birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Eine Gros Hematoma

My new husband held onto the end of my hospital gurney with both hands. "Where are you taking her!" he shouted, startling the Austrian nurses and hospital techs with his ferocity. They stopped to quickly explain, in German, the emergency. Then tried to yank the gurney through the double doors with the sign "Krankenhauspersonal nur." Chris wouldn't let go.

Neither of us understood a word of the German spoken to us. All Chris knew was that, once through those doors, I was at their mercy. He was powerless to be my advocate. And he had no idea what they planned to do. Well down the road to morphine Valhalla, I remember being moritified. What must those nice doctors and nurses going to think of us? Then I was out.

Apparently, Chris lost the battle. The Austrian medical establishment has no tolerance for objections when they believe they are saving a life.

We'd been skiing that day. And my lovely husband had lifted a rope to let us take a short cut to the warming hut. Surprise! Those crazy Austrians knew what they were doing and the inch of powder masked a giant rock pile. In short order, I fell, bruising my thigh. I managed to get down the slope and sat next to the fire sipping a hot buttered rum.

I couldn't have done something worse for myself. The heat and alcohol rushed blood to the internal wound, which was far worse than I realized. It would have been smart to pull down my pants and press my naked thigh against the snow and wait for the ski patrol. Instead, I was lying on a gurney in das krankenhaus listening to my husband yell at arzte and krankenschwestern who couldn't understand why he was so angry. After all, they were trying to save my life.

We took the bus from the Innsbruck ski area back to our hotel, where I promptly passed out. When Chris, assuming I had had a few too many rum drinks, took off my ski pants to help me into bed, the bruise on my thigh was the size and shape of a regulation football. By the time we got to the hospital, it was larger and a darkening purple color. The doctors gasped when they saw it; nurses walked away shaking their heads.

I woke up in a hospital room the next morning realizing my ski vacation was over the moment I looked at the size of the bandage on my leg. I told Chris he needed to ski for the two of us and resolved to read Philip Roth's Zuckerman Bound, a book that, on reflection, had only one positive attribute. It was long and I needed to kill time.

For the next week, every day I woke early to brush my hair and put on a little make up before the doctors made their rounds. They would see that I was ready to be released, I point I made every morning. To which the doctors would respond by talking to each other in German as they left the room. I had no idea how long I would have to stay there.

The ritual was repeated the morning before the day I was scheduled to fly back to the U.S., only this time I was told I would be released. One of the doctors turned to me and in perfect English explained that they'd kept me in the hospital because the chances of blood clots and certain death had been "certain." I should remain "quiet" until I was home and then I should see my personal doctor.

I'd gone to Innsbruck to ski, and all I had to show for it was a five-inch scar on my thigh and a disdain for both Austrian doctors and Philip Roth novels.

Reminders we have healed

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