It’s American Thanksgiving, so I thought I would take this time to talk about how I spent Canadian Thanksgiving 2019.
Admittedly this may seem like a bit of a stretch since I’m not American, but I wasn’t on this blog for Canadian Thanksgiving, so this will have to do.
Last year at the end of September, I got a really terrible cough. At the time, I didn’t think much of it–I’ve been prone to the flu and to croup and to bronchitis for my entire life. I was checked to see if I had pneumonia, I didn’t, so I went home and coughed violently for a few weeks. Just as it felt like the coughing was dying down, I started feeling some pain in my ribcage, and again, didn’t think much of it. I’m an active person, I was used to some soreness after having the flu or bronchitis, it was normal. I checked with my doctor, she said about the same.
The night before Thanksgiving, I went to sleep a bit uncomfortable, but fine. I woke up only a few hours later in tears from how much pain I was in. It hurt when I moved, it hurt when I breathed, it hurt when I lay down, it hurt when I walked. I had gone from “this is uncomfortable but bearable” to “oh my god what if I broke a rib” in what felt like record time. I don’t drive–not that I would want to be driving in that state anyway–so in the morning my dad drove me, with my mom as company, to the ER.
It was a long day. I hadn’t spent a lot of time in the ER in my life. I’ve gotten stitches three times but didn’t remember the ER well from those experiences; the first time I was about 6 and so traumatized all I remember is how much it hurt when I got stitches in the back of my neck, the second time I was ten and mostly remember my grandfather who spoke minimal english struggling with the doctor, and the third time at 22 I went to the family doctor instead. I certainly didn’t remember this much WAITING. Or this many STEPS. I had to get a number, and get a bracelet, and explain to the nurse what was wrong, and have the nurse check me over. And then me and my mom got shuffled into another waiting room further into the hospital, while my dad went to get me a croissant and some water.
The first waiting room had been relatively uneventful, but the second one was smaller and more crowded, so I had more of an up close and personal look at the other patients. I vividly remember a young woman there who was throwing up, over and over and over. Filling bags, filling boxes. It was so bad that I, who remember was in severe pain, actually stood outside the waiting room until she got moved to another room to get attached to fluids. I’m sure it was much worse for her than it was for me. I also chose this time to post an Instagram story about how I was spending Thanksgiving in the ER, completely without context. In my pain-and-waiting induced delirium, I didn’t see anything wrong with this. I realized it was a mistake when I started getting a bunch of worried messages from friends, worried I had broken a leg or my head or something. Did not think that through. But I did feel loved, so maybe that was something to be thankful for.
I finally got moved into another room where a doctor would be speaking to me. The one I got was fairly young–it’s a teaching hospital–and very willing to help and listen and ask questions. He asked very earnestly if I did any drugs (“I don’t even drink coffee”), felt around my ribcage (“yes it hurts in all of those places”), and was able to rule out a few things by looking and by doing some tests there in the room. He then sent me off to get X-rays done, which involved yet more waiting, this time in a very white hallway where no one was throwing up. I awkwardly changed behind a screen, they took my X-rays, and they determined that no ribs were broken and nothing was punctured. While that was a relief, I was still in a ton of pain, and I was getting both hungry and really, really tired of waiting, and I wanted to know what was wrong. I also had bloodwork done, which involved, you guessed it, much more waiting. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated the doctors and nurses and the thorough job they were doing, it was just a very long day.
It was about 5 pm by then, and I had been at the hospital since about 10 am. The doctor from before and an older doctor came to speak to me; no surgery or instant fix was needed (good), but the muscles between my ribs were swollen and irritated from the constant coughing I had done in the past several weeks and that’s what was causing me so much pain (bad). I ended up leaving the hospital with instructions on what I should do to help treat it, and a prescription for three different kinds of medication for my tiny self to help treat both the swelling and the pain. There were large pills I would take twice a day, extra strength Advil I could take every few hours, and a very tiny, very strong pill so I could sleep. I would also be sleeping propped up on pillows for the next several weeks, and using hot compresses.
By that time, my mom had called my dad and he was ready to pick us up. Apparently the first waiting room had gotten more eventful by that time of the day, because he had seen a man come in who was bleeding from his penis, which I certainly missed. We went to pick up my prescriptions before driving to my aunt’s house where everyone, including my brother who had not come along for my ER adventure, was gathered for Thanksgiving. My aunt had kindly left us leftovers, so I finally got to have the turkey and gravy and stuffing and potatoes and pumpkin chocolate truffles that I had been waiting for. After the long, long day of waiting and discomfort, it felt more like a reward than anything. I was thankful, in that moment, to be able to be in a house full of family and friends, eating good food and moaning about my day.
So there’s my rambling story about how I spent Canadian Thanksgiving 2019 and how I learned the real meaning of Thanksgiving. Other than like, colonialism.