Oops. The road was wet and I came off my bike. Split my chin open. Spent about four hours at the hospital getting seen, stitched, CT’ed for the pain in my jaw, and seen again. Not the way I planned to spend my Tuesday night!
But I learned a few things worth noting:
- People here are kind in an emergency. Two of my colleagues were very close by, one in a car and another on a bike, and they both stopped immediately to help. One found a pack of emergency tissues in my backpack and brought my bike back to school for safekeeping. The other put me in her car, called the school, and drove me to see our nurse. The nurse took one look at me and shouted to another colleague, who drove me to the hospital.
- While we were doing some sidewalk first aid to stop the blood dripping from my chin onto my jacket, dress, and tights, several strangers asked if we needed help. Two were children on bikes and two more were pedestrians who went out of their way to come over to us. This was heartwarming and I thanked those who I could.
- Figuring out medical care in another language is difficult. I was at the hospital for around four hours and I spoke broken German almost the whole time. The doctor had taken a Medical English course, she told me, though we communicated mostly in German unless it was obvious that I was lost. It took some gesturing and explaining from the doctor, and guesswork on my part, but I knew what was going to happen before it happened. All in all, the experience was frustrating and tiring for me, but it worked out okay. I was struck by how difficult and scary it must be for immigrants to any country, especially those with no language skills, to communicate in a crisis. I was near tears and I wasn’t even in a crisis! Sitting in the wrong waiting room and staring at the wrong door was a moment of deep understanding, and I will not forget it.
In my frustration, I wrote to a few friends and received encouragement, offers of help, and commiseration in response. “Approach it all like a writer,” one wise woman suggested. And so I have.