Part 5 ended with the successful surgery to repair Hannah’s gashed upper and lower left leg.
While Hannah is in a hazy fog from the medication, Tony, our surgeon, returns to the operating room. He mentions that he will implant a drain that will siphon off excess fluid from deep within her thigh while it is healing. Then looking to me, he says, Would you like to empty it?
Under his guidance, I invert the plastic bulb and pour it into a plastic cup. Then, he says to us, before you drain the plastic bulb, squeeze down the tube from near the leg to force the excess red liquid down to the bulb. This will help prevent the bloody fluid in the tube from clotting. Would you like to try it, he says to me? Experiential learning at its finest.
I squeeze the red discharge down the tube, knowing that I will remember little back at the cottage if all he does is show me how to do it. He wants Hannah to take it easy this Thursday, gentle walking Friday, and by Sunday she can do anything she feels up for. Whoa.
There are no limits to what she can eat or drink. We should change the bandages after 48 hours and empty the drain 2 to 3 times per day, measure the discharge, and note the color. In time, the color should turn from red to yellow.
While Molly has arrived to take us back to the cottage, first Kasey, an Ed Tech, wants to give Hannah a lesson in using crutches. Taking us to a quiet place in the hallway, he demonstrates lifting the injured leg back, stepping forward with the stronger leg, and moving the crutches one step forward.
After adjusting the crutches for Hannah’s height (they are ours to keep and she never uses them; we later donate them to the Montecito Fire Department), Hannah tries, wobbles and flops back into the wheelchair behind her. She mentions that she sees two Kasey’s; at this point he gets that she needs to be wheeled out in a wheelchair to our waiting car.
Once back at the cottage with Owen and Max in bed, Molly, Tip, Hannah, and I talk about our day on the trail. Famished, Hannah eats two big bowls of Trader Joe’s salads and the big half of a Los Arroyos chicken burrito. She toasts her day with a glass of white wine. Oh, that we all could celebrate so after such a day.
We all know how fortunate we are that Hannah is sitting with us six hours after the ground gave way beneath her feet. That her leg is sutured and stapled, and not… We just don’t go there. To what end? The subjunctive can be positive when it brings up good possibilities but not when it goes down Alice’s rabbit hole.
Within a day, Hannah and I are slow walking a half mile. Two days after, we slow walk over a mile, three times a day. Two weeks after we walk a mile at a normal pre-fall pace.
Three ibuprofen before bed for the first five nights are all the pain meds she takes.
Repeatedly we hear from the health care professionals, You are healing so well because you are in such good shape.
Tony our surgeon gives us his cell number and calls us at the cottage the day after Hannah’s surgery.
The drain comes out seven days later, the 25 staples are removed 13 days after.
After a month, she’s back on the pickleball courts at home in Maine!
So, we thank these angels in our lives:
Tip, for his rescue of Hannah off the cliffside.
Molly, for getting the EMTs in position once Hannah came off the mountain.
Zach and Dominique, American Medical Response EMTs, for diagnosing her wounds and safely delivering her to the ER at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
The Ed Techs and Karen our RN at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital who prepped and cared for her pre- and post-surgery.
Dr. Tony Anagnostou for his surgical skill, comforting bedside manner, follow-up calls, and accessibility.
Corky Thomson and Jane May of York Hospital who made Hannah’s appointment happen the very next morning back in York, after we landed in Boston from Los Angeles.
York Hospital’s Dr. Elizabeth Helmer and nurse Alicia for picking up the ball once we returned to Maine.
To conclude Hannah’s saga, Hannah and I reflect on the entire adventure.