Monday, November 20, 2017

The Night My Face Was Ruined

(Continued from The Day My Dog Bit Me)

There are a few things you ought to know about me.
  • I'm good in emergencies because I don't freeze and I'm pretty good at solving problems on the fly. 
  • But if I don't have any problems to solve or tasks to complete, I become a bundle of anxious energy. 
  • When I am anxious or scared (or angry), I talk -- loudly and in great quantity. It's my main stress relief, probably because if I'm thinking about talking I'm not thinking about how bad things are and/or what else could go wrong. 
  • I absolutely HATE waiting. 
As you have probably figured out, I had nothing to do BUT wait as mom drove me to the hospital. I was sitting there, full of adrenaline and with no problems to solve and nothing to focus on but my shredded, bleeding face. Which meant I talked the entire time to the ER. 

I'm not gonna lie, I threw myself one heck of a pity party. Here were some popular refrains:
  • Why did this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this?
  • This is my own damn fault. I talked about how I was happy. I called attention to my happiness and so the universe balanced things out, because when I talk about good things they go away. 
  • Why did he bite me? I didn't do anything wrong. 
  • He is NOT my dog any more. MY dog wouldn't have bitten me. 
  • I'm not going to demand he be put down. That's a decision you (mom) will have to make. But he's not my dog and I don't want him around me anymore. 
  • I'm a public speaker. Will I even be able to talk again? And if so, will anyone still want to look at me?
  • Oh god. I'm going to be permanently disfigured, aren't I? I didn't think it was possible to be uglier than I am, but now I'm hideous. 
  • How am I ever going to afford any of this? Not just the ER bills, but what if I need surgical reconstruction of my face?
Put those on loop for about 20 minutes and that's what it was like in the car. Mom was trying to reassure me, but another thing you should know about me is that when I am deep in the shit I am completely immune to being reassured:
  • It's fine.  My FACE is in TATTERS! This is the exact opposite of 'fine'!
  • All right then, you will be fine!  I'm in pain, I lost my dog, and I don't know if I'm missing parts of my face. 
  • Everything will work out. You don't know that! You're not a doctor!
  • We'll be there soon. Well, drive faster!
I'm basically a "mean drunk without the booze" when I'm like this, because everything is awful and you're bullshitting me like all first responders do and I don't believe your filthy lies so someone please tell me how truly fucked I am right now because I am imagining some really awful things that positive words just aren't banishing. 

It's kind of a wonder that my family still speaks to me, if I'm being honest. 

Mom dropped me off at the ER and went to park the car. I walked in, the front desk nurse said "Can I help you?" and I lowered the washcloth from my face just enough to give her the full effect and said "A dog ate my face and I'm bleeding all over."

The good news is that I didn't have to fill out any paperwork first (although she did ask for my name and telephone number. Given that my last name isn't English and I was talking through bloody shreds, this was frustrating, and for the first time out of many I wished I had my phone with me, because it held my ID and I could just hand that to her). The bad news is that she still had to take my blood pressure and pulse before I could get back to see the doctors, and I'm reasonably sure that if I hadn't had a mouth injury she'd have tried to take my temperature too. You just can't escape some bureaucracy...

Fortunately we got through the foreplay pretty quickly and I was ushered back to a room. I had no fewer than two nurses there, and the first thing they did was to take my red washcloth from me and throw it away in the biohazard bag. I was upset by this, but apparently not upset enough to make a scene about it. Mainly I was thinking  "But I can clean that! The blood won't even show!... ah, fuck it, it's not that important and I want them concentrating on me. But dammit, what a waste."

They replaced my red washcloth with something that was thinner than a washcloth but thicker than a gauze pad (and white, of course. My brain seized on that as being important. "You can see all the blood!" Although seeing the blood was probably deliberate, and it was disposable anyway, my brain didn't think of that) and then had me hold my lip-shred as low as I could without letting them dangle -- they didn't need to tell me, but it was pretty obvious that they were concerned the pieces might finish tearing and fall off if I let them dangle -- and then used two or three big syringes of saline to irrigate my lips. 

I kept asking them how it looked, and if I had any pieces missing, and their replies were "We've seen worse" -- which didn't trip my BS meter, because this was an ER and so of course they'd seen worse, and it wasn't a trite reassurance -- and "We aren't doctors, but it looks like you're in one piece." Once they'd finished irrigating my wounds, they told me to keep the now-wet cloth up to my face, because they didn't want anything to dry out. 

Then the main nurse (I don't know how these work, but to use military parlance, this guy was clearly a sergeant or higher while the other two were corporals at best) came in, hooked me up to various stuff, asked how I was doing, etc. 

