Humans are just amazing. We don’t survive on our own – even strangers come to your aid, by the dozen, and I am incredibly fortunate for that.
When I hurt myself last weekend, I just felt stupid. I was laying there on this sea of trampolines, 100 feet from the stairs down, sweating, and unable to even straighten my right leg. I might as well have been a thousand miles from the exit. It’s a weird feeling – knowing, for certain, that if I were alone, I would eventually starve to death right in that spot.
My knee was basically disassembled into component parts, but the pain from that wasn’t so bad. It was the helplessness that sucked. The physical sense of helpless (described above) was only one part. As an independent contractor in the process of launching a new enterprise, I had rolled the dice on temporarily going without health insurance. This was uncharted territory for me – what exactly was going to happen now? The System equates No Insurance with Cannot Pay For It. I knew that I could afford it, but how do you get expensive help from people who don’t think you can pay?
Then the fire department and paramedics showed up. Like ten guys. Splinting my leg, moving me onto a stretcher board. All while basically working in quicksand – trampolines aren’t the friendliest work surface. I just kept apologizing – “guys I am so sorry to put you through this, but thank you.” That, and make jokes. Like “guys, I only signed up for an hour of trampoline time and now that it’s six o’clock I think this place is about to throw me out.”
But they dragged me across that rolling ocean of trampolines (degree of difficulty: 9), carried me down the stairs, and loaded me into an ambulance. They were cheery and friendly about it. I avoided eye contact with all the patrons who had been forced to wait during all of this. That’s pretty easy on a stretcher though – just stare at the ceiling as it rolls by. First time for me.
In the ambulance, one of the paramedics asked if I was a Browns fan, being from Cleveland. He was disappointed that I’m not, because he’s a Steelers fan and wanted to razz me about how badly my team sucks relative to his. Failing that, he tried to convince me this was his first day on the job (while he prepped my IV – which went in perfectly). All good distractions and much appreciated. I cracked lots of jokes but don’t remember any of them, because the adrenaline and pain meds were kicking in hard.
The emergency room continued that theme of helpful and human, and even took it up a notch. Heidi, my nurse, was fantastic. It’s difficult to be simultaneously human, accessible, caring, funny, AND no-nonsense, but she surfed that mix with ease. My wife and I had some great conversations with her during our time in the ER, wandering far from the obvious topic of my injury. At one point we told her, with total sincerity, that if we lived in Columbus we’d be trying to become her friends. Super kind, funny, and interesting lady.
When I was finally done there in the ER, the 200 foot trip to the car was an ordeal. My leg wasn’t in a wheelchair-friendly state so it had to be crutches. I almost passed out on the way – Heidi noticed that and got me seated in the restroom before I toppled. Then she brought me food and drink from the nurses’ station so I could regroup before the rest of the walk to the car. An ambulance driver who had just dropped someone else off held the door open for about ten minutes so everyone could keep an eye on me while I came back to my senses. I think there were about five other people helping too, but I’m a bit hazy on that.
Then they loaded me into my car, propping me up on pillows in the backseat. In my half-drugged stupor I scribbled the blog URL down for Heidi so she could see this post – something I knew I had to write. She’s already commented on the previous “wreck a knee” post – see her comment here – but THIS is the post I needed to write. That other one was just for general interest value.
This whole theme has continued since then too – Dr. Williams is a badass at repairing athletic injuries, and cleared time on his schedule to see me on short notice last Monday. I’ve had to put down some hefty deposits on the visits, the MRI’s, and the surgery, as to be expected, but his staff has been great about getting me a price closer to what insurance companies pay and not “full list price.”
All in all, I’d say 35 total strangers have been closely involved – already – in helping me get through this. It’s pretty miraculous when you think about it. 100 years ago this injury would have resulted in the amputation of my lower leg. 1,000 years ago it would have been fatal. To varying degrees, that is STILL the case in certain countries.
There’s a lot to complain about in human society. The bigger our organizations and infrastructure get, the more “bad” stuff creeps in. Corruption and other bad behavior is so much easier to perpetrate when your victims are diffuse and faceless. But wow, the Big System sure is taking care of me right now. One phone call to 911 – three button presses (!) on any one of dozens of phones in the building. Ten people come to rescue me within 5 minutes, and then deliver me to 10-15 more people who take care of me for the next few hours. This doesn’t happen without a Big System.
Maybe all of that other crap, the bad side of the Big System, is worth it
And the people working in that system, at least in my experience this past week, are nothing short of amazing. Thank you very much – Heidi and all the others whose names I sadly can’t remember.