Anyway, the attendants knew that they could not take me downstairs in their stretcher. They took my hotel room desk chair and motioned for me to sit down. They were planning to carry me to the ambulance in my desk chair. When I sat down and started wobbling and saw them straining I decided to get back up and use them to steady myself against while we took the elevator downstairs. I walked to the ambulance and lay down. The streets of Toulouse are old; some are made of cobblestone and very winding and full of weird angle turns. The ambulance was small and the ride was full of jerking motions, abrupt stops and gunning the accelerator whenever possible. I have to admit, though, we made it to the hospital in record breaking time!
I was able to walk into the emergency room by myself. The emergency room was completely dark. What I remember of the emergency room was that it was in a wing of the hospital that dated pre-WWII. The rooms had 8′ wooden walls but the ceiling was probably 20′ tall. There were about 20 5′ x 5′ rooms in the emergency room ward. I sat down on the bed and in walks Doogie Howser and a young nurse. They were all of 20, at the most; neither one of them could speak a lick of English. The hospital I was in was a teaching hospital. I think I had two freshmen.
It was the beginning of a holiday weekend for France. The French celebrate the beginning of summer, which would arrive on Monday. Everyone had taken the weekend off except all of the Doogie Howsers who got volunteered to work in the real doctors stead. Doogie looked very nervous and obviously did not know where to start with me. I started the conversation by pointing to my neck, which had been killing me all day. He turned to the young nurse and rattled off something in French. She disappeared for a second and then returned two seconds later with a portable EKG in her hands.
What happened next was almost comical. Neither one knew what to do with the piece of equipment. They each took turns studying it and passing it back and forth with perplexed expressions on their faces. It was obvious to me that the nurse had failed to bring the leads but I was not going to get myself in the middle of these two knuckleheads. Finally, after much study, they both gave up and put the EKG machine down. They both shot me embarrassing looks and acted like the device was not needed anyway. I would have laughed except I was getting more and more frightened because the whole situation was surreal to me. I was scared out of my wits because I was being treated by dumb and dumber and I was having very real health problems.
Doogie took charge and must have ordered something for the nurse to do because she left and returned with a hard neck brace. Doogie said something in French that I loosely translated to mean that I had a pinched nerve in my neck. The nurse put the neck brace on me and then they both quickly disappeared. Apparently, they were satisfied that they had solved my problem.
I lay down in the bed, with the neck brace on and looked around my room. I had a single bed, which took up at least 75% of my room. I noticed a small pedestal sink next to the bed. I was concerned because my stomach started churning again when I lay down. I did not have vertigo again, thank God, but my mouth had started getting juicy. I was back up in a flash with my head drooped over the sink. I puked in the sink and then lay down again. I was not down for five minutes when I was back at the sink again hurling my guts out. What an experience having to lean over a puny sink basin and throw up with a hard neck brace on. It was strangely awkward and took some training. I know that my aim was not perfect but I did not care.
It must have been about 2 am by this time. The emergency room was completely empty and darker than dark. Nobody was around and nobody was coming at the sound of my heaving noises. I was left to fend for myself. The whole night had surpassed the surreal mark. I could not believe what was happening to me. I was alone, sick to death, puking my guts up, was in a 1940’s era hospital, had just been medically evaluated by Doogie Howser, my hospital room reminded me of a small walk-in closet and I did not know how to get out of this situation and get back to reality. To be continued…