I’m lying on a hospital bed in Austria. The doctor and nurse move closer so they can have a good look at my leg. Just as they do so, I start to sniffle. Just a little, really quietly, but the nurse sees the tears rolling down my face and asks what’s wrong.
There are a million things but there’s also a language barrier, and ultimately it forces me to boil it down to one simple thing.
I’m in pain, I have made a bit of a mess of my leg and I have no idea what they are going to do to sort it out. I’m on my own, in another country, I don’t speak much of the language, and it is perfectly logical and normal that I should feel a little bit scared.
Don’t worry, we are going to fix it, she says. Does it hurt? she asks.
No, not really, I say.
Stupidly I look while they are digging around, and immediately I wish I hadn’t. I see a little dark thing in the wound and am worried in case it’s something really bad. But it’s a little blood vessel that has been damaged which is why it keeps bleeding.
Do I need stitches? I ask. Yes, but it’s not too tragic, the doctor says. I smile at the choice of words.
We move to another room, and I am given a green cap to cover my hair. We joke about its attractive appearance. The nurse says I can keep it as a souvenir.
The local anaesthetic goes in, and it really hurts. Then nothing, except the cold of the saline they use to wash the wound out.
I cry again, just a bit, and each time they are worried I am feeling what they are doing. Does it hurt? No, I’m OK. Don’t worry, we are nearly finished. One more stitch.
They are kind without fussing or being overbearing. We talk and laugh about English and Austrian football teams.
I’m thinking a lot about simplicity at the moment, having had a recent period where things have become overwhelming again.
This has been a simple exchange.
I had an accident, I am injured and it is their job to help me.
I cry, and they are worried I must be in pain and they reassure me.
Now they have fixed me, and I am sent on my way so they can be ready for the next patient who needs them.
It was just an accident, my leg will heal with a small scar, and everything will be fine.