I guess I have kind of built this up… really, talking to a lot of people about it, I realize I probably got off light. The head injury story.
I went to Puerto Vallarta for the Revoultion puente weekend back in November. Actually to la Cruz de Huanacaxtle, which is just past Bucerias on the way to Sayulita. So I was technically vacationing in Nayarit.
Jorge Aldo’s sister was having a get-together at her and her boyfriend’s home there. They are still finishing up the house they are building in a waterfront apartment complex. The parties of the weekend were centered around the amazing amorphous pool they have at the complex. It’s huge, covering an area maybe the size of three basketball courts, with several bridge walkways stretching over different parts. We (about 15 people) had it mostly to ourselves. You can walk back and forth between the pool and the beach, too, but we mostly hung at the pool because the beach there isn’t that great.
So I don’t want to downplay the role that drinking played in the situation. Basically each of us threw in 200 pesos (15 x 200 = 3000) which bought a LOT of beer and a LOT of tequila. And a little scotch, even. And not really very many snacks.
To address my mother’s concerns here, and I guess the questions I owe myself: I normally avoid alcohol if I am bummed out or in a potential bummer of a situation. However, I did not see this bummer potential coming, and when it did come I kind of ignored it because there wasn’t much I could do about it. It’s private, related to language barriers and love emotions, and I’m dealing with it.
In that moment, though, I wasn’t. Instead I was amusing myself flitting around the pool and trying different flips and warming up in the sun and then jumping back in the kind of cold water. And I guess due to the unhappiness brewing below the surface, I was getting kind of restless and bored, and hungry, and of course it was a pool party and we were drinking. So by around 4pm of the Sunday I was also getting kind of trashed.
Sorry to be anticlimatic, but I don’t remember much. I apparently dove off a bridge walkway. I remember emerging from the water with a huge gasp and scared and thinking, “I shouldna done that” and then immediately after that “okay well, you’ll just have to shake it off.” And seeing blood in the water and steeling myself up to resist whatever good samaritan was going to insist I go to the doctor.
But apparently that samaritan was two 10- or 12-year-old girls who saw me and convinced my companions that despite my protests it was a serious hit and not just a bump and that yes, I should be taken to the doctor. No one actually at the party saw me fall, so a few of the more sensible ones I guess listened to the girls and shuttled me into a jeep. I don’t remember this.
I do remember throwing a tantrum on the ride over to the doctor because I don’t have insurance. And I remember the doctor in the Centro de Salud was really beautiful, like an angel, really tall with long, dark hair and white teeth, and she was laughing at me. She also seemed to be wearing a halo of silver mist. I also remember how it felt when she shoved the needle into my scalp to put in the first of my stitches. I reminds me of pushing a knitting needle through a basketball.
That’s all I remember until well after sunset, when I was back at the pool party. Angry because I couldn’t get in the water, though I was trying to enjoy it for a while chatting with other dry people. Apparently I ate a bunch of meat from the grill that was eventually fired up, but I don’t remember that either.
I eventually went back to the house and dealt with some more anger, which I discovered was rooted in fear. Basically when I finally came to my senses for real, I knew I had hit my head and gone to the doctor, and there were some blurs and sensations associated with all that, but I didn’t understand what it meant or that I had gotten stitches or know any of the advice she may or may not have given me.
Others did gradually offer up what they knew but not until starting the next morning, because I guess it didn’t occur to them that I wouldn’t remember it. My neck really hurt, like it was swollen, and I griped about that, but I figured it was sprained or something. People were concerned and perplexed at how the hell I could have done that and no one seen it. I took it easy til I left the next day.
Story’s not over yet, come back! I got my prescription filled in DF, paid back the girl who sprung for my stitches and initial medical consultation. Thought I was progressing onward. Washed my wound twice a day, put Neosporin on it. My neck still hurt but not supremely, only got bad when I carried a lot of weight around (books, laptop).
Over the next weekend I didn’t go out. My friends in DF were really really great, expressed a lot of concern and offered me whatever help I might need and called me to check up on me. Going out of their way, really. I’m actually seriously tearing up thinking about that now. My roommates were really nice, too. They helped me take off my initial dressing and checked to make sure I had cleaned my scalp okay.
I got some dizziness and ringing in my ear that weekend, but I just kept quiet and researched concussions online and it went away after about 40 minutes.
