In the beginning I thought I might end up having to be in the hospital for a few days, but I had to give up those hopes. That first day, I was still thinking I would just heal up in India and then continue. Maybe teach english somewhere for a bit. A few days into the hospital stay I’d changed my tune and decided I would much rather go heal up back home. By the second week I was clicking my heels together and wishing I could use my Dorothy powers, which would teleport me to the Oregon Coast where my mom would have some delicious lasagna waiting for me.
I was at the Lower Assam Regional Hospital in Bongaigaon. The doctors put a few stitches across the big wound just to slow the bleeding and give themselves some time to figure out how to deal with me. I was repeatedly asked for a phone number to call my mom, but that was a losing cause. The last thing I was going to allow was some Indian guy calling up my mom and freaking her out with crash talk. I would deal with it later. After a bunch of x-rays, a big man named Dr. Gosch put a half cast on the leg and wrapped it all up.
He told me I would need surgery, but that they thought I should go somewhere else to get it done. Everyone there was wanting to contact the US embassy in Calcutta. They were on the verge of obsessive about it and made it sound like they needed to get permission from the US government before performing any surgery. They were really hesitant to do any work on me without getting consent from someone, and they preferably wanted to talk to my embassy. I tried telling them there wasn’t anything they would be able or willing to do. I think they have much bigger problems than a guy with a broken leg. The situation felt a bit scattered with a lot of confusion. Some thought I needed to be taken to Calcutta so I’d be close to my embassy and could have help. Others wanted me to be taken to Guwahati, a large city a few hours away, because they had a bigger hospital. What I gathered is that almost everyone at the hospital had never seen a foreigner before, and an American was even wilder for them. The last thing any of them wanted was something bad to happen to me. The first night in the hospital was a strange one. I was put in the VIP ward, which honestly was pretty nice.
Later on I would be moved to a regular ward where it was a bit funky, but this one wasn’t bad at all. I was put there without much information on what would be next except that they were trying to figure out what to do with me. I was good and doped up for my first night as a zoo animal. Groups of police officers came to take pictures with me, and some even brought their families.
Groups of random people came all night long, and most of them couldn’t speak any english. They would just gather around, stare at me, talk amongst themselves, giggle, and try speaking to me in their language.
This guy was an all-star. He snuck me in a tall can of Miller High Life my first night in the hospital and visited multiple times after that. I understand how a zoo animal feels now. At one point a family came with juices and snacks for me, which I thought was nice. I was joking with one of the officers about arresting people and he told me that he had arrested a guy in the room that day.
He pointed the small depressed looking man out, and he turned out to be the guy who hit me. The family was his, and they had all come to see me. It was really weird and if I hadn’t have been so high I might have been angry at the guy, but I told him with big smile, “shit happens”. They told me not to worry and that they’d be back in the morning with breakfast. The visitors came and went all evening until I finally got some peace late that night. Except for the police guard they left me. The room had a small bed in the corner and he slept there. There was no arguing about him being there and they insisted on me having security.
Maybe just in case the truck came back to try and finish me off. I didn’t mind it the first couple nights, and even got a good laugh out of it, but was sick of it after the days went by and I just wanted some alone time. Quite alone time was few and far between with the constant flow of visitors and nurses.
On the second day the doctor came into the room and asked me again about getting consent. At this point I’d talked to my mom and she knew I was ok so I told him that my mom consented to surgery, which seemed to reduce some of his worry, but not completely. The family was there all day and seemed to be acting in charge of everything going on, which looking back was a mistake. I laid there as the doctors talked back and forth with them about where I should have the surgery. I was a bit annoyed that I was being left out of the conversation and it seemed like decisions were being made for me. I wish I would have set the situation straight those first days instead of letting it go on that way. They were constantly putting themselves into my business and trying to tell nurses and doctors what to do. The family thought I should stay at the hospital and have the surgery because I would have a lot of people who could help me out, but Guwahati would be too far for them. I really didn’t like them pressuring me into where to get treated and finally had to tell them to butt out for a minute and let me talk to the doctors. They assured me they could perform the surgery where I was and gave me enough confidence to feel comfortable with them doing it.
