Friday, September 21, 2012

1989: Part Three

somewhere on the North Island, NZ

In the fall, I embarked on a great solo journey to the land Down Under, to both Australia and New Zealand, leaving my job as a bike messenger at Bucky's, which was one of the great things about working there. Since there were no benefits, I could pretty much come and go as I liked. My first stop was in Australia. I did a lot of walking, some hiking and some more hiking. There was one day that, due to my lack of transportation, I walked nearly 20 miles, on a combination of road and trail and I was exhausted when I returned to the hostel that night. My next stop was New Zealand, where I had hoped to do some hiking on the South island, but after a few days in the North island's city of Auckland, I noticed my right ankle had started to swell.

There was a medical clinic near the hostel I was staying at and they did some x-rays, yet found no fracture or break, but assumed it was some type of stress fracture, given all the walking I had been doing. They gave me a pair of crutches and suggested I have a bone scan when I returned to the US to make sure there was nothing wrong. Back at the hostel, someone suggested to me that I take a tour with what is New Zealand's equivalent to the Green Tortoise, a multi-day trip by bus to hikes and scenic areas with other fun people my age.
crutching on the steps of the Nat'l Museum

The bus was full of young people, mostly from Canada, Germany and a few from the US. During the day we toured around the north island, sometimes hiking or swimming and in the evening, we stayed at hostels or farms. I had sat out on many of the hikes due to the crutches but one particular day, when the description sounded too enticing, I decided to join in. The trail went through dark forest, a lush jungle and then to a beach where a ferry would be waiting. But the trail was very muddy and my crutches got sucked in deeply which made for very slow progress. When the guys with me, Bob from Chicago and Tomas from Berlin, realized we might be late for the ferry, they decided to take turns carrying me. Although I liked to do things on my own, without outside help, I had to admit that being carried by two men, both strong and handsome, was not such a bad thing.
Bob was a good sport

We made it to the beach to discover that although we had missed the ferry with the rest of our friends, the ferry captain made another run upon hearing that there was a woman on crutches making her way through the jungle. 

welcoming ceremony
That evening, we stayed with a Maori community and went through a ceremony of song and stories to be accepted into their home. Upon my suggestion, we sang, "A Hard Day's Night", though there were no Brits in our group. It was the first thing that had come to mind after the day and weeks that I had been having. Then, the tour leader made a very moving speech about.... me. It was about my determination and endurance (he forgot to say stubbornness) and he was honoring me in front of all those people. It was very moving and I doubt I will ever forget it. Immediately following that, I was the center of a massive pillow fight with my fellow tour-mates, plus the Maori kids, which helped to break up the serious tone.

I had gotten used to being on crutches, but something had developed that really bothered me. During the night, my foot went stone cold; it was so cold that it would wake me up when it brushed against my leg. I had experience with injuries and I knew that they usually became swollen and warm with an increase of blood flow. This new situation struck me with great concern and, although one part of me wanted to ignore it and continue my travels (I could write a book about it, I told myself), another part of me was truly worried. I called the airline to arrange my departure 3 weeks premature.

When I arrived home, I saw a doctor who referred me to more doctors. After seeing multiple doctors, having a bone scan (which turned up nothing), being given a speculative diagnosis (MS), I finally landed in the office of a vascular specialist at Swedish Hospital, Dr Roman Wong. While checking me out, he attempted to take my pulse at my right ankle and was unsuccessful. Although he wasn't sure what the precise problem was, he told me to come to the hospital the next morning for an arteriogram so they could get a better idea of what was going on. The quick action that they were taking was both a relief and a concern to me. I was relieved to have finally found someone who didn't just scratch his head and make guesses, but I was really concerned that there was something very seriously wrong with my foot and leg.

Since I was essentially homeless, having given up my house-share when I left for my trip, I was staying at a friend's apartment on 5th Ave in Belltown, where the Monorail passed right outside the window. To this day, whenever, I hear the sound of the monorail, I get an uneasy feeling.

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