A few Sundays ago, Sophie and I had our last open water dive to get our certification. Our first dive the week prior went well, we were psyched for our trip to Cayman Brac June 16th. Unfortunately! Cayman Brac never came for us.
We were supposed to meet our dive instructor at Natural Springs Resort, Indiana around noon. Well we overslept so we didn’t have much time to get ready. We had to go. I was rushing around, Sophie was rushing around, we got in the car, and left.
We were on our way, but we were both hesitant. Sophie said she wasn’t feeling well and I really wasn’t either. I hesitated to admit it because there was no reason for it, but I felt off – particularly impatient – Sophie would attest to this. Although, we didn’t want to let Dave (our dive instructor) down.
When we got there, we felt better seeing all the other scuba divers there, knowing he didn’t make the drive to Indiana just for us. So we left.
I jumped on the bed when we got home. I needed to get out of my wetsuit. I pulled the torso out and continued to roll it down my leg. That’s when I lost my head for a second. “SOPHIE, WE HAVE TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL RIGHT NOW!”
I didn’t know what was wrong, but I knew my leg did NOT look right. I had no idea what happened. Nothing fell onto me. Nothing crashed into me. Nothing hurt. Nothing…happened.
Because of this, things progressed very slowly at the ER. “Well what can you tell me?” nurses/doctors kept asking. “Honestly, really only what it looks like and feels like – to the touch,” I said.
It was very swollen, but that was really just my knee.
It appeared to be dangly, but aren’t paralyzed limbs dangly?
And it felt very tight when you touched it.
Based on this, they were convinced I had a blood clot. I had never had a blood clot – so I was very skeptical at first. It’s safe to say health issues pertaining to my paralyzed half are what causes me the most anxiety. It’s difficult to find answers when you can’t answer the questions like, “How does it feel?” or “Does it hurt?”
I was relieved they thought it was a blood clot. My biggest fear was that it was broken, and I’d have to wear a straight leg cast – I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything in a straight leg cast.
The ultrasound technician came in. “Yeah, they just want me to check the blood flow real quick, make sure it’s a blood clot and everything. We’ll getchya outta here.” The tech started and pulsating sounds immediately filled the room ‘whapoogsh wappoogsh schwappooosgshh’ insinuating good blood flow (no blood clot). And I kinda just put my head down. That’s when my mom says, “Hunter! That’s great! No one wants a blood clot!”
In no time they sent me over to the CAT scan room. This was gonna show exactly what was wrong with my leg. The doctor finally came in after an hour or so, and we all knew this was it. She had a pretty stern look on her face. “Hunter, both of your bones in your lower-leg are broken. You broke clean right through your tibia and fibula, this is something you would have heard,” she said.
After hearing the diagnosis and thinking on it for the next few days, I think I know what it was that happened. I was in my stander (adapted elliptical) the night before working up quite the sweat working out. All the joints on my stander cause it to be pretty squeaky/noisy when I’m working out – which would have masked the “breaking” noise.
Fast forward to Monday night/hospital-discharge-night. I was now in a straight-leg cast, which I felt very uneasy about. I was being sent home in a rented wheelchair with a straight-leg-rest for my cast, which I also felt very uneasy about. The wheelchair was heavy and bulky. It was hard to push. The tires weren’t pneumatic, or even rubber, they were hard plastic. I was just excited to go home.
Up until this point, I hadn’t thought much about transportation, only that driving would be more difficult. I thought it would take me maybe up to 8-10 minutes or so to get in/out of my car and situated, but I never thought I wouldn’t be able to. I think I lined up to my car over 30 different times just trying to figure it out. After giving up on the driver-side door, I moved onto another door, then another, then another. This was when reality started to sink in. Not only could I not drive, I couldn’t even get in my van. After about 30 minutes, with the help of both my wife and mom, I got in the back seat. The closer we got to my apartment, the more fearful I became. I remembered my greatest fear when I first went to the ER. I remembered the multiple times I told hospital staff, “The thought of a straight-leg cast scares the hell out of me.” Somehow, between all the lighthearted vibes (whenever I’d say, “can you help with my leg” Sophie responded, “My Leg!” in the Sponge Bob voice) from the Fam, I had forgotten.
When we got to my apartment, my dad had to leave work early to help me get out of the car. He picked me up and moved me from my car to my wheelchair, while Sophie held my leg initially from inside the car and later passed to my mom standing outside the car. I silently wheeled around once I got inside, drawing a mental map of the areas I’d be able to access in the coming months. I entered my bathroom to draw that picture and felt nothing but overwhelmed. I never said a word. My mom would ask me, “How are you feeling, Hunter?” but I couldn’t get any words out. I hesitated to reply, and hesitated even more once I started, “…I’m just… I’m really not… There’s just so much that…” Honestly, I couldn’t picture the next 2-3 months without ending in defeat.
Getting a good night’s sleep in my own bed is when I started feeling better. Sophie had to help in moving to/from my chair, but she’s so sweet and accommodating that she didn’t complain (and never has to this day). My dad came in clutch by modifying my wheelchair, making a leg rest out of PVC pipe that honestly needs to be marketed. I was able to ditch my rental chair, and use my own char. In the following days, my mom and Sophie’s mom were over on and off to help us clean and get situated to go back to work the next week. My “vacation” week off work didn’t quite go as planned – we had to cancel our Scuba diving trip to Cayman Brac – but things really progressed during that week off after the hospital, and so did my spirits.
My first week back to work went well given the circumstances. I had to take one day off due to infection, but it wasn’t bad for a first week. The second week went even better, and I’m now feeling better than ever going into the third week. The cast is pretty debilitating, I can’t lie. I like to avoid the word “handicapped”, but no doubt I’m handicapped now. I’m very limited. But hey, it’s only in the short term. The truth is, it has become easier every day to view this not as a loss, but as a gain. Because long term, I see nothing but benefits resulting. My wife and I are forced to band together on a new level and overcome adversity. Our marriage is great, but there’s nothing that can’t be strengthened. Without my family, my wife especially, I’d still be stuck in that bathroom the night I got home from the hospital, feeling overwhelmed and defeated.