his words, and so hurt; I feel as though I have been physically injured all over again.
I haul myself from the couch, and hobble to the quiet solace of my room. In a flash, like the blink of an eye, I realize what he has done. I stop and turn around. There he is staring at me with wet cheeks and a half smile. We both know he has angered me to action and helped me cross the chasm of despair. I can now begin the true healing of my mind and soul and be secure in the fact; he and all the others I love and care about will be there when it’s done. I reminisce…what are a few toes when I still have the foot.