90: The Little Ways

90: The Little Ways

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses

The Little Ways

We are each made for goodness, love and compassion. Our lives are transformed as much as the world is, when we live with these truths.

~Desmond Tutu

When you are a young active person with a clean bill of health, you never really expect to be hospitalized for two weeks. And you certainly never expect you will like it.

I was put in the hospital after I learned I had flesh-eating bacteria. I had been in a motorcycle accident a week prior and after getting twenty-six stitches I thought it was normal for my thigh to be sore, swollen and oozing blood. I was eighteen and didn’t have any experience with serious injuries, so I didn’t realize that the black spots around the stitches weren’t normal.

I went to the hospital to get more gauze. It didn’t take the nurse long to realize something was wrong. I was transferred to a bigger hospital and then into surgery that night. The surgeon cut a large chunk of my thigh right down to the muscle. I didn’t know how deep it was for a few days because it had a huge bandage and a VAC machine.

I was on all sorts of painkillers and antibiotics, and I didn’t know too much about what was going on for quite some time. I had to have a second surgery, but I still didn’t know why. At that point, a few thoughts had entered my mind about possibly losing my leg, but the staff was all so positive around me, I didn’t think about it too much.

My surgeon had encouraged me to go walking so I wouldn’t lose my strength, and I didn’t want to disobey him, so I walked a couple of times a day. During one walk late in the evening, I saw my surgeon sitting at the desk talking to another doctor. He gave me a big smile, so I stopped to talk to him. Since none of the nurses told me what was going on, I figured it would be a good time to ask him.

“You have necrotizing fasciitis,” he said. From his tone, I could tell he figured I wouldn’t understand his medical terminology.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

He chuckled, but then with a more serious look, said, “It means you’re lucky that your wound was an open wound.” I didn’t understand, but didn’t want to bother him with any other questions, so I continued my walk.

After almost a week at that hospital, I got transferred back to the little hospital where I had gone to get more gauze.

The nurses there weren’t nearly as busy as the ones in the city and so they had more time to stay and chat. Right away, one of them commented on how lucky I was to have learned about the infection when I did. It probably wasn’t good for me to know, but I couldn’t resist asking her what would have happened if I’d found out later.

“You could have lost you leg,” she said, “or worse.”

Most of the time, I really did enjoy the hospital. I was the only young person there, so the nurses gave me special attention. On top of that, members from my church made multiple visits to see me and I got to sleep all the time.

The bad times usually happened when nobody was around and I couldn’t sleep. I would be alone with the thoughts of how I could have died, and the irrational thoughts of how the antibiotics wouldn’t work and my leg would be chopped off.

One night, when most of the patients were sleeping, I couldn’t. My leg was sore, hot and puffy and I was on my cell phone looking up stuff about necrotizing fasciitis. I knew it wasn’t a good idea, but I did it anyway. The more I read, the more certain I became that the bacteria would never go away and I would lose my leg. It was illogical, but in my defense I was drugged up and had a big chunk of my leg missing.

I got out of bed, trying to hold back my tears, and walked to the nurse’s desk. I was going to ask if I could have something to help me sleep, but when the first nurse saw me she just gave me a hug and asked what was wrong.

“I’m scared,” I said quietly. She held me as I cried. I told her what I was thinking about and she listened. Then she made me a banana split and invited me to sit at the desk with the nurses there. One of them talked to me about University, where I was starting my first year in the fall. It wasn’t something I really wanted to focus on right then, but I stopped crying eventually, and ended up going to bed with a smile. Nobody had said anything in particular that calmed me down, or solved the problem, but those two nurses treated me with such kindness and love, it made me forget for a while why I was so upset.

It took four rounds of antibiotics, a month with the VAC machine, and lots and lots of waiting for my leg to heal, but it did. If it hadn’t, I know there would’ve been nurses who held my hand through it.

I have quite a large scar on my leg and I love it. It reminds me of the goodness in people. No, it wasn’t anything big; everyone at the hospital was there because it was their job to be there. In little ways though, they went above and beyond. That extra made a huge difference to this dumb kid who went looking for ways to scare herself.

~Emily Linegar

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