Note: this post won’t make much sense unless you’ve read the previous posts in this series. Start here.
I hadn’t really seen Erika since the torturous ride in the back of the pick-up. Yes, we’d both been in the ER at Hôpital Sacré Coeur, but she was being swarmed by doctors and paramedics right up until she was taken to a helicopter to be flown to Port-au-Prince, and in any case, when you’re writhing in pain on an ER bed, sitting up to look around the room is a bit of an effort.
Moreover, once she’d left, those of us still in Cap-Haïtien were reliant on the same mix of rumour, actual information and speculation that everyone in Port-au-Prince had about me. In fact, I thought that, once she’d arrived in Port-au-Prince the night before, she’d been immediately evacuated to Miami. It was only that morning, as we were on our way from the airport in Port-au-Prince to Hôpital Bernard Mevs that I found out she was still in Haiti, as she wasn’t yet stable enough to fly.
All that to say, I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I went in to the ICU to see Erika before leaving the hospital.
The ICU seemed reassuringly well-equipped and Erika was lucid, albeit still unable to hear very well. She told me that she had fractured her jawbone and her skull, and I told her the prognosis for me. “We should have just walked,” she said, and indeed, that is the moral of this whole story: if you have the option, always walk!
Erika told me that her mom was coming to Haiti and would be there that afternoon. I was amazed at how much she was able to talk, despite having a broken jawbone. “Our friends have been texting me to ask where you are and if they can come visit you, too. Do you want any more visitors or do you want to be left alone?” I asked. Whether she heard me or not, I don’t know, because the doctor who was attending to her quickly answered, “Not today. Maybe tomorrow she’ll be ready for more visitors.”
I could tell Erika was having trouble hearing, and I’d given up trying to shout over the din in the ICU. In any case, I didn’t exactly know what to say; “I hope you get better” seemed a bit trite, but I certainly wasn’t in a position to say “Everything is going to be alright.”
After a few minutes, it was time for me to go back to the airport. Thankfully, there’s an ‘expeditor’ at the airport, who helped me get checked in and jump the queue for both security and immigration. I confidently told him that someone else might be coming later with another bag of my stuff, although I myself was beginning to doubt it. He told me that as long as they got there an hour before the flight, he could probably check a bag for me.
During all the time I had spent waiting that morning, I’d had a flurry of calls and texts from Faith, my parents, and the other friends who were on their way back from Cap-Haïtien and who wanted to know how I was doing and where Erika was. I’d also talked with someone from the embassy who was going to try to find someone to go to my apartment to pack a bag full of stuff for me. I’d given him my number so that, when someone got there, they could call me and I could describe where we keep our suitcases, and which clothes to grab for me.
But as I sat there waiting in the upstairs lounge at Toussaint Louverture Airport, my weary phone went from displaying one battery bar to none, to blinking in warning of its impending expiry. There was no saving it, as my phone charger was at my apartment (remember, I’d only planned on being away for a weekend, and I hadn’t actually expected to use my phone during this weekend getaway). As the boarding time for my flight approached, I resigned myself to having to make do with the meager and mostly useless contents of my little backpacks.
I don’t know what time it was — or more or the point, how close to boarding time it was — but suddenly, the expeditor appeared in the departure lounge and handed me a plastic bag full of clothes. Apparently someone had gone to my apartment, but since they were unable to call my phone, they just found a plastic bag, and stuffed it with a random assortment of clothes from my dresser and closet. One more humorous element to this sordid tale.
The events of the last five and a half blog posts transpired in a span of less than 24 hours. Once I left Haiti, the circus didn’t exactly end, yet it did slow down considerably, with absurdity continuing to strike, but at less frequent intervals: Having to use my left hand for everything has led to plenty of mishaps, albeit much smaller. I have been continually amazed at the inefficiency of the American medical system. And remember when I said in the last post that I was foreshadowing? Well, here is one of the more amusing ironies of the whole affair:
When I got to the hospital in Miami, I was seen by (among many others) a Haitian nurse and a Haitian doctor. I really didn’t want to go through two CT scans in one day, and so I mentioned that I had a disc with my CT scan from earlier in the day to anyone who was interested. I gave the disc to the Haitian doctor, who asked me “Was this done here?”
“No,” I replied, “it’s from the hospital in Port-au-Prince.”
“Okay,” she said warily, “I’m a bit suspicious.”
Yes, that’s right: the Haitian doctor at the hospital in the US was suspicious of the Haitian hospital staffed by North Americans. Insert your own punchline.
It should go without saying that, if I could do it all over again, I WOULDN’T, and any good that came out of this whole experience is not enough to outweigh the bad. Nevertheless, here are a few positives things that arose from the crash and my resulting injuries:
I’ve been able to spend over a month with family, as I’ve been recuperating at my parents’ house, which meant I was with my dad on Father’s Day for the first time in years. I also got to see my little 4-month old nephew for the second time.
I got so bored during the first few weeks of not being able to do much of anything that I decided to take a free computer programming course through HarvardX.
There’s probably more that could be said: about how much I’ve come to realise that modern medicine is still just a guessing game; about how much being surrounded by friends really does make a difference when you’re in pain; or about how resilient the human body is, despite its fragility.
But I’ve already gone on long enough. Just remember: Don’t get in a motorised vehicle IF YOU HAVE THE OPTION TO WALK!