I thought I better let you know what had happened to me and update my condition. Well…, as some of you know, I was in the process of moving back to U.S, and in the meantime with summer break I was enjoying my vacation in Korea throughout July with my family. But it turns out that I have to rely on these crutches for the next few months. Here is the story.
July 12th, Friday
I took my family and my nephew to ride ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle) in Gangwon province which is on the east coast of Korea. It was raining a little but still good enough to enjoy the outdoor on the hilly rural area of beautiful east coast.
The first 30 minute ride was great and we were having fun. Then we were heading to more slopped rocky area to challenge. My ATV slipped off on a ditch, and I sprang out from the vehicle and fell off like a rag doll on the ground. I landed on my left side of hip very hard.
‘Uh-oh, this is not good…’ I knew right away something bad happened to my leg because I felt excruciating pain on my left thigh. The pain was unbearable and I couldn’t even get myself up. Luckily my husband was right behind me and saw the whole accident.
I was shipped to the local emergency and took an X-ray. They found the fractures on my femur bone below the hip joint. The local doctor said that I needed a surgery soon and recommended to go to a bigger hospital in Seoul. We had to arrange a private ambulance to ship me and my families to Seoul. It was getting darker and the rain was getting heavier. With Friday evening traffic, it took 2 hours to reach to our designated hospital – the Severance hospital in Seoul. My young son thought it was so cool to see all the vehicles on the road were making a way for us to pass. Even with a pain killer I was in misery especially when the ambulance was hitting on all the bumps and turns on the road.
We arrived in Seoul very late night and went through more tests and X-rays. The diagnose was “Intertrochanter fracture”. There were fractures below the hip joint on the the top of femur bone. The resident doctor came and explained the injury and the types of surgery I needed. The surgery was scheduled to be on the next morning. I don’t even remember how I spent the night.
July 13th, Saturday
10 am. They took me to the operation room and injected epidural on my spine to make my legs numb. I finally met the orthopedic surgeon – Dr. Yang. He briefly explained what he is gonna do with the surgery.
“Please, do your very best so that I will walk with my two legs again!”. I asked him.
“Of course you will.” He smiled and affirmed me that everything will be alright.
The operation began and the doctor inserted titanium rods and screws on my femur. The surgery went for 2-1/2 hours and I was awake most of the time. Yes, I heard the sound of drilling when the doctor was inserting the screws on my bone! Listening to the horrific sound of someone inserting metal rods and screws to my leg in a very cold operation room was something I will never forget rest of my life. I felt extremely cold and they piled up more blankets on my torso.
I prayed. Prayer has an immense power to bring peace to one’s mind. It always has been a source to gain strength when I need. And it became a way to express my gratitude for what I am blessed with. I believe that humble and sincere prayers do bring personal inspirations.
What was my inspirations? Well, the very first thought came to my mind was that I would totally be destined to get caught at metal detectors in every airport. You gotta have some humor even during your lowest moment. Right? But throughout all the ordeal, I had a comforting feeling that I would be okay. And I consider myself lucky to have accident like this happened in Korean where I could get a quality medical service.
The surgery was successful according to doctor and I spent the next 4 days in the hospital. My poor husband, who came to Korea to spend 1 week of his vacation, had to spend most of his time on my bedside.
July 14th, Sunday
Since my body was linked with so much of medicines (pain killers, antibiotics, etc), I was drowsy most time and I couldn’t eat as much as I should. However the hospital care and the medical service was great.
Dr. Yang visited me every morning leading a dozen of his residents and intern doctors – quite usual scene in large Korean hospitals.
I guess the knee surgery is considered as the most painful one to recover of all the surgeries.
I shared the hospital room with an 80-year-old lady who just had a knee surgery. She was in a great pain and whining every moment I can remember. In fact the most people in the hospital ward I was staying were the elderly. Some had hip surgeries, some spine, and some knees. One lady told me that I look too young to have a hip joint surgery without knowing what had happened to me.
Seeing these elderly people suffering from their injuries or illnesses caused by old age made me ponder of the later stages of our lives. No one can avoid from getting old, and your body will deteriorate as you get older. I think I gained a great deal of understanding and compassion to elderly people. Taking care of our health and our body while we are young is extremely crucial to obtain better life in the later stage.
I was encouraged to move around with crutches but every move I made I felt so much pain especially with sitting up and down.
I left hospital and stayed in a hotel with my family to recover more before flying to U.S.
Spending most of time either on the couches or on the bed, I became THE couch potato. I think I’ve watched more Korean TV shows in this week than I did in my entire life.
First few days, walking was painful even with crutches. I tried many different types of pain killers that doctor prescribed but none seemed to work except they made me drowsy. I had to get self-injected blood clot shots for 10 days (with a help of my husband). I had a visiting nurse checking on me every few days to sterilize my wound and make sure it didn’t get any infection.
I think the worst part was that I was not allowed to take a shower for 10 days to avoid any possible infection caused by water. Please, don’t try to imagine how I would look. I felt extremely gross. I had my husband wipe my body with a damp clothe, but my hair? Luckily my hotel was a serviced apartment so there was a kitchen sink. I managed to wash my hair like I would wash the Korean noodles.
Because of my unexpected accident, I had to make many changes to our family’s summer plan. My initial plan of traveling around many places of Korea and taste the local foods (and I was going to blog about it… ) had been cancelled. It will be a few more years for me to get another chance to travel in Korea. What a bummer!! I am sad. Very very sad.
My families and I flew from Seoul to Denver. I am so glad that I didn’t pass out. I lied down and slept most time.
July 25th-August 13th
I am staying in my in-laws in the suburban area of Denver.
The pain is subsiding slowly and I can handle about 50% weight bearing on my left leg with a help of crutches. I have seen the orthopedic doctor here and he said I might need at least 12 weeks not only for the fractured bones but also the damaged muscle tissues and ligaments to heal. It has been 4 weeks since my surgery, which means I have 8 more weeks to go, at least. Arrrrgh!!!
According to my research, this type injury might take 3-6 month to heal, and some even needs 1 year to recover fully to go back to normal everyday life. Thinking about the whole recovery process plus being a couch potato myself at this moment is not exciting at all.
Please, allow this quirky petite middle aged Korean lady to be depressed for a moment.
Okay, I am done feeling blue…
Denver is great. I always have loved this beautiful place. The air, the mountain, and the food (especially the Mexican food)… “Me guesta la comida Mexicana!!!”
As I am sitting in front of the computer to recall the past one month of my unfortunate event, I see many birds flying outside of the window. They all come down to feed themselves on the bird houses and bird baths in the neighbor’s yard. I so envy these birdies right now. Being able to move your body freely is a precious gift that we should be thankful for.
I am praying that I will get on my two feet on the ground again soon and do the things I do without the pain and the discomfort. The time will come eventually. I just have to be patient and be active. Hopefully I will be able to go pick some apples and patch some pumpkins with my kids in the fall. I am crossing my fingers!
I will try to post some pictures I took in Korea next time, if I can manage. I hope you all are having a great summer and getting ready for a beautiful fall.