Fence Fights and Lessons Learned
Updated: Mar 30, 2020
I have not written and updated in a while, there will hopefully be super delayed and overdue posts coming out soon. Last month was a whirlwind. I traveled all but one weekend in October! I was home the first weekend, the following in Cincinnati visiting Mike, the next in Puerto Rico, and then again back to see my man in Cinci. Disclaimer: There are graphic images in this post.
While in Puerto Rico, I had an accident, a moment that could have been MUCH worse. I was ultimately incredibly lucky. I climbed a 8+ foot fence to get back into our Villa after the gate had been shut and locked to get my wallet for dinner. I successfully climbed up, but as I was stepping my second foot over, my first foot slipped, I held on with my left hand and grabbed with my right, grabbed a metal spike and sliced my hand clean open. I landed on my feet and knew immediately it was bad. Left my friends on the other side of the fence, applying immediate pressure to my hand and walked into the house.
<----------- That is what the spike looked like.
I went into this weekend with a lot of hype, expectation, and energy. I was headed back to the beautiful Rincon, Puerto Rico for two dear friends wedding and knew it’d be with friends I consider family, on the water filled with surfing, adventuring, partying and so much more. It was all of those things. Sometimes things happen - some with purpose we understand right away, others because they are a learning moment, others more because they direct you in another direction or give perspective. Thursday night was one of those nights, instead of spending it drinking getting rowdy and celebrating friendship and life and my friends wedding, I spent it in the hospital, filled with anger, frustration, pain and honestly straight panic. After a choice I made that definitely wasn’t my smartest, I was sitting there looking at myself with utter disappointment. I would not be surfing, swimming, snorkeling, jumping off waterfalls or swings, and I’d be sidelined. Very blessed, I had amazing friends by my side in PR; Josh and Allie took me to the nearest urgent care hospital where they, in broken english, told me, they couldn't fix it, I might lose function of my hand and would likely need surgery. Until that moment, I was really attempting to be happy and super positive, but the words surgery came out, I literally lost it. Poor Allie watched me have a meltdown, I mean literally still mortified anybody saw that. (Sorry and thank you for being so patient and understanding with me Allie, you are a star). I called my Mom, because who else knew me better, she very quickly settled me, first in a strict voice (that's why I call her) then I, in tears, half yelling said, "can you just let me vent and cry and freak out for a minute..." eventually I settled.
I know that when we as humans are in shock and get news that we don't want, we have the
possibility of being hysterical - well, I hate to admit it but that was me. Not the pain, not the stitches or shots... the fact that this might end my dance season and therefore my income was a really scary and infuriating reality. (In even deeper reflection, the fact that my career and my finances were my concern, not my health or hand was an even sadder realization.) They numbed it, gave 9 base stitches and said they'd send me via ambulance to a hospital an hour away and that I wasn't guaranteed to be seen, I said, "no, I'm not paying for an ambulance out of pocket to only maybe be seen." So we left, against medical advice and without any pain medication, Josh and Allie graciously stayed while I was treated (on their vacation) and then took me back.
Upon arriving back at the Villas, I asked for 20 minutes to get myself together and then I'd join in on the fun. Brian knowing me well, stopped me, asked for details, and then helped me realize I would hate to pull from all the positive vibes. He also knew I wouldn't want that attention. He let me cry, helped me touch base with Mike, tried to with our lack of service anyway, and listened to me panic about losing my job, not being able to dance, about money, about what kind of jobs I might be able to pick up and how I'd make ends meet. He was a saint, one I'm very very grateful for. Eventually I settled, walked to my Villa and attempted to sleep. Unable due to pain, I just tried to meditate through the night. I'd be going to see a specialist the next day so I just needed to get through the night. I did a little morning yoga with Lindsay mostly observing her first class, rehearsed the bride and groom on their dance and made an appointment with a hand specialist. The pain was nauseating, I was drained of color and energy. I felt dizzy.
Sarah, another one of my saints over the weekend, drove me to Aguadilla to my appointment, sat with me. I couldn't handle the pain, which as someone with a high pain tolerance, was a lot. I asked while we waited if there was anything that could be done, the guy sympathetically looked at me and said no sorry, but then asked to see my hand, and said follow me. So we did, he took off the wrap and dressing and I felt like I could breathe again. The ace bandage was so tight, it actually bruised other parts of my hand and was limiting circulation. He commented on how poorly wrapped it was and that hopefully that would ease some of the pain, and oh my word, did it. I could hold a conversation again, I felt like a million bucks in comparison.
Not much later, the specialist arrived, he saw me immediately. We did xrays, then he gave a consult. We needed to know if I had torn the tendon and if there was nerve damage. First he looked it at, the pictures of it from the night before, and then cleaned it. He did some tests, which of course made me nervous. Even Sarah admitted she was nervously hoping for good feedback and it was only stitches that would be needed. "Close your eyes, ok how many points do you feel? How many now? What about now? And now" - I answered what I thought I felt and then looked at him desperate... "No nerve damage" Sarah and I both excited looked at each other. I asked if he'd be stitching it further and at first he said no. I then asked if he would... it would make me feel better. And as they got to cleaning up the previous night's stitches, they realized I would definitely need more. They pulled fatty tissue from my hand with tweezers, it was gross but I was totally fascinated. I didn't tear my tendon and had my nerves in tack, literally was the best case considering and I was STOKED! Once I was cleaned up, I helped as they put in the addition stitches by holding the light so I could watch, Sarah the best documenter I know, got some pictures. Leaving with a total of 21 stitches and three prescriptions, I was in such a good mood! In much less pain and feeling optimistic, we picked up snacks, water, and my antibiotics/pain med and headed back to the compound.
