The afternoon before surgery, my sister accompanied me in. I felt fine, I was ready to get it done. We were told that the doctor wouldn’t be free for a few hours, so we should go have lunch and return. We joked that I needed a beer, and the nurse informed us that would be no problem. “Really?” we asked incredulously. “Well, if you ever needed a drink, now’s the time, right? I’m not saying go crazy, but one couldn’t hurt.” Well, where do we go then?, we wondered. “Oh, they sell beer in the cafeteria,” the she offered. Man, I love Europe.
After lunch the nurse sat us down in my room. Still, I felt casual. She took some information and answered any questions. She was very attentive and kind. I would spend the night in the hospital and they would take me in to surgery as soon as the ER was free in the morning. Hopefully 9am, but you never know. When she mentioned the time when my sister would have to leave, I was a little less fine. The lump came to my throat. Eveything was cool as long as I was not alone, so it seemed. As usual for the hospital, the kindness of the nurse made me want to emote even more. She said it was no problem for her to stay past visiting hours.
Eventually the radiologist came in to see me. He sat down on the bed next to where I was sitting and said, “so, you’ve had some trauma to the spine.”
It was actually a question. I shook my head. “No.”
He looked at me seriously. “You must’ve fractured your spine.” No way. I could think of nothing. He pressed. “You had an accident…”
A fracture was our only hope. I was getting worried. Wouldn’t I know if I had fractured my back?! He reached around and gently touched the damanged spot. “There.” He did not touch the spot that had been hurting for days. Instead, he touched several inches down, and as soon as he did, I knew what it was. Understanding burst open in my head. “Oh, that.”
Long story short, I had taken a fall at work back in February. I felt something was wrong. I tried to work but could not even roll my suitcase with one hand. My company sent me to the airport doctor. For weeks they gave me muscle relaxers and insisted it was a soft tissue strain. I went back several times complaining of continued pain and asked for further examination, but they never did and x-ray, and never investigated further. Even today, 18 months after the fall I can tell when you touch that spot. Not only had I not known that I’d fractured the vertebrae, but their negligence had led to this scare. But boy where we happy. Especially when Dr. Rads breathed a sigh of relief. “Good,” he said, “because if there was still any possiblity is was cancer, we would have to cancel your surgery.”
Later that night Del showed up after work. Handsome in his suit, he was also carrying a small handled bag. It was a present for me before surgery – the watch that I had been eyeing with my sister earlier that very day. Surprisingly, when they finally left, I accepted the sleeping pill the nurses suggested I take and went right to sleep.