Pain Beyond Pain

I don’t remember bouncing down the concrete stairs head first from my second-story apartment to the first floor landing.  Only later did I remember that I had got up to pee ’bout eleven.  I went to bed Wednesday night around 9PM after teaching a late-night English class.  Took a shower, brushed teeth, took a benadryl for my allergies.  The light bulb had burned out in the bathroom near my bedroom, so half-asleep I maneuvered through the dark to my second bathroom, contiguous to the stairwell.  I came to in pitch black. Head against the bottom entryway door, feet sprawled behind; when I could think I first thought I had tripped in the bathroom and fallen in the shower. When I tried to move intense pain shot through my body.  After a few minutes I managed to inch my body around and crawl up the stairs to a light switch.  The bones in my right arm had bent into an obvious unhealthy profile and there was blood everwhere. Crawling out of the stairwell, I stood and staggered to my first aid kit, took out an ace wrap and wrapped my bleeding arm the best I could to help staunch the bleeding.  Then I took the pillow off my bed and molded it to my arm’s contour to help splint it; pressing the pillow against my abdomen it immediately became saturated with blood.  After several minutes reclining on my sofa, fearing going into shock,  I called the PCMO about midnight.  Thus began a chain of events that took me by ambulance from La Paz to a hospital in Comayagua where X-rays confirmed a serious compound fracture of the radius and ulna at the joint with the humerus.  Immediately transported to Tegucigalpa with IV antibiotics started I reestablished contact with Dr. Claros who treated my plantar fasciitis in 2009.  He reduced the fracture and debrided the open wound that same morning after my having arrived by ambulance at 5AM.  The next day I was med evaced to Panama via Costa Rica.  Panama’s medical facilities are top notch and the country receives medical referrals from all over Latin America.  After three surgeries, however, it became apparent that they were not equipped to deal with the severity of my case.  The third surgery there was an external fixation of a metal brace to the bones of the ulna, radius and humerus to keep them from moving while I was transferred by med evac to Seattle, where the premier trauma center in the country is located.  And fortunately my home of record.  Surgical procedures in Panama are not allowed to use pain meds like morphine, dilaudid, demerol, or even codeine because of the country’s drug problems.  I survived three surgeries there, the third being most memorable, experiencing the worst pain I have ever felt in my life.  I awoke in the recovery room the third time thinking I had somehow been transported into the depths of a 15th century torture chamber Inquisition, my entire arm on fire, delirious my mind screamed how in the 21st century anyone could be allowed to suffer such pain.  My accident happened the night of 9 February 2011.  I arrived at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle on the 19th of February.  My fifth surgical procedure was done on 22 February 2011.  I was discharged from Harborview on 25 February 2011 to my daughter’s home to begin intensive 3 times a week Occupational Therapy.  It has taken me this long to post a comment due to the extreme pain and treatment regimen.  And of course there is the never-ending paperwork.  My goal is to devote myself entirely to the rehabilitation process and be ready to return to work in Honduras by the end of May.  I will post photos next entry.

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About Fortunato Velasquez

Fortunato Velasquez received his Registered Nurse's license from the State of California during the month that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. On February 15, 2020, my friend and the director of the Fundación Señor San José in La Paz, La Paz, Honduras, Sister Edith Suazo Fernandez died at the age of 47. This a video of her funeral.

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