I guess adjusting to life without legs was never going to be easy..
But then hey.. I was “ALIVE!!”
I was married and just like any other young married couple in the 70?s had big plans.. buy a house, settle into a routine plan for a family and pursue a career.
My wife of 2 months was about to graduate as a registered nurse. This had not been easy, given the circumstances of recent weeks, but she did graduate.
I am getting a little ahead of myself here. Time had come for my discharge from the hospital, being the impatient person I was, I began counting down the hours about 3 days before hand.
In fairness, I would not consider myself as a “role model” patient!! I was pretty much over needles and enema’s! (nasty things back then, still nasty today!) Long rubber tubes thrust where no one should dare to venture, it was not human!! The procedure carried out with military precision. A team of stern-faced matron like nurses, all gowned up. Rubber gloves fitted, masks on and a stainless steel surgical trolley wheeled in ahead of its army of assistants and onlookers. The dish of hot soapy water and long stainless tube, like a metal apparatus that just seemed to magnify and glare at me like an animated character out of a Dr Evil comic-book! I fought them every inch of the way, but alas, it was to no avail!! Over powered and unable to kick and clench my cheeks, it was a lost cause. I just had to resign myself to the fact that this form of primitive water torture was going to happen..”ready or not”.
At long last, the time had come to depart my home of the last 8 weeks.. yes, just 8 weeks from the day of the accident to discharge, some said this was unheard of, never before had a person with a double above knee amputation been discharged so quickly.. (maybe they just wanted to get rid of me!!)
Or, maybe it was due to the brilliant young intern that had the foresight to pump pure oxygen through my entire body for a week. A method used regularly these days.. as I said in my earlier post, he wrote the book on this treatment and I for one, will be forever in his debt!
I guess, it would be fair to say at this point, that I won a special place in the hearts of the medical and nursing staff.. Young, fit, in the prime of his young adult life, cut down by a cruel twist of fate, about to be married and both legs crushed beyond repair. (Over the years, I have been asked many times to describe this accident to the many groups and organisations I have spoken to.. I simply put it like this, “If you give a young child an ice-cream in a cone and he or she crushes the cone, the ice-cream and cone meld together as one, it becomes a very sticky mess!) You get the picture!!
At this point, I will digress slightly.. At the accident scene, there was very little blood loss, simply because, being as fit as I was and having rather good solid thighs, the muscle and sinew twisted and formed their own natural tourniquet. This ultimately saved my life, this and many other contributing factors, the rescue teams involved, the incredible team of Doctors and nurses, and my will to live.
So, here I was ready to depart this hospital. I had lost a mountain of weight and was warned to take it very easy, as it would be a long slow adjustment. I needed to be careful as I raised myself in my wheelchair and to be mindful of the bandages still applied to my stumps.. all this advice really fell on deaf ears, as I was going to one of my old flatmates’ wedding and I had made a promise to him that I would be there, come hell or high water.
The ambulance officer arrived at the door of the day room in the ward ready to take me home. It was at this moment that the panic and the reality set in, I was no longer in a safe comfortable secure environment.. I was going out to a cruel uncertain future, for a fleeting moment it scared me!
Riding in the ambulance through the city streets to the church, allowed me time to reflect on the past, the present and the future. I had absolutely no idea of what lay ahead.. Here it was, Saturday December 7th 1973, just over 8 weeks from that fateful day. How would I manage in the tiny flat that we were to live in. How would I get in and out? what about the bathroom, the kitchen the bedroom?? all these thoughts raced through my mind like a missile being launched at a thousand feet a second.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and relaxed.. The adrenalin kicked in, along with the excitement of the wedding, seeing my wife and being comforted in the knowledge that I was “GOING HOME!”