Every morning Facebook shows me Memories from my newsfeed: posts I shared on that day in previous years. Some of them are funny. Some are occasionally sad, like birthday greetings for a friend who died.
Lately, those Memories have led off with my posts from my trip to New York a year ago. I was there to interview women for my next book and do more research at the New York Public Library’s Lincoln Center branch. As luck would have it, I was able to catch a couple of presentations that were related to my research.
As the Memories pop up each morning, I’m amazed at how much I accomplished and how excited I was. My focus was on the book and getting things done. I was on a roll. Everything was falling into place. Until “falling” became a little too literal.
In the middle of that trip, on an otherwise lovely Saturday afternoon, my only day with no work scheduled, I missed the curb crossing the street near the new AIDS Memorial in the West Village. Instead of stepping up, I tripped and fell on my hand. I knew as soon as I hit the ground that something was very wrong. I’d never broken a bone before, but I soon found out I had broken four, along with dislocating one finger.
As luck would have it – and I do consider it luck – I was maybe 100 feet from the entrance to a stand-alone emergency room. Strangers helped me up and in the door, where I was quickly taken care of. X-rays and a CT scan (because I’d bumped my head when I fell) were shared with a hand surgeon who happened to be there when I arrived. I was in more pain than I’d been in since my concussion in 2009. A lot more.
I was transported to Lenox Hill Hospital where that surgeon inserted five pins that stayed in my hand for almost six weeks. Because I’d just had lunch before I fell, I was given local anesthetic: a series of shots in my hand. Painful though they were, they bothered me a lot less than the fact that being awake for the surgery meant I heard the drill inserting the pins in my fingers. After some time in recovery, I was put in a cab to go back to my hotel. The whole thing – from fall to cab ride – was less than six hours.
I was still 900 miles away from home, and had to stay where I was until my follow-up with the surgeon three days later. Sleep was almost impossible: I had to keep my hand immobilized and elevated, which was awkward at best. The prescriptions I was given did nothing to alleviate the constant pain. I was alone, trying to do things like shower, wash my hair and eat using my left hand only because, of course, I’m right-handed.
When I finally returned home, I was faced with a daunting schedule of physical therapy, even before the pins came out. Twenty-nine sessions later, I was told I was done. Done, but not 100%.
Sunday is the one-year anniversary of my fall. My hand is much better, though there is still daily stiffness. The pain went down about 95% after the pins came out, but I do still occasionally have enough that I have to alter my activities or take some ibuprofen. All of this, I’m told, will fade eventually. If I had osteoporosis, the damage would have much worse.
I read those Facebook Memories and feel like I’m reading about someone else, not me. I’m back in New York right now, coincidentally. I’m hunkered down to write the first draft of that book. And I have to admit, my mood is not the same as it was a year ago.
My fall took a lot out of me: physically, financially, emotionally. I was as physically helpless as I’ve ever been, learning to work through pain to get back to normal. I just finished paying off the last of the hand-related medical bills this month. And I won’t deny falling into a depression that lasted longer than I expected. But despite the odd angle of the photo on the left, my hand looks normal again.
But I’m back. There are two beds in my hotel room, one of them covered with file folders, each representing a woman in the book. They’re separated in piles – chapters – though those designations could change.
My audio recorder is on the desk, waiting for me to start transcribing notes. Books that I still need to reference are en route for delivery tomorrow. The mini-fridge is stocked with fruit, leftover Chinese food and other snacks.
What I was doing a year ago – before my fall – was the fun part. Now it’s nose to the grindstone to get this first draft written by Veteran’s Day. The following week I send off permission requests for quotes and images to be used in the book. The week of Thanksgiving, it will be time for draft #2.
A year ago, before my fall, the book was still theoretical. And while writing a first draft is not as much fun as what I was doing a year ago, it’s the real work. It’s daunting, but I’m ready.
So, when those Facebook Memories pop up next year, I hope my reaction will be “See? It was all worth it.”