I knew it would eventually get to me, knowing I wouldn't be surfing, swimming, drinking, or enjoying many of the activities but I really did feel lucky and happy considering and enjoyed the trip. There were certainly moments that my disappointment and anger seeped in, but it was those times that I would take some time for myself or for the sake of keeping the party a party. Locals in the area knew me as "the fence girl" which was humiliating but again, if that was the worst of it, all is good. I embraced it and got in on the humor of it, lots of jokes were told and "too soon" comments were made with good intentions and positive vibes and it made it feel more normal. I spent time with people I love, I enjoyed the views and smells of paradise and I watched two beloved friends exchange vows and start their next chapter together. And let me tell you, it was a gorgeous perfect night, filled with tears of joy, memories of loved ones not present, tears of love, lots of laughter and dancing. That night I watched two of my dear friends, dive into marriage and it was an honor to have spent weeks with them on their first dance. Seeing it in "full costume" with lights and in front of their loved ones - I was so proud. They were absolutely beautiful.
It was the first time all weekend I felt that I wasn't hurt. I had so much fun, dancing the night away with friends. We were all drenched in sweat - the kind of dancing that makes you wonder why you don't do it every single night. (Granted, I'm a dancer so I always feel that way.) It was amazing.
In those moments I pulled away, had time to observe, or wasn't able to participate the way I might have fully healthy, I used those moments as much as I could to see what I was meant to be learning, seeing, or what it’s potential purpose was. Here are a few of the things I had come to realize through reflection:
1. I have an amazing tribe of people. They kept a sense of humor and positivity I couldn’t be more thankful for. They helped when I could not do my hair, change my clothes, fix my dressings and transport me from hospital to specialist. They checked on me and allowed me to feel all the emotions but they also treated me like me. As if they knew my fear, they treated me like I was not hurt, knowing even when I didn’t that it wasn’t the only thing I was bringing to the table. Others in my tribe who weren't present, listened to me vent on the phone, reminded me of the positives in the situation, didn't lecture or make me feel small. My tribe built me up when I was broken and I am so incredibly grateful for each of them.
2. I have been working on knowing myself, my limits, and my weaknesses but lately trying to refocus that and look at my strengths as well. I have always been incredibly critical of myself and I have been trying to find just as many strengths as I do weaknesses. I am stubborn (which can be both good and bad) and I definitely hit both ends of that spectrum that weekend - but my biggest strength this weekend was my desire and stubbornness to be full hearted in those highest moments - whether cheering on friends surfing, laughing until I nearly cried, modifying yoga with loved ones or dancing our asses off at the wedding. And honestly, I was not entirely resilient but I forgave myself those moments and moved on to focus instead on the ones finding the good even in the bad. I wanted to instead be creating and embracing all the positive vibes.
3. Something I have always known, but am always surprised to rediscover, is that I love to dance. Whether on a wedding dance floor with all my friends, on a beach or lookout spot in the sunset, in the shower - it has this bizarre way of filling me. It’s been so easy to lose that in class and rehearsal when I’m there filled with judgement, corrections, and attempting to fulfill an image idea or whatever is being asked. I’m filled with gratitude that I have these moments that bring me back to my purpose. My why. My passion and heart. When I was dancing on our last night in front of friends (which I’ll admit was uncomfortable for me, as I like to improv without an audience) I was able to forget my hurt, my anger and release it to the universe, a moving meditation. Every culture and person has their own way of releasing sadness, anger, etc but for me, dance has a mysterious way of both filling me and emptying me, all in the way I have needed all my life and I just feel like it was one of God’s many intentions of this weekend - connecting me to my tribe and my purpose and giving me perspective on how even in the rough hand sliced moments, life delivers different precious gifts that you may have needed more.
It is hard to ask for help, but we all need it and knowing when you do and being vulnerable enough to ask is worth being proud of. Over the last month, learning to ask for help wasn't easy for me knowing how independent I am and how much pride and confidence I get from that. Taking a backseat on so many things helped me gain a lot of perspective. I hope one day to be able to give back to those who helped me. There will be another post "soon" about what I've discovered since in my career.
For those of you who want to know the progress, all is going really well! I'm back dancing full. Bearing weight for short periods isn't a problem, working back to being full on my hands in yoga, getting there slowly. Scar tissue has built up but in OT still working with putty and like exercises to stretch my hand, regain strength and mobility. I'm a very happy camper and am very very grateful to all those who have stitched me, trained me, supported and taken care of me.
#injury #tribe #paddlefamily #friendship #gratitude #healing #patience #wedding #reflection #stitches #fightingfences #youshouldseetheotherguy #puertorico #travel #weddingweekends