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Welcome to Fernweh, a blog concerning the (mis)adventures of one Fulbrighter during a year spent in Europe teaching English.
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Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Weirdness Geht Weiter

Originally written May 4th

I was awakened this morning by the cheerful news that I was not, in fact, going to have a CT after all but rather an MRI, which didn't mean too much to me so long as they did something. At 11:47 I was picked up by an apathetic Transport Services guy who had us wait for the special bed-sized elevator even though there was just the two of us, standing on our own, perfectly functional legs, and a entirely serviceable set of stairs directly behind us. I was shown to a van which trundled to another building about a hundred yards away and we all got out again.

I was brought to a waiting niche (it didn't have enough walls to be a "room") across the hall from a really epic sliding metal door behind which crouched the waiting MRI machine. Some blockhead had chosen to paint one of the hallway walls fresh-blood red and then light said hallway by shining diffused light onto the same wall, resulting in a haunting red glow which, combined with the ominous door, gave the whole area a delightful nuclear-submarine-under-attack sort of feel. When I first noticed it, I honestly thought that the red light meant the MRI machine was in operation or something, and went looking for sirens.

It turned out the waiting at the elevator and the stupidity with the van was actually a kindness on the part of the hospital because it killed 10 of the about 70 minutes I spent pacing around the niche waiting for my turn and wondering if I wanted to risk wandering away to find a bathroom. When my turn was called after a dude with a leg injury, I was greeted by some really lovely baby-English. "You, sitting down," the nurse explained eloquently to me. "Jacket taking out." When I asked her where the bathroom was, she told me to go to the end of the hall and "turning left," while pointing right.

"Do you understand a little of what I'm saying?" she asked me when I was back in the slow, simplified, talking-to-idiots German that I've had the luxury of not hearing for a while.

"You can speak to me normally in German. I understand you," I answered in German, hoping that would make her stop. I really hope I don't sound like that when I talk to my students.

Behind another epic (but sadly hinged) door lurked the huge cream-colored tube. The nurses stuffed pink earplugs in my ears, hooked the contrastive agent into the IV port in my arm, and wedged by head in place with foam. They both disappeared from view, the door sealed shut, and I slid into the surprisingly tiny opening.

They'd warned me it'd be loud. I tried to focus on staying completely still, and even managed to doze off once or twice, although the sound was like someone had left the beach invasion scene from Saving Private Ryan cranked up on full blast: machine-gun pulses of ten or so at a time that vibrated through my whole body. The frequency of the bursts varied and overlapped, and I wondered, half-awake, if anyone had ever considered using the sounds as the percussion for a rock song.

Half an hour later (I won't torture you with the play-by-play) I staggered out, got dressed, and was sent back out to the waiting niche to be transported back to my building. Half an hour after that, I was starting to study a handy map of the hospital campus, figuring I could've walked back and forth half a dozen times by then and trying to plot my escape, when a blue-and-pink-mohawked Transport Services guy came in asking for "Frau MahnKEEN?" How could I say no to that?

When I got back, Stefanie was already there to visit. I'd just sat down to my long-delayed lunch (green bean stew, yum) when the head doctor trotted up to our table to inform me the the tumor/growth thing was benign and nothing to be scared about. I could barely smile and nod before he dashed off again.

Later, I cornered the nice English-speaking doctor for a more thorough explanation. She let me look at the MRI images, and I was surprised by the sheer size of the thing. Through all this, I hadn't actually seen the thing myself. The doctor finally had the sense to take me over to the mirror with a tongue depressor and a light and let me see for myself. I finally understood the GP's "du Scheiße" on first looking down my throat, since that was (more or less) my reaction, too. Behind and to the upper right of the uvula is a smooth purple-red lump about the size of an egg or golf ball. The rush to get me into surgery at first makes a lot more sense now, since if an abscess that large had burst, I would've been in real trouble. In any case, despite how grotesque and huge the thing looks (now semi-affectionately termed my "Überraschungsei", "surprise egg", after the Kinder chocolate eggs), it doesn't hurt, and apparently it's not out to kill me at the moment. It's invisible in the darkness of my gullet, and without the (apparently totally unrelated) throat infection that first prompted someone to look down there, it probably would've gone unnoticed for quite a bit longer.

Well, that was good news at least. The less-good news is that they still want to do a CT scan (augh), and then hopefully they'll cut the damn thing out of my face on Friday. Know what that means? That means at least four more days of observation in the hospital and eating through a feeding tube in my nose on my birthday. Yay!

I am really grateful, though, that this is something so minor. I'm basically complaining about having to do not much of anything except sit around, play games and chat with my friends, eat ice cream, and occasionally be injected with various fluids. I'm reading Schindler's Ark right now, and damn, do I have it good. Schindler's Jews, living in huts, fenced in by barbed wire, working menial jobs for hours every day, living on thin rations, having lost everything they owned from their families and houses and money to their very status as humans, were the lucky ones, snatched from the jaws of torture and merciless, indiscriminate death.

I, on the other hand, spent my afternoon and evening laughing and playing card games with the four friends who came to see me and bring me stuff to make the hospital stay easier. So, I'm being well taken care of, well fussed over, and with any luck, operated on on Friday!

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