In the past five years I’ve found myself in a lot of traumatology units. The first was in the US five years ago when my shoddy hips staged their mighty coup. Last year I dragged myself to Virgen del Mar in Madrid and received the first real customer service and human-to-human engagement I’d ever experienced in my beloved Spain. You could argue that I’ve already racked up at the tender age of 26 a far greater density of visits to the ER than any one person should, and of course I’d agree. However my body’s unending fussiness has given me a unique stance as a hospital connoisseur. I’m what you might call a VIP of the medical world, well worthy of a platinum ID card with complimentary champagne and surgical socks. Yesterday marks my most recent experience with the trauma sector, and I’ve got to say, it was pretty damn close to pleasant.
It’s common knowledge that Deutschland does economics, dry, grapey bubbly, and breakfast very, very right, but only incident-prone insiders such as myself know the true excellence of its trauma clinics. On Friday night my gimp ankle finally got to such a point that Niels vowed Saturday would be the day: we both knew it was leagues past doctor time and as such, I mounted only a slight, limp-wristed protest, mostly for looks. After a quick breakfast of rolls, eggs, and wasabi cheese, we went.
There are certain expectations attendant upon a visit to any Saturday limp-in emergency facility: screaming children, pained and pitted old faces, hysterical family members and at least two or three instances of self-patched scalp wounds. Not only did we encounter nothing of the sort upon entering Charité, but despite droves of wounded Deutsche, the atmosphere was calming and reassuringly quiet. And there were coffee machines. Bonus. After a quick registration process through which Niels helped my bumbling German, we were sent to a preliminary doctor’s check and an even quieter, even more orderly waiting room, where over the course of four hours Niels and I downed four machine coffees and about 300 collective pages of novel. The only disturbance came in the form of low, regular moans that issued from someone I imagined as being a stately old German grandpa with a toothache. The rest, from the embarrassed, unspoken camaraderie of the middle aged woman opposite us (also with a busted foot), to the initial doctor’s exam, to the series of careful x-rays of my left foot and leg and the swift, businesslike bandaging of my ankle and heel, was pleasant. But the best part was the final door prize: a set of Ferrari red, super-modern crutches that look like they’d be just as at home at the Reina Sofía in Madrid as they are gripped tight in my clumsy fists.
“So, you are okay? Do you think you need crutches, or you can walk like that?” asked the young attending physician.
“Uh, well,” I hemmed and hawed, ever American, ever deferent to the physician’s recommendation, “I mean… I can, but it hurts whenever I walk on it, so..”
“Ok, so, then you get crutches,” he crisply proclaimed, turning to make a speedy note on my typed-up report. So swift. So factual. So orderly. So German. The doctor’s assistant, a man in his late twenties who looked as though he must during his off hours wear hemp necklaces and Phish tee shirts, presented me with my new toys. Both men bid me a cheery, “Tschüß!”
There was something very close to elation between us as we exited the clinic with my spankin’ new crutches. The combination of gaining crisp-aired, gloaming freedom after four hours indoors, plus the presence of my new invalid props was enough to make us both giddy. We also hadn’t eaten since breakfast, which might have had something to do with the twinge of happy hysteria that careered across my synapses. In his handsome, grownup wool coat, Niels uttered an excited, “Can I try? Let me try!” No sooner had I handed my sportcrutches over than he was off, crutching down the street at a much quicker clip than I imagine I’ll ever be able to muster. Despite my relative awkwardness with them, I can at least move effectively enough to take the pressure off of my over-tweaked ankle. And thanks to the practicality of some medical implement engineer clever enough to include a glistening ruby red reflector at the back of each gimp stick, I can even get around safely in the dark. Everybody wins.
Over all, I give the whole clinic experience an 8.5 out of 10. It also helped to have the sweetest of all boyfriends on hand. I’d recommend Charité clinic and finding a Niels facsimile to anyone traveling to Berlin and needing of medical services.
Anyhow, today’s been good. I got in some more practice with crutching thanks to an outing to Butter, where we met Babsie and Stephen for brunch. I ate lots of soft, creamy cheese filled with green peppercorns and enjoyed a chaser of chocolate mousse. There was also a literal bowl of frothy soy-milked coffee. Once over the initial shock of its sheer size (all for me?), I merrily glugged through brunch. My foot is feeling a bit better, probably due to staying off of it and making the effort with the Racecrutches. I am a satisfied girl, but I’ve got to say that today, I’m missing my mom.
“A Case of You” is far too romantic a song to put one in mind of family members–I know this, yes, and I swear I’m not a creep–but I can’t hear Joni Mitchell without thinking of my mother. Though I’m an Atlantic away from that sweet, curly-headed, lovably tiny woman who bore me, she’s nevertheless present. I think of her when I turn on “Blue.” I hear her words sometimes come out of my mouth. I feel her in the way I touch Niels; it was, after all, she who taught me how to treat the people I love with love. Her rosy, work-roughened hands guide mine as I fold a shirt, make the bed, whisk my Debra Jean-chestnut hair up into an offset clip on the top of my head or press my own signature down onto a dotted line. My written words are as similar to hers as my spoken voice is. They are her terms of endearment that come most easily to me when I wish to show affection to others. To me, my mother is love incarnate, and even though we’re now very far apart, there isn’t an hour that I don’t think of her, unconsciously follow the recipes for living that she spent the last 26 years teaching me, and give silent thanks that I grew with all of her big heart forging, nourishing and holding onto mine.