Sunday Afternoon ER

It does not, actually, look that bad. To look at it. It is the skin that falls off instantly that troubles. Bacon fat. Boiling hot bacon fat from the bottom of a broiling pan. Thought I would cook something differently, and lost focus for a second. Within a fraction of a second the bacon was down and cold water was on the arm, and as the cool water removed the oil, I noticed my toe was on fire. Some fat had also landed on my toe. I tore off my sock with the good arm. Ruth was in the kitchen in seconds and from then on it was a question of whether or not to go to the ER. But we needed to go to the ER. The burn went from below my left fleur to the middle inside of my forearm, and as shock wore off, the edge began to hurt. Only immersing the entire wound in cold water would help. The snow, so much snow, and ice, and Ruth got the car stuck, called a completely useless cab company, got Shane to come over and run us in, find what ER we actually were going to go to, and accomplish all that needed to be to ensure I did not die.

Every time I see an important wound. One I know is never going to go away. Will be with me for the rest of my life, I wonder what would have happened as little as 100 years ago. Let alone beyond. I dream about going back to rapiers and muskets, but really any single wound throughout our lifes could end in infection and death. Seeing this wound in another age meant losing the arm. Maybe I am just a wiener about things. I can't imagine what I would have done as few as two years ago, when I was between insurances. Rather, I can imagine the pain of being unable to be treated, but I can't imagine the anger I would have had. To be permanently scarred and life endangered because of the briefest lapses in balance. So stupid. Human life is so fragile, and stupid, and based on all of us playing at an A game among all the most dangerous inventions of our eon.

At some point I am yelling at Ruth to eat her delicious French Toast while it is hot. That was the real tragedy. To lose a hand over breakfast, only to let it go cold. The fanciful snow all around us is no longer fanciful, but minutes added to a pain scale amid a time line and look at all of that fucking delicious bacon. The car is stuck, but Shane is coming, and Ruth has to tie my shoes, because out of water all I can do is elevate and try not to focus on the burning. The burning that has come alive. The human body gives us this amazing window, with trauma, to do something about it in the long term. But after that window, if you do not have the tools available, you find yourself in a world of shit. Shane arrives and Ruth crawls in the back, and the seat belt is too much for me, thank you. Regency Hospital, downtown Saint Paul.

Everything happens for a reason. Ruth maintains that she, and probably driving either vehicle, would have rammed into a pile up on Robert that had resulted from someone being unable to mount the hill, and having to turn around. Later she would explain that her Grandmother got a burn when she dumped hot water into her oven mitt, and I recalled my Grandmother's French Toast as I was preparing it. A synchronicity that I can only appreciate briefly through the pain. We pick the wrong entrance, and a nice young lady in a red shirt leads us through a very impressive lobby to the actual ER. Desk clerk is brief and we are in, and I ask the nurse how she is, and she says she has a little headache, but that her shift is thankfully almost through. Something like horror in our eyes made her realize the small talk was ill placed and she asks how I am doing. Bad, thanks. I just try to make it look good.

Cool, sterile gauze. Oh sweet sterile gauze. And I am led back to a room. The doctor arrives, and is adequately impressed. She is worried about me not feeling pain in the center, but I know it is OK. Those nerve endings are gone and done with, and that is fine. I have a sequence of scars more voluntary on the opposite arm, and so it is nice that, for me, stupidity only leaves scars and not holes. They ask me where my pain is at? I know about the pain scale. Oh how I know. And I like to maintain 0 level. That is where I like my pain to be. And I had been at a 10 for a while. So they bring me a shot, and it is super-prophen. JK, I have no idea what they injected me with. Something like Tropyphol, but whatever. I am a guinea pig. Anything to make the pain stop. I make the mistake of breathing on a portion of my exposed skin, and this is not a good idea. The entire arm is singing, and it is calling me to sing with it, and so I sing. Casually. So as not to disturb, nor disquiet Shane and Ruth, who are so very sweet to be with me.

And they come back and ask how I am doing, and I am still hovering around an 8, and that is when the doctor comes back and says they want to give me Morphine, and I say, OK, please. And they inject me with a massive shot of Morphine in the other arm, explaining that this one will hurt. The other one I didn't feel a thing. Thought the nurse was playing a joke. My average pain threshold is a bar set rather high, but when compared with the burn, there was little else you could do that would bother me. And the nurse says I must stay for 20 minutes to make sure I don't freak out. And I make some Trainspotting jokes, but in about 5 minutes, I feel better. Amazingly better. From an 8 to 1-3 in minutes. And they show Ruth how to change bandages and I pick up prescriptions and we are away. And later, by the grace of The Gods, we ate that breakfast. And no one died. And the bacon was delicious. Thanks, medicine. Thanks, everyone.

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Froyd said…
If'n you don't mind my idle curiosity into the events of your human failure, how were you cooking the bacon?
mitch blessing said…
Love your writing. Here's my favorite quote:
"I like to maintain 0 level. That is where I like my pain to be."
I read all they way through, and was with you somehow.
I too wonder about medicine, not just 100 yrs ago, but 100 miles from town today. It's like the middle ages out in the Chippewa National Forest. No car, no, Ruth, no morphine, just a big hole in your flesh. Deal with it, puny human.
I guess you could just sit there licking it for a while....

best, m

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