Saturday, August 16, 2008

Another one bites the dust (ow!)

Generally speaking, I don't wrap up my runs with a ride in an ambulance.

Have considered it jokingly, perhaps, but never actually did such a thing.

Fabulous that our family had our first such experience in the Middle East.

Now, before you freak out, everything is fine. Now you won't need that second cup of coffee.

Mike called my mobile as Graham and I were getting into his car after the Saturday Night Predictor Race, me swigging a delightfully named can of "Pocari Sweat" to get the electrolytes back into balance. The floor had not been as steady as I might have liked earlier in the day and I was working hard to remedy that, especially after a good 2 loop circuit of Safa Park.

Thomas had also been running around, but he was in the apartment and had fallen, cutting up both the inside of his mouth and his chin pretty dramatically when he whacked onto the marble floor. Mike hadn't been sure about calling the medics, but also knew he couldn't get the kids in the car and care for Thomas' bleeding, not to mention trying to find the hospital with the shrieking and writhing.

He called 999 and spoke to several people he had a hard time understanding, eventually ending up talking with the actual ambulance driver on the phone (as the siren whooped intermittently in the background) to give him directions to our hotel. I mean, since we know our way around so well here.

Graham got me to the hotel just in time to for me to jump into the back of the ambulance and take that little guy in my arms. Thomas went into total cuddle mode and relaxed for the ride. He looked messy and swollen, but all his teeth were where they should be, and that was a relief. Our building security guard stood in the street watching us drive away, gazing after us with a worried expression, his face and uniform bathed in the flashing white and red lights.

In the back of the ambulance. Bethy chatted happily with the EMTs who were both excellent speakers of English and thoughtful all around. Thomas refused all their ministrations, being suspicious of ice and band-aids when they're actually needed, though in general he loves them. Mike rode in the front with the driver, watching the route for next time and observing the other drivers not yielding to the emergency vehicle. Thank goodness it wasn't a life-threatening emergency.

We got to Rashid Hospital (I was surprised they didn’t automatically take us to the American Hospital, which was fine with us either way), were escorted into the very clean and bright ER, and were rapidly admitted. I was put into a wheelchair of all things and, babe in arms, wheeled to the treatment waiting area. Thomas fought getting a hospital arm band until I asked for one to wear too.

I was also all wet and stinky, bare headed and wearing shorts.
Running is the absolutely only time I have my legs uncovered in public, (I had to be convinced to wear shorts to run; I still wear long running pants away from the track) and I'm pretty much the only woman in the Dubai Road Runners who doesn’t bare her shoulders in a racing tank top. So I felt like a real jerk but at least I was able to comfort Thomas and get him taken care of.

Mike took Bethy in a taxi back to the hotel to get our car, and, more importantly, the car seats.

The little blond guy got what could only be interpreted as preferential treatment, We were called almost immediately and the rest of the queue got to sit there while we were whisked away to see the doctor. Guess who felt like a jerk again? Admittedly, I was the stinky disheveled jerk, soaking wet and courting pneumonia from the A/C at that point. Nicely adorned with blood from the poor little guy, too.

I had quietly asked one of the nurses during admitting if I would offend anyone with my outfit and she just as quietly replied that since we were in Dubai as opposed to Sharjah, the very traditional emirate, one over from Dubai, that she thought it would be all right. I still tried to be as discrete as I could. Not easy to do with chicken white legs like mine!

The doctor gave Thomas' face a quick once-over, decided that stitches were the best course of action for the inside of this mouth, swollen and bloody and purple from the impact with the floor and his bottom teeth, and that the wound on his chin from his top teeth would be best treated with some cleaning and tape. One of the nurses questioned this second assessment, which surprised me. Not surprised that she was concerned, but that she asked the doctor if he was sure about his plan for treatment. He was dark African and she was lighter coffee skinned, which may have had something to do with it, I don't know.

Thomas was really fun to hold down while they cleaned him again, numbed, and stitched him up, all in a Mommy's day's work. I've held down and comforted (as I tortured) many a child in my Med Lab Tech alter ego role, so nothing new there. It was kind of nice to let someone else do the actual work and watch their techniques. The health care workers were also, like the EMTs, well spoken and professional. I felt very comfortable with them.

Thomas had gripped a tiny plastic spoon during the entire operation, and when we were released I went and bought him a yogurt from the little convenience store in the hospital to eat with it. The wet runner tried to not stand out too much as we waited for Mike and Bethy to return. I picked up the prescribed pain medication for Thomas (9 Dhs, $2.45).

Several employees came over, from the janitorial staff on up, to ask about the little man who was doing cheerfully well after all that. He has a history of being perky at the hospital when he's not actually being worked on. I'd gone outside several times to warm up a bit. Mike and Bethy came back, we went home.

What we hadn't known was that that ER care is free here in the UAE. Amazing.

On the drive over Bethy had been asking Mike whether doctors sleep, (hey, they're always there to help kids, right?) then figured out for herself that they must work in shifts. Thomas was feeling the stitches inside his mouth with his tongue and politely requesting that we take the "owies out, owies out please?" We were pretty tired by this point, and got the kids to bed by 10:30.

Then the heat and humidity set off the fire evacuation alarms for the hotel over and over again for the next 2 hours...


Will & Cheyenne said...

Oh my heck! What a crazy story, but I had to chuckle at you and your white legs feeling all self conscience. You are funny!

Natalie said...

Hey Cheyenne! It wasn't the whiteness of the legs that concerned me (such is my fate in life, to be curly haired and pale and I'm very OK with it) but that I had those white legs bare in a country where men and especially women don't bare their legs, pretty much ever. I have seen women in full traditional dress, only their eyes and Nikes showing whitely under the black as they jog around the track. No, seriously. They must be superhuman or something.

And I love that you got a good laugh out of it. :) That makes me super happy.

Jean said...

You didn't mention whether or not the ER staff were particularly curious about how Thomas was injured. As you know, it would have been a different story in the U.S. You would have been grilled for an hour about what happened.

If there was indeed a lack of undue curiosity, do you think it was because, as you have noted before, children are greatly valued in that part of the world and it would be unthinkable that a parent would ever intentionally injure a child?

Natalie said...

Wow, you know, that's a good question. Let me think. While everybody from the camel milkman on up has noticed Thomas' face and asked what happened, no one has questioned us in the slightest as to the validity of our story.

I'm thinking marble floor accidents must be pretty common.

What kills me here is that you always see adults with their seatbelts on, but the kids never do and are often hanging out the window or gallavanting around the inside of the car, crawling from front seat to back and so forth.

I know that safety standards for kids are not as ridgid here, and I keep an eye out for hazards in toys and play areas, don't assume the lawyers have gotten to it first. Sort of like growing up in the 70's. :)

Certainly everybody is very loving toward children here, though I think that when discipline does happen it can be pretty swift and harsh. Desert mentality, I suppose.

Thanks for such a great question, Jean! Good thinkin'. I will research this further.

sherrip said...

Oh, yeah, Pocari Sweat! When we were in Japan I got addicted to Aquarius, very like Pocari Sweat without the great name! Upon return to the states, I was unable to find Aquarius at Uwaji, but they had instead the aforementioned Pocari Sweat. That stuff is great in the heat, that is for sure. Always wondered about the origin of the name, though....

Natalie said...

I was just relieved to find out that Pocari wasn't a sports figure of some kind! (ew) Apparently the drink is from Japan too, and "Pocari" means something along the lines of "like a cloud floating in the sky".