Given recent events in my life, it seems only natural to write about health this month. In fact, as I have had an auto-immune disease since adolescence, I have extensive experience of hospitals, doctors and health systems in different parts of the world, health check-ups being one of my more regular pastimes since the age of 15. That means I’ve been to visit a plethora of doctors and nurses in countries around the world, but rather than dwell on all that, I’d prefer to tell you an anecdote from one of those diverse cultural experiences.
I have many, and I may even start a short series about eye-opening health visits in different cultures, but here I’ll tell you about an emergency hospital visit in Minneapolis in 1988, where I was spending the summer with friends I’d made during my first year of university. In short, we went to a party, where I may have over-imbibed - my euphemism for getting very drunk - and I dived (or as I soon found out “dove” in American) into the shallow end of a swimming pool, splitting my head open in the process. For the next part I’ll quote from the comedy screenplay I wrote about that summer trip to the US (inconceivably, it has not been made into a film... yet). Sean is me, by the way. I have no idea who Paula was:
PAULA: I think you need to sober up a little.
SEAN: Sober in the bottle was half the... (peering through a fence) hey, what’s that?
He has spied the block’s communal swimming pool.
SEAN: Let’s go swimming!!!
Before Paula can stop him, he scales the flimsy low fence.
PAULA: Ah come on now. That’s private property.
SEAN: (tearing off his clothes) Wooh hooh!
He dives straight into the pool. When he comes up, Paula is shouting to him.
PAULA: If you’re gonna do that I’m headed back into the par-...Oh my God!
Paula’s POV: Blood streaming down Sean’s face and chest from a serious head wound.
SEAN: Think ’it bottom. Ish not very deep, isn’t it?
PAULA: Come on, we need to get you back inside, quick.
He clambers back over the fence and falls to the floor.
She puts his white T-shirt to his head and it soon turns red. They rush back to the apartment.
INTERIOR. HIGH RISE APARTMENT BLOCK - HOUSE PARTY - CONTINUOUS
The door opens from inside to reveal Sean in the doorway, soaked in blood. Several girls scream and one retches as he staggers into the apartment.
PAULA: (shouting) He’s cut his head.
Tammy pushes through the crowd.
TAMMY: Let me take a look, Sean. I have some nursing experience, so...
She turns away in disgust as Sean reveals the head wound.
TAMMY: (like a droid)
Hospital. Hospital. Hospital.
At the hospital, as I lay there vomiting and bleeding all over the place - I didn’t say these were pleasant stories - a nurse asked me for my insurance details. I believe I actually laughed at her, despite the pain and concern coursing through my body and mind. “You think I know my insurance policy details?” I scoffed. “Well you either tell me the details or give me a credit card to cover the costs of the treatment,” was her cold reply. Unsurprisingly to most Brits of my generation, I did not have a credit card at the age of 20. Fortunately for me, however, my American friend did and after I’d convinced him that I definitely did have insurance, he handed over the piece of plastic that allowed them to put 15 stitches in my scalp and save me from dying right there in the ER room. God Bless America , as I’ve said ever since.