Danger in Paris
For some reason the motorcycle didn’t knock me down when it shattered my leg.
My husband, Kent, having narrowly escaped being hit himself, watched me lay down on the wide Paris sidewalk. We both noticed blood seep from the hem of my black pants onto the cold, gray concrete. I closed my eyes, got very quiet, and starting shaking. Someone on the street called the emergency number.
“Madame?” I heard someone say standing over me. I didn’t know how much time had passed. I looked up to see a gentleman dressed in a suit with a stethoscope around his neck.
“Give me morphine,” I croaked up at him.
“No, Madame, in France we do not give narcotics until the patient is stabilized.” He then turned to the ambulance crew to come with their stretcher.
At Pompidou Center, no one spoke English. I nearly broke Kent’s hand when they attempted to straighten my leg and take X-rays. “Find a dictionary and tell them I’m in pain,” I screamed at Kent.
“They know,” he said, holding me down.
The room became quiet. They pressed their best English speaker forward, “Madame, if you hold an American passport, the American Hospital of Paris must treat you.”
We hired a private ambulance and bumped our way across the cobbled streets of Paris into the suburb of Neuilly.
Our new surgeon, Dr. Gavant, greeted us by opening the back doors of the ambulance and pushed me into an exam room. I handed him the large packet of X-rays, still a little sweaty from our wild ride.
Dr. Gavant placed the giant X-rays up on a lit screen. “Oh, Madame, this is very bad,” he said gesturing at the black and white images. I tried to burrow deeper into the Naugahide cover of my rolling bed. Noticing my discomfort, he added, “But, I am the best doctor in the world, and I will fix you.”
Staring back at him, I said between clenched teeth, “I need morphine.”
After the consultation, Kent and I set up camp in the emergency room. Without narcotics, the pain washed over my body in waves. I lay, still as possible and waited to die.
As the day progressed, a gentleman from India, who was the only other English speaker in the emergency room, came up to Kent and said, “Excuse me, Sir, I believe you are an American. I think you might want to see what is happening in New York City right now.”
Kent came back from the waiting room. He looked horrified. I couldn’t imagine the day getting any worse. He took my hand and said, “Someone flew two planes into the World Trade Center Towers in New York City. I think the United States is being attacked.”
Our hospital, considered a terrorist target, shut down the waiting rooms and placed cement barriers around the outside of the building.
Kent waited out my eight-hour surgery in an orange plastic chair next to the elevators. For the next nine days, no longer tourists, we bonded with the French people. “We are sorry for what happened in New York,” people told Kent as he traveled to the hospital to visit me. “We remember World War II.”
When the planes began to fly again around the world, Dr. Gavant moved the planets and the stars as only a French surgeon can and got us on the first flight out of France.
We said good-bye to our empathetic French doctors and nurses. Our adventure began unsure of language and customs. Due to our personal and global tragedy, we came to know that in the end we are all simply human beings, living and breathing the same air.
We all need love, peace, and comfort.
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