BY MELISSA FEITO
If there's anything I’ve learned this year, it’s that God is hilarious! She’s so freaking funny. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, just when you’ve let go of the rudder and have let the wind start carrying the sails, she says “Oh honey. Do I have something in the works for you…”
In early March, I was finally feeling on top of my game. After months of adjustment after moving to a new city, starting a new job, making new friends, I was just hitting my stride. I had just reported my first story for Interfaith Voices, which had broadcast nationally. I was just starting to get back into touch with my musical side by taking guitar lessons. And I had just completed an audio documentary on Loretto’s charism, which had made me feel as close to Loretto as ever. On top of that, all of us LoVos were taking a trip to New York City for the Conference on the Status of Women, which was a trip we were all very excited for. It just felt like everything was going right.
After CSW, on March 16th, I decided to meet up with a few college friends of mine to go ice skating. We spent the afternoon joking about how even as a Floridian, I was a better skater than my two new englander companions. But the jokes ended when as I was exiting the rink, I tripped. As I felt myself falling backwards onto the hard ice below me, I heard a sickening snap.
Time stopped. And then it all moved too fast. And then, the intense pain began, radiating from my right ankle.
I’m ashamed to say that in that intense moment of fresh injury, my first thought was “How am I going to get to work on Monday?” instead of “Is my leg going to be OK?” Even then, I was more concerned about this injury affecting my recent string of achievements than for my body and spirit.
When I found out I had broken both my tibia AND fibula, I was awash in emotion. And as I awaited my scheduled surgery, unable to walk, I stewed in those emotions. I was angry that I had been knocked off my horse. I was demoralized that I suddenly had to rely on someone else for basically everything, from helping me brush my teeth and wash my face, to bringing me all my meals, to driving me around. But most of all I was scared. I was terrified of going under general anesthesia. I was convinced that once I entered that thick darkness between life and death, there was no coming out. Or perhaps I was afraid of what I would find there. Even though I logically knew general anesthesia was an extremely common and safe procedure, I couldn’t keep the fear at bay. Fear is, after all, irrational.
So I sat in bed, day in and day out, awaiting my surgery on March 27th, mostly alone save for my mother spending time by my bedside. Then, one day, I received a letter. It was from a Sister of Loretto, wishing me well in my recovery. Then I received another letter. And another. And another. Soon I received enough that I could bind them together into a parcel with a thin blue ribbon. I received letters from Sisters, co-members, and other Loretto affiliated people, most of whom I’ve never met, from places I’ve never been. Some were brief, while others were quite long. Somehow, all of these people had heard through the grapevine that I was hurt, and they reached out. Perhaps this all seems like a formality or a nicety on their part, but for me, I was incredibly moved by this kindness.
On the morning of my surgery, I was inconsolable. I cannot stress enough how ridiculously routine this kind of surgery is. It takes about 30 minutes, and I was scheduled to be in and out of the hospital within 4 or 5 hours. In fact, my surgeon was off to vacation in Mexico the next day. I was practically an errand on his way to the beach. This all being said, as simple as the surgery was supposed to be, I was sobbing my way through pre-op. I just could not shake the feeling of dread, it has nested into a pit in my stomach. As the nurse prepared my IV and my tears continued to fall, she just kept saying, “You’ve done all you can. Don’t worry sweetheart. You’re in the angels hands now.”
Well, I can’t say much about the angels. But I did feel like I was in the hands of the Loretto community that morning. In pre-op, I reread some of the letters. They brought me immense comfort in time when I felt so little, so out of control, and so unsure of what was to come. I smiled when I thought that somewhere out there, I had 100 grandmas on my side.
After a successful surgery, the recovery from my injury was a marathon, not a sprint. Well, technically neither because, again, I couldn't walk! In the immediate time before my injury I was proudly independent, I was cocky, and I was laser focused achievement. Then God, in all of Her hilarity, decided to knock me down 50 notches. I had to rely on my mother (actual saint, Marisa Feito, look her up), my Junia House community, and my other friends and family in DC for not only physical support but emotional support. But slowly, over the course of 3 months, I improved. I got out of my cast and into a walking boot, and I went back to work. Then after a while of that I could ditch the boot and I moved onto a brace, which meant I could wear two shoes again! And many x-rays and physical therapy visits later, I was more of less back to normal, with only a thin scar up my ankle as proof of this whole ordeal.
And in all those hours I had to spend resting in bed, with my leg up above my nose and smothered in ice, I got to thinking a lot about my community. Not only my immediate community, but the extended community Loretto had given me. From perhaps one of the most painful experiences of my life thus far, I got to experience the radical love of the Loretto community. Because no matter how good you think you’ve got it, you’re never too proud to accept the love of others. And just like this metal plate and 7 bolts in my leg, this lesson will stay with me forever.
Starting in August, I will be embarking on my second year at Interfaith Voices and my second year as a Loretto volunteer in Junia House. I wish to continue building on that spirit of community I’ve gained this past year, and show our newest community members the power of that love. But hopefully, sans any more broken bones.
Melissa Feito is from Miami, FL and graduated in 2016 from Tufts University in Medford, MA with a major in English and a double minor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Communication & Media Studies. Melissa is a self-proclaimed word nerd who loves storytelling in any and all forms. She also enjoys cooking, playing music, gardening, seeking four legged friends, and just a good conversation. A lifelong public radio listener and supporter, Melissa will be continuing as a LoVo for a second year with Interfaith Voices.
In Their Own Words
We invite you to get to know Loretto Volunteers and the program here. Volunteers introduce themselves and reflect on their experiences.