Most of you have heard the breaking news in our family, so you know that I’m doing reasonably, all things considered. Possibly, some of you want a more complete story. Also, I’m likely to write about my experience in the hospital and with the medical personnel here, so I might as well begin at the beginning. It’s your choice to read any of it, but it helps me to write it all down. So here it goes –
Saturday, midday, we all agreed to go on a bike ride along the Danshui River up to the ocean. We only have 3 bikes we own here, so Greg, Jesse, and Natalie rode from our apartment, while Carlie and I rode the rapid transit train to a station listed as near a bicycle rental shop. Their ride took them about 45 minutes and they thought we’d be waiting for them.
The maps can be deceptive. It looked like all Carlie and I had to do was get off of the train and walk a half a block to the river and bike rental. It ended up that there were two exits from the station. We even looked at the more detailed map of the town just inside the station, but, sigh, I took the wrong exit and we ended up with the station and train tracks between us and the way we wanted to go. Its not all that easy for me to tell how I am are oriented to the maps when I’m are inside the stations. I can see the streets in relation to the station. But the ‘you are here’ (in English) sticker doesn’t give me markers inside the standard rectangle that represents the station. The signs and paths to the exits vary in funneling the foot traffic upstairs, downstairs, around curving hallways. By the time I get out, my sense of orientation is seriously challenged.
There were not any main streets to be seen directly outside the station. It was surrounded by a labyrinth of back alleys. Carlie and I wandered around those for about 15 minutes, turning around at dead ends and unhopeful, narrow passages. Finally, Greg called and I admitted to being slightly lost, but I thought I had an idea of how to head for a main street and get out of the maze. He said don’t worry about it and said they’d wait.
Carlie had the reasonable suggestion to just go back through the station, saying they might not charge us for just passing through. There is no way to get through with out swiping the card or paying a token. It did end up costing us about 55 US cents each, but it definitely seemed more hopeful. However, we followed someone who looked like he might know which way he was going, in the general direction that I thought we should go. It turned out to be another wild alley blocked by broken cars, offering no view of where it might go after that. We chose to turn around soon after our ‘guide’ did.
Back at the station, there was a new large influx of people going out another way that didn’t look like it went anywhere in particular, but it was about the only way we hadn’t tried. Viola! After walking a few feet under a makeshift looking covered walkway, we turned a corner and the aspect of our escape opened up before us. Greg called me on the cell phone again. I explained our possible progress and confessed to some built up stress, but he said don’t worry about it. He says that a lot.
We walked a few hundred more feet under the covered walkway and found ourselves on more promising streets, connected to bigger streets. There was another small sign post saying you are here, go this way, so I tried. Unfortunately, I still didn’t choose the correct way. We went in a big block of a circle, but arrived 3/4ths of the way around just in time to see Greg and the other kids biking towards the station. We managed to get their attention. Now we headed back to the bike rental station.
We understood the map that we looked at before we left the apartment. We could find where the Keelung River enters the Danshui. The train stations were noted by a sort of circle within a circle in blue and green. We left from Mingde Station, which was located ( on the map) by following the gray, turning to maroon line connecting the symbols. The Guandu station shows up just above where the rivers meet. The bike rental shop is shown as possibly along side the river, just off of a main road.
In reality, the bike rental shop was at the end of the thick of the same sort of maze of streets that give me sensory overload everywhere we go. Greg laughed when he told me to just go straight ahead, because there was no straight ahead. He had already gone through some language and direction issues trying to find the station. The area was very busy. We reached the rental shop in roughly 15 minutes. I might have passed it by due to concentrating so hard on finding the best route between cars, scooters, and pedestrians, but Greg knew where we were.
The two ladies running the shop were very friendly. Greg had stopped to ask about prices on his way by the first time. Somehow they had gotten the impression that he was coming back with someone who spoke Mandarin, so they began explaining things to me in the relief that you have when you are speaking to someone who speaks your language. It didn’t take too long to clear up that misconception, hee hee, but I was able to understand enough to make the transaction. The bikes were great bikes. The cost was more than reasonable at about $3 US per bike for the afternoon. However, they didn’t come with helmets and they didn’t have helmets for rent. All we had to do was cross the small road to get to the bike path. There appeared to be one helmet for sale hanging on the wall, but if you can understand how hard we had worked just to get to this point, that we were just talking about a leisurely ride along the river, that we didn’t want to spend money unnecessarily, and every transaction takes a fair amount of energy, maybe you can understand the decision of the moment. We opted to give the helmets to the kids and be on our way.
