I think we’ve stopped. I can’t believe we’re not moving. Is it rush hour traffic, an accident? Where are we? Why aren’t we moving?
“Streets flooded,” answers the young man who has been taking my pulse, asking me questions and trying to keep me calm.
And I know exactly where we are. It happens every time we get too much rain in too little time. We are on 75, close to the West Paces/Northside exit and the dad gummed drains are clogged and water is spilling onto the interstate. It takes all of my energy and focus to maintain my grasp on anything except the searing pain, but I do find myself wondering why in all these years someone hasn’t done something about those drains. Perhaps this is where I’ll die, on the way to the hospital, in a white ambulance, on a rainy night in Georgia.
I try begging the medical man once more for some pain meds, but he answers in his calm manner, “Sorry, can’t when it’s stomach pain.” Then he asks me something, the same three somethings that I remember answering before (even though, admittedly, I’m not very clear in the head right now).
“What’s your name? What’s your birthday? How’s your pain on a scale of 1-10?”
Name? Easy. Check that off. Birthday? Give me a minute. I have to moan, toss, breathe, writhe, moan some more, grunt out my birthdate, done.
But how is my pain level? Let me think, I knew you were going to ask me this. I conjure up the mental visual of the smiley face chart that they have in doctors offices and I remain completely stumped. I grab for an answer and mutter, “I don’t know,” which I promise you is not my voice at all, but my mothers.
“I said, I sound like my mother.”
“And on a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your pain level?”
No wonder mom just says I don’t know all the time. I get it mom, I really do. Let’s see. There is having a baby pain. Is this as intense, or is it worse? Is having a baby a 10 or an 8? Pant, moan, gasp, moan, thrash. This is definitely worse than that! Or did I just forget what having a baby feels like? Man this hurts.
“Mam, can you tell me where it hurts the most?”
Okay, okay, I’m thinking. It hurts all over, like I am going to explode. But what if it’s nothing, like the time before when they tested for everything and found nothing? Maybe, I’m just a horrendous baby and they’ll say it’s just gas or something and I’ll be so embarrassed. But it can’t be. I’ve had three babies naturally and I just left home in an ambulance and scared my grand babies to death, lying there on the ground wrenching around and moaning. I would never frighten them like that unless I was having at least a pain 9 experience.
“Mam, what is your pain level on a scale of 1-10? ” Now, I begin to panic. I’ve got to pick a number. I want to say 10 but I’ve heard of pain so great that you black out and do I really want to know what a 10 is? Okay, okay, I choose 7 though I don’t know why. I hear the medical man say into his cell phone, “severe abdominal pain.” Great, I’ve communicated through this agonizing, pain-induced fog.
“May I please have some pain medicine?”
“No mam, not when it’s stomach pain.”
I finally get to the ER, see a doctor, receive some morphine (ah), have some tests, go to surgery, get knocked out, lose my appendix, wake up, go to a room for 6 hours, return home to recover. Post surgery, not one person has asked me the pain questions, but I have a sudden need to tell the world. “My name is Gwen Bullock, my birthday is November 10, 19?? And on a scale of 1-10 my pain level is zero. My gratitude is at another level, entirely. It is off the charts!