My husband and I bought new bikes the other day and headed to the park. It was a gorgeous day; clear and cool with only a bit of wind. I wore foam earplugs because we were within earshot of railroad tracks. All was fine and beautiful until I saw the mud on the path. I swerved quickly, but not quickly enough, and went down.
I lay on the path stunned. My husband was asking what had hit the ground? What hurt the most?
“Um, my hand. My knee. My wrist,” I murmured.
A woman who had been walking with her family rushed up. She was asking questions too. I became confused.
After a short bit I was able to stand with help. I was relieved my helmet had remained secure on my head. It had taken a lot of the hit. We walked three miles back to the car. My forearm kept making crunching sounds and small jolts of pain shot up past my elbow. My husband was inclined to drive to the closest hospital. No, I protested, hospital #1 has records saying I have borderline personality disorder and hospital #2 has records showing I have a psychogenic movement disorder. I don’t want to get treated badly by ER docs who think I’m crazy. Let’s go to hospital #3, I’ve never been there and it’s only a little farther away.
My husband protested but understood my concern. He had witnessed physicians change their demeanor towards me when they were told I had a mental illness. Off we went to hospital #3.
By some stroke of amazing luck there was no one in the emergency room when we arrived. I still kept my earplugs in. I wear some form of hearing protection at all times, in all places. We were promptly taken to a room. My husband explained my hyperacusis and auditory processing disorder very briefly each time a new staff person entered the room. He requested that each person speak softly and only one person speak at a time. All of the staff except for one arrogant male nurse respected his requests.
It turns out I had a broken wrist, a very common distal radius fracture. The staff were very professional and helpful. The ER physician made sure I could see his mouth as he spoke and he enunciated very distinctly. It all went so smoothly. I was splinted up, given a bit of morphine and sent home. I followed up a few days later with an orthopedic surgeon who was equally professional.
Radiology confirmed this is not a psychogenic fracture.
Now I know I’m talking about teams of individuals human beings with whom I’ve never before interacted, so it could be that I just randomly encountered some better quality human beings than I have in the past. But I’m sure it’s not that simple.
I’m more inclined to think that the exemplary treatment I received was because I presented with something that was easy to diagnose, not readily confused with anything else, not attributable to my gender, social class, perceived race or ethnicity, level of education, or perceived emotional instability. My husband was able to explain my auditory disabilities and ask that communications take them into consideration. It also helped that there were simple time tested treatments of splinting and casting and that the facilities I visited were equipped to render those treatments.
It also proved that I’m a pretty damned easy patient to get along with. There were no tears. There was no panic. There was little confusion. The room stayed quiet and I stayed functional. I was fatigued as usual, as I always am after talking to people whose voices are unfamiliar, but that’s small potatoes.
So here I type one handed, delighted that a broken bone has restored a bit of my faith in medicine.