I never thought I would know what it feels like to be truly damaged. At least not at this age, but here I am, feeling damaged.
Injury is something that I always (wrongfully) assume “won’t happen to me.” Sure, I have had my share of stitches, infections, and broken bones, but never anything terribly serious. Recently that status has changed. I fell while playing some frisbee, something that has grown to be an absolute favorite of mine. I came down on the turf hard and I landed on my neck. Initially, I had the wind knocked out of me and I stayed down for a few minutes. I then slowly stood up and thought I felt fine so I continued playing for awhile. I climbed into bed that night knowing that I would be feeling sore, but I could have never prepared myself for the reality I would soon face.
I woke up feeling like I had been hit by a car, but still was not genuinely worried. Just some sore muscles, no big deal. I carried on like this for two days and by Thursday night, I was right back on the field playing frisbee. When I woke up on Friday morning, I could no longer move my head. I dismissed the pain assuming that I had slept at a weird angle. I went to work that morning thinking that the muscles would loosen up as the day wore on. That wasn’t the case at all. By the end of my shift, I knew that something was seriously wrong so I made an appointment with a doctor at Swedish Covenant Hospital for that afternoon. After a quick 10 minute conversation with the doctor, she sent me over to the emergency room to have a CT scan and more immediate medical attention.
After a very long wait, I was brought in for a CT scan. I waited a few more hours for my results. While I waited the doctors gave me a strong dose of pain medication and a muscle relaxer. The whole time I was waiting I was simply praying that it was nothing more than whiplash. The doctor finally had my results and when he came in, he had a very concerned look on his face and that was the moment my heart dropped into my stomach. The verdict was: severe muscular whiplash and two protruding discs. This discs had shifted toward my spinal cord. The doctor explained that I may need surgery and that I would need to continue wearing the neckbrace until I was able to see a neurosurgeon. I thought I was going to cry right there in that room… but I guess I had done enough of that for the day. I went home after seven very long hours, but I was determined to keep a positive attitude. Truly, my injury could have turned out much worse. I knew I was realistically looking at a long recovery, but I was hopeful.
Two days later, I am feeling less than hopeful. I am feeling like damaged goods. It has been difficult to continue feeling hopeful. I did some research on my diagnosis so that I could walk into my appointment with the surgeon feeling confident and educated. The research was more discouraging than anything. My options are surgery, or a specific type of physical therapy. Both options had some serious pros and cons that could potentially affect the rest of my life. I realistically, will not be playing in any frisbee tournaments this semester which is extremely disheartening for me. Frisbee is my favorite thing in the whole world and it is so hard to imagine my week without it, even for just a semester. It is also frustrating to feel like a circus freakshow everytime I go out into public. Everywhere I go, I am stared at. Always. If people aren’t staring, they’re asking me about it. I have told the story at least 50 times over the last few days. I know it is only because people care, but sometimes, I would just prefer that everyone pretended I’m not wearing a neck brace.
My least favorite response, however, is pity. I have been treated like a delicate china doll over the last few days. People have been offering me coffee, snacks, their seats, etc. Not that this is a bad thing, but I just wish I would be treated the same as any other normal day.
It’s been hard. I may feel damaged, but I will not allow myself to feel defeated. I am a fighter, and I will come back from this.