"Well, I'm in pain, and I'm scared shitless, and my face is torn up and bleeding." So naturally he bled me some more by taking several vials of blood for testing. Then he asked how long ago I'd had a tetanus shot, and I answered "Seven years ago," and I was told I'd get another one. 

Around about this time the nurse-receptionist came in, because Papierkram, bitte, and I politely snarled that I was in no condition to fill it out, but my mother had driven me here and was probably in the waiting room, so please send her back and she'll fill out the forms. 

It's kind of amazing what kind of behavior you can get away with when you're bleeding. 

So mom came back, and did all the paperwork BS, and the doctor finally came in to take a look at me. He announced that the damage was too extensive for him to suture and that it would take a plastic surgeon. However, none of the plastics who worked at that hospital were there that night, or even on-call, and he'd have to find another hospital with a plastic surgeon who would see me that night. 

He did however prescribe both a painkiller (dilaudid) and an anti-anxiety medication (ativan), both intravenously. 
  • Dilaudid is like the most glorious nausea ever. I felt like I was on the urge of throwing up, but I knew I wouldn't because my stomach wasn't spasming; and I felt dizzy and disoriented and headachey. What was odd was that I knew I felt these awful things -- I wasn't numb -- I simply didn't care. It was like my body said "Yeah, I feel like I'm going to puke and pass out, but who gives a shit?"
  • Ativan, though, is some good stuff. I never asked for more dilaudid, but I asked for more ativan later. It's too bad it can be habit-forming, because I'd like a prescription for that when I'm stressing out about life and wanting to scream and throw things. I don't know if I can describe its effects other than "I started to chill out and stop thinking such negative thoughts. I was calm enough to be bored."
Then came a lot of waiting. I remember wishing I had my phone again, because I had nothing to do except wait to hear which hospital would take me, and if I had a phone I could talk to people on Facebook about what I was going through. 

Oh, and probably take the grossest selfie ever, because I was chilled enough that I had accepted the fact I was in professional hands and they'd take care of me. After all, they were getting me a plastic surgeon to stitch me up!

Then something happened which was almost, but not quite, wonderful. Thanks to the ativan, and thanks to mom being there and being concerned about me, I figured "You know, if I'm ever going to come out to her, now might be the time. She's probably not going to freak out too terribly because she's still concerned about me, and if she does there are doctors here." Also, if things go weird and I need to abort the conversation, I can blame them on the drugs later. 

But of course I just can't tell her straight out "Mom, I was born in the wrong body. I'm transgender. I wish I had been born a girl," I have to work my way up to it. I started off by saying "Mom, if I end up staying in the hospital for days, please don't go into my room to get me clothes or anything."

Mom knows I value my privacy, so instead of asking me why, she just nodded and said "Okay" in the same way she'd say "Well, if you WANT to be uncomfortable, that's on you."


"You're not going to ask me why? You aren't curious?"

"Of course I'm curious, but I figured if you wanted me to know, you'd have told me."

Now,  I remember saying "It's because if you go in there, it will change how you feel about me," but Mom has since told me that she remembers me saying "If you go in there, you won't love me any more." I think my version is more accurate, but she got the gist of it. 

I was working my way up to explaining that if she went into my room, she'd find wigs and makeup and women's clothing, and for once it seemed like she was really listening to me, not just hearing but truly listening and processing, and maybe it was because I was injured but there seemed to be a lot of tenderness and love at the moment. 

...and right when I thought maybe I could tell her, the doctor walks in to tell me that there's a plastic surgeon in a hospital 90 minutes away, but that I need to get there via ambulance, and the soonest one of them could transport me would be 2 am. 

It was 11:30 pm when we were told this.

I asked if mom could just drive me herself, and was told no, because I might pass out or have a bad drug reaction or et cetera, and I needed to wait to be taken. I went along with this mainly because mom is terrible with directions, especially at night, and I couldn't use GPS because I didn't have my phone. Besides, I knew mom would want to get to bed, so when the ambulance came she headed home.

By this time the dilaudid had worn off, and I felt that the connection we had was gone and I didn't want to try again and be interrupted again by nurses checking on me, taking my blood, etc.

It was a very long wait, because the ambulance didn't arrive at 2 am; it arrived at 2:45 am and we didn't leave the hospital until 3 am.

My next post will be about getting stitched up by the plastic surgeon in Jacksonville. 

1 comment:

  1. Oh sweetie, I'm so sorry you went through all of this. Cormac and I were so worried. I wish you a speedy recovery.

    <3 Kate


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