So there we are, on the small landing at the top of the stairs which separated our dorm room from the bathroom.
As I told her the tale of my earlier encounter with the pig in the sea, I slid up on my locked iPhone screen and pressed the flashlight button, flooding light across the landing and onto my injured pointer finger. She opened her eyes wide and then squinted them hard trying to adjust both her eyes and her brain to the new reality of being much more than just ‘I have to pee’ awake in the middle of the night (and also, I would later learn, because she didn’t yet have her contacts in).
I told her in a hushed voice as we stood with the dorm room door partially ajar that I planned to get it looked at in the morning. She tilted her head and squinted her eyes again, this time it seemed she was not struggling to see but rather struggling to decide if that was the best decision.
‘When was your last tetanus shot?’
That question again. I still hadn’t a clue.
‘Well, is there someone you can call to find out? Your parents?’
If my parents knew about a vaccination it would have been at least 10 years ago so I would need a new one anyways. Plus, I wasn’t going to wake and worry them after midnight over an only partially severed finger.
A primary care physician, did I even have one of those? God bless America and its health care system.
The only time I could think of that I might have gotten a tetanus shot was in Vietnam before my cross-country bike ride. That would have been 4 years earlier and then I’d be in the clear, but I still wasn’t sure if I was right, I was only musing at the possibility.
With no answer to the question of my last tetanus vaccination, the fact that the only person in the hostel with an ounce of medical knowledge or experience was telling me not to wait until morning guaranteed that if I decided to crawl into bed at that point I wasn’t going to be getting a moment of actual rest. So, that being determined I took her next bit of advice, call a local doctor who would have experience dealing with this type of idiotic touristic thing and see what they say. She was only an intern and didn’t want to give me incorrect medical information.
That brought about the next issue, I didn’t have a phone to make local calls with. There was an older guy, she said, who was living and working there, she thought he might have a local phone and might also still be awake. We crept through the dark of our dorm room and into the light of the common space. Sure enough, he was sitting there. She approached him and explained the situation. Without hesitating he launched himself down the stairs and came back seconds later with his Bahamian cell phone. He was working at the nearby Baha Mar and had already been on island for over a year. He was going to stay for a while longer, despite his wife still living over in China; the money was good.
I accepted his phone and rung up the Doctors Hospital in Nassau – per the interns recommendation, the two of my new found midnight allies, each at least ten years my senior, both there in The Bahamas for work, not rum, sat on the couch across from me, leaning in with a worried look splashed across their faces.
I got transferred once, and then twice, before I connected with a nurse in the E.R. after a moments hold he came back on the line and said;
‘you should come in’
‘can it wait until the morning?’ I asked, hoping this man with true medical experience would let us all off the hook and I could let these two heroes who had already been generous enough, get back to their normal nightly routine, namely, sleep. ‘you should come in as soon as possible.’
I hung up the phone and told them the message I’d received.
‘Do you want me to come with you?’ was the immediate reaction of my Almost Doctor Roommate.
‘No, thank you, but I’ll be fine’
‘How are you going to get there?’ inquired the Man with a Local Phone
I hadn’t a clue.
‘I’ll get a taxi. I’ll figure it out, I’ll be fine. Thank you for letting me use your phone.’ I went to hand it back to him.
‘Keep it for the night, just in case you need it. And it’s not safe for a woman alone to go out at night now, also, there are no taxis on the road now. I have a car, I can drive you.’ I knew he was right on both accounts. Despite my usual independence I hadn’t been out alone at night in Nassau because I was well aware of the fact that it truly wasn’t safe.
Despite having no alternative, I didn’t want to drag him into the mess which I should have dealt with hours ago. I tried once, and then twice to decline him along with her, who was now telling me she would come along. Before long, realizing I needed their help and could only be that jerk refusing assistance for so long, he was grabbing his car keys, she was putting her contacts in, I threw on a bra and got on the phone to my travel insurance company to tell them what I was up to in the middle of the night in The Bahamas, and we were out the door.
We dodged packs of stray dogs and ran a few red lights on our post-midnight drive through Nassau to get to The Doctors Hospital. I registered. They waited. I went back to what is realistically, the E.R. She came with me, the very least thanks I could offer her was the chance to see the back of this hospital, a curiosity of a doctor-to-be. A baby wailed three curtains down, as a doctor soothed ‘just a few more jabs’. We waited. A nurse came in and attempted to take my blood pressure three times without success, proof I was on the brink. Really I just needed to roll my sleeve up. He left. We waited. The doctor, too bubbly for that hour of the morning, eventually pulled the curtain aside. He bent my finger this way and that, googled and showed me the picture of a pig’s mouth, explaining that because their teeth are flat we weren’t worried about punctures or depth. But did I have a tetanus vaccination? I recited my line. So we’ll give you a jab, just one, he said. They really loved that word back there. Before he left I inquired about rabies, though I knew I sounded like a lunatic, my brain wouldn’t chill until a medical professional told it it could. We don’t worry about that around here and if an animal was rabid it would be showing signs. I’ll save that info for the memory banks as if it might matter for the next time I’m sure I’m going to die a foamy mouthed death.
He retreated back behind the curtain. We waited. A got a jab from the first nurse. I asked for a pink Barbie Band-Aid but got a boring skin colored one instead. I informed him they should really be stocking some neon yellow ones, at least. He led us back to reception where our Car And Phone Providing friend was struggling to stay awake. I swiped a credit card and back into the streets of Nassau we all retreated.
On our way home, my new friends, fully awake now, wondered aloud if they could buy themselves a beer at this hour. I liked them. We pulled up to the gas station across from our hostel. The lights were off and there was no one in sight, the-doctor-to-be jumped out of the passenger seat regardless, went to the door and peered in, hoping someone might jump up from a darkened corner and sell her the beer she undoubtedly deserved. It was not to be. I would get her one the next morning I vowed, as I brushed my teeth for a second time that night, back at the hostel with a quieted brain, a skin colored Band-Aid on my left upper arm, and a distinct lack of any foam at the mouth.
EDIT: My travel insurance (one of the few things I have a strong brand loyalty to) paid me back in full for my Nassau hospital visit. Getting travel insurance is no joke (though getting bit by a pig may sound funny…)
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