I make the worst patient. The other day I was involved in a motor vehicle collision. My little blue Corolla was stationary when another drive failed to notice my brake lights or that I was stationary and slammed into the back of me. My head whipped forward and back as my boot crumpled, the metal warping in on itself. I narrowly missed the steering wheel, though the back of my head did collide with the headrest and my dashboard all but exploded; my radio flying out, the doors popping open, my dashcam and gps finding the floor in a flurry.
My anger spiked, my training of emergency situations taking over my conscious. I slammed the car into park, switched off the engine and lit my hazard lights as I flew from the car to inspect damage. My eyes raked in the wreck of my car, but quickly sought the other driver who was clutching at her chest and not moving. Any regard for my own possible injuries were nil as I assessed her. Luckily she was simply shocked and sure to gain a bruise on her chest from the steering wheel, though she promised she would get herself checked when she returned to work. She was a nurse at a local hospital. Having just finished night shift, any anger I had felt dissipated. I know what her night was like and the exhaustion she felt.
We exchanged details, standing around and talking with each other and insurance companies for almost an hour before we went our separate ways. I decided to drive home instead of to work, where I was originally headed. During my drive I felt nausea kick in, a headache bloomed, my neck protested and my head felt heavy, inflated. My intention was to drive home and monitor myself, but a quick call to my partner suggested I should go to the hospital. Luckily my mother was not too far away, so I returned home, parked my car, changed and waited for her to collect me.
At the hospital I was checked in pretty quickly and immobilised. The number of doctors and nurses I saw was quite unbelievable and I grew tiresome of repeating the story again and again. Most were shocked to learn I’d stood, walked and driven home. For hours I lay still, not allowed to move. Pain turned to discomfort and traveled down my back. A trauma specialist came to see me. He prodded and pressed and, if I was a regular person, he would have ordered more tests. You see, I have a high pain threshold. When I was a teenager I fractured my collarbone and wrist on my dominant arm. It took three days to realise I had really done some damage. When they ask “what’s your pain on a scale of one to ten”, I’ve learned to estimate. While it is a mild discomfort to me, to a regular person it would be quite painful. If I state on my pain scale, I’m often ignored and fobbed off, as I was with my collarbone and wrist, so I contemplate how a regular person would feel. Then there’s the type of pain. I’ve always been quite an active person and I know my body pretty well, so when the doctor was pushing on my chest asking if it hurt from the seatbelt, I said no. There was pain in my chest, but the day before was chest day in the gym and I know this pain. The muscles were sore, but the pain was spread, it was the soreness of being worked, not of being bruised and assaulted. Likewise, when he pushed on my stomach I stated there was no pain. Again, there was. My period was due to start the very next day and after ten years of menstrual cramps, I know what they feel like and that was the pain I was experiencing. The pain in my neck was different, that was an injury pain and I expressed this when they log rolled me to check my C-Spine. A CT scan was required.
All in all, I spent over six hours in the hospital, unmoving, being prodded and tested. Thankfully I was diagnosed with a bad case of whiplash and advised rest. Now here I lay, on my couch with my laptop in hand, lamenting that I am too unfocused, tired and headachy to use these days of sick leave for purpose. My to-do list is long and I feel guilty for not attending to it. I remind myself that it is ok to relax, that I should spend my days allowing my body to recover, my head to clear, that I have enough to worry about as I await the call from the insurance company. And yet here I sit…my university notes on my screen, a notebook on hand with ideas for videos and writings, my sewing room still to be unboxed…I really make the worst patient.