He called for an ambulance, then called Mary, Dave Parker, the insurance company, and gave me a cell phone and charger along with several thousand American dollars to cover any expenses.
A crowd encircled me, gawking or trying to help. The island had
only two ambulances. A man claimed to be a nurse but didn’t act nurse-like. A young woman seemed to take charge, then lost interest. “Are
you all right?” she’d ask petulantly every few minutes. “No,” I’d answer,
“I’m not.” She told some airport employees to take me downstairs on a
stretcher and wait for an ambulance there. I stopped her. The slightest
movement would mean agony. If these guys hauled me onto a stretcher,
I’d scream and curse bloody murder, and somebody would freak out
and drop me.
Our flight had begun boarding. Two couples from our group came
over to comfort me. They were afraid to touch me. But two tour mates,
one of them my roommate for three weeks, got in line without saying a
word to me. People reveal their colors. Adam was torn, weeping. He was
flying to Greenland to meet his wife and lead a grand tour through the
Northwest Passage. He couldn’t desert me; he needed my permission to
leave. “Please,” I pleaded, “you’ve done everything you could to help. I’ve
been through this before. I’ll be all right. Go.” He clutched my hands.
It took over four hours for an ambulance to arrive. Onlookers gaped
as paramedics, accustomed to screams, hoisted me onto a stretcher,
squeezed the stretcher diagonally into an elevator, and lifted me into
the ambulance, on the way to the country’s main hospital. May, a young
nurse, gave me some kind of pain injection and crooned gospel songs.
I spent some time alone in a corridor, then a cubicle in the ER, before
being taken to a ward upstairs. Twice I was rolled away for X-rays. The
three other patients in my room, all women, were curtained off with
husbands and kids staying the night with them.
Two upright, white-capped women drew my curtain aside, church
ladies, I knew right away, maybe Seventh-Day Adventists: God has a
plan. This has happened to me for a reason. I’d heard the same refrain
in a hospital in Nairobi. Was I so lost that God had to fuck me up to get
my attention? How would God like a dislocated hip, an unfused ankle?
I thought of Mr. Tau, our Samoan driver, my age, father of fifteen. Mr.
Tau was on a mission, on many missions, to improve sanitation in his
country—he was known as Mr. Toilet—to get people to pick up their
trash, plant nice roadside gardens, educate their kids. “Samoa has more