Friday, May 09, 2008

There is a Pain I'm not Likely to Forget Soon

Looked at the clock and realized that I needed to head down the stairs to grab some lunch as I had failed to bring any with me in the morning. Walked down the stairs, got a cup ramen at the hajuma stand and went to go walk up the stairs. I was all happy, have a nice long weekend coming up, things to do, people to see. Just up to the office to eat my lunch, finish my last class, and viva Los Vegas.

The stairs at the university are old and worn they slant down a bit but it doesn’t really bother me that much. Until my sandle caught and I knew I was going down. I went with it, better to fall into it that to fight it and on the stairs there were a lot of bad things that could happen. Just let it be minimal at best, I thought as I crunched down.




Then I turned over and realized my toe hurt. FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK.

I knew before any other thought went through my head. I had ripped off the toenail on my big toe. I could feel it throbbing already. I did the only thing I could do. I pushed the nail down as quickly as I possibly could without looking at it. I always wear socks and a good thing I do. The socks kept the nail down and the blood around my foot. I walked down the few stairs I’d managed to get up.

Lunch time, everyone is gone. My phone is upstairs in my office. Teachers lounge.

I walked into the teachers lounge and set down my lunch.

“I’m sorry. I need to go to the hospital and have my big toe cut off. Can you help me?”

The foreign teachers that were gathered around were just kind of stopped for a moment and then everyone started to move. What happened, what do you need, are you okay. I repeat. They tell me to sit down but I’ve got a powerful adrenaline rush going on and I don’t want to sit just yet. I hobble back into the entryway while everyone gathers around.

“Do you want an ambulance?”

My teeth have started clenching. It hurts, ye gods it hurts, but I breathe deep and try to relax into it. This is not that bad. I can do this. I’ve done this. This is not that bad.

“No, just need a ride. Student, someone, to the hospital. They just need to cut it off and I’ll be groovy.”

“Are you sure your okay?”

“Nothing a bottle of alcohol won’t fix. I need them to cut of the toenail.”

“Do you have classes later today?”

“Just the one. I can teach it no problem, I just need to get this nail cut off.”

“We can cancel your class.”

“No need to. I really just need to go to the hospital and get this nail cut off. They take of the nail it stops hurting pretty quick.”

People are on the phone several people trying to find someone to give me a ride. It takes a few minutes.

“L can be here in ten, can you wait that long?”

“Yep.” I’m breathing and rocking, just working to keep the pain under as much control as I can muster.

They keep talking and calling. Finally a teacher comes down the hall who has a car. He has a 1:00 class and it’s 12:30. He agrees that he can take me if L can pick me up and bring me back. At that point someone had called L and told her not to bother, so I just keep sitting and squeezing and breathing until finally Lone Car decides to take me while the teachers figure out his class.

We walk to his car.

“Are you sure you can walk?”

“Need something to do.”

I jump in and we ride down to where the hospital theoretically is. Another fifteen minutes go back as we figure out what we are doing. We pass it the first time and have to swing back around to get to it again.

We talk. You have the weirdest conversations when you are in acute physical pain being chaperoned by someone who isn’t. We talk about the screwed up times we have hurt ourselves. We talk about where we are from. We talk about the weather. I keep thinking my foot hurts. We keep talking until I get out of the car to walk into the hospital.

At the front door there are about four Korean men, two in casts, the rest in hospital gowns smoking cigarettes. They see me in my grimace of pain and start laughing at me. This is the best entertainment ever, a waygook in pain at their Podunk country hospital. I want to kick their faces in with my bloody foot. I walk by them and up to the counter.

At the counter the lone receptionist sits behind a desk bored, on the phone, eating lunch. Several hajumas are lined up waiting for him. I stand there teeth gritted tapping lightly on the counter. He looks at me and turns away.

Tap, tap, tap.

He keeps talking on the phone.

Tap, tap, tap.

Finally he hangs up and asks me in Korean what I want. I don’t bother trying to explain in big word.

“Appyo, bal toe” I hold up my thumb and demonstrate ripping off the nail. He just looks at me and points down the hall.


He stands up and shows me and so I walk down the hall to what is apparently the emergency enterance. Two nurses come up to me.

“Appyo odi-is-i-yo?”

“Appyo, andi, bal” I raise my thumb again and demonstrate. They have me sit down.

The doctors come in and by now the nurses have put together what has happened. The Korean men who were laughing outside come down the hall and stand outside the door with big smiles to watch.

“Mo-boya! Uh, shi!” What are you staring at fuck-stick, I say to them in Korean. They grimace and turn away embarresed and ashamed of themselves and walk back down the hall, no longer interested in the entertainment of the waygook in pain. The nurses come back over and go to take of the sock.

“Andiyo, Andiyo. Gow-wi, gow-wi juseyo!” Their hands on my foot have me clenched in a not of adrenaline. I know they have to do this, but I so don’t want them to do this. No, no, don’t take of the sock, scissors please! They grab the scissors and cut the sock bit in the back.

“Andiyo, ta! Gow-wi, ta!” No, cut the hole sock off, the sock is a dollar, I’ll be more. Sliding the sock of is going to hurt more, just cut it off. They do, the bottom peels away from my big toe slick and sticky with dried blood.

“Mo-ya?” They ask my politely. What do you want us to do, basically.

“Cut. Cut. Tetanus, juseyo.” Cut me. Give me a tetanus shot, and some pain killers. “Appyo, shot!” The doctors come in and see it and suck in their breath. The other patients in the room do to. I don’t look at it. I’m going to get to see it more than enough in the next four months while it heals. I don’t want to remember it right now.

I lie back on the stretcher. I want something to bite but I don’t know how to ask for it so I take the pillow and stuff it between my lips as they grab my foot.

It hurts, sweet merciful goddess but does it hurt. I will my foot to stillness. The rest of my body is alive with sweltering pain but I don’t move my legs. I bit down and they hold my foot. I hear the clipping, movement, pulling, I choke, gasp as they do it. In a few minutes I feel my foot throbbing like a giant leech is sucking on it for dear life.

“Cut?” I ask.

“Nail reduction.” They tell me. They cut most of it off and saved what they could. Fine by me. “Shot?” I ask hopeful.

“X-ray juseyo?” I think about it. My toe is throbbing like my beating heart and I decide it’s not a bad idea.

“Nay, nay, shot? Appyo, shot?”

First they say after the x-ray, then they decided to go for it and give me the shot. Two shots of blissful numbness. I feel calm return to my body. The throbbing becomes a dull ache. I put my sandle back on and walk to the X-ray machine and they scan my foot. I walk back to the emergency room for the results. No breaks. Could have been much worse.

I thank them and head out to pay for my emergency room bill. All in all it was a twenty five dollar day, not too terribly bad. My ride tells me he will bring the car around, but I disagree. Better to keep walking, besides I need to stop by the pharmacy and get the prescription they wrote out.

We walk down the stairs and down the small street to the pharmacy where I get my meds for a dollar and then walk over to the car and back to school.

“Well, that was exciting.”

“Yeah, I’m fun at a party,” I respond as we drive down the road and back to school.

The teachers are gathered at the door, nothing like some Friday afternoon excitement.

“Are you okay?”

“Aside from the toe, I’m groovy. They pumped me full of something alright.”

“You should have gotten more.”

“Yeah, I thought about asking for thirty of those needles to go, but I don’t think they would have understood.” We laugh and I head up to my office to make some phone calls, neglecting my lunch. I don’t have the stomach for it anyway.

At two I taught my class.

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