I awoke slowly, coming out of the drug-induced sleep, quickly realizing that I was in pain. I had made it through surgery, and it seemed so surreal.
Two days before, I had been speaking with my Peace Corps supervisor, putting touches on a grant application that would fund 8 gardening projects across 3 villages, providing me with ample work for the coming year.
And now, I lay between two white sheets in several-bed hospital ward in the capital, waking up after surgery. Definitely nothing I expected when I boarded the plane and flew to South Africa. I barely slept, awaking deep in the night sobbing from pain, waiting for hours for the nurse to bring me medicine.
A week before, I had been visiting the schools and clinics in my village, helping them envision a village-wide greening project, starting with gardens at their organizations. I would work with hundreds of villagers, attacking food insecurity at a grassroots level.
The next day, I woke and knew I needed to call my family. Somehow, I found my phone, dialing my father’s number. “Dad, do you have a moment to talk? I have something to tell you.” My voice probably wavered a bit.
You see, I didn’t tell them I was injured. Though I had fallen and was rushed to the hospital a full 24 hours before, I hadn’t called them. I only found out the full extent of my injuries and the surgical plans a few minutes before my surgery. And I didn’t have my cell phone charger with me, so I didn’t want to wake up and find a dead phone, knowing my parents would be waiting late into the night to hear from me, half a world away.
That call was the realization of their worst nightmare, and I know they were upset I waiting nearly 48 hours from the time of my injury to call. But I couldn’t put them through the misery of waiting for a phone call while I was deep under the influence of anesthesia.
When I awoke after surgery, I think I knew deep down that I would be going back to the USA. But it wasn’t until nearly 6 weeks later that I boarded the plane, with a broken arm, two suitcases, and a few tears.