Sunday, March 14, 2010

Adventures with Ankles - Part 2

The island/town of Male is a tender port for a cruise ship.  This means that we cannot tie up to a dock, but have to drop anchor and use a couple of the life boats as tenders, essentially water taxis that ferry the passengers between the ship and the shore.  Getting onto the tender from the ship always involves several stairs, and if the sea is anything other than completely calm, the tender bobs up and down against the platform on the ship which, since the ship is much bigger and heavier, is relatively more stable but not necessarily unmoving.

I couldn’t put any weight or pressure on my ankle at all.  Due to the dislocation, all the ligaments were torn or stretched, and so there wasn’t much holding the joint in place other than the temporary cast and tensor bandages.  I spent the days at sea quite happily stoned on Vicodin, using a walker to get around in my cabin.  A walker is much more stable than crutches would be, especially when there is much wave motion.  Four feet are better than two, just as my dogs have been trying to tell me.  The infirmary had a wheelchair for me, also, and once I felt somewhat recovered, or at least less dizzy and weak, I used it move about the ship, Melissa proving a very able chauffeur.

Since I fell in front of a small group of people, probably no more than one or two percent of the people on board, naturally almost everyone knew what had happened within a short time.  Some called the cabin later on the day I fell, which was Friday, others apparently besieged the front desk or called the infirmary.  Some wrote notes, which were delivered to my cabin.  Once my condition was under control, Melissa sent out emails to some friends on board, so they could pass on the news.

I was overwhelmed, and in fact am tearing up now as I write this, by the amazing love and support people gave me.  I truly had not realized I had so many friends on board.  Despite my introvert qualities, I have met many people, writing students, book club members, crew members, people on my trivia team, some who’d just seen me around and so knew of my existence.

I’m going to shed more tears during this next paragraph, I can tell, but this meant so much not only because I realized I was part of a community here, and not alone, but also because of what it showed me of myself.  My self-esteem, never high to begin with, and continually stomped on by my situation in the marriage, was totally crushed when Carl left me.  But if all these people care so much, I must be a good person, at least in some ways.  And that is something worth knowing, even if it took a broken ankle to find it out.

I have good friends at home, too, and I don’t want you to think I don’t value all that you’ve given me over the past year and more.  You have been my lifeline for many years, and will continue to be.  I know that, at my deepest level, how much you all mean to me.  I’ve never had a lot of friends, but those I do have are very special and very important to me.  In this case, I think it was the sheer volume of love I’ve been given on the ship, because of my injury, that finally reached critical mass and so was able to penetrate my silly and fearful brain.  I am a very lucky person to have found all of you, on ship and on shore, and I can only hope that I can and do give you enough in return.

Okay, brief pause to blow my nose.

Back to the tender.  There were discussions about how best to get me on the smaller boat.  Carrying me, carrying me in my wheelchair, lowering me in a bosun’s chair (this last was my suggestion, as I thought this might be fun,, but for some reason no one took it seriously.  A bosun’s chair was originally a sort of sling used to hoist the bosun, who was in charge of rigging, when for whatever reason he couldn’t climb the rigging.  Today a harness is used, and all four of us in my immediate family have been hoisted up Arioso’s mast, for fun, or to repair one of the instruments at the top of the mast.  The mast is 60 feet high, so the view is wonderful. ) were all suggested, but I decided that the best thing would be for me to be wheeled to the platform outside the Amsterdam, where I would be helped to sit on the floor.  I would then go down the stair on my butt, holding my injured leg out in front of me (just think of the strong thigh muscles I’m going to have!).  At the bottom, people would help me stand and I could be passed, hopping as best I could, onto the tender.  Fortunately the sea was quite calm that day, and this all worked fine.

At the other end, on shore, there were more stairs, so we did the same routine in reverse and it worked well.  There was an ambulance to meet me, which seemed a little like overkill, but I guess taking a taxi might have been a problem, since as well as not putting weight on the ankle, I can’t bend my knee much.  This is due to the other break higher up, which no one knew about yet, since on board the ship, since all my pain was in the ankle, we didn’t worry about anything else.

So I was lifted onto a gurney, tied on with a belt across my chest and rolled inside the ambulance.  I’d never been in one before.  Unfortunately there weren’t any of the good-looking EMTs that are so common on shows like ER and Grey’s Anatomy, looking after all the tubes that would have been there but taking time to flash a dimple as they smiled reassuringly at me.  Also, there were no tubes.  I did have company, though, Melissa and one of the ship’s doctors who accompanied me until I was handed over to the hospital.

I received care very quickly.  Lots of X-rays were taken even though we’d brought the ones taken on board, because the ship’s machine is much smaller and so doesn’t have as good resolution.  The surgeon somehow suspected the other break, because I was soon taken back to the X-ray room and had a couple more taken, higher up on my legs.  (I later learned that the sort of breaks in my ankle is unusual, and is often associated with the fibula break.  The doctors on board mentioned this once I returned, and were a little embarrassed, but also very interested in the opportunity to learn.  They mentioned a name, something syndrome or whatever, and the name started with M, but I don't remember what it is.)  Dr. Rao, the surgeon, spent quite a bit of time with me, showing me the pictures and discussing what needed to be done.  At first he hoped to do the surgery that afternoon, but because of some more serious cases, it was put off until the evening.  I didn’t mind waiting, because after all, I had waited three days and nothing had grown worse.

HollandAmerica’s port agent had assigned a guide to us, something Melissa knew about.  His name is Feiz, probably not the right spelling, but it rhymes with ‘dice’ only the final ‘s’ sounds a little like a ‘z’.  He has been a very great help.  His English isn’t great, but he and Melissa have learned to communicate pretty well.

At first he worked to get me settled somewhere while I waited for the surgery.  I was pretty sure my insurance covered a semi-private room but somehow in all the frenzy of leaving the ship, no one knew where the forms Bud had had faxed to us from the insurer had ended up.  Feiz told us that the ward cost $38 a night, other rooms were $115, and a private was $250.  The hospital was willing for me to pay up front, and I wasn’t sure what to do.  Making decisions has been difficult since all this began, and I’m lucky and grateful that Melissa stepped into the breach so ably.  As it turned out, no decision was needed as all the rooms were full so I went to a ward.


  1. Dear Judy,

    So glad you are on the mend and that everyone is looking after you so well :-) We are thinking of you and hope you have a speedy recovery!!

    Hugs to you and Mel, Heather & Geoff & Maureen

  2. oh my, echo that, glad to hear you are getting better, michelle

  3. We love you too--heaps and bucket! From your writing I feel healing going on, and soon, I hope, your leg will be mended too.