It is a difference of opinion when you think your life should change. For me, I thought I was almost invincible. I’d drink almost every day and smoke more weed than I thought I ever would. Being unemployed will do that to you. I was bored out of my mind. At the moment, I thought I was on cloud nine but in reality, I was rotting my life away, one drag of the joint at a time. I would wake at my leisure, leave my house at my leisure, come and go as I please. My entertainment was searching for drugs to numb myself with, whatever to make the time go by. Days became blurry. My favorite was weed and drinking. Sometimes I would do shrooms. A lot of the time I would just bake, like a loaf, resting to get to my right temperature.
All that changed on Halloween. I was with my family in Mexico and we were getting ready for a family gathering. And not my immediate family, but my cousins’ cousins, you know. It was more of a familial flavor than anything. Our flight back to San Diego was the next day. As I was getting ready, I decided to take care of two outfits. I organized them and ironed my shirts and pants. The clothes were prepared and well ironed. I was proud of how my outfits looked. Like any other day, I took a shower, and as I was walking out of the bathroom it happened…woosh, I slipped. My legs went racing towards the wall, like a great baseball slide, my left knee bent and my right leg extended. I rammed the wall. Just a thump and my knee was done for. I looked down and as expected, I fucked my shit up. My knee cap was loose, and I could not bend my right leg. Ironically, my parents were stepping into the room as I was walking out, they heard everything. I called for my old man and told him I popped my knee. “Let’s pop it back in.”, I said. No big deal. We both press it as hard as we can hoping we can mend it with strength, my dad pinching everything together, and I look in awe knowing it would work. It didn’t. It remained loose and it was not looking good. My mom immediately begins to worry, my old man just stares at me and shakes his head in disappointment. It’s time to find a doctor. My dad helps me to my feet, we hop over to a couch, and I lay on top and wait. I laughed for a good five to ten minutes. It’s the kind of laugh when you’re just in disbelief like, you’ve got to be shitting me, just my luck. After looking over my knee again, I still couldn’t believe it. I accepted the fact that I ruined my knee.
Luckily, the hotel we were staying at had a doctor on hand and he rushed to examine me. He was a young doctor, his clothes neatly ironed, and his hair combed to the side. He took a look at me, asked me if I was in any pain, and examined me. After a couple of minutes, he explained that I was going to need medical attention. He recommended a hospital in the center of town and suggested I go immediately. My parents and I headed to the hospital, my mom still nervous, my dad calm, and I was rolling with it.
Upon arriving at the hospital, I knew things were going to be ok. They quickly process me, and a doctor approaches me, notices my knee and asks me what happened. “I slipped”, I told him. He looks at me puzzled and asks me to go to another room where other doctors would take a look at me. We waited patiently in this lounge area that also had hospital beds. Everything was up in the air. The same doctor approaches us again with another doctor. She examines me again and asks me what happened. “I slipped.”, I told her. They look at each other and both begin to examine my knee. “You slipped?”, they ask me doubtfully. I confirm and they leave. It was a confusing moment for all of us, especially me. The same doctor comes to me and says that I am going to need to take a couple of x-rays. I saw no problem with that and agreed. I figured it would be best to get a better perspective of what was going on internally. After taking the x-ray, we waited for the surgeon to examine me and the x-ray. A small man came out of the operating room, dressed fully in operating clothes, and glanced over the room until he made eye contact with me. Once we locked eyes, he looked disapprovingly and spoke to the other doctors. They walk into a small room and examine the x-ray, ask my parents over, whisper to them a couple of things, then look at me. I was shunned like a child, not allowed to listen to the adults speak. Bullshit.
“We’re going to have to operate.”, the surgeon tells me. Fuck. That was the last thing I wanted to hear. “I suggest tonight.”, he says. “I’ll be finishing a surgery in the next hour or so and after that, I’ll take care of you.”, and he left. My mom makes a few phone calls to her siblings asking if they knew any other surgeons that would give us another opinion, but there was no one to give an opinion on the matter. My uncle Raul and my aunt Emma came over and they were saddened to see my condition. The medical staff advises us that they’re going to take me to a private room where they will prepare me for surgery. The light was dim and the room was cold. My parents left to grab something quick to eat and my uncle Raul stayed with me. My uncle has always been a serious man and he looked at me and asked me what happened. “I slipped.”, I told him. He looked concerned and more puzzled. He asked, “What really happened?”. As if I was withholding information. “I slipped walking out of the shower.”, I said. “I rammed my knee into the wall and then this happened.” He sighed and asked me, “Do you feel angry?”. I said, “No, I feel indifferent and weirded out.”. He sighed again and continued, “Derrek, God doesn’t make mistakes.”. I internally rolled my eyes. “This is a test.”, he continues. “This is a test that he has set upon you and you are being challenged.”. I respect my uncle too much to engage in a discussion of what God wants and what he’s challenging me with, so I just nod and hear him out. He concludes that God has given me a choice, to continue the path that I was on, or to commence a new road, a new life, a new perspective. He looks me in the eye, and with more seriousness he says, “I do not know what you’ve been up to or why this has happened, but I know that you must place yourself in His hands, ask for forgiveness and reflect, be better.”. We stay in uncomfortable silence for a minute and the nurse comes in, just in time to cut the awkwardness. The nurse notions us that it’s time for surgery. We head down to the operating room and the first to greet me is the anesthesiologist. He tells me I have nothing to worry about and that it will be about a two-hour procedure. He explains to me that he will be numbing only my lower body and giving my upper body a sedative. I get a bit nervous around this time. My palms begin to sweat and I request for him to put me under. I don’t want to feel anything at all. He denies my request, says it’s unnecessary, and that I will be fine.
