By Merisa Sherman
All I did was pull into the Kent Pond parking lot, moving from the paved apron and onto the extremely dry crushed rock. My mountain bike slipped out from underneath me and I found myself floating slow motion through the air. My left hand hit the ground and I saw my lower arm flop away from my body. As I landed peacefully on the ground, I looked over at my arm. It was still there, attached to my body, but it was not looking like any arm should ever look. And a little white piece of bone was sticking out…
I closed my eyes to focus on my breathing, and was amazed to open them to a masked face only a few minutes later. We passed facts and I grabbed for my bandana to cover my own face while he began cutting off my beloved Vermont Flannel with his brand new scissors. My neighbor arrived sporting a fancy Red Sox mask and set to work prepping the IV. I’m glad I could remember our mutual birthday, but I was losing feeling in my fingers. Fast. I was calmed by another familiar voice above me, but couldn’t place it until I saw her face a little later. The ambulance arrived quickly, but my friends on Killington Fire & Rescue had me prepped and ready for transfer.
I’d like to think the ambulance tech and I are friends now. My anxiety and fear of being masked and alone during a pandemic was forgotten as we talked about our families and our dreams for the future. When he passed me off to the Emergency Department at Rutland Regional, I knew I could do this. I met the doctor, who instead of being scary, told me his mom went to nursing school with one of my friends, so not to worry. I teared up for the first (and only) time as the doctor himself took the time to gently work off the ring that hadn’t left my finger for 18 years. I found out much later that he had put it in a urine sample cup which made me literally laugh out loud. We’re friends now, too.
From there it was a whirlwind of x-rays and fentanyl, as I was prepped for my first of what would be two surgeries. I will never forget the PA-C’s face when I told her the x-ray didn’t look so bad — to me it was all big pieces but she was worried for her friend. The nurse and I laughed as we cut off my ugly pink zebra sports bra and I struggled to use a bed pan for the first time. I laughed again as the scrub nurse came to get me and would have started singing but I didn’t want to be her funniest patient ever. Third funniest was okay for me. And if I wasn’t so nervous, I would have laughed when my surgeon swept all my surgical worries away with just one stroke — literally. When I told him in pre-op that paddling was my summer sport and I was gonna need dexterity in that arm, he asked what kind and demonstrated his J-stroke when I said canoeing. I could see his smile underneath his mask. We were going to become friends.
Waking up disoriented out of anesthesia, I somehow found a teddy bear in my arms. That bear never left my side for the entire four days I was in the hospital and I was glad for the opportunity to say thank you to the givers when I woke up from my second surgery. That bear was my rock.
You can learn a lot about your community in four days and I am simply amazed at mine. Even during a pandemic, with masks covering their faces, the nurses and LNAs in the Surgical Care Unit were absolutely amazing — not just as medical professionals but as human beings and as Vermonters. In fact, every singe person I came across while in the hospital asked how the new bike trails were, talked about their next paddle adventure or was getting stoked for Green Up Day.
They spoke of how happy they were to live here and how they loved the people around them. We look out for and support each other as we celebrate both our individuality and our beautiful green mountains. Vermonters aren’t just residents or community members, we are family.
To Teresa, Lisa, Gary, Steve, Paul, Debbie, Brian, Scott, Dwayne, Jen, Drew, Erika, Monica, Cheryl, Anne, Nicole, Melissa, Cortney, Molly, Rick, Ginger, Katie, Donna, Deb, Little Judy and every person who helped me: I cannot say thank you enough.