It was a day that started with hope and ended with both of us in a hungry exhausted heap nearly 12 hours later.
We took a taxi to the hospital and arrived about 8 am. At the intake desk of the ER I handed over a note that Sue translated into French for me that outlined my problem and what I thought was important medical history, along with a sealed envelope from Dr #2 in Bora Bora, the contents of which are unknown to me. They took me right in and made Jack wait outside. After a few minutes a nurse and a doctor came in and read my note. The doctor examined me and was quite concerned about my inability to push upward against her hand on the top of my left foot. She ordered an X-ray of my lumbar spine. I was in a lot of pain all morning so the nurse gave me a shot of something but I don’t think it had any effect.
I had spent most of the passage from Bora Bora in our bed crying, not just from the pain, but from this stupid kick in the ass. I cried more over this injury than when we were dismasted because at least then we had a clear path and a foreseeable timetable to put things right and move on. With this, I have no idea how long it will take to get better, and my whole identity has been shaken. I consider my good health, my strong back, my flexibility, my physical energy, my control over my body, as fundamental to who I am. Take those away and I have to rethink my sense of self. I’m 64 years old and I’ve never had any health problems beyond a few sprains and broken bones.
When my mother was in her nineties I accompanied her to the eye hospital for a cataract operation. The intake nurse ran through the usual questions. “And when was the last time you were admitted to the hospital?” she asked. Mom closed her eyes to think. After a moment, the nurse gently prompted her.
“Was it within the last month?”
“Oh no,” I said, and looked over at Mom. At the sound of my voice she looked up at me, then to the nurse.
“1951,” she said emphatically. That was the year I was born, more than 50 years before. These are the remarkable genes I was born with.
The doctor didn’t see anything in my X-ray so she got authorization to do a CT scan, which they did about 1pm. After the scan I joined Jack in the waiting room where he was enduring the daytime programming on the local TV station, which he said consisted of some incomprehensible game shows, a couple of talk and call-in shows, and an afternoon of Telemundo soap operas dubbed into French. I had wisely brought my Nook so at least I could read and mostly tune out the bad acting and bizarre costumes. There was no food available anywhere, just vending machines for water, coffee, hot chocolate and Coke. It’s no wonder diabetes is on the rise here.
I was still sitting in a hard metal chair in the waiting room for the scan results at 4pm so I went back to the desk to ask about it and also asked them to remove the IV needle. They told me it would be a few more minutes so I went back to the waiting room. The place was now full, like any ER you’ve ever been to, with the hallways lined with patients in stretchers and wheelchairs. The waiting rooms were also nearly full. Sitting does not feel good, but lying across a few seats with my head in Jack’s lap got me into a reasonably bearable position. Two hours later I went back to ask again. Just a few minutes, they said, but after another hour I told Jack I couldn’t take it anymore and walked out. “But we’ll just have to come back for the results!” Jack said, running after me. “I don’t care,” I whined. It was just too painful to sit there and neither of us had eaten all day.
By this time it was dark. There were no taxis at the hospital or on the streets. We started walking toward town and it actually felt ok for the first half mile or so. It just felt great to be out of a chair. Jack kept scouting for a cab. We were on a busy spur into town and the cars whizzed by leaving a dusty wake. We plodded on.
Then a nice Tahitian lady picked us up and took us the rest of the way into town to the marina. She asked where we were from and we know by now to say “near New York” instead of “Pennsylvania” because very few people have heard of Pennsylvania. She gasped, “It’s a sign! I’m going to New York!” and she told us how she had spent a few weeks at a language school in New Zealand and was going to do the same in New York this coming winter. She wanted to know all about New York and told us she even bought a heavy jacket. You’ll need it, we said, and when we told her her English is already quite good, she smiled brightly.
We got back to the boat just before 8pm and I was never so glad to take my shoes off and lie down.
To top the day off I got an email from the watermaker repairman. He just left the island and won’t be back until next week, so our hopes of a quick repair job went out the window.
Tomorrow we’ll go back to the hospital and learn the verdict.