Truth is stranger than fiction (Part 1)

As I was sitting outside with my host family on April 8th, soaking in the sunshine and listening to the giggles of my host sisters, I thought, It can’t get any better than this.

Unfortunately, I was right.

It didn’t get better. In fact, it got a lot worse.

But we’ll get to that part later.

La plage à Quimiac

For the moment, everything was perfect. It was the first full day of Easter break, and I was at my host family’s vacation home in Quimiac, France, an hour away from Nantes. After a delicious appetizer outside, we all decided to go in and eat some lunch, so I grabbed my glass and a chair and made my way across the lawn. I stepped up onto the terrace, lifting the chair up beside me, glass in hand….

And then it happened.

I tripped.

But unlike 99% of the time, I didn’t catch myself, and went sprawling, landing hard.

What happened next is a series of moments in my memory. I was on the ground, and I looked up, embarrassed. “It’s nothing,” I thought, just a fall (I’m clumsy, so this happens sometimes). Then I saw the broken glass on the terrace, saw my host dad’s worried face from the doorway, then suddenly he was next to me.

“Are you hurt?” he asked in French.

It was only then that I looked at my right hand. It didn’t hurt, so I was confused when I saw blood, and a deep cut in my thumb.

“Un petit peu,” I said. “A little bit.” A beautiful understatement.

Luckily my host mom is a nurse, and it was her clear-headed action that saved me from totally emotionally losing it. Hold pressure, sit down, it’s going to be OK.  I was rushed inside. “It’s too deep, we’re going to have to call an ambulance,” I heard my host mom tell my host dad. My heart started pounding, Was this all really happening? 

“But they’ll be here soon, and then we’ll go straight to the hand clinic in Nantes. You’re going to be OK,” my host mom told me, her blue eyes meeting mine. I nodded, trying to take deep breaths while holding the wash cloth tightly against my thumb. While my host parents called IES (my study abroad center), I made faces at my 5-year-old host sisters, partly to reassure them I was OK, and partly to reassure myself.

4 volunteer firefighters showed up within 10 minutes, and I was literally carried away to the ambulance on a red  chair, giving my host sisters the princess wave as I went by, deciding to make the most of the moment. After all, it’s not every day that you’re treated like royalty.

Nantes is pretty far from Quimiac, so the 4 firefighters, my host mom and I were spirited away to the St. Nazaire ER so I could be evaluated. “Cut tendon,” the doctor pronounced, after I tried (and failed) to will my thumb into bending. Unfortunately sliced tendons can’t heal on their own, so my hand was bandaged, and I was scheduled for surgery at the Nantes Hand Clinic (Institut de la main) the next morning.

My host mom was my hero once again, making sure I followed my pre-operation instructions to the letter (“No eating or drinking anything after midnight. Don’t even brush your teeth!”), and the next day at way-too-early-in-the-morning, we made the surreal sunrise drive back to Nantes.

It was Palm Sunday, and even though it’s a bad pun I still think it’s a funny coincidence. My host mom brought me to the clinic, where I was greeted by Anna, my wonderful IES program director. My host mom had to go back to Quimiac to look after the kids, so Anna and I walked in and prepared ourselves for a long day ahead of us.

For the first time since my wisdom teeth were taken out, I was going to have surgery.

In France.

5,000 miles from home.

In French.

I grinned. “Who would’ve thought? At least this will make a wicked good blog post.”

I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Part 2 coming soon!

After a crazy day, I finally got to enjoy the evening sunset in Quimiac

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