Since October: Part 3: The "Hospital"

January 29, 2015

Okay, so if you've missed Part 1 and Part 2, you can catch up here and here.
We had the wedding and then went on our glorious honeymoon.  
When I last left you, things had just taken a turn (or fall) for the worst.

Before I go any further, let me just say that I was totally sober.  I had just gotten a drink from the swim up bar (duh) and was carrying it with me to get the towels.  There were little bridges you had to cross over the pools to get from one side to the other.  I was in my bikini, no cover up, no shoes, because hello, I was at the pool and not walking that far.  Everyone knows that pool decks are slippery and even more so when it's been raining, so I was trying to be extra careful. I made it about 10 feet from the pool concierge where the towels were before I fell.

Now, for those of you who know me, you know it's nothing for me to fall in any given place at any given time.  I mean, hell, I fell over the weekend at Costco!  I panicked, of course, but I'm okay.  Let's not get off topic.

(if you have a queasy stomach, proceed with caution.  it's not too gruesome, but still- fair warning. )

So, here I am, 10 feet from the towels, my destination at the time, and I fall.  I remember my foot slipping out from under me and trying desperately to grab whatever I could find to save myself from falling.  I was on the bridge, going down the slope, and fell:  HARD.  I was okay, and I tried to get up but I couldn't.  I looked down and my right knee cap was all the way out of place, on the far right side of my leg, and it was the craziest thing I've ever seen.  Since I work in Orthopedics, I knew what had happened and tried not to panic.  But I also knew that I was in a foreign country and would need medical treatment, which scared the hell out of me.

So people come running, two girls who were both nurses, and ask me where my husband is.  I tell them my room number and one of the girls sends her husband to find Ben.  The way Ben tells the story is actually really funny.  He said the guy told him "there had been an accident and his wife had fallen."  Ben said his exact words were, "Oh Jesus, no."  It's not funny, because he was scared of what he would find since the guy gave him so little detail, but to hear him tell it now is quite funny.

So Ben comes running around the corner, looking like a deer in headlights, pool bag in tow (no need for that now, but hey, he managed to get it without falling, so props to him) asking me if I'm okay.  I told him I was fine but my knee was dislocated and I needed to go to the clinic.  Stupidly, I assumed they would be able to just pop it back into place in the resort clinic.  Wrong!

They tried to put me in a wheelchair, like a bunch of dummies, and ended up having to put me on one of those bright orange plastic helicopter boards that you see when people have neck injuries and are about to be airlifted somewhere.  It was truly horrifying.  (in case you were wondering, I'm still in my bikini.  no cover up.  no shoes.  stomach out.  yep.)  So 5 resort employees carry me across the resort to the clinic, where they do absolutely nothing except give me a shot of some anti-inflammatory medicine to help with swelling and make Ben fill out an accident report.  Then the "ambulance" comes to take me to the "hospital."  The "ambulance" was a tiny (and I do mean TINY) VW stick-shift van that barely fit Ben and the gurney I had transitioned to.  Remember when I told you that we had to drive 50 minutes to the resort from the airport?  Yep, 50 minutes in the "ambulance" to the "hospital" in Punta Cana.

The reason I'm putting these in quotations is simply because they were foreign in all aspects of the word:  foreign to me as an American, different than American ambulances and hospitals, etc... So I get to the "hospital" and the best way I can describe it is an American Family Care with an "operating room."  I never learned Spanish, against my mother's wishes for me as a high school student, and boy was karma laughing in my face.  NO ONE in the hospital spoke English.  The x-ray techs were looking at my knee like, "and just WTF are we supposed to do about this?!"  They basically looked horrified, as did I to them, I'm sure.  They took what seemed like a zillion x-rays and sent me back to my room.

Keep in mind, I am still in my bikini.  Ben brought clothes for me to change into, but there was no time for that yet.  All of this was pure craziness.  Between the long ambulance ride and the language barrier, it was a hot mess.  Also keep in mind that since my knee was out of place, I couldn't bend my knee.  So I have been in the worst position for over an hour at this point, with my right knee bent up and any slight movement sending the most excruciating pain through my leg.

