June 24, 2010

Tamsin's Story, Part Two, Emergency

Sorry all, I really had no plans of making this a ten part installment, I honestly thought I'd get it all done in one posting last weekend. Unfortunately the travel and planning for Western has kinda gotten in the way of blogging! Damn 100 milers:)


I arrived home to shrieks, screams, tears, and two parents awaiting an ambulance for their beloved daughter.

The ambulance was taking forever and we figured we could manage in a taxi, so I called off the ambulance (it was a Friday night), grabbed a taxi and we made our way the ten blocks up to the Lion’s Gate Hospital.

It was blatantly obvious to everyone in the hospital that she was in a serious state and we had a bed within minutes verses the normal hour plus wait times. A nurse attended to us first and she decided to inject morphine to nullify the pain. She couldn’t get the needle into Tamsin’s running butt so it was split into her shoulders. Again we waited and it was a full hour before the Doctor was finally able to see us. During this time the morphine had taken effect and Tamsin was sleeping on and off. When she awoke she would cringe in pain but hold in the screams she wanted to release as she did not want to ‘embarrass herself’.

When the Doctor finally arrived I recognized him, he had cast my hand before BC Bike Race in 08. He was a runner himself and had held many collegiate records at Simon Frasier University in his day. He was the head of the ward as he’d been there over seventeen years. I was relieved to know that we had one of the best Doctors on the case.

He asked both Tamsin and myself a few questions, looked her up and down, touched the knee a bit, and basically said she’d be alright in the morning.

“Here are some morphine tablets. Only give her ONE ever FOUR hours. By tomorrow morning she’ll be feeling much better.”

My intuition doubted his prognosis, but having met and spoken with him many times before (through the running store), I had a rapport with him and trusted what he said. I had grown to like him in our brief exchanges before that day, and I already knew that he was one of the most respected Doctors at the hospital.

We caught a taxi home and I couldn’t help but notice that it was much more difficult for Tamsin to get into and out of the car than just a few hours previous. It took nearly ten minutes to get from the taxi, into the building, into the elevator, and down the hallway to home. There was no doubt in my mind that things had gotten worse, but I’d been assured that we just had to wait this thing out.

I got her tucked into bed and she immediately began demanding morphine. I obliged and she quickly fell asleep. This is it I thought. I just have to get her to sleep through the night and she’ll be fine. I ducked into the living room and lay on the couch as I didn’t want to do anything that might disturb her.

An hour later there were screams the likes of which I’ve never heard before and hope to never hear again. To this day I’m still amazed that none of the neighbors called the police under the assumption that I was literally killing someone in that room.

Take the toughest person you know, someone with a proven track record for high pain tolerance and low likelihood of complaining about frivolous things. Mix that person with your significant other, the person you care the greatest for outside of your immediate family. Now throw in the most obnoxiously loud screaming, wailing child you’ve ever encountered. We’ve all been there, you’re in a store somewhere and someone’s kid is running around like they’ve been possessed. You’d swear they’d been shot and were in the process of dying by the decibels escaping their mouths. Shake those three things together, throw in a mentos and coke for the explosion factor, and stand back…

I was frozen with fear. I simply was not prepared for the severity of the reaction when Tamsin awoke. There were murderous screams being directed towards me and I bolted into the room half expecting to see the leg now completely missing, ravaged by a flesh eating disease in under an hour or something.

It was still my girlfriend, I recognized that, and she still contained all of her limbs, but the person behind the eyes, the reactions from deep within all but paralyzed me with despair.

WHAT WAS HAPPENING was all I could think to myself!

I lay beside her, stroked her hair and tried to calm her, but it was closer to scene out of The Poltergeist, she looked like she would kill me without question to get to the morphine in my pocket.


“But I can’t sweetie, it’s only been an hour and…”


It was reminiscent of a scene from Intervention. I was completely unfamiliar with the potential side effects of too much morphine, so I simply stood my ground. I knew she wanted to kill me in that moment but I was unflinching in my decision. An hour passed before she wore herself out and briefly fell asleep. There was a twenty minute interlude before this all repeated itself and though I now knew definitively otherwise, I simply kept telling myself that we just had to make it through the night. As if the rising sun would cure all ailments.

Slightly before sunrise I called an ambulance and explicitly explained that although we had called the previous evening and then called it off we most certainly would not be catching a taxi this time.

They arrived within minutes and we were admitted instantly upon reaching the hospital. She was placed on a IV and they immediately started filling her with pain medications. Blood was drawn and we simply had to wait for the results.