The ride towards the ocean was beautiful and relaxing. Most of the path was clearly designated. Where it wasn’t, there were enough people riding to show us the way. Passersby were of all varieties, from families with a few small children to more serious cyclists enjoying the weekend. There were quite a few pedestrians, as there always are on the bike paths. Everyone was very polite, but knew how to keep the flow going in spite of congestion.
Greg had wanted to ride all the way to the ocean, but the path didn’t seem to go that far. We could see it, though. We walked our bikes a ways through the dense crowds of people along the Danshui boardwalk that begins at Danshui Station, then finally turned around. We tried for ice cream at one gourmet store, but they were out of chocolate, so we moved on. Once we had exited the general vicinity of the Danshui Station, the bike path was more open again and we rode with freedom, breezes pleasantly cooling our faces.
One breeze came up a little stronger as we were going down a hill and threatened to blow off my baseball cap that I had worn for a visor. I reached up to keep it from leaving, as I had done a number of times during the ride, but knew instantly that I had made a mistake. The next thing I knew I was face down on the asphalt, bleeding from somewhere on my face, feeling completely stunned and unable to move. Poor Carlie was yelling at me frantically, “Mommy, are you okay?” over and over, but I couldn’t manage to answer her. After an undetermined amount of time, I remember trying to tell her to call her dad. She doesn’t recall that, but did call him. Greg, a ways ahead, only remembers someone yelling his name, which Carlie maintains she didn’t do. He showed up beside me and gently, but insistently, asked me to at least move out of the middle of the path. It was safer and would help him evaluate how badly I was hurt. A couple of English speaking Taiwanese offered assistance, but I didn’t look that hurt to him and he wasn’t sure what we were going to be doing next. I said no to an ambulance and they finally left us.
In a few minutes he got me to try standing up. I was a bit woozy, weak, and my vision was not quite right, but we did manage a little walking. Then we began walking with the bikes. It soon became apparent that my rate of speed would not get us home before midnight. He was agreeable to my idea of sending me home in a taxi with one of the kids. Jesse was chosen for that responsibility. Greg and the girls continued on the path with 5 bikes.
The taxi driver showed concern for me by driving smoothly. I was grateful to be deposited at the gate with Jesse to help me in my state of instability. Jesse prepared me a perfect ice pack, a glass of water, and 2 ibuprofen. Then I rested while we waited for Greg and the girls, wondering how they were managing.
The pace of walking the bikes was still too slow for Greg. He opted to leave the girls with four bikes and with his phone, while he rode one of the bikes to the rental shop. The lady there could tell something wasn’t right and tried to ask, but he had no way to make her understand and didn’t want to leave the girls any longer than necessary. He ran back to the girls, tried walking with them for a while, but still thought better progress could be made by returning the other rental. When he showed up without anyone with the second bike, the shop keeper was even more concerned, but his first priority was getting back to the girls and, then, me. He ran back to them again and all three of them rode to the apartment from somewhere north of Guandu Station.
When they got home, he decided that I wasn’t “convincing him that I was really okay,” as he put it. He called one of the realtors and asked if they would help get me to the hospital. She, Susan, happened to be walking very close by, on her way for her Saturday evening recreation. She was at our house within minutes. The other realtor, Sylvia, had been spending extended hours at the hospital for the last six days due to her father’s serious condition. She met us as we got out of the taxi. She was pleased to use her new familiarity with the facilities to help us.