So after the x-rays, Ben figured out that they weren't going to take my insurance and we were going to have to pay out of pocket and try to get reimbursed by Blue Cross at a later time (which we did, so that ended up being fine.)  We hadn't called any credit card companies or banks because the honeymoon was paid for and we had cash from wedding gifts for any excursions we might want to do.  So while I try to communicate (very poorly) with the Spanish speaking staff about what was happening with my leg, Ben is making international calls to unlock his credit card to pay for whatever they are about to do to me.

A doctor finally came in who spoke extremely broken English and told me that they were going to put me to sleep for 5-10 minutes, pop my knee back in place, and give me medicine to prevent blood clots on the plane.  Ben finally got the credit card unlocked and got in touch with our travel company, who changed our flight from the following several days we still had left to the next day so we could get home and see what I needed to do about my knee.  I would later find out that I had torn all the ligaments in my knee, torn my VMO muscle 8 cm, chipped a piece of my knee cap and "severely traumatized" my quad muscle. 

I don't want to seem rude or skeptical or like I don't trust people in foreign countries, but I was more terrified than I had ever been in my life.  I prayed to God harder than I ever have in my entire life.  Going to sleep for 5-10 minutes in a foreign country?  What if they kill me?  I just got married!  Ben wasn't in the room when they told me this and no one understood the words "I need to speak to my husband before you take me in there" so they just started rolling me down the hall to the "operating room" like it was no big deal.  I just happened to see Ben walking back to my room and they didn't even stop for me to talk to him.  All I managed to get out was "they are putting me to sleep to pop it back in" and then the doors shut behind me.  I was TERRIFIED beyond anything I've ever felt.

Ben said he was terrified as well.  He said he couldn't even sit down because he was so nervous.  He said all he could think was that he didn't get to say he loved me or tell me that everything would be okay.  It still makes me cry to this day to think about him saying those things and feeling that way.  I know I would NOT be okay if the roles were reversed.  I'm so lucky to have him; he took care of me and everything that needed to be handled.  Like a pro, actually.

So they take me in, put me to sleep, and then I wake up in this long, locked leg brace with my knee back in place.  Like I said, I didn't know my true diagnosis until I got back to Alabama and saw my doctor, but I knew it wasn't good.  When they woke me up I cried hysterically.  It sounds weird to other people, but I had never been so glad to be alive.  I know that I was just unfamiliar with the language and procedures, but this was my first time out of the country.  I was so relieved and happy to just be alive and know that if I could get back to America, I would feel much better.

this was almost immediate bruising and the swelling was so severe that I had no clue where my knee cap truly was positioned after they put it back in place.  which, as I would later learn, nothing but the brace was holding it in place, so it was just sort of going wherever.  it became so incredibly black and blue all around my knee, the back of my leg, down my shin and up into my leg.  it was one of the craziest things I've ever seen, especially on my own leg.

severely swollen all the way down into my ankle.

back in the resort after our visit to the "hospital"

 We took a taxi to the pharmacy to get the medicine to prevent blood clots on the plane and I immediately emailed my boss letting her know what had happened.  I also emailed my mom just to let her know I was okay, but we were coming back early and I would explain when I got home.  I wanted someone to know we were flying at a different time than originally planned, just in case.

That night the resort brought us French food from the French restaurant to our room since I couldn't walk without crutches and quite frankly was scared to walk around the resort at all.  It was still raining, so we enjoyed our last night of our honeymoon couped up in the room with room service galore, a rainy view of the ocean and bad Dominican TV. 

The next day, we made our way back to the airport (another 50 minute drive!) and I parked it in a wheelchair.  The one good thing about the injury was being "handicapped" going through the airport.  We had a person assigned to us for our entire time at the airport-  he took us through security like a boss, took us to the front of all the (super long) lines, and took us to the front of the line to board the plane.  The only problem with being very first in line to board the plane was that there were stairs.  There is no terminal like Birmingham, Atlanta, etc... there is a roll up staircase that you walk up to board the plane.  Well, I couldn't walk without crutches OR bend my knee, so there was no way I could get up the stairs.


When you can't climb the staircase to board the plane, they strap you in a chair and carry you.  I'm not even kidding.  They put me in a chair (of sorts), strapped me across both my shoulders, my stomach and my thighs and told me to hold on.  They picked me up, turned me around where I could face (not even kidding) and carried me up to the top, where I then hobbled to a handicap reserved seat.  At this point, it's just laughable.  What else can happen to me before I can just get home?!

