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Last summer was shaping up to be just like any other – or so I thought -- until I ended up in the hospital for a month with two broken femurs, a closed head injury, and a severely broken ankle.
The night that I survived a 72 foot fall I was at a wedding with my now ex-boyfriend. We had a pretty tumultuous relationship from the start, with plenty of fights – mainly fueled by alcohol.
I knew deep down that we needed to end things but I really thought I wouldn’t be able to live without him in my life. He had become such a huge part of my every day and had also been my best friend for two years before one drunken hook-up lead to an almost 2-year relationship.
When it came down to it, I thought he could change. I would make so many excuses for him that I started to believe them. I have now learned that you cannot change someone unless they want to change.
We were in a huge fight the night before the wedding, which wasn’t uncommon for us. A few friends who were there have since told me that I wouldn’t leave the dance floor at the wedding. I have no memory of these two days whatsoever.
Putting together the pieces of the day that changed life as I knew it forever, I learned that I had so much anxiety about going that I had taken a few Xanax (I was prescribed) and kept calling my mom to say that I really didn’t want to go. It’s almost like I knew something bad was going to happen, but didn’t listen to myself.
I drank a lot at the wedding, and had never mixed Xanax and alcohol before. When we got back to his apartment, he went straight to sleep. I continued drinking wine on his balcony. I am a pretty petite girl and I’m probably guessing I drank about 3 bottles of wine by myself that night. Although I will never know for sure.
The next day (I think) I woke up in the ICU. I still have no memory of how I fell or what actually had happened. It doesn’t really matter now. It is something I will always live with.
I was on very heavy painkillers, so the 4 weeks I spent in the hospital are pretty unclear. I was on liquid Dilaudid, which is a lot stronger than morphine, which I received pretty frequently through a picc line in my arm.
I had to keep asking my parents and friends visiting what had happened to me. I’m sure having to explain it over and over was extremely painful for them, but I couldn’t remember. It just didn’t make sense. At one point I thought I had given birth to 18 babies.
This is an excerpt from one of the emails one of my close friends wrote on the second day I was in the hospital. She would send emails to the rest of our friends updating them on my status.
“She is not quite awake, but is completely breathing on her own. She is still intubated though, just for a little assistance with draining any fluid buildup in her lungs. Her face is almost untouched, which surprised me the most. She has one swollen and bruised eyelid, but aside from that, she still looks like our beautiful KJ. She broke both of her femurs, and one was an open fracture. But they were able to conduct the leg surgeries and her legs are all casted and braced and wrapped up. She also broke one of her ankles.”
And here is an update from another friend on day 3:
“Today's visit with Katey was great. Her breathing tube has been removed, and the bolt in her head monitoring swelling was also removed. She is currently wearing a pretty hefty neck brace for support. All positive improvements. KJ was awake for part of our visit. She was nodding to questions. She looks great, was opening her eyes wide, and was very responsive to nurse direction. Wiggling her fingers, thumbs ups, wiggling her toes. She even gave us the middle finger a couple times! True KJ fashion.”
I am so lucky to have such amazingly supportive friends. I will always be thankful for having them during the hardest part of my life. It is still very overwhelming for me to read these emails. There are six emails total and I cry each time. It amazes me that bits and pieces of my personality were still present.
To recap on my injuries I sustained from falling 11 stories, or 72 feet, off of a high-rise apartment building: an open fracture to my right femur (meaning the bone went through the skin), fractured left femur, broken right ankle, broken left and right feet, closed head injury, broken left orbital bone (under eye) and that is it.
Once I was able to remember what had happened to me for more than a few hours, I realized that if I could survive all of this I could get through a break-up.
One of the times my boyfriend was visiting me in the hospital was when I decided to end things with him. Even in the hospital he wasn't supportive enough ,didn't visit often enough. He was a salesman and could talk his way out of any situation. He would tell me things that any girl would want to hear, but his actions never reflected what he was saying.
I really can’t imagine how hard this all had to be for him, but I think my situation was a little worse. I don’t blame him for any of this, but do wish that the relationship could have ended differently.
With the support of my family and friends I have made a truly remarkable recovery. One year later I am now able to run with almost no pain. If you didn’t know me and I walked by, you wouldn’t notice anything physically different about me. I am only left with two scars from all of this, one on my right foot and one on my right thigh.
The emotional damage is not visible, but I am still dealing with it all. I see a therapist twice a month and have just started to accept that this actually happened to me.
I have been able to keep a very positive outlook on my life through all of this. I never felt sorry for myself or angry for having to deal with this. I just did what I had to do, it took 7 months of physical therapy 3 times a week, to be able to physically get back to where I was.
That ex-boyfriend is no longer a part of my life. I don’t know if I can ever be around him again. It brings up too much hurt and even some anger.
That relationship was very toxic and turned me into a person that I didn’t know. I never felt loved enough or like I was important enough. Maybe some of those issues are my own, but I will never again allow myself to be in a relationship where I have to make excuses for the man I am with.
Always remember: Actions really do speak louder than words. And remember, you really don’t know how strong you are until you have no other choice but to be strong.