Column: What’s more painful: The injury or the trip to the hospital?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 7, 2002

I could tell I was injured. A human finger isn’t supposed to point in that direction.

I had been playing basketball. I grabbed a rebound and heard a popping sound. Shortly after the &uot;pop,&uot; the pain arrived. I played the rest of the game with the useless finger because I had a lot of coaches who told me that I had to learn to play with pain.

I don’t like playing hurt. I have a tendency to whine ‘ I don’t like to whine; wait, I do, too. It is a man’s duty to share his pain and misery with loved ones. The tip of the little finger on my left hand hung limp. I tried pushing it upward into the place it belonged, but it did no good. The crooked finger began to swell immediately after the game ended. By the time I had showered and dressed, it had swollen to twice its normal size. I had dislocated the small digit before and was positive that was what had befallen the poor thing this time.

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My friend, Gary, was with me and I decided to call on his medical expertise to cure what was ailing me. Gary was a banker and who knows more about medicine than someone in the banking field? Gary pushed and pulled the offending appendage. At my urging he twisted it and did everything but jump up and down on it. It would not straighten. Gary suggested that I should seek the advice of a trained physician. My finger was really hurting by this point. In a moment of weakness, I agreed to see a doctor.

Gary drove me to the hospital’s emergency room. The unsmiling nurse in the emergency room listened to my tale of woe with all the interest of a sushi chef listening to a recital of hamburger recipes. She asked if I had ever been a patient in their facility before. I answered that I had not. It was the wrong answer. She gave me a clipboard and an inkless pen. She told me to fill out a form. It asked for my blood type, my religion and my next of kin. I whimpered that my finger was only dislocated and I expected to live. She gave me the look. I borrowed a pen with ink in it from Gary and completed the form. She took the form from me with a bit of a snarl. Evidently, it had been a tough night in the ER. She told me that someone would be with me shortly.

Her shortly was more like my longly. A man in a white coat came and took me for X-rays. I told him that my finger was dislocated. He grunted. The X-rays were taken &045; a rather painless procedure. Then I was sent back to the emergency room to wait some more. Someone read my X-rays with all the speed of a third grader poring through &uot;War and Peace.&uot;

The nurse, who Gary and I had decided had a bad toothache and a hatred of men from Hartland, returned to tell me that my finger was not broken and was just dislocated. I told her that I told her so and she asked to see my medical degree. Gary and the nurse had a good laugh.

The nurse told me that a real doctor would be with me soon and I might want to share my diagnosis with him. Gary and I waited another eternity. A policeman brought in a gentleman who appeared to have a broken nose. Neither seemed happy to be there.

The doctor finally arrived. He smiled. I knew him. He grabbed my injured finger with the confidence garnered from years of experience. I watched as a woman was brought in on a stretcher. He snapped my finger back into its proper place with a glee that I hadn’t seen since my wife pulled stubborn adhesive tape off my hairy leg. I uttered a, &uot;Yowch!&uot; The doctor laughed and told me to stop being such a baby. He told Gary to make sure I didn’t drive for a couple of weeks and to watch me for signs of depression. I think they call such comments &uot;poor bedside manner.&uot;

I went home and my finger slowly returned to normal. I forgot all about my painful injury until the bills started arriving. First a bill from the clinic, then a bill from the hospital followed by a bill for the X-ray services. Then the bills stopped just as the pain had. Then I got a notice from my insurance company that they would not be covering my claim.

Now that really hurt.

Hartland resident Al Batt writes columns for the Wednesday and Sunday editions of the Tribune.