Have I mentioned lately that our freezer is trying to kill us? It’s a built-in chest with a thick and heavy lid that’s held open by a lift spring but in this humid climate the spring gets frosty sometimes which knocks it off column, causing the lid to slam down with a bang, or a scream if you happen to have a body part in there when it happens. Both Jack and I have had our bell rung a few times, and last week I didn’t get my fine-boned arm out of there before the monster struck. I was sure in the moment that my arm was snapped in two but it wasn’t, and I figured a day or two of icing and Advil would get me back to normal.
It didn’t, and even the addition of an Ace wrap did nothing to improve it. Making falafel was painful. Opening a door was painful. And raising the dinghy was really painful. Jack wanted me to go to a doctor, then Mark chimed in, the crew of What If registered their votes and I finally had to agree to get it checked out. I know approximately where the hospital is, right on the waterfront in St. George’s. One night while we were anchored there we got disoriented and mistook it for a cruise ship but that was after a few painkillers.
We decided on a much earlier start than our Day at Customs and we got the bus into town about 7:45. It was a Nissan minibus with a cracked windshield, a sign noting a 19-passenger limit and a massive driver we’ve nicknamed Crash. The seats are worn so smooth and slippery that I was helplessly flung from side to side as we cornered the hilly roads at speed, unable with a lame arm to hang on. At one point I slid so violently that I knocked Jack across the width of the van and into the lap of a young woman occupying the jump seat on the other side. Awkward.
We got into town and tapped on the roof to indicate we wanted to get out, but the driver ignored us and we rode all the way to the bus terminal, a few blocks further than we wanted. I was checking my map to confirm which way to walk when Jack asked two ladies how to get to the hospital. They pointed to another bus stop marked ‘H’ and told us it costs $3 EC for the shuttle. We had just paid $2.50 EC to ride all the way into town from Woburn Bay so I thought another $3 was excessive and started walking. I tend to walk fast when I get cranky and at this point I may have left Jack in the dust. I followed the route I was familiar with and headed toward the waterfront where I asked a policeman how to get to the hospital.
“Do you have a vehicle?” he asked. I told him no and he sighed and told me to follow him. We walked through the gate of the police yard, back toward the tunnel we’d just walked through from the depot.
“But I thought it was over there,” I whined, and I pointed back toward the water.
“This is a shortcut.” I looked behind me to make sure Jack was following but I couldn’t see him. We got to the other side of the yard and the policeman pointed toward a flight of steps beside the tunnel.
“Follow that man,” he said and I could see a white shirt just starting up the steps. I looked over my shoulder and finally saw Jack limping and panting through the police yard.
“Let me guess,” he gasped. “Back through the tunnel.”
“No,” I said and I pointed up the steps. “Short cut.” We started up.
We’re from Pittsburgh and we know steps, but soon we were both wheezing and groaning in the hot sun as we climbed to the top then followed a switchback road until we reached the hospital grounds. Shortcut my ass. The $3 shuttle was looking good. Jack wisely held his tongue.
Once again the signage was lacking and it took some wandering around and a lot of questions before we found our way to what we hoped was the intake for emergency. The door was at the far end of a small room where patients with broken limbs had their casts cut off by a dour man in a white shirt, so while we waited in line we were being dusted with plaster and serenaded by the swhizzzzzzz of the power tool, and in one case by the screams of a young girl who was convinced he meant to cut her arm off.
Eventually there were too many people squeezed in there so we were told to wait outside until the intake nurse called us.
After a while the nurse took us one at time to another tiny room where she filled out a card with name, age, complaint and address. That last one is always a challenge but she didn’t bat an eye when I said I was living on a boat at anchor in Woburn Bay and she wrote “Woburn Bay” in the address field and told me to go back outside until they called my name. The waiting area was getting full but you couldn’t complain about the view.
While we waited a uniformed guard brought in a handcuffed prisoner with his arm in a cast and he went to the head of the cast-removal queue. A little while later another prisoner with a broken limb was hustled in and out again. This was getting creepy.
Finally a nurse appeared at the Plaster Room door and called three names, one of which I took to be an approximation of mine. The other two patients and I followed the nurse through the Plaster Room, through the intake room and into something more recognizable as a hospital ward. We were each put into an exam room and I settled in for a long wait.
Not more than five minutes later a woman came in and introduced herself as the doctor and I explained what happened to my arm. She gently felt around my wrist, asking me to tell her where it hurt. I told her it didn’t hurt to touch but when I move it, particularly when I rotate it, I feel a shooting pain up to my elbow. She nodded and said it sounded like tendon damage, then said she would order an X-ray to rule out a fracture, then prescribe treatment when she saw the film.
She gave me a slip of paper and showed me out the back door, down an alley, past the ambulance bay, along another alley to an unmarked door. I was to have the X-ray there and bring it back to the exam room. I hoped I’d remember the way back.
Inside the X-ray office I gave my slip of paper to the receptionist who wrote another slip of paper and directed me to the cashier. I paid $30 EC, got a receipt and took it back to the receptionist then sat in the waiting room.
Again I barely recognized my name when the technician called me. He pointed to an unmarked door and when I entered, I gasped and said, “Oh my god,” under my breath. Two trash cans were overflowing with used bandages. The paint was peeling off the walls and the room didn’t appear to have been cleaned since Easter. I nearly made a run for it, but just then the technician came in with a film plate and set to work lining up the X-ray machine, gently positioning my arm for the two views he took. He was kind and competent and I was out of there in minutes.
A few minutes later I was called back again and the receptionist told me the doctor wanted to see me. I was shown into an office even tinier than the Customs Office. I had to sidle very close to the doctor at his desk in order to get the door closed. He had my X-ray on the viewer and asked me to describe what happened to my arm. I told him about the freezer lid and pointed to where it collapsed on me. He said he wanted to be sure they had filmed the right thing because — and he pointed at the X-ray — my bones looked fine. And they did. Beautiful, unmarked bones. I breathed a sigh of relief, mostly because I didn’t want to ever have to go to the man in the white shirt to get a cast taken off.
I thanked him and took my film back outside, retraced my steps through the concrete alley maze to the exam area, handed the X-ray to the nurse and sat in the hall to wait. I could see the doctor take a look and she came to talk to me.
“Your arm is not broken,” she said and confirmed that I had injured the soft tissue. She told me to go to a pharmacy and buy a wrist support, the kind with straps. “We don’t have them here,” she added. I’m to wear the support for at least two weeks and to try not to use my arm. I thanked her and she directed me to leave by the back door again, and I wandered around until I found Jack still sitting by the Plaster Room.
“I’m done,” I told him. “It’s not broken. We can go.” I was very happy to get out of there, especially after Jack told me several more manacled prisoners with broken limbs had been brought in. What in heaven’s name are they doing to them?
We took the now familiar road from the hospital past the fort and down to the waterfront below, then back through the tunnel where we searched three pharmacies for a wrist support but there was none to be had. I guess it’s back to my Ace wrap for the duration.
All in all I was completely satisfied with the care I received. The facility was considerably less than the sterile environment we’re used to and would it kill them to put a few signs up here and there? But I was shown nothing but kindness and competence and I have no doubt I’ll be back to normal in a couple of weeks. Or at least that’s what I was thinking until we flagged down the first Woburn Bay bus we saw only to discover it was Crash again in his 19-passenger terror machine. Miraculously we made it home without further injury.