Sunday, April 17, 2005

the ER, or how NOT to celebrate the end of your exams


I haven't written in a few days because my post-exam mood has been much less pleasant than I expected it to be.

I finished my exams on Friday night around 9:00 pm and got back my last essay, the one on Chinese adoptions, with another A+ on it. Then I spent the rest of my evening and the early hours of the morning in the emergency room of our local hospital.

Why on earth -- you may ask -- was this the end result of what should have been a night of celebration?

After my exam, I went to the bar to have some beer with Berdie, who also took the Chinese history exam. The Boy met us there, hung out for a half hour or so, and then announced that he was going to climb a huge university building, alone, in the rain and the dark. He wanted me to come with him and help. There was much discussion of the unfair position this put me in (me being there would make him safer, but would also make a miserable time of my supposed celebratory evening), and I asked him several times why he couldn't just come home and have a quiet evening in with me. I wasn't even asking for a mad party. I just wanted to hang out with him, get some Vietnamese, maybe watch a video, and go to bed. But he was adamant about climbing this stupid building, since Kun's boyfriend -- who was supposed to go with him -- had cancelled several times, so I let him walk me to the bus stop and then continue on his merry way. I had an awful feeling about the whole thing, but I kept telling myself that he's done many dangerous and risky and clearly idiotic things before and come out of it intact, even when I haven't been there to help him.

So I went home, feeling kind of pissed off that no one but me felt like congratulating me or even patting me on the head or anything. I made some tea and watched the first half of Fear Factor, then I got a phone call. THE phone call.

It was the Boy, informing me that he had a concussion and needed a place to sleep for the night, and could he please come to my place and have me monitor him to make sure he didn't lose consciousness? He definitely wasn't getting off that easy. He sounded awful -- he was slurring his words and talking too fast and I thought that maybe, just maybe, there was a little bit of fear in his voice, that elusive emotion he seems so immune to.

I passed the phone to my mom and she decided the minute she heard what had happened that we would have to drive out to the university and get him.

He announced that he had attempted to climb the first part of the building, without ropes, because I suppose there was nowhere to attach them -- and one of the girls from the cheerleading team was attempting to spot him. He was about 12 feet up when he fell, behind the girl who was watching, onto a bike rack and then onto the concrete. He blacked out for a few seconds and so doesn't remember the actual fall.

We went out to get him and found him walking along the boulevard in the pouring rain, bleeding from a head wound, holding his right arm very still, and limping.

He insisted that we take him home and let him have a shower and then wake him up every two hours or so to make sure he was okay, because of the concussion. He strongly discouraged us from taking him to the hospital.

Now here I ask you, friends, what would you do in this situation? You are face-to-face with a person you love with every fibre of your being. They appear to be seriously injured but insist that they're fine and have self-diagnosed only a minor head injury and perhaps a sprained wrist and head wound. They desperately want you to trust their word, and the second-hand input of a couple of Human Kinetics students, that they are okay and do not need medical attention. You are imagining the night ahead of you, as you already start to descend into your own trauma-induced state of shock. You're feeling mysteriously cold and shaky, and you start shivering the way you did as a child swimming in the pool in the early days of summer. Your stomach is turning for absolutely no reason except your own fear. You imagine trying to stay awake all night, or at least wake up every few hours to check vital signs, after living through four days of the exam schedule from hell and very little accumulated sleep. You imagine waking up and finding an unconscious person next to you who you can't revive. You know absolutely nothing about head injuries and have no medical training whatsoever. The last time you took a CPR course was some 7 years ago, when you were a bored and clueless teenager. You are being asked to entrust yourself with the life and well-being of the only person you have ever really loved in your whole life. They desperately want you to take them home and tuck them into bed, without you having any conception at all of whether they will be alright. You have only scant second and third-hand details of what actually happened. What would you do?

I will tell you what I did. The moment my mom started to sound like she was going to agree with him and take him home and let him sleep, I crumpled. I couldn't help it. There was only room in the car for one extremely cocksure and fearless individual, and that person wasn't me. I cried and cried, and implored him to let us take him to the hospital. He resisted, he strongly advised against it, but I insisted. We took him to emergency.

He was in pain, tired, confused, and acted like I was the last person in the world he wanted to be sitting next to in the waiting room of the ER. He kept saying what a huge hassle this was and that he was wasting resources and time. Nothing I said could change any of this. Not pointing out that doctors were probably better than he was at diagnosing serious injuries, not by telling him that his injuries could be more serious than he thought, and NOT by pointing out that his request that I watch him all night was the most unfair and cruelest thing anyone had ever asked me to do.

It was quiet in the ER for a Friday night. It was not like watching ER on TV either, though there were a few people who came in looking like they had been very badly beaten up. As the Boy quipped in one of his lighter moments, there was no witty banter in this ER. I replied that there was no Noah Wyle striding around and flirting with the interns either. We only waited a few minutes for him to be assessed. They heard the words 'head injury,' and 'twelve foot fall' and 'concrete' and more or less sprang into action. It was my mom and I who did most of the waiting.

They stitched up his head wound, x-rayed his wrist and put his arm in a fibreglass splint, and gave him some info about head injuries and sprains. He thanked the nurse, and he thanked my mom.

I got home around 4:30 am. I was exhausted, drained, devastated, and I couldn't sleep. I called the Boy and after a painful hour-long discussion he finally thanked me for my time. He was still not pleased that I had taken him to the hospital, but concluded that I had done what I felt I had to do under the circumstances.

I still feel like crap about this. He doesn't seem to think that climbing a building in the middle of the night when it was pouring rain, without ropes, with concrete below him, was a bad idea. His response to my insistence that the whole thing and the way he handled it was really rather selfish was met with the protestation that he cannot and should not live his life for me.

He doesn't have to live his life for me, of course. But I guess it would be nice if occasionally I was factored into the larger equation. Especially when I'm the one he calls when he needs help.

I have the sense of having been traumatized for all the wrong reasons. I guess this is pathetic. But there's something deeply disturbing about seeing someone you love hurt themselves in an idiotic way and then lash out at you for trying to help.

I don't know how things would have turned out if I had made a different decision. I know now that his injury wasn't serious enough for him to have lapsed into a coma in the middle of the night. But there was no way I could have known that at the time.

I guess I just wanted him to pat me on the head and be genuinely grateful for how much I care about him. But instead I am left with a profound feeling of loss.

It's going to be easier for him. His wrist will heal, he will get a scribe for his exam, and his head wound will be gone in a few weeks. But I still wonder how on earth I could have justified acting differently than I did in this situation. So now I stay up really late, watching bad TV and waiting until everyone has gone to bed, and I let myself feel really truly lonely.

I don't feel very happy to have finished my exams. I definitely lost that celebratory feeling somewhere between the darkened highway with one little injured green raincoat-clad figure on it and the admissions section of the ER.

If only TV and movies were like real life. In the movies, people are usually glad when you help them, especially if they're not drug addicts, alcoholics, or mental patients. On TV, the ER is where people find out just how much they really value each other. In the fictional world, serious injury brings people together and makes them realise just how much it would really hurt if they lost someone important to them.

Fuck life. I'm going to be watching a lot more TV.

It's the best I can do for now.


by Nome at 12:18 PM
5 mews

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