Tamsin’s knee had already swelled to the size of a grapefruit and the Doctor on duty drained over 100cc’s of fluid from it. She thought this might alleviate the situation, but it made no difference to the pain she was suffering.

We spent the entire day in the hospital awaiting the blood results. Tamsin’s family were obviously by her side as well, and we occasionally had private conversations about our ever mounting concerns for the severity of the situation. Outside of bathroom breaks and one hunt for food I never left her side. Tamsin would swing between peaceful sleep, awakening into a personal hell, being administered more drugs, hanging in a euphoric drug induced pain free state for a brief few moments, where she mostly thanked us and apologized all in the same breath, before once again falling back to sleep.

After eight hours I went up to the Doctor on duty to ask what the hell was taking so long. The response both angered and floored me all at once,

“Sorry, the blood sample just left in a taxi a few minutes ago to go to Vancouver General”


A F#@KING TAXI was how they were shipping blood samples around for testing! AND, it somehow took them eight hours to dial up a cab and have this sent out! I WAS FURIOUS!

“She looks like she’s dying dammit! This is not someone who normally complains about things. Her pain tolerance is twice what you could imagine woman!”

This was of course NOT what I said to the Doctor on duty, and though I phrased it slightly differently it seemed to fall upon deaf ears.

The culmination of the constant drugs being pumped into Tamsin’s body came to a head when she woke up screeching in pain. The nurse was contacted but was busy and it took fifteen minutes before she was attended to. More morphine was eventually administered and we both thanked the nurse. Not two minutes later Tamsin sat upright in her bed,

“GARY! PLEASE get a nurse over here to help me!!”

“But…she was just here honey…she just gave you some more…it’ll just take a few more minutes to kick in….”

Tamsin’s face went white with the reaction of someone who was clearly conscious of the fact that they were now losing their own mind.


“It’s ok sweetie, I promise everything’s going to be alright.”

Thirty minutes later three doctors came barreling down the hall with blatant stress painted across their faces. The test results were back and they said little,

“When is the last time she drank any fluids?” As they proceeded to lift her onto a gurney.

“She had half a coke about ninety minutes ago”

“Normally we have to wait four hours.” Then to the nurses by his side, “Doesn’t matter, get the new drugs into her.”

Three people were rushing about and all we were told was that she was being rushed into an emergency irrigation surgery on her knee.

A nurse plugged in her new drugs and said to Tamsin, who was pretty much out of it with her eyes closed and prone the entire time,

“Let me know if you feel a burning sensation at all”

Meaning the new drugs were pretty damn potent and could be administered too aggressively.

The nurse started off away from us to grab more supplies. Tamsin was still all but asleep and simply moaned a little. I looked down to find her face was as bright as a lobster. I peered down the hall towards the back of the nurse rushing away from us, and said,

“Her face is going red”, then I yelled, “HER FACE IS GOING RED!!”

The nurse ran back towards us, turned down the flow, and we were all in an elevator together within seconds. There was no mistaking it, there was panic and after TEN HOURS of waiting for the damn blood results, AND being sent home the previous evening, we were now TWENTY FOUR FULL HOURS past when we first checked into the hospital to have this looked at. Now she was being rushed into another knee surgery and it was all unfolding too fast. We bust out of the elevators and I could see the 'medical staff only' doors quickly approaching. Tamsin was all but unconscious below us. I had no idea what lay ahead, I bent down, whispered into her ear, and she was gone.

It felt like I was standing upon the foundation of a house after a tornado had blown through and destroyed all but the concrete. There was silence. I was standing there with her parents. We were all afraid to speak because to speak meant to admit that we were all terrified. I was scared for her life. No one told us much because it was readily evident that they themselves just didn’t know what was going to happen. At that point my honest best case scenario was that Tamsin survived but lost her leg. By the time they’d wheeled her through those doors the entire limb looked more like a petrified piece of dead wood than something that would ever propel a person forward in a running motion ever again.



Ray said...

Completely fascinating... you write so well. Unfortunately it's a true story and I await part 3 with cautious optimism and hope.

Lauren said...

Please race fast so you can start writing part 3... ahhhhh the suspense ;)

Unknown said...

You do write well. I had no idea the severity of the situation and all you went through!

NJ said...

I;m sitting on the edge of my seat. Yo uhad me tearing up for a bit because I know too well what it's like to sit there hopelessly by a loved one who is suffering. Can't wait to hear more...but aside from that, good luck this weekend!

Deanna Stoppler said...

Holy crap, that's intense.

PNW runr said...

How does the story end? Must know...