Being in a Chinese hospital is a bit like what I imagine it would be like to be in a free clinic where copious uppers and downers and steroids are distributed. There are swarms of people – twin boys wearing matching shirts with rabbits in heart-shaped glasses; an old woman with sensible but ugly shoes who walks with a cane, a 30-something with a gaudy purple rabbit fur jacket, a young mother with a long torso and proportionately short legs who teeters on 5-inch heels while her toddler grapples for her hand, another toddler with a hot pink baseball hat on sideways whose mother hands her a Smart Phone to keep her entertained. There were just so many people. I imagined that, at home, if I was in a place with the sheer number of individuals at the hospital, at the very least, I would recognize at least ten of them – I would probably know more. But here in this sea of faces, not one was familiar.
I had said, “We can’t walk like this,” meaning double-wide in this people-circus, which Helen thought to mean I couldn’t walk at all, so she got me a wheelchair and parked me in front of the fire extinguisher while she went to get our number, like when you’re waiting at the deli. This was, as it turned out, the last convenient place she parked me.
She drove with reckless abandon otherwise – a bit like Chinese traffic – and saddled me right up to the walls so that I had to pull my bad foot in and hold my knee up by my chest. She hit two people and one person hit us – just sideswiped us because she wasn’t looking where she was going when she was entering a room – and Helen would park me in the middle of a crowded hallway so she could ask questions, very few of which were answered adequately. Hospital staff sent us to an area on the first floor were we were told to go to the fourth floor when they should have sent us to the fifth. On the fifth floor, we were told we couldn’t be served so we would have to go to the ER. The elevators were slow and could barely accommodate a wheelchair and a person. Between flashing their current floor numbers, a two-letter message appeared: “FU.”
People were generally fascinated by me ad gawked at me. Everybody asked where I was from and if I spoke Chinese and were terribly amused when I uttered a few remedial words. When the doctor asked, I asked Helen to explain to him that I could count, introduce myself, ask what something is, and buy beer, which I suppose gives me the functionality of a drunken two year old.
Two doctors touched the top of my foot and asked if it hurt. I explained the ailment to Helen who in turn translated it for the doctors, but, you know, second-hand diagnosis, and, they told me I was probably fine but sent me to get an X-Ray anyway. After I got my slides back, they took a precursory – almost flippant – look at them, decided nothing at all was the matter, which still didn’t explain why I couldn’t walk – and told me not to wrap it, which I didn’t understand because even the flimsy gauze I’d had on it prior was a huge relief. The told me it wouldn’t work, and wouldn’t even issue me a bandage. I tried to reason with them via Helen, which got messy and confusing and just resulted in the doctor shaking his head repeatedly.
As Helen wheeled me out in her own special, manic way, she said, “Okay, we do this way: I will bring you the crunch.” She meant a crutch, and it turned out, she actually meant a three-footed yet still unsteady cane with a built in stool to accommodate the world’s smallest butt, which I guess beats the pillow I had been using to slide myself around the apartment.