Sunday, December 29, 2013

Heading home

You may remember that I was planning to move to Alaska on Monday. This has been a tremendously anxiety generating process. Tuesday before, I had to admit that I can't afford to move. I don't have enough money to pay for the move. This meant, I had to put everything back into storage and head to AK with nothing more than a suitcase and a carry-on. After factoring in a few more panic attacks, unexpected delays, and other crises, I reached Friday night a full day behind schedule. Still, I got a lot done on Saturday. I had a tight, but feasible, schedule for Sunday. Everything was packed and in the staging position to move. The rental truck was backed up at the bottom of the stairs.

I got up according to schedule. There was some sort of hullabaloo going on out on the driveway between Joe and Suzi, the landlord and landlady. It seemed to involve her running back and forth between her car and the house while clutching a pillow. After she was gone, I got to work. One box, four boxes, six boxes, a small piece of furniture into the truck. Stop to stretch and have a drink of water after every four loads. Everything was on schedule at 10:15, though I would rather have been a bit ahead of schedule. Then I tried to take the big rocking chair down the stairs. Halfway down, I lost control and it flipped me head first into the door at the bottom of the stairs.

I woke up about fifteen minutes later in a puddle of blood. I stuck both hands into it before I was able to get up. Then, I staggered over to the landlord's house with blood covered hands and face. He reacted appropriately and rushed me into his bathroom to wash up. Almost all of the blood was coming from a big gash over my left ear. The rest was from minor scrapes on my arms. I called Tessa to cry about not being able to finish the move on time. I told her I was thinking of laying down for a minute before going back to work. She told me that, No, I was not going to do that; I was going to get myself to a hospital. Joe had come to the same conclusion and was getting changed.

An actual puddle of blood. I need to drop everything and parlay this empirical knowledge into writing hard-boiled detective stories.

Joe dropped me off at the emergency entrance to the Skagit Valley Hospital in Mount Vernon, almost forty miles from the apartment. He left me at the desk and ran off to work. It turns out that the hullabaloo in the morning was one of their girls going into labor and Suzi rushing to her side. This meant no one would available to take me home. That was not my top worry at the moment. I was checked in right away and sent to a nurse who took my vitals. She took me to an examination room to wait for the doctor.

A clerk came in to get my information. "Insurance?" "None." "Job?" "No, and I'm leaving the state tomorrow."

A friendly woman came in to ask some more specifically medical questions. She told me I'd need a tetanus booster. I asked if it would make me autistic. She paused. I said that Jenny McCarthy, a great medical expert, said it would. She realized I was joking and we had a great time filling out the rest of the form.

Next, came the doctor, very busy, but friendly and listening. He had me retell the story of my crash. By now, it was forming its standard narrative. When I said I thought I was thrown head-first into the door, he lost all interest in my scalp and began examining my neck to make sure it wasn't broken. It wasn't. His next concern was to make sure my skull wasn't broken. For that, he sent me for a cat scan. That was kind of cool. The machine wasn't nearly as noisy as the ones on teevee and in movies where it symbolizes the sterile and impersonal nature of modern medicine. After another wait in the examination room, the doctor returned to tell me the cat scan looked fine.

After one final wait, he came in to sew me up. By then, I was starting to feel the many other bangs and scrapes on my body. He asked if I had anything else that needed attention. I held up my arm and showed him a bloody scrape, "I have an owie on my elbow." He looked at it, "we call that a boo-boo." "Sweet," I thought, "I can't wait to impress my medical blogger friends with my new knowledge of technical jargon." The actual sewing up was anticlimactic. He washed around the wound, clipped a little hair, and stapled me shut. He finished with a quick review of the care and feeding of a head wound and concussion and the warning signs that I should rush back to the ER. A few minutes later, the friendly woman came in with my discharge papers.

And I was done. It was around five. I hadn't eaten or had caffeine all day. I wasn't sure how to get back to the apartment. I decided to start with food. Some wandering led me to the cafeteria but the cook was on break. I bought a large coffee and a bag of chips and began calling people. At some earlier point I had called Number One Sister. It's a sign of my confusion that I was more concerned about telling her I wasn't going to make my flight the next day than I was about telling her that I was in the ER, covered in blood, with several possible bad prognoses in the outing. In my mind, the headline was "Fuck-up Little Brother Fucks up Again." The flight was not her top priority. Her headline was more along the lines of "OMG Is This the One That Finally Does Him In?" She questioned me about what the doctor said, gave me my new flight information, and let me know the lady at Alaska Airlines had told me to stop bashing my head in. The correct headline was "This aging hippie tried to move his furniture without help. What happened next will have you facepalming till your nose bleeds." I called Tessa and gave her another update.

Now, I needed to get to the apartment and find something to eat. I tried calling my nephew who is a brewer near Mount Baker, but he wasn't home (probably ski boarding on the mountain). I sat around for a while pondering my situation. I wondered if the city busses from Mt. Vernon connected with the Island bus service and if they ran on Sunday evening. Number One called again to see how I was managing the last hurdles. I told her about needing a ride. She was typically practical and blunt, "take a cab." The woman at information recommended a local cab that she thought would take me that far out of town. The cab was there in a few minutes and we were on our way. That left food. Because I expected to be gone that day, I had already disposed of all the food in the apartment. While I was wondering if I could afford to have the cab wait while I ran (shuffled?) into a store, the driver came to my rescue by asking if I minded stopping at a store so he could get some water. I bought him a bottle of blue vitamin water and myself a frozen pizza.

Back in the almost empty apartment, I made a few weak comments on Facebook about my situation while waiting for the pizza to cook. I made a nest on the floor out of the blankets and pillows I had kept out to use as padding around the furniture. After eating most of the pizza, I took a handful of ibuprofen and crawled into the nest hoping this really was the bottom.

LATER: The next morning, Tessa came over to help me with the last pieces of furniture. She looked them over and told me to hire someone younger and stronger. A local labor exchange sent over two guys who finished loading the truck and followed us to the storage place to do all the unloading. I spent the night at Tessa's and, in the morning, she made sure I made it to the airport on time. I lost my debit card at the airport and my luggage didn't make it to Alaska with me. I went to bed on Christmas Eve hoping this really was the bottom.


Alaskan Home said...

Well alrighty then! Other than that, how did you like the play Mrs Lincoln?

Fred de Vries said...

So, when they learned that you had no job or insurance, they prescribed you a cat scan to 'ensure your skull wasn't broken'.

That looks like a scam to me. A cat scam.

MAG said...

Hang in there, John. When you've reached the bottom, there's only one way to go. Up!

Or better said by Churchill: "When you're going through hell…. keep going!"

I hope you let us know how things are going up there.