When faced with with a medical emergency I morph instantly into Supercompliant Crip. I become almost obnoxiously polite, I take medical advice, I bond with staff, I crack jokes, I make 'em love me. In other words, I do what I have to do to ensure that my life will not end anytime soon. I'm a shameless medical survivalist.
By the time my x-rays were taken, I'd been in the emergency room of my local hospital for hours. They'd transferred me the ambulance gurney to a hospital bed of the same width. I waited along with my restless son and irritable husband to an examination room in order to wait to be seen by the orthopedist on call.
"I can give you something for the pain until the doctor comes," said Mark, the physician's assistant who was graying in his mid thirties from too many shifts at full moon. "But it won't be too strong until we know what's going on with your leg. Would you like something for the pain now?"
"Oh yes, please," I said beaming him my best smile.
Mark returned to the room with a huge needle. "Little pinch," he said.
"I like needles," I said and he laughed.(Score one for me)
Waiting for the pain to pass,I made a jigsaw puzzle with my son, I calmed my husband down, I made phone calls in case we needed a babysitter for Ethan. The pain didn't go away. It got worse. I waited. It hurt, I realized, to lie down.
When the PA came back into the room I asked, "Mark, do you think would be possible to raise the bed please? I'd like to sit up. If that's okay."
"Oh sure," said Mark. He yanked up the bed with a quick professional crank of his arm. "Better?"
"Much. Thank you." It was better. I could see the nurse's station outside my door, and I had a better view of Ethan's face. He looked hungry. My husband looked hungry and freaked out.
"Your x-ray looks pretty bad... The PA let his arms hang over the railing of the bed. "You've broken your leg, the tibia in three places. It's called a spiral fracture."
"Well," I took a breath, "that explains the pain." Mark laughed. (Score: two for me)
"On a scale from 1 to 10, what's your pain level?" Little did I know that in the coming months I'd be asked this question at least 5 times a day.
"Eight, " I said.
"That bad?" My husband seemed genuinely surprised.
"Yes," I said pleasantly.
Mark said, "What would you like? Tylenol?"
"Extra strength?" I countered. No wait, he was joking. (That's one for his side.)
"No, it makes me sick."
Both Ethan and my husband were watching our negociation silently but with some interest.
"Percocet?" I said, hoping that I didn't sound too excited.
"One or two?"
The physician assistant was gone again. This time before he got back I sent my family home. They needed rest and so did I. I gulped down two percocets with a swig of water. Here we go, I thought. Accepting narcotics meant I'd be admitted soon. Taking two little pills, meant putting my entire life on hold for the forseeable future: finding a job, getting a divorce, learning to drive, even caring of my son.
A nurse walked in to make a pillow splint for my leg.
"Did you know that the last time I took percocet for any length of time, I loved it so much I wrote love poems to it?"
The nurse chuckled. Her laughter bounced off the walls in the little examination room. Score another one for me. I settled back into my pillows and waited for the pain to disappear.