I did yoga a couple of times to try to straighten out my back and neck. It helped a little. So did anti-inflammatories. But I started getting pins and needles in my arm, and then in my leg, and then in my face. This combined with moderate hysteria from my sister (who’s a nurse) and my mom (who’s my mom) started to scare me. So on Thanksgiving I went to the Red Cross and talked to a trauma doctor (and several “doctorcitos”– who were shadowing the doctor for training).
They were really nice and took an x-ray and showed me that I have two fractured vertebrae (C2 and C3) which caused my neck to straighten out (it’s normally supposed to be curved). They also recommended strongly that I buy a neckbrace, the Miami-J model, ironically (“tiene que ser ésa modelo– ¡no compres la Philadelphia!), since I would be going to Miami in a week for Art Basel. I pointed this out to the doctorcitos. He prescribed some more anti-inflammatories and some nerve medicine to help with the pins and needles. And referred me for a freaking MRI.
I had to go to another organization to get the MRI– CT Scanners Mexico is two blocks from my apartment so I went there. They were assholes. Not severe, but definitely in a hurry and not overly concerned with whether I understood what they were saying to me. Actually a little impatient with the fact that I wasn’t understanding everything. Muy gringa, that experience. Made me glad (for the 800th time) that this did NOT happen to me in the US.
So I have the results of the MRI, including the placas, but didn’t have time to get back to my Red Cross doctor before I left for the US for the holidays. And damned if I’m dealing with that here… though I only curse that prospect after having read and translated the MRI results and run them by my sister (the nurse).
The results say an avulsion fracture in some other vertebrae lower down (C5 and C6) and a hernia. I feel better now but definitely still some pain I guess around the fractures. Normal. I guess we’ll see if they’ve healed okay and what to do about the hernia when I get back.
No, I do not have insurance. For those interested, everything up until the purchase of the neckbrace and the MRI cost about $60 US. So that’s four different prescriptions filled, a normal consultation, four stitches, getting the stitches removed, an x-ray, and a specialist consultation. The neckbrace cost $150 US (imported from Mafiaville, New Jersey, USA) and the MRI. Jerks. Was $782. I’m guessing that was also imported from New Jersey.
Oh, there were some pendejadas with the stitches. A) Why was my spinal injury not addressed in the first examination? Possibly la doctora guapa did tell me to check it out and I just don’t remember. B) The pharmacy where I got my antibiotic Rx filled also sells DVDs (desde original, no del cine) and they gave me a hard time about trying to fill a prescription from Nayarit in DF. C) I went to a different pharmacy a week later to get my stitches out and the consulting doctor said he didn’t do that there normally, but that if I wanted I could come back the next day and he would bring his bag from home to do it. D) The second pharmacy doctor I went to did take them out but told me I only had four, not five as I had been told in Nayarit. He dressed like Mr Furley from Three’s Company, but he was really nice. He called me “mi amor” and wanted to practice his English, which was pretty good. I felt bad for using all Spanish. Over the next several days I became convinced that a scab on my head (a “costra”) was the fifth stitch and ended up going back to him. He removed the scab for me, and I tried to speak all English for him.
Oh, and my neckbrace, which I had to shop around for at different orthopedic stores near my house, didn’t fit initially. The lady who sold it to me seemed to know how it should fit, but unfortunately doesn’t read English, which is the only language the instructions were printed in. FYI if you ever get a Miami J neckbrace, “Medium” is for women generally, and “Small” is actually for the average adult male. Women have longer necks than men. But the lady was really nice and I guess reasonable enough to see how I should be entitled to an exchange for the larger size.
So that’s basically it for now. I spraypainted my neckbrace oro antiguo before Art Basel. And my roommate made me a copper lamé bikini to go with it. It was kind of cold in Miami but whatever. And then wearing the brace out to the art fairs, lots of people wanted to talk about it, and several thought at first that it was some kind of haute steampunk accessory. A few sweet people offered me straws, and one woman I believe used it and me and Daniela to help her (and me and Daniela) get into an exclusive old-people art collector party.
Photos/credits: 1) me being anti-social at the SoHo House event Daniela’s awesome friend Shelly got us into, by Daniela; 2) me and Rogelio after I was returned to the party, by Nena; 3) Laura, Daniela, me (looking a LOT like my sister) at the Hello Kitty party, by Steve, old-skool graffiti artist who is the “star” of a documentary about 80s tagging and I shamefully forget the name of the gallery where his stuff was displayed; 4) Neckbrace on the beach, by Laura