In the operating room, three doctors walk in ready to operate on me, the head surgeon and two assistants, plus the anesthesiologist. The anesthesiologist gives me an injection on my lower spine and immediately my legs go numb. It was a horrible feeling. I wondered if that was how a paraplegic felt. Imagine not being able to feel your legs ever again. I put it to the test. I told my legs to move, nudging with every mental force I could muster and nothing. My legs lied still. I was scared I would never get feeling again. With all these thoughts floating, I hoped the sedative was equally as strong. The surgeons begin their operation but beforehand they play a CD on the stereo. A horrible selection of old ballads and music my great aunts probably listened to. It became unbearable to the point that I asked if there was anything else they could play instead. They gave me a look and told me it was the only disc they had. I took it upon myself then to relax and sleep through it. About an hour in, I awoke shivering. The air conditioner was on full blast, and it was located above me blowing onto my left cheek. I asked for a blanket because my teeth would not stop chattering. I finally warmed up again and the operation was done with. The surgeons were exhausted. The youngest of them sighed with great relief and removed his mask and hat. He sat in a chair in front of me. I thanked all of them for the procedure and told them I was truly appreciative of everything they did for me. The youngest surgeon sat lopsided and looked at me with concern and asked, “How did this happen?”. “I slipped.”, I told him. He shook his head and while waving his hand down in a low voice murmured, “You fucked your shit up.”. The surgeons collected their things and discussed where they would go for dinner. The surgery had left them famished and exhausted. I was just relieved it was all over.
That night, my mom slept in the same room as me. The whole time her face looked very concerned. She slept great throughout the night. I took a few winks but did not sleep at all. My dad came to visit us the next morning. He asked me how I was holding up and if my mom seemed okay. I reassured him that I was good and that I felt good. I was told the doctor would come later in the afternoon to give me the details of my surgery and the outlook for recovery. For the remainder of the day, I ate the meals the hospital prepared for me — gelatin, salad, steak, and some rice. It was surprisingly pretty good. Out of the few channels that the TV displayed, I managed to find a football game being broadcast in Spanish. It was good to see something entertaining as I waited. The doctor finally arrived and I was glad to see him. I greeted him and was anxious about what he would say. The same short man with eyeglasses, a checkered shirt, and corduroy pants just stared at me. Then said “You’ve torn the main tendon of your leg and the vertebrae inside your knee has been completely shattered. The surgery was more complicated than I anticipated, and your toxicity levels were off the charts which made it even more difficult. You have to understand the severity of your injury. What happened to you is no joke. That one in a million scenarios happened to you. You’re the one and this is going to be a long road to recovery for you.”. He told me this with grand seriousness. He asked me how long I’ve been smoking marijuana and how long I’ve been drinking. He scorned me for interrupting his surgery with my shivers. He reminded me that I should have been more vocal with the anesthesiologist about my drug habits and that the reason I reacted that way during the surgery was because of what was in my system. I guess the air conditioner blowing straight onto my face might have had nothing to do with it…bullshit. I felt like a child being scolded by a bitter teacher. He walked over to me and saw how my leg was placed above a pillow and removed it, scorned that my leg should be flat not raised, and fixed it. He looked at me once more, wished my parents a good day, and left.
I was left speechless. This accident, this surgery, the interactions with the doctors, the manners, the shitty operating music, all left a bad taste in my mouth. I hated the doctor for being such a prick, a bitter asshole, and I wished I could stand so I could whoop his ass. But I couldn’t say anything. The reality was setting in as I laid in a hospital bed feeling insulted, bandaged up, a tube in my urethra, my parents with concern and disappointment in their eyes, while the Raiders were beating the Browns on screen. The test had begun.
By Derrek G
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