It seems that this hospital is working at full capacity. She told me that it is largely understood that if someone really needs help, they should just go in through the emergency room. As it was, she and her father waited 3 days just in the emergency room hallway for a bed to open up on the floors. He meanwhile had a bed in the hallway. In verification of her story, we saw the extra wide hallway lined with many beds, maybe as many as 50, perpendicular to the wall. An assortment of families or concerned friends were with most patients. There was a constant movement of mostly beds and some wheelchairs down the center of the hall, where just enough space was left for them to pass each other with care. I was going to try to walk when I got up out of the taxi, but my legs began to fail me, so I let them force me into a wheelchair.
Registration was surprisingly quick and smooth. I’m sure it helped to have our friends there. It also meant that there was always someone with me, while Greg was signing things and giving insurance information. I was wheeled into the trauma room, which was a ward type room, easily accommodating four beds on one side and at least one on the side that lead to the ER doctor’s exam room. If I smiled at other patients, they always smiled back and gave some sort of greeting. One more elderly lady was there for the same exact accident that I was, but she looked more unhappy about it. Her friends and family talked freely with us ( by translation) and the realtors. We joked half-seriously with the family and doctors about not getting my x-rays, etc, confused with hers! The doctors assured us they would be quite careful. All in all, patients and visitors wandered quite freely, checking up with the doctors to make sure they hadn’t been forgotten or to find out what was happening next. I never got any sense of irritation or impatience from the doctors.
The first order of business for me was to have my abrasions cleaned. I tried to convince the nurse that I could do that at home by myself and that was not why I had come. They were going to follow standard procedure, though. I asked her to be gentle, which brought a friendly smile to her face. When I was in the most discomfort from that procedure and exclaiming somewhat frequently, I commented that “it is at times like this that I like to bring up that I had 7 children without anesthesia, so I’m no wimp!” Everyone laughed (you can assume there is a lot of translation constantly going on), but then laughed again when Greg cleverly mentioned that I screamed then, too. (Ha! I think I still get credit.)
When the doctor spoke with me, she was most concerned with movement of my arms and legs and whether or not my ribs were fractured. By that time, I had begun to have some sharp pains upon movement in my ribcage area. An x-ray and further evaluation suggest that is is only from muscle spasms. As noted by Greg earlier, my face didn’t look all that bad for someone who had just hit the pavement. There was not any broken skin, no major discoloration yet, and no serious pain. However, when I told them that I could barely open my mouth, my face was numb, and my teeth felt slightly misaligned, they took some head x-rays.
That’s when the break in my cheek bone was discovered. They decided it was prudent to check for other breakage in my face and any hemorrhage. There was not any sign of bleeding in the cranium and I don’t think they found anything else broken.
At this point, our chief object was to make sure that we understood that the operation was necessary. The bottom line was yes, if I ever want to be able to open my mouth again. After seeing the x-rays and CAT scans of the depressed fracture, I think I believe them. Also, Greg did some online research that seems to confirm the limited options in such cases. The probable site for the incision will be between my lips and teeth. Yes, I’m a bit nervous about it, but maybe I’ll get some intensive language study in? The language instructors tell us not to move our lips so much…
One new Christian friend was scheduled to visit this Tuesday afternoon, so I had to let her know. She speaks both English and Mandarin fluently, having grown up mostly in Hong Kong, but lived most of her adult life in Silicon valley. She said she is available 24/7 to help translate. Also, she and her husband had intense experience with the medical system when he broke his leg severely and had to be hospitalized for 2 months. So you can see that I have lots of support here.
I rested well last night, in spite of Greg ‘bothering’ me every two hours on doctors orders to check for signs of brain hemorrhaging. I’m sore and stiff on the side of my body that impacted, as would be expected. Greg and the kids have fed me well. I slept for several hours in the middle of the day. I’m continuing to apply ice packs regularly, since they can’t do the surgery until the swelling has subsided, but want to do it before the bone sets in its broken shape. I have an appointment tomorrow afternoon to evaluate my status and make further plans. Below is the paper telling of my appointment with the plastic surgeon.
The top line supposedly says “appointment.” The portion written in the middle, just to the left of the label with my name on it, says “plastic surgery something.”
For those of you who care to see, here is a view of my face today:
I am happy to report that m&ms fit, just barely, into my mouth, and melt there nicely. Carlie and Greg are making ice cream and cake, which I am hopeful about. Now, I must go ice my face. story continues here