Since it’s almost Halloween, it seems the right time to tell the story about why I hate zombies so much. I’m aware that it’s a little strange since obviously they’re not real, but there’s a pretty reasonable explanation behind it. And (as with so many parts of my life) it’s because of my health.
Warning: This post contains talking about narcotics (medical use, not recreational) and mentions of what happened during my biggest ankle surgery. If you’re squeamish about even little descriptions, you shouldn’t read this post. If you’re okay with hearing not-detailed descriptions, you should be fine (but let me know if you’re not and I should change this warning)
As I’ve mentioned before, my health issues started when I was 10. The short version is that I started having ankle pain and we discovered that I have a genetic ankle condition called tarsal coalition. Basically, some of the bones in my ankle didn’t completely separate when they were forming, so my ankle was fused in a way that could be painful. It isn’t painful for some people (my right ankle doesn’t really bother me), but it is for others. I had 2 surgeries in 2004 and 2006, but the pain never fully went away. After several years of trying to figure out what was wrong – and seeing more than 10 doctors including being an outpatient at the Children’s Hospital of Boston’s pain clinic – I saw a surgeon at MGH in Boston who knew what was wrong.
Basically, while my first surgeon told me that my ankle looked fine on images, the tarsal coalition was still there. My new surgeon didn’t think that was the only issue, but at the very least he wanted to put in a screw to fuse part of the joint and he also wanted to scope my ankle, aka put a small camera in and look around. This was scheduled for January 2009, and since we lived 2 hours away from Boston in Maine at the time, we planned for me to stay overnight at the hospital since I had to keep my ankle above my heart for 2 weeks after surgery.
Ankle Surgery #3
Because we knew that, at the very least, he was going to put a screw in, my surgeon suggested that I get a nerve block before the surgery. This meant that they did something to the nerves in my knee so that I wouldn’t feel from the knee down for around twelve hours. It was extremely painful, but it was so worth it and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
During the surgery, my surgeon found that his initial assumptions that there was something else going on was right. Not only was the tarsal coalition still there, but there was also scar tissue, cartilage damage (I’ve seen pictures and it looked like a cotton ball pulled apart), and arthritis damage to the joint. This meant that he had to open me in 4 places: 2 for the camera, 1 for the screw, and 1 to fix the other things he found.
After the surgery, they (of course) gave me pain medication. The only problem was that when I told them how straight hydrocodone made me sick after my first ankle surgery, they said that I probably wouldn’t have that issue now since I was seventeen and not thirteen. Unfortunately, they were wrong, and I kept throwing up my pain medication. And then the nerve block wore off. Let me put it this way – hell is having major surgery and then not being able to keep down pain medication. I’ll just say it took 3 ccs of morphine for me to stop screaming (1 cc is the typical dose for IV-use) and leave it like that because it’s 7 years later and I still don’t know how to accurately describe it.
The issue, however, is that morphine tends to give me night terrors. As in, after being in the hospital earlier this year, I woke up screaming twice (unfortunately for my sister, who was sleeping in the same room). So when I finally fell asleep, I had horrific nightmares. And – as you’ve probably guessed – they were about zombies. Zombie nurses, to be specific.
I remembered having a nightmare when I woke up, and I remembered that zombies were involved, but I couldn’t remember exactly what happened. And since I’ve never liked horror or being scared, I never watch horror movies or go to haunted houses anyway, so I wasn’t exactly faced with them. At least, until several years later.
When I was in college, I was a member of the concert choir. It’s a big family; our motto is, “Come for the music, stay for the people.” There are a whole bunch of traditions that have existed forever, and one of them is renting a cabin in Gatlinburg at the end of September/beginning of October. The area of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge is the middle of the woods with a touristy town, and it’s a lot of fun.
One part of our traditions is to go into the town for dinner one night. Since it was close to Halloween, there were several actors in character as various Halloween creatures. You know, like the ones at haunted houses and hayrides. This included, as you probably figured, a zombie. As I’m sure most of these actors do, this one picked one person out of our group to scare, and I was that person. They kept following me, and as they did, the direct memory of my night terrors from that surgery came back to me. I could remember every minute detail from it, and as the zombie actor got in my face, I started screaming because in my dream, zombie nurses did the same.
I can still remember the details of the dream, and I still can’t handle zombies. I was very proud of myself when I saw Warm Bodies a few years later – to be fair, my boyfriend at the time really wanted to watch it and it’s a romantic comedy horror (emphasis on romantic comedy), plus it’s a retelling of Romeo and Juliet. I’ll probably never be okay with zombies, but luckily they’re not real and hopefully they never will be.