Tuesday, February 19, 2013

MY LEFT FOOT (without Daniel Day-Lewis)

Eighteen hours after the accident, I finally got to leave the hospital.

Well, the second hospital.

One of the many unique aspects of my commute is that I do not have access to a car at home between Monday morning and Friday night.  As it is too costly to drive my vehicle on the ferry each day, I leave my car on the other side and walk an hour a day in traveling to and from terminals.  That’s a bit of a drag during British Columbia’s three seasons of rain, but it’s a tremendous hindrance when a car is needed for an emergency.

Let’s back up and start with the accident.

I awoke at 2 a.m. with a frightening headache.  I’ve had a lot of migraines lately, but this was something different.  Nausea soon followed.  I got up to head to the bathroom, but I never made it.  I passed out and awoke to find myself lying on the floor in the hallway some time later, bathed in sweat and slathered in frantic kisses from my dog. There are dogs that make the news for alerting neighbors to a concern.  They would make Lassie proud.  My dog just licks.  (For all I know, there may have been a trace of spaghetti sauce on my face.)  Still, it was nice to be reminded I wasn’t completely alone.

As I tried to get up, an intense pain from the top of my foot kept me down.  Eventually, I hopped and hobbled to grab my phone and after ten minutes of hesitation, I called 911.  Without my car, there was no other way to get to the hospital.  All Woody Allen-esque panic over a POTENTIAL BRAIN TUMOR was temporarily replaced by my ground-level survey of the scattered belongings all over the place.  Clearly, I was not ready to receive company! I swatted away dust bunnies and shoved all reachable belongings behind the bedroom door before changing into underwear without any tears in it.

The EMTs didn’t gasp at the hideous black and orange throw on the bed or lapse into a sneezing fit due to severe allergies.  In fact, they never made it up the stairs. Although I’d hopped to unlatch the sliding door leading to the back deck, the 911 operator called back to inform me that I would have to hop down the staircase to open the front door. I didn’t regard this as a sound directive considering I had just fainted and suffered a foot injury, but the EMTs would not enter unless I complied. Once inside, the EMTs didn’t express much concern about my pain; instead, they grilled me on whether I’d been drinking or doing drugs.  That made me laugh.  My house may be a mess, but I’m the cleanest guy you’ll ever meet. As they had me hop unassisted and climb barefoot into the ambulance, I had the distinct impression that they felt this was a completely unnecessary outing.

After the twenty-minute wait for the ambulance and the thirty-five minute ride to hospital, I had my blood pressure and temperature checked and my foot wrapped.  The nurse phoned the doctor, presumably on-call for night-time ER incidents; she solemnly announced that the doctor had been debriefed and he didn’t feel a need to see me.  If I wanted an X-ray—and there was a clear implication that it would only be an act of acquiescence—I could come back later in the day.  She called a taxi,  got me a wheelchair and gave me directions to the exit. I’d have to wheel myself.  Arriving home, I paid the cabbie $85 and crawled back of the stairs to stair at a nicely bandaged foot and to ponder my medically diagnosed case of acute wimpiness.

I tossed and turned for a couple of hours before calling my parents in Texas.  No need to Google my medical condition when my mother is a former nurse and my father a retired emergency room doctor. Despite knowing my medical history includes recurring incidents of being a big wuss, they insisted I get a second opinion so I booked an afternoon appointment with a physician filling in for my family doctor, called a cab, got special permission to be dropped off nearer to the ferry and hopped aboard, trying futilely not to make a spectacle of myself. 

“Why is that man hopping?” one toddler asked.

“Shh. And don’t look at him,” answered the parent with a keen sense of Stranger Danger.  Once I’d rented a pair of crutches, I was pleased to leave the Public Displays of Hopping to the Easter Bunny, sack race enthusiasts and the sand flees that ruin beach visits.

At the doctor’s office in Vancouver, the fill-in doc asked what happened. I wasn’t ten seconds into my explanation when he interrupted.  “That happened twelve hours ago. Why didn’t you call an ambulance?”

“I did.”

“They sent you home? They knew you lived alone?!”




After referring me to St. Paul’s Hospital, I had to repeat this explanation each time I was transferred from Radiology to Emergency to Emergency Fast Track to Emergency Doctor Number One to Emergency Doctor Number Two. My former American mindset told me their tsks and head shakes meant the same thing:  malpractice.  Of course, I am not a litigious fellow.

I bravely suppressed all overt signs of Acute Wimpiness during the next six hours. In fact, I have no doubt I bore an uncanny resemblance to this shining symbol of the ‘70s:

I smiled, I joked, I said “thank you” a lot. And I learned that medical professionals check their happy faces at the door. It’s one serious biz.

After tumbling off an X-ray platform in Radiology, I laughed even more—such a klutz—and the attendants looked exponentially more solemn. Clearly, I hadn’t convinced them I was lawsuit averse.

I waited for the results in the hallway alongside extremely old patients with closed eyes on wheelie cots.

 Are they alive?

Do they only cover corpses with a bed sheet on television?

How is it that they are more ghostly than my naturally pasty complexion?

 I reaffirmed my decision that I would never want an open-casket funeral.

And then I got the news. I gave a thumbs-up to the technician and said, “Good to go?”

He sat beside me before responding. “Actually, no. You have several fractures.”

While I did not want a broken foot, the news came as validation. Turns out Acute Wimpiness was, in this instance at least, a misdiagnosis. I had felt I needed an X-ray and a CT-scan and my hunch proved correct. Thankfully, the CT-scan showed no abnormalities.

What began as a muddled hectic evolved into a moment of extreme clarity: living alone in a rural setting cannot continue. While others may have idealistic experiences amid the quaintness of small towns and sleepy hamlets, this is the wrong lifestyle for me to go through on my own.

If only I could be moving on...


Rick Modien said...

RG, I'm sorry to hear this happened, and I sincerely hope everything is fine now.

Rural Gay said...

On the mend! No significant pain in the foot. At this point, it is a waiting game, counting down the days and weeks until the cast comes off.

The crutches, such a seemingly simple mobility tool, continue to perplex me. AWKWARD. (I've got that middle school gym class feeling all over again!)