11 August 2015
I remember the encroaching pain in my knuckle. The dread it brought with it. This was not a normal pain and it wasn't one that was going to stay in one place for very long. Achy and pulsing all at once, it darted towards the very tip of my smallest finger.
I'd actually been enjoying a lecture for once, this teacher loved what he was teaching and it showed, but body takes precedence. I pressed the length of my arm against my melting water bottle - half frozen and dripping precipitation. Please nothing happen, please please please.
Not content to remain just in my last digit, the pain spread up the side of my hand to my wrist and I tried to will it away, while the water bottle continued to drip against my arm, onto my shorts and bare knees.
The sign in sheet came past and I couldn't decide which hand to sign with - bollocks. Why does it always have to be one joint after the other - both knees, both shoulders, both wrists?
But nope! That wasn't happening today. Just a minor glitch. I was determined.
The lecture passed, drip drop drip, moving my hand gently and then holding the bones together between my other fingers. And suddenly it was over. I'd made it!
"Are you coming to dinner?"
"Yeah just give me a minute. I want to put this upstairs."
"Oh are you okay? Your hand looks really bad."
"Actually this is the other one... It's fine!"
One step, two step, three.
My wrist makes a liar of me. Not fine, not at all. I stand in a corner, support my clammy, poky wrist between the index finger and thumb of my other hand and breathe. Deep breaths.
A tear escapes my eye, and I breathe again. You can do this.
"Are you okay?"
"I can't move my hand. The good one."
"I need a bandage."
Then all of a sudden there are teachers and people and everyone had a suggestion. My mind shuts down and I just stand, holding my disconnected hand. Breathe in, and out. Don't let go of your hand and breathe. That's all.
I'm going back down the stairs. One. Two. Three. One foot at a time. One breath at a time.
Another friend is in front of me, walking slowly and making sure I'm okay. I pause on the landing and take a breath, scrunching my eyes and shaking my head. Keep it in.
He stands guard over me, or at least that's how it feels, and for once it's without sympathy or pity or panic, simply with care. I want to lean against his shoulder and hide from it all but I need to conquer these stairs. Here we go...
And there they are again, the crowd, desperate to help, worried and sympathetic and trying their best to help.
"You need to go to hospital."
"You need to sit down!"
"Is there a doctor?"
"Oh what happened?"
"Wait I don't understand? What did you do?"
"Nothing I just have this condition. My ligaments and tendons don't work."
"But... Okay. So you didn't fall?"
"No. I just need a bandage."
"You need to go to hospital."
"We could go to the doctor?"
"Oh what happened?"
Suddenly everyone's talking at once, the crowd is growing and it all comes out. My body's wrecked and the wall I've built behind my eyes break. Tears seem neverending.
A friend grabs me by the shoulders and steers me into a room with a door. Pain shoots down my arm and I try to remove my shoulder from her grasp, but I'm so grateful to have the crowd away. I look around, lost. "Thank you."
"That's okay. What do we do?"
"I just need a bandage."
And then the friend who stood guard pokes his head through the door, "it's okay. I'm okay."
"Okay," he stands besides me with not another word.
The quiet is a relief.
My roommate appears and lets me use her sweater to prop up my arm. I'm so grateful for these three people standing right here. It's amazing the emotions a silly health condition can create all at once.
I search for a place to sit, left hand still being held together by the fingers of the right. Chairs? No, not comfortable. Table? Not enough space. Floor? I turn, searching. There. I slip down and close my eyes again, hiding from reality.
"What are you doing?" they laugh despite themselves and I smile.
"Those chairs look horribly uncomfortable."
I roll up the sweater again and breathe. It's all about the breathing now - and getting a bandage. Or just something so I can free my right hand.
"Is it still dislocated?"
"Yep. I'll put it back in a bit. I just need a moment."
"Are you sure? You really ought to go to hospital."
"Nope, no way. They won't know what to do. My body does things it physically should not be able to do, and I'm just... No."
A few people drip in and out, the woman who runs the building can't believe I'm refusing to go to hospital and I have to laugh despite myself. Over the years you begin to learn that it all comes from a place of caring - well, usually.
The wonderful woman who makes coffee for us twice a day brings me ice without a question, and I sit. Breathe. Close my eyes. Say again that no way am I facing an Italian hospital. Been there, done that, never again if I can help it.
Two girls bring in dinner for two, and one of the three who's stayed with me goes to get some for the rest too.
A teacher who's been running around madly trying to find pain medication comes back with a small packet. Thank God he doesn't question my allergies.
They make me eat. Make me laugh. Ask again about the hospital. "Nope."
And suddenly I can feel my fingers again. Nothing popped so I don't really think it's back in place, but they can see the colour return so I cheer up and tell a little white lie, "hey look at that! I'm all good!"
I down the meds, eat a little more and reply to my worried Mum on the far side of the world, before heading outside to face the crowd and enjoy our dessert. I'll deal with the rest later.