I took my first dance class 25 years ago, and have been dancing professionally for 9 years. In that time, I’ve been very lucky. I suffered some aches and pains and had a couple bizarre health issues, but I never had a debilitating injury… Until two weeks ago.
About half way through the first of two performances of our ballroom show, I landed a lift badly. After racking my brain to figure out what I did wrong, I determined that I hit the floor with my weight too far in my heels. I also tend to favor my left side. These two factors, combined with the force from landing a fast overhead lift, caused me to roll over my left ankle. I felt a sharp pain, but it was soon dulled by adrenaline.
I am extremely stubborn, and if I say, “The show must go on,” it will. Thus, I put on a happy face and continued dancing. In retrospect, I should’ve stopped, but in my head, with my “mind over matter” attitude, I didn’t fully feel the pain. I completed both performances that night, and then went to my cabin to ice and sleep.
The next morning, I convinced myself that the swelling had gone down. However, when I got out of bed a couple hours later I realized something was wrong. Putting weight on my foot was extremely painful, and my ankle was covered in bruises. After talking with my dance captain, I decided I needed to visit the medical facility.
Medical is not open all day long, and because I slept in after the late night of shows, I missed the morning open hours. It reopened at 4pm, so I was in the waiting room by 3:50. I saw the doctor shortly after it opened, and was taken back for x-rays. Not liking what she saw, she had the nurse arrange for me to be taken to the emergency room in port. My dance captain and roommate, both close friends, were able to accompany me. It was not our usual evening in San Juan!
When the port agent arrived, he led us around the line and straight off the ship. There was a car waiting for us at the base of the gangway. The driver, Carlos, took us to a hospital about 10 minutes away, and gave us his cell phone number to call when we were done. I checked in, and then we sat down in the waiting room.
A nurse checked my vitals and gathered some background information, then sent me back to the waiting room. Not long after, I was taken to see a doctor, then sent to a different waiting room to wait for more x-rays. While sitting there, we spoke with an Indian man that worked in the galley onboard. He had been sent ashore because of kidney stones, and was anxious to return to the ship. When the x-ray technician called my name, my dance captain came in with me. The technician remarked on our high spirits, since we were making jokes the whole time. We found it was much easier to deal with the stress of the evening if we were having fun.
After x-rays, we were told to wait 10 minutes and then return to see the doctor. We passed his office on the way to the first waiting room, and to our delight, he already had the x-rays and was able to see us. He said my bones looked good, but he didn’t like how much swelling I had. The swelling hinted at ligament damage, and he decided to call an orthopedist to put me in a cast to stabilize the ankle. In the meantime, we went back to the waiting room!
My friends ran across the street to get us “dinner” at Walgreen’s. Protein bars and coffee were the best they could find, but it was flavored with hunger sauce, so it tasted great to me! Shortly after they returned from the store, I was taken back to see another nurse. She was trying to explain that the orthopedist was coming in 30 minutes, but she did not speak English. Between her broken English and my roommate’s and my broken Spanish, we were able to understand each other.
After another 45 minutes in the waiting room, we were starting to get nervous. The all aboard time on the ship was 10:30pm, and it was already after 9:30. My dance captain went to ask someone for an update, and 5 minutes later, we were taken back to see the orthopedist. A translator was in the room with us, since the doctor did not speak English. She quickly put my leg in a back slab, and told me to see a specialist as soon as I was able. She said I would not be able to walk for at least 2 weeks, and would be unable to dance for much longer. The translator helped us check out, and led us outside, where Carlos was already waiting.
Upon reaching the ship, I had to go check in with the medical facility. They made copies of my paperwork from the hospital and told me to come back the next morning for a circulation check. Since we still had phone service, my friends and I decided to go outside so we could all update our friends and families back home. I put on a skirt and my nametag so I could cut through a guest area, and sat with the girls in a crew area deck 5 forward. They helped me prop my leg up on a chair, and arrived with snacks. We had an iPhone flashlight lit picnic, and then they helped me hobble safely back to my cabin. In spite of my injury, we had a nice night.
The rest of the week flew by. I had a meeting with my production manager, went to medical multiple times, and waited impatiently for the official decision about what was happening with me. I helped my dance captain learn my lines for Mystery Theater, since I was not fit for duty, and helped the other girls learn my track in our next production show. Day 6, just before tech run, I received the final verdict that I would be sent home when we reached Fort Lauderdale. I went to the theater to watch tech run, then had a tearful meeting with my cast.
That evening, I put on a formal gown, which luckily looked great with a comfortable flat shoe, and sat in the front row to watch my cast perform. I cried when the cruise director dedicated the show to me. I felt so much love from my cast during their performances! A group of kind guests beside me commented on how special it was. After the show, a friend from the Italian restaurant stopped by with dinner for me. It was a delicious surprise!
The next day, I packed remarkably quickly, and then trekked to the Staff Mess on deck 5 for the first time since I was hurt. I stopped for coffee after lunch, and went to sit in my new favorite spot deck 5 forward for some fresh air. Later that evening, a friend stopped by to play a song for me on his guitar, and two of my best friends helped me carry my luggage to the security screening. When the cast was done with the farewell shows, they helped me get to the crew bar back deck. I was able to say goodbye to many of my friends, and laughed more than I had all week!
With the help of my friends and the HR team, I was disembarked Sunday morning. I had tears in my eyes and a heart full of love for the wonderful people I was leaving behind. Although it ended too quickly, it was a great contract. At least I was able to take a final bow!