I have to preface this story with a Taiwanese cultural note. The Taiwanese are extremely protective and are very afraid of injury or sickness of any kind. At times, it can go a little overboard…
Yesterday, Chris and I were chosen to be two of the teacher chaperones on a field trip for the high school students to go “river tracing.” If you haven’t heard of this event before, you are not alone. We had to ask around to figure out what it was and still didn’t know exactly what we were in for when we drove to the banks of the river with 40 students in tow. After donning the still-damp rental wetsuit vests and booties, we divided into four groups with one teacher per group and followed our guide into the water. It was a little odd being the “leader” of this group for two reasons: 1) I had never done anything like this before and had no idea what was going on and 2) our guide spoke only Chinese so the kids were having to translate all of the instructions for me which was a little discouraging when the guide went on for several minutes and my translation was, “He says we are going to walk up the river.” Despite this confusion, I eventually figured some things out and was able to contribute somewhat to the group. Basically, river tracing is exactly what they tell you not to do if you have ever been whitewater rafting. We hiked up a river and had object lessons on teamwork as we helped one another through rapids or to jump off things or anything else dangerous to do in a river. We were having a really fun time learning to work together until it happened.
Our mission was to get all of the members of our team from one rock to another in a rapid without grabbing their hands or arms. Simple enough, right? Well, I happened to be the last one onto the second rock. The guide had gone to the bank of the river to help get lunch ready. We were all celebrating our victory when someone looked down and noticed that my shin was bleeding. The water had been cold enough that I didn’t feel the injury when it happened and I really didn’t think that it was that big of a deal. However, the kids clearly thought that I had severed my jugular and quickly moved into action. They had me sit down on the rock as one hollered to the guide about our dire situation. In a flash, he came rushing over to put pressure on the gaping ½ cm deep wound. Had he had a tourniquet, I am sure it would have been applied. Since the guide didn’t speak English and I still don’t speak Chinese, I had to depend on the students to communicate with the guide. I asked them to tell him that I was fine and that we could keep going up the river. This was clearly the wrong thing to say because they refused to translate that for me and insisted that it was a very serious injury! After applying pressure to my mutilated leg for a couple of minutes, our guide decided that I must be rushed to the emergency room for stitches. Keep in mind, though I was bleeding, this cut could not have been more than 1 cm long, but off I went, to the ER.
So, when we get to the hospital, I am feeling totally lame. First of all, I really don’t think I need to be there. Secondly, because of this wimpy little “flesh wound”, the kids in my group had to quit river tracing early and play in rafts by the drop-off point in the river instead. The guide’s wife who spoke English came with me and helped me fill out paperwork. The doctor rushed me back to the operating table and, after analyzing my situation, proceeded to put one stitch (one!) in my leg. What kind of crappy story is that to tell? I went to the hospital and got a stitch? I thought about asking the doctor if he could squeeze a couple more in there just to make the story better, but I refrained. They then released me to the waiting room where our guide awaited me with ice cream in hand. He insisted on holding ice to my shin while I gobbled down the treat as quickly as I could to get him up off the ground. After handing me amoxicillin and a bunch of pain killers and paying my shockingly cheap bill, I was released and was able to meet up with the rest of the group.
Tetanus shot $7
Getting stitched $15
Pain Killers $4
Getting one stitch in my leg in a Taiwanese ER and living to tell the tale? Priceless.