Arizona’s road to recovery following the plane crash that claimed the lives of two Seattle Grace doctors has been slow going, and Jessica Capshaw, who plays the bubbly pediatrician wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I think there’s so many different steps in covering this story accurately, and I think the writers have done such an incredible job of wanting to stay so close to the truth and actual experience of losing a limb,” she says. “In all that research I think they’ve picked up along the way the things that would fit into stories as far as Grey’s goes.”
The latest in that line of stories is an arc that finds Arizona experiencing Phantom Limb Syndrome, a condition in which an amputee feels pain and sensations in a limb that is no longer there. “Of course, it’s a total mind-bender for anyone going through it because how can something be hurting if it’s not even there?” Capshaw says. “It’s incredibly frustrating because there you are, having gone through the amputation and trying to rebuild your life and now you’re [having to] deal with something again, and it’s not even there.”
For Arizona, the issue begins in dreams, but soon she begins to have the painful sensations during the day and at work.
One would assume that Arizona turns to Callie (Sara Ramirez) for help and support. After all, Arizona’s wife has been a beacon of support — and sometimes tough love — since the accident. But Capshaw says that’s not the case. “She wants to keep it from Callie because they’re starting to do well again, and she’s starting to do well again. She doesn’t want to regress and go back to feeling [like she’s] in the dark place; she wants to go toward the light,” says Capshaw. “So she doesn’t go to Callie to talk about it.” In fact, she turns to Owen, who has experience dealing with amputees from his military days, and “he enlists himself as Arizona’s friend and companion.”
But as an intimate friendship grows between Owen and Arizona, she and Callie continue to struggle somewhat in recapturing their once fiery intimate life. Now about 16 episodes into production on this season, Capshaw was cagey on exactly how much progress would be made in the face of this new recovery hurdle. “I was fortunate enough to speak with an amputee — no-holds barred — and we talked about this. There were months and months and months before her and her husband were intimate again, and it was really, really hard because it was a complete recalibration of how she saw herself to be,” she said. “So I’m glad they’re moving at a glacial place because to move any other way would be untrue.”
Grey’s Anatomy airs tonight at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.