Private Health, and Insurance (full chapter)
My love affair with morphine had been brief and intense and right then I longed to escape back to that warm sanctuary. The ambulance had arrived, time had blended into insignificance I have no idea how long it took to arrive, 30 minutes, an hour an eternity. My mind was a mess, I was in hell and it was freezing cold.
He had drugs of course he did, the paramedic ambulance driver. It had not started well, there is no path down to the beach from the top car park up at the whale lookout. He had tried to come down through the aloes and bushes, had tripped, fallen and rolled down onto the beach much too every ones amusement. No not a good start and it was going to get worse, a lot worse.
The pain also started about then, I knew that pain, it was unstoppable. It started while I was being moved into the ambulance, at first a niggling throb, slowly growing, ever growing. I knew then this was not going to be easy when I had to convince him to use the rescue backboard and neck brace collar before moving me. I definitely knew it was going to be a nightmare when he refused to use any kind of medication until we got to the nearest hospital in Humansdorp. Yes “Humansdorp” about twenty minutes away, the town were the humans lived.
The drive in the ambulance was bizarre to say the least. I was all strapped and bundled up, still in my wetsuit full of beach sand on one of those nice bright orange rescue boards, neck, arms, legs all tied down and immobile. All I could do was talk, which I suppose could be best described as a one way flow of profanities directed at the ambulance driver for refusing to shoot me up with a bit of pethidine.
After only a few minutes we pulled over, which was impossible, no ways could we be there already. Maybe I should not have said all those things about his mother. Of course we had not yet arrived we had just stopped to pick his kids up from school. They climbed in the back with me and off we went, to take them home.
I never got to see those kids. I never got to see the ambulance driver. I never got to see the doctor in Humansdorp. I never got to see anyone that afternoon, all I got to see was the point I focused on directly above me. I regret that, I wish I knew who they were, I need to thank them.
In hindsight stopping to pick those kids up was a master stroke, I was starting to panic. Fear of what was coming was starting to take over. Those kids sitting next to me brought things back into perspective. I assume they were young, the age of my boys, they were inquisitive and calm we chatted about what had happened, they asked why I had a big hole in my forehead. Really!!! a big hole in my forehead, Jesus no one had mentioned that before.
Everything was so calm and civilized, was this an African thing, did African kids take blood and gore as just another part of any normal day or was this just a normal day for these kids who had an ambulance driver for a dad ? My mind was working again I had stopped obsessing on the pain and the fear it was almost good, almost. Kids seem to bring things into perspective.
After we had dropped them off, it was only a few minutes more and I was being pushed through the doors of the hospital. I am not a religious person everyone who knows me knows that but when I heard the sound of those horrid swing doors swing open as my stretcher banged into them, I closed my eyes and silently said a little prayer.
Is it just me, or do these crazy situations bring things into crystal clear focus. Is it looking death straight in the eyes that makes you sort the important and the bullshit out in a question of seconds. Maybe it’s the drugs, like some magical serum that clears the debris from your brain.
You can do a lot of thinking when you can´t move and can only see the same spot on the ceiling, maybe that’s the reason, back in 85 I sorted a lot of stuff out staring at the ceiling. I made some huge life changing decisions, not one have I since regretted. Maybe it is the drugs. You can kind of look down on your life and see it for what it is, sort of like some crazy medicine man inside your head telling you the truth, telling you what needs to be done.
Yes, what needs to be done, I had a lot that needed to be done that day. As I was being hurriedly pushed down the corridors through the hospital, I swear amongst all the millions of thoughts that were going through my brain at that moment, in the background I could hear the Talking Heads playing. I had not listened to them for years, this song was from the album “Stop Making Sense” we had listened to it that morning back in 1985 at 121 Battalion. I suddenly felt an even colder shiver run right through my body.
I made a promise to myself then I would sort things out. Lately life had gotten out of control. My wife was threatening to throw me out. I had almost stopped doing the one thing that really made me happy, surfing. All I did was work all day I never seemed to have time for my boys. I needed to make it through the day. I had my family depending on me. I had a lot to sort out.
I had a secret beautiful daughter in France that no one knew about. I really needed to deal with that.
Meanwhile the Talking Heads turned up the volume in my brain.
The blackmail was at first subtle, very subtle and I did not even realize it was even taking place, but once it had begun the screws got ever tighter and tighter. I was most probably handpicked, a perfect target. Yes a perfect target carefully selected and hunted down.
Thank goodness the doctor arrived then, my mind was drifting off into negative thought. The pain continued to grow the pressure of my wetsuit pushing down on my shoulders became a torture, a weird pain, a new pain, a burning pain. Millions of burning needles being pushed into me, every single nerve ending on fire.
Things speeded up the lady doctor was good, she made things happen. Hundreds of questions, x rays, she kept me actively engaged in what was going on, she kept me positive but I could hear the concern in her voice. When she returned with the x rays her tone was serious it was bad, worse than even I had thought.
I needed to go to Port Elizabeth, nothing could be done for me here. She had called the neurosurgeon he would be waiting, she pleaded for me not to go to the public hospital, but rather to go to the private hospital in Port Elizabeth. I had 3 different insurance policies, no problem, I was covered. It would take a little over an hour from Humansdorp to Port Elizabeth in the ambulance with my same driver who never for a moment had left my side.
I could not see her but I am sure she smiled as she pushed the needle into my right shoulder and said to the ambulance driver, take him to St George´s.
Miraculous and instant is the only way I can describe the effect of morphine. The moment you feel the sweet bite of the needle, the moment that liquid enters your body, tension and worry instantly disappear and the pain miraculously ebbs away. Amazing warmth grows from the entry point of the needle, it grows in ever increasing circles of pleasure, it is unstoppable and it is heaven.
I knew that feeling, I knew the craving for more would grow, I knew the effects would soon seem to last less and less, I knew I would soon want more. I knew I had again crossed over into the realm of pleasure and pain. I was back in heaven, I was back in hell.
It was useless trying to fight it, it was useless worrying, the dice had been cast. I had played my part my fate was now in the doctors hands. I closed my eyes, the tension slowly slipped away and I let my mind wander freely.
A lifetime of memories flashed through my brain there were no constraints, no false moralities holding them back. They all came back, the good memories, the dark scary memories, the ones I had filed away and had tried so hard to forget. They came in waves, as of course they would, random flashes, recollections of a short life.
It all came flooding back and at first it was amazing.