I seem to be following in the footsteps of Stephen Colbert a little too closely these days…
I believe in truthiness. I’m not a fan of books – they’re all fact, no heart. And despite Colbert’s attempts to raise wrist awareness across the globe, I have fallen prey…
This will be my last entry for the next 2-3 weeks as I travel home and learn how to type with my left hand (details below), but I will have details on fingerprinting at Narita after that.
Tuesday, December 17th, 2007
Picked up dry cleaning and am riding back to work on my bike. In front of a Sunkus, the front wheel jams, the bike flips, and my body is sent sailing over the handlebars. My right hand touches down first. Quickly.
Eerie sensation. I find myself on the ground on my stomach. I don’t try to get up right away, but I feel certain that I can. There is considerable pain, but it’s like it exists somewhere else; the pain doesn’t belong to me, as though it’s just out of reach of my body. A passersby reminds me of the existence of the rest of the world: “daijobu desu ka?” (are you ok?).
I look around, and that’s when I notice that this is not something I’ll be walking away from anytime soon; my wrist is bent in the wrong direction, and there are two huge piles of flesh that I can see are the results of the bones pushing each other apart.
“Byoin!” (hospital!), I say with as much voice as I can muster through the increasing pain. Somehow I was still able to keep my mind in Japanese mode and not let out a string of English curses.
I soon drew a crowd, and people were quick to act – calling the hospital, getting my office information, setting aside my bags. Since this was my first broken bone, I really didn’t have much experience in this area, but let me tell you something: breaking your wrist hurts like hell. Even without moving, I was getting the full spectrum of pain: dull, sharp, throbbing… Everyone around me was very nice; elevating my head, reassuring me, moving my bike.
The ambulance arrives, and the three paramedics temporarily immobilize the wrist in an inflatable cast (which really, really hurt). I was able to understand them well enough to provide the pertinent information, but not explain exactly what happened. Later, I was informed that my coworkers thought that I had been hit by a car. Not this time (although I was run over by a car two years ago).
Arrive at Chuo Clinic (中央クリニック), the central hospital for Kagoshima. Each time the gurney hit a crack or a barrier I howled in pain, feeling every vibration at the deepest nerves in my arm.
X-ray and CT scans. The Chuo Clinic is divided between two buildings, meaning I had to be wheeled outside and back to complete the scans. One doctor spoke passable English and acted as an interpreter, informing me the wrist was shattered.
My boss arrives soon after and takes over the administrative details.
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Lying and waiting in a treatment room with no pain meds, my wrist still very much exposed, for the time when the specialist will be ready at a different facility.
Arrive at the ambulance loading zone for my specialist treatment. In the corner, I can see a clear plastic case labeled “SARS” – apparently, this hospital was prepared for anything. A good sign.
Instead of being taken straight to surgery, however, I am once again subjected to a variety of tests – blood sampling, blood pressure, EKG, breath sounds, lung capacity, more x-rays… In retrospect, I suppose everyone was just doing his and her jobs, but I was angry and in a lot of pain, yelling out “why am I waiting?” and “where is the doctor?” (in Japanese, of course).
During all this, my boss actually has to negotiate with the insurance representative before I could receive treatment… vultures. If I hadn’t been covered, would they just have sent me out with a band-aid?
Under the knife. My first time in surgery, with a broken bone, and under general aenesthetic. I vaguely remember them saying they were begining the administration, then waking up with my arm in a white cast, an hour of my life vanished.
All in all, I suppose I received good care from the medical staff. I know they needed to pinpoint exactly what had to be done in the OR, but that kind of logic doesn’t hit you when your bone is jagged and rubbing against your nerve – the wait was excruciating. Post-op, while waiting to be discharged, the nurses laughed when I tried to speak to them. There’s a time and a place for treating a foreigner like a tourist and poking fun at cultural differences – sitting in recovery with a complex fracture isn’t one of them; it was a little insulting.
Nevertheless, the pain is gone, I am sitting at home, and if I can elicit enough sympathy from the staff at Narita to receive a business class or first class upgrade, it will have been worth it. When people see me, I can just tell them my arm slipped into a volcanic fissure, or I fell off an airplane while saving some orphans… might work. In any case, I will see about the Tokyo Marathon… I will probably be out of the cast by then, but not in a position to give 2:56… we shall see.
Merry Christmas and Happy Buddha to you all. Wriststrong. Live easy.