Stranded with The Hero by Hannah Jo Abbott

4

Nicole’s heart raced as she laid in the hospital bed and stared at the ceiling above her. The nurses attending to her had told her their names, but she didn’t remember. She could only think about one name right now: Carson.

When he had appeared in her view as she laid in the snow, she somehow knew everything was going to be all right. The way he spoke soothed her, despite the pain radiating down her left side and the crowd of people hovering over her. She had felt his hand on her shoulder in the ambulance, and it had kept her from an all-out panic.

But now he was gone. She was in the hospital with total strangers, and none of her personal belongings. No purse, no phone, no insurance card. Oh no! What would she do without all of her information? And how was she supposed to let anyone know she was hurt? She barely remembered anyone’s phone numbers since they were stored in her phone.

Her breath started coming in gasps and an alarm beeped somewhere above her head.

“Her pulse is up,” she heard one of the nurses say as she leaned over to see her struggling for breath. “Try to stay calm. I know this is scary, but I need you to take slow, deep breaths. We’re going to take care of you. Breathe in and out, in and out.” The nurse kept repeating the words in a slow rhythm, and Nicole made herself focus on that. “That’s it,” she said. “Just in and out, in and out.”

A few minutes later, the curtain was pulled back, and a team of people made their way into the room. Nicole’s eyes searched back and forth, trying to take it all in. Nurses and doctors surrounded her bed, taking her pulse, checking her pupils, listening to her breathing. When they were able to assess that she didn’t have a neck injury, they removed the neck brace, and Nicole felt like she could breathe a little easier.

Finally, the doctor asked Nicole how she felt.

“My leg really hurts. Mainly my ankle and my knee.”

“Does it hurt anywhere else?”

Nicole stopped to think. “I’m not really sure. I guess maybe I’m sore in other places, but my leg hurts so badly I can’t think about it.” She only paused to take a deep breath before she continued. “I don’t have my purse. So I don’t have any money or ID or my insurance information.”

The doctor held up a hand. “Don’t worry about that right now. We’re going to take care of you first. I’m sure we’ll get that taken care of later. Maybe someone can bring your purse.”

Nicole wanted to tell him she was alone, and there was no one to bring her purse. But she couldn’t. Her throat was closing up in panic. She swallowed hard and nodded the best she could.

“We’re going to get you out of this snow gear and then we’ll be able to assess your injuries better and get some x-rays.”

Nicole nodded again. She laid back and let the tears roll down her cheeks as a team of nurses carefully cut off the ski suit she had spent hours choosing and spent way too much money on. She bit her lip, but a moan escaped as they moved her arms and gently lifted her leg checking for bleeding, bruising, and broken bones.

When they wheeled her to the x-ray room, Nicole tried to put on a brave face. But as they moved her leg this way and that to get the images, her eyes and throat stung as she held back the tears. Every movement sent shocks of pain through her body, and more each second she wished she had stayed in North Carolina.

They finally gave her something for the pain through an IV and she felt lightheaded as it took effect.

A while later, she must have closed her eyes and fallen asleep, because she woke up when the doctor pulled the curtain back and cleared his throat. She tried to sit up, but her muscles felt like jello, so she dropped her head back on the pillow.

“Nicole, I have your x-rays back, and I’m sorry to say I don’t have great news.”

She blinked her eyes several times, trying to focus on his words. “Okay. Just tell me.”

“Your ankle is broken in two places, and we’re going to have to do surgery to reset the bones and place a pin in it.”

She squeezed her eyes closed. This couldn’t be happening. She was here for a week of skiing and enjoying the town. Now what would she do?

“There is some good news though. I know you said your knee hurt, but there doesn’t appear to be anything broken or torn. It’s likely there is some bruising, and it might be sprained, but the pain from your ankle was probably radiating through your leg making it feel worse.” He gave her a kind smile. “But the cure for the sore knee is rest, which you’re going to be getting a lot of anyway.”

Was that a joke? How could she rest? How was she even going to get back home? Her brain was fuzzy and would only pepper her with more questions, none of which she had an answer to. She stared blankly at the doctor who was still talking.

“We’re going to move you upstairs to be admitted, and they will do the surgery in the morning. The orthopedic surgical team here is wonderful, so you have nothing to worry about. They’ll take great care of you. Do you have any questions?”

Only about a million. But she couldn’t form any into words, so she gently shook her head.

“Just try to relax. A team will be here soon to transport you upstairs. I’m passing you off to them. Best of luck.”

After the doctor left and she was settled into a room, Nicole slept off and on throughout the night. Thankfully, the pain medicine in her IV helped her relax a little. Early the next morning she could tell it had worn off when she awoke and could feel every nerve in her leg screaming. But nurses came in and out and finally a doctor appeared to explain the surgery to her. When she had signed what felt like a thousand pieces of paper, she dropped her head back on the bed when she was finally alone and closed her eyes. Then she whispered words she hadn’t said in a very long time. “God, please help me.”