Through all the surgeries, the depression, the time spent lying down in bed and the horrible hospital food, my body had begun to atrophy. I went into the hospital weighing about 175 pounds on October 15th. By the time I left the hospital I was at 95 pounds, and I am 5 foot 10. If I was going to leave the hospital and start life again there was going to be a long and hard journey ahead.
After the initial round of surgeries and getting adjusted to life in a hospital bed, the first of the fall holidays occurred, Thanksgiving. There is not much of a change of seasons regarding the tree leaves changing colors in Costa Rica, but during November when Costa Rica switches from rainy season to dry season, it can get a little chilly during the end of the year months.
I had a few visitors during these days, but hearing about their family Thanksgiving holidays and what they were going to do for the long weekend, stabbed me in the heart while I smiled and told them how happy I was for them. Even though this was painful, it was also motivating. After the Thanksgiving weekend had passed, I set my sights on being able to get out of the hospital by Christmas. I wanted to be able to celebrate Christmas, my birthday, and New Year’s Eve outside of the hospital.
I was not naïve enough to think that the holidays would be spent going out with friends or doing anything, but just being out of the hospital would be enough of a gift for me. It meant that 2011 would start my new life and start on the path of recovery. I had no idea where I would live, what I would do for work, or what I needed to do to repair my weakened body, but if I took it one step at a time I believed that I could reach my goal. I had to find something to live for again and it had to be me……no one else.
The doctors saw the change in my demeanor and asked me if I was ready to start physical therapy. I was ready, but I had no idea what I was going to be put through. Having grown up playing sports I thought this process would be easy and my body would respond quickly. I was quite mistaken.
Each afternoon after lunch the physical therapist would come in to do exercises with me. They would be as basic as rolling my ankles or trying to lift my legs. The goal of this was to start triggering muscle memory in my extremities. We also did breathing exercises to try to get more oxygen into my blood stream. I had always pushed myself in sports, so I was going to do the same thing now. However, not being able to see the improvement immediately led me to feel like a failure each day.
After about week; although the therapist told me I was getting stronger, I did not see a huge difference. Instead of being able to lift my leg 2 times I could do it 4 times. At this pace I would be able to lift my leg about 10 times by Christmas. I knew this would not be enough for me to be able to leave, I had to push harder…..but the more I tried the more I felt the hope inside my heart fading. The only person I had to motivate myself was me. There were no cheerleader friends or family standing there to give me a pat on the back when I accomplished something positive.
The one thing that kept knocking me down mentally and distracting me from my goal was the fainting spells. I had been lying down in a prone position for about 2 months at this point. I was able to partially sit up for short periods of time but would get weak and light headed fairly quickly. During the therapy sessions, he would sit me up all the way with my legs hanging off the bed. Within about 45 seconds I would get light headed and need to lie back down. Many times I would again try to push through this light headedness only to wake up a minute or so later after having fainted.
How was I going to function or even live if I could not even sit up? Each day passed and each day I grew more and more frustrated. A feeling of helplessness started to creep into my mind and soul. Other patients in the room were able to be taken to the real showers to get cleaned in the mornings with hot water. They were also able to wheel themselves to the bathroom instead of having to lift up their asses in order to have a bed pan slipped under them to go poop. I wanted to be able to use a normal toilet and take a normal shower as well.
One day I decided after about 3 weeks of therapy and about a week away from Christmas that I was going to show the nurses and doctors that I could be released from the hospital. The mission was for me to go from my bed to my wheelchair with a little help. Then I was going to roll myself to the bathroom. Then I was going to sit on the toilet and go poop by myself. This, in my mind was what I had to do in order to be able to leave by Christmas.
After a nice lunch, I had the need come over me to use the bathroom. I called over the nurse and told her that I needed to use the restroom. She then started walking away to get the bed pan. Quickly she understood my mission.
With a glance of doubt she then helped me into the wheelchair. I rolled myself to the bathroom and to the stall. Again she helped me position myself on the commode. She turned around to leave and closed the door behind her. As the door shut I started to feel light headed and quickly I realized that I was on the floor in front of the toilet and the nurses were lifting me into the wheel chair and pulling up my hospital scrubs back around my waist. I was rolled back to the hospital bed while at the same time going in and out of consciousness. I was placed back on the bed and the bed pan was placed under me. I had failed and wanted to give up again. I slipped back into a state of depression.
It was a week away from Christmas and there did not seem to be any end to this solitary hell I was living. For a few days I just wanted to sleep and wished each time I closed my eyes that I would not wake up. It would be a wonderful relief. Then the reality would hit me that the hardest part of this path I was on still lay ahead.
After refusing therapy for 2 days as I sulked in my own misery, I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and push on…..I WAS GOING TO GET THROUGH THIS!!! I started therapy again and could actually see myself getting better and stronger. I was able to sit up for close to 10 minutes without needing to lie down. I still had a long way to go but each day was a step in the right direction. I had to accept that the release date from the hospital would come and each day I was one day closer. I would start life again when the doctors thought I was ready.
Keeping the positive frame of mind was a little bit hard during the holiday season. In order to brighten our days during the holiday’s people came to the hospital to sing and play guitar and visit with the patients. I know that they meant well, but each reminder that it was the Christmas season was actually painful. It showed me each day that I was going to be laying there in that bed on Christmas day wishing for only one gift……freedom from this hell.
Christmas came and went. Next up was my birthday on December 29th. I had become friends with a couple of the nurses, which was a surprise because of how obnoxious and shitty I acted when I was going through detox. I told one of them that it was my birthday and I received the embarrassing but heartwarming rendition of Happy Birthday in Spanish and then a broken English version. The nurse then asked me if I would want anything special that day. I only wanted one thing, a nice greasy hamburger and fries. A few hours later I was greeted with a special delivery from the Hamburger Factory. I think a smile even crossed my mouth as I enjoyed the birthday meal.
With my birthday over, I prepared for New Year’s Eve. I had wanted 2011 to start outside the hospital walls opening the next door in my life. I had to accept that the door was going to remain closed a little while longer. As the lights went out in the hospital room and on 2010, I had a battle between hope, depression, the past, the future and my dreams raging inside my mind. At midnight I greeted 2011 by watching the fireworks outside my window with tears rolling down my cheeks hoping that I would feel happiness once again in my life…….praying for an escape from this pain.