Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ahoy, Ya'll

One of the things that I have always found peculiar that you hear reasonably often when people are discussing Asian cultures, especially, is that “it’s really considered rude in that culture to make another person loose face.” And I always think to myself “and it’s not in every culture?” Perhaps it’s true that losing face is a bigger deal in places other than the US, but still, it sounds to me a lot like getting a reminder that gagging on the food someone has prepared for you and then dramatically spitting it out into your napkin is considered bad form “in some places.” Anyway, one of the first things you learn in marriage therapist school is that families are a little like their own culture and when two people marry negotiating, adopting, tolerating and eliminating different aspects of the spouses’ family of origin culture is one of the major tasks of the first five to seven years of marriage. I’ve found this to be true in my marriage to Rob. I love some aspects of his family culture. For example, if two members of the family are having a disagreement, they see no need to hash it all out during meal times, like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. My family, all of whom I love, is much more likely to go ahead and get it all out the very moment we feel it, rather than take the very real risk we might forget about whatever it is that we’re upset about. Robert loves some aspects of my family culture, perhaps his favorite of which is the concept of “the birthday week,” which I think I’ve written about before. You get to choose which of the seven days around your birthday count as your week and you get to choose all of the meals, all fun activities and so on. We’re still working out how we’re going to make this work with two people who have the same birthday. Other aspects of my family culture, though, have been more of a challenge for him to adjust to. My family is all about seeking medical attention at the slightest provocation. It’s not that we’re hypochondriacs (although maybe there is an element of that to it) and, if you look closely at our family history, do in fact have valid reasons that we’re a little more “proactive” in the treating illnesses early department. However, in the time I have known him, upwards of ten years now, Rob has only willingly see a doctor once for a bout of the flu he had our first year in Atlanta. And I know the only reason he went was that he secretly thought was going to kill him. That said, more than once we’ve had a conversation that begins with my saying “I think I need to see a doctor…” and that ends with him saying “Well, let’s just wait and see what happens.”

All of that is important background for the story of my ER visit the weekend before last and the not-so-very-good week that followed. I had gone to visit my hometown with the girls, as Erin and my newest nephew James were visiting for the weekend. It turned out not to be the best weekend we’d all had together; James had to get his four month shots and didn’t feel so great about that, L. and E. refused to be photographed by the professional photographer and even showed a lot of resistance to being caught on film by Aunt Erin, who they usually pose for. And, however it happened-and I am not making accusations here, but I think I know- one of two people I know who enjoy vigorously poking others in the eyes poked me in the eye with her razor sharp finger nails. So by Friday night, I felt like I had ten thousand eyelashes tuck in my left eye and was unable to hold it open without being blinded by the torrent of tears it was leaking. When I awoke Saturday, the situation was no better. Wisely, I decided to use my one good eye and drive us on back to SmallTown, AR that afternoon, because as long as I didn’t have to glance to the right I wasn’t completely blind. By the time I arrived home, I knew that the next step was to seek medical care. Naturally, Rob was concerned, but as he pointed out, there were no eye doctor’s offices open at 6:00pm on Saturday night. Further, there aren’t any even any urgent care centers in the town where we live. Thinking this through came as a bit of culture shock to me- although I never made use of them, I liked knowing that Atlanta had an 24 hour emergency dental center (we lived three miles away), and emergency eye center, also open 24 hours a day, and even an all night cat clinic. Okay, really, I always just sort of thought that last one was silly, but when I was complaining about the lack of health care available here, I will admit that it came up, even though we do not now, and will probably never, own a cat. Reluctantly, and I knew in my heart he was judging me even as he said it, Robert agreed that if I was unable to get my friend Karen, whose dad used to be an eye doctor in this area on the phone to tell me what to do with my broken eye, I would drive myself to the emergency room at our local hospital to begin waiting, while he put the girls to bed and found someone to come sit with them while he came to meet me.

So off I went to SmallTown’s Emergency Department. Let me state for the record that I am not a stranger to emergency rooms; arguably, given the bizarre series of events that occurred during my pregnancy, I received up to a fourth of my prenatal care from emergency rooms throughout Tulsa and Atlanta. Fun memories. But this was by far the craziest experience I had yet had. When I arrived there was just one other person waiting and I naively took that as a good sign. So I checked in and sat down in the fifteen person waiting room to wait. It was at this moment that they began a new DVD on the television in the corner- Last of the Mohicans. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, let me just say that what with all the rifle fire and flying hatchets included in the movie, it’s not a film that is going to make anyone in the ER feel more relaxed. In fact, one could make the case that teenage boys imitating this movie are probably a prime reason that many people are forced to visit the ER in the first place. Immediately after I sat down, another woman, probably in her mid-forties came in, moaning loudly. I gathered from the twelve people that she had brought with her- apparently, they had been attending a barbeque of some sort- that they all agreed that she probably had kidney stones. She kept shrieking about the pain and her friends kept demanding that the receptionist move her to the top of the line to see the triage nurse. A few minutes later, an eight year old girl came in who had been badly bitten by a dog, She ended up waiting next to me, as the “party of thirteen, kidney stones” was taking all of the other space. The kidney stone woman began to yell more loudly, and it was becoming more and more difficult to hear the carnage occurring on screen, because what with the eye, I was forced to use my ears because I couldn’t really see all that clearly. Which was the cosmic cue for the teenage boy who had cut his hand playing football to come on in. Go ahead and guess who got triaged first. Let me give you a hint- I have never been more annoyed that the stereotypes about Southerners and their admiration for those who play football is true. The kidney stone woman was even able to knock off the dramatic moaning for a bit to complain about it. Hey- I know that maybe he had cut a tendon and needed immediate surgery or whatever, but still. I felt like the child bleeding from her head wounds deserved a bump to the front of the line and the mommy in me would have accepted that without bitterness, but a non-life threatening football injury? Really?

Anyway, Rob eventually arrived and just in time for me to catch one last hatchet throw on-screen, they called me back. I could hear the annoyed wailings of the kidney stone woman behind me, but at that point, I was just so glad to be out of the waiting room with her giant crowd of social support that I had a difficult time feeling bad that I getting in first. The nurse immediately gave me eye numbing drops. I realize these aren’t available over the counter, but if you ever get a chance to get your hands on them, I can’t say enough positive things about them. They then gave me some “make the wound on your eye glow” drops. Here is an actual artist's rendering of what they found:

Needless to say, Rob felt a little bad about secretly judging me for seeking medical attention too quickly, because in his words, “it was really disgusting.” But bear in mind this is from a man who doesn’t like to wear contacts because he hates touching eyes; it could well be that he just has some sort of eye issue. So, anyway, they taped my eye shut and patched it. The next day, E and L took turns gently poking at my patch, which I tried to discourage, given that it’s how I got myself into the situation in the first place. But you couldn’t blame them for being fascinated with Mommy’s pirate eye. And you know, I’ve always had kind of a pirate-y look in terms of my personal style, so you can imagine how well I pulled off the whole thing. So let this be public service announcement about the dangers of letting small children near your eyes.

Here are some pictures for the grandparents:

E. with crazy hair. L. trying to climb onto the picnic table.