The flight was direct, thank God, but we had flown out from Atlanta, so we still had a two hour drive back to Birmingham before I could be home and semi-comfortable.  I saw the doctor I work for on Monday and they sent me for an MRI of my knee.  The MRI didn't even show all the damage I had done to my leg, but they scheduled me for surgery the following Monday.  I had to have an MPFL repair with a knee scope and some other stuff.  They told Ben and my dad, who were with me the day of surgery, that it was worse than they thought once they got inside my knee.  I started physical therapy that Wednesday, but couldn't bend my knee for two weeks after surgery to make sure everything healed in place nice and tight, and have been going three times a week for three months.  I still haven't been discharged from therapy, but I'm hoping to be discharged next week.

There was a period of about 2-3 weeks when they had to "stretch" my knee (aka, push it backwards to regain range of motion) when it was so incredibly painful, I would cry hysterically.  The scar tissue in my leg would "break up" (make a popping sound) and they would have to push through it, which is a good thing, but it was honestly the worst pain I've ever felt.  Over three months after surgery, I'm still 4 degrees away from normal range of motion (which is 135 degrees).  My leg doesn't hurt and it feels back to normal, but I have to be so careful all the time.  I've gone from 0 degrees range of motion to 131 degrees and it has taken such an intense amount of time.  I also worry about hurting my other leg, but after several (like... SEVERAL) conversations with my doctor, we've come to the conclusion that it was a freak accident and the stars aligned at the just right (or wrong) time for all of those things to occur.  I still worry, but I trust him, so I don't worry as much as I have in the past.

I'm so, so, so, SO, ready to be back to a normal life.  Some people don't understand what I've been through.  (this is NOT a pity party, trust me.)  I returned to my classes a week after my surgery.  I'm a new wife.  I'm a full time employee (even though I was out of work for 6 weeks).  I do therapy in the middle of my work day for 2+ hours, three times a week, and I'm making part time pay.  There have been times of true depression for me and also times of true happiness and hope.  Until weight loss surgery, I had never had surgery before.  Now, in two years, I've had two surgeries.  And with my gastric bypass, there was no rehab time.  I just had to change parts of my life to lose weight.  (There were hard times, no doubt, but not like having a true, temporarily life altering injury.)  I wish some people in my life were more understanding, but I guess that's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.

I'm really excited about being so close to the end of this period of my life.  I know accidents happen and no, I'm not going to try and own the resort.  So many people have asked me that, ha!  I truly have a new understanding for the patient's we see and the pain they endure from different injuries.  I know once I'm 100% healed and out of my brace and able to resume my workout classes, I will feel like the old Meighan.  I'm taking it day by day and from what I hear, it might take a while (6-8 months?!), but life will be totally normal again.  And I really can't wait.  :)

huge props to anyone who read all these incredibly long posts.
i'm glad to finally tell the story of what happened.
i know a lot of you knew i was injured, but not sure of the details.
crazy huh?
leave it to beaver...

until next time!


  1. I'm completely speechless! You are so strong to go through what you endured and ultimately come out with a positive attitude. Props to you girl!

  2. Girl. All of that is so scary and I'm so glad you're okay and doing much better!

  3. OH MY GOSH!!! What an ordeal! I can't even believe this happened to you. I can imagine you're so ready for things to get back to normal!

  4. Good. Lord. I cannot believe it. Props to you for being resilient and positive. I would have had a panic attack if I was about to be put to sleep in a hospital in a foreign country. I am so glad you are doing better!

  5. I remember when you were telling us the story over drinks for the first time, and I still can't believe it after reading all the details. You are such a strong person for having been through this whole ordeal and can still speak positively. I would have been a complete mess and probably not ever emotionally the same. Mainly because I am a big baby! I am glad that you are back on the mend! You deserve to be able to enjoy your first year of marriage!!!!

  6. OMG! I can only imagine how painful that was! And on your honeymoon too! I hope yall are able to go for a do-over at some point once you are completely healed!

    Hang in there, this too shall pass!


  7. I already knew the story, but I still teared up thinking about you and Ben in that foreign hospital. I can't imagine how terrifying it must have been! I'm SO glad that you are better!!!

  8. The bit where you were about to be put under literally had me crying - oh my goodness. I cannot imagine. What a shocking, crazy ride you've been on! Way to be positive and keep working hard to get your life to where you want it to be - you're such an inspiration!