A week ago Wednesday, I got up early in Santiago and took the Metro out to the bus station. My friends in the Quinta Región of Chile had invited me to visit for the day.
Actually, they would have been happy if I’d agreed to stay for several days, but I had commitments back in Santiago the following day and all the way up to my departure date, August 30.
At my friends’ house, we had a lovely catch up, and after lunch, while Cici* ran errands, Kay* and I decided to take some of their seven dogs for a walk. We were walking down their inclined gravel driveway, chatting, when suddenly my left foot slipped in the loose rocks and I went down like a sack of potatoes.
I thought I’d landed on my bum, but maybe I landed on my ankle because, when I looked down at my foot, it was hanging perpendicular to my leg. I emphasize the word “hanging.”
Without thinking, I reached down and gave my foot a twist to straighten it out as much as I could, but it still hung at a precarious angle and I couldn’t move it at all. It was as if it were no longer attached to my leg.
Kay ran to the house to call for help. Within ten minutes, Cici came roaring back home, and with the help of a couple of other strong people, they managed to lift me and put me into the back seat, and off we went.
Cici is Chilean and knew that the best place to take me was the trauma hospital where they only deal with accidents.
After x-rays and consults with the doctors, I was informed that I had no option other than surgery. A doctor and a paramedic worked to straighten out my foot enough to put on a cast for that night because they couldn’t do surgery until the following day.
On Thursday, we were back at the hospital. Cici waited all day with me and took care of all paperwork, until they finally called me back for surgery at 4pm. I’d never had surgery before, so I was terrified, of course, but the surgery was probably the easiest part of the whole experience for me.
Wheeled into the operating theater, I was greeted by various doctors and nurses. The anesthesiologist came in and caressed my face before the surgery began.
Given an epidural, I went numb from the waist down. The upper part of me was awake (in twilight) for the three-hour surgery.
I now have eleven screws and two plates in my ankle. My foot seems to be attached again, even if swollen and red, yellow, black, and blue.
They were going to dismiss me the following day, but I had nowhere to go. Kay and Cici had a houseful of people, and my apartment was in Santiago, two hours away, along with all my belongings.
I was told that I will have to have one of the screws removed in a month or so and I will need physical therapy. The surgeon asked if I were going to stay here for it. Given the fact that I can’t walk yet and that it could be dangerous to fly, the answer was, “Yes.”
The surgeon’s young associate, still in braces, aka “Dougie Howser,” suggested that I stay in the hospital a couple of extra days so that I could get myself sorted. He asked if I’d like to hire a caregiver. Again, “Yes.”
He left my hospital room and, within 15 minutes, Cristina, one of the nurse’s aides, came bouncing in to ask if I’d like her to take care of me. Third time, “Yes. Absolutely yes.”
With plans made, my friends in Santiago sprung into action. From one of them, I rented an apartment near the hospital. Another went to my Santiago apartment and packed up all my things. Another one arranged to bring my stuff here the following day. They were so organized that, a couple of hours after I got “home” from the hospital on Sunday, my friends arrived with my belongings.
It’s been a crazy week. For the time being, I’m installed in an apartment with a partial view of the Pacific Ocean, where my foot is propped up on top of five pillows and covered in ice packs. Cristina’s in the kitchen, humming, as she cooks up something yummy for our lunch.
And I’m lying here pondering deep things like how swiftly life can change, what great friends I have, and why I was planning to leave Chile.
Last week, I’d thought I’d be back in Albuquerque by now, but Chile wasn’t quite ready to let me go.