Once that was settled, they scheduled me for surgery at 3pm that afternoon. I was excited because in my head the sooner I had the surgery the sooner I could start healing. The operating room was clean, descent, and basic. It felt like one of the operating rooms you see in a war movie.
The anesthesiologist told me I had two choices, and boy do I regret telling him “whatever is easiest for you, I don’t care”. If I had known the choices were put me to sleep or spinal anesthesia, I probably would have had them send me to sleepland. He asked the orthopedic surgeon (Dr. Gosch) and he gave an answer similar to “spinal of course”. As soon as I saw that massive needle that was going to go into my spine I wanted to change my decision, but didn’t want to look like a baby. Getting the spinal anesthesia would turn out keeping me in that damn hospital for a lot longer than planned, and in a lot more pain. The first time he stabbed it in I jerked and it exploded out of me. He seemed very upset by this, but said the first one was only to numb the area. The second one hurt just as bad, but it did the trick. Immediately my lower body became warm and fuzzy and shortly after began losing feeling. My arms worked fine, but everything below my chest was numb. The stomach feels very strange when its numb. They also gave me some good painkillers and had me a bit loopy. I wanted to watch the surgery, but they wouldn’t let me and put up a barrier between me and my lower body. I did get to watch it on an x-ray tv thingamajig at the side of the bed. I could see the first drill go up into the leg bone and then a long screw was used to reattach the chunk of bone that had been knocked off. I’m pretty sure I recognized the sound of the drill. It sounded just like the one I built a fence with a few years back. I don’t know what it was for, but they were doing some serious banging as well. I could feel the pressure and it sounded like someone was hammering on rock. Once the surgery was done they stitched up the original gash across the front of the ankle and where they went in for surgery. A leg splint was made and they wrapped it all up. They kept the painkillers going through me so I never had to horrible of pain that night. I knew I was high that night, but saw the full extent the next morning when I looked back at the conversations from the night before.
I had gotten ahold of an internet stick that night and was able to get on Facebook for a while. I remembered talking with people and thought I was mostly coherent, but I was far from it. If I happened to talk to you that night, you know what I’m talking about. I remember typing long messages and feeling good about what I had just written, but when I looked back over it the words would be complete gibberish. On day three they wheeled me out in the afternoon to go get x-rays and check on the surgery. Along the way I developed a nasty headache that engulfed me with pain. Like the day before they had some good drugs and those pretty much made it tolerable. The next day, the fourth at the hospital, I sat up to excruciating pain. The pain started in my neck and then came up over my head. It felt like a giant with knives for fingers was crushing my skull. My mouth went dry and it made me get the dry heaves. My vision got blurry, the room was spinning, and I thought I was going to pass out. Everyone started getting worried and confused. Eventually the doctor came and had me lay down, which eased the pain away. They thought I had a spinal headache, which can be caused by the spinal anesthesia before surgery. A large needle is used to pierce the tough membrane that surrounds the spinal cord. Medication is injected into your spinal canal, which numbs the nerves in the lower half of your body. Small amounts of spinal fluid can leak out, and depending on the size of the needle used, a larger amount can escape. Not having enough of the fluid causes pressure in the skull. It’s affected by gravity, and that’s why when you sit up it feels like your brain is being crushed. The name doesn’t fit. It should be called something like super zombie death headache. For over a week I would end up with a severe case of it. I couldn’t sit up or get out of bed for six days. As soon as I would try, pressure crushed down on my brain and put me back down. Felt like being paralyzed.
The doctors were telling me over and over to drink as much fluids as I possibly could, which made me have to pee every fifteen minutes. They gave me one metal piss pot to go in and would never come to dump it unless I asked. This led to me having a bunch of water bottles next to my bed along the wall. I had a clock in my room, which I would stare at to pass the time and play stupid number games. At one point I was peeing a liter and a half every hour. It’s a humbling experience not being able to take care of yourself.