Thursday, 6 March 2014

Hospital Again, Or: Lucky And Unlucky

Yesterday I had the unexpected pleasure to visit another one of Karlsruhe's fine hospitals. I had just finished up everything at home with the replacement parts for the refrigerator I ordered via Redcoon being delivered, did a check-in of my code for my current project for Synyx and had let colleagues know that I was heading to the office now. It was a bright, sunny day, so when I got on my bicycle I also put on my sunglasses.

Everything went fine up till the Durlacher Tor area of my route. Everything there is construction due to the subway construction work. The paths for bicyclists are a bit improvised for that reason. On this occasion I took one possible path which led me closer to the cars also driving there. I had driven there before on my occasions without problems. This time however, things didn't go the same way. From the corner of my eye I saw a black car heading my way, so I diverted more to the right so that the car narrowly missed me. Unfortunately this led my bicycle's front wheel straight into a tram track. Unable to steer any more I thus crashed into a construction barrier and landed heavily onto the road.

My first thought was one of embarrassment, me crashing in such a silly way. I got up, noticing a bad pain in my left arm, but ignoring it. Some people had noticed my fall and came to assist. One of them must have taken my bicycle to the sidewalk. I just limped to the sidewalk, cradling my arm, as dizziness threatened to overtake me. I felt sick to my stomach as I sat down on the sidewalk, to then just lie down. I guess I have must slipped into a bit of shock due to the pain. Around me people were being busy, calling an ambulance, taking off my sunglasses, trying to pour tepid water into my mouth. Then some firemen came to assist. They stabilized my left arm after I indicated that it hurt a lot.

These firemen took control of the situation until the ambulance arrived. I don't remember too much of this part, fading briefly into unconsciousness now and then as many thoughts passed through my mind. Strangely enough I didn't feel too bothered by the whole situation beyond my arm hurting so much, feeling quite detached from things. It almost seemed routine to me. Me having something happen to me again and being taken to a hospital. Story of my life, or something.

As the ambulance personnel and the firemen managed to get me on the stretcher and my backpack and shoulder bag removed from my person, I was wheeled into the ambulance where they assessed me. Here I switched to speaking English for the first time since the accident, managing to answer questions in German up till that point. As far as we could figure out together I had fallen onto my left arm and it was possibly broken, but nothing else seemed to be hurting. I was taken to the hospital and arrived in the ER. There a doctor made another assessment, with the female assistant helping me undress and change into a hospital gown. I received a tetanus boost shoot and an IV drip. After that I was carted off to the radiology department for an x-ray.

I was lying there in the hallway for a while until the x-ray was made, then got wheeled to another room which was the plaster room. At this point I was quite convinced that my arm was broken and I'd be receiving a cast. It took another ten minutes or so before the assistant arrived and as she wheeled me out of the room she told me the good news: I did not have any broken bones or fractures. Back in the ER the doctor did tell me that possibly the tissue around the elbow joint which keeps it lubricated might be damaged or burst, but I should give it a few days and see whether it still keeps hurting. If it did I should see another specialist.

After getting dressed again with some help from the assistant I received some strong painkillers and the required stomach protectors. I then noticed that my sunglasses were missing. Probably left at the accident site and now most likely gone. After thanking the doctor and assistant I proceeded to shamble out of the hospital. Fortunately it wasn't that far too the Synyx office, so I walked there. There I wrote an email about what had happened and that I would be going home for the day, with no promises about tomorrow. Only then did colleagues begin to realize that something had happened. Strange feeling to just come out a rather unpleasant situation and then not having anyone notice it. I also took the first batch of the painkillers there before making my way back home.

I still had to pick up my bicycle at the site of the accident, where it was chained up. On my way there I had this woman call out to me. As she approached me on her bicycle with child in tow on its own bicycle, she explained to me that she was the one who had called the ambulance earlier that day for me. She was right behind me when the accident happened, but was too shocked to remember the license plate of the black Audi which nearly hit me. We talked a bit about who I was, my German skills and cycling in Karlsruhe. As we said our goodbyes I thought that maybe I should have given her my business card so that we could have stayed in touch. Then I figured that we'd see each other more often, as we often cycled the same route.

After getting home I found myself thinking about how lucky and unlucky I am, to the extent that they almost seem to cancel each other out. With every accident I have been in I have never suffered anything too serious. The first time I had a major accident with my bicycle was over a decade ago when I hit the tarmac at about 60 km/h and suffered nothing more serious than some lost skin on the palms of my hands and a mild concussion. My most recent accident could easily have resulted in broken bones, a head injury or worse. Yet as I'm typing this, nearly a day after the accident, I'm feeling relatively okay, aside from an extremely sore left elbow and general bruising and soreness all over amidst a few minor wounds on my left hand and knee.

In many ways I'm lucky, being gifted, ambidextrous and always finding a way out of any situation, no matter how difficult. Yet these same situations I end up in due to a severe lack of luck. Having been born in a country where the body I was given was considered unacceptable leading to me having to suffer for many years, and where similarly my giftedness was more of a curse than a blessing. Always meeting the wrong people and getting hurt by them, yet also meeting people who get me out of difficult situations. It's as though my life doesn't know any middle ground. It either has to be extremely negative or extremely positive.

Yet the negative seems to win out in one way at least: via my PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Imagine the world around you as you normally see it, then overlay a filter which interprets everything around you as a possibly or definite negative thing. Imagine always feeling a sense of dread and terror, as though anything positive will soon turn out to be negative. Always feeling hunted and watched. Never being able to trust others, always suspecting them of either not really caring about you or having a hidden agenda. It sucks out every single bit of joy one could have in life. There is only bleakness, death and decay. True, I can push away the filter with some effort, but it's like holding back a heavy curtain. At some point your strength will fail and the curtain slides back into place. This way I'm trapped inside this world I hate with all of my soul.

People have been trying to reassure me a lot lately that things are going fine for me, that my future is looking bright. TO them I had to explain that the problem isn't with my future. The problem is my past and the daemons living in it. Whenever I try to get down to the reason why I feel so terrified and unable to do many normal things all the time I can feel this 'something' inside my head, like a large immobile object. I can however not figure out what it is or what to do about it. I know it's the source of all these psychological problems I'm dealing with, but I can not do anything with it until I know what it is exactly.

This is the reason why I'm often working on my autobiography as it helps me to remember things, and why I am pushing for this final surgery as ending that medical chapter of my life should also dislodge a lot of suppressed memories and feelings. Yet the former is also very tough on me and this last surgery isn't coming any closer. The surgeon is currently too busy to answer the questions I sent him weeks ago and it is becoming increasingly less likely that I'll have surgery this year. This also means that my autobiography will end on a negative note if it will be published this year. Still the same uncertainty and fears, with the completing of my body still unattainable.

I'm just terrified of what is lurking in my past, but I know I need to confront it, something which is impossible without dealing with the medical issue first. It seems I'm deadlocked again at this point. Very unlucky...


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