So… it took less than a week in this foreign country for me to be hospitalised.
I would have hoped that I didn’t need to think about making a travel insurance claim for a little longer than that…
But.. these things, I suppose, you cannot change.
Here’s the story.
Me and Sam were in Tainan, where we had picked up some bicycles and were undergoing some vigorous sight seeing. Having explored a couple of temples already that afternoon, and having had somewhat of a fail to find good vegetarian food that lunchtime (Oh the struggles I have had in finding vegetarian food in Taiwan…. It’s hilarious how many different ways the words “I do not eat meat or fish” – a phrase which I have had translated by a Taiwanese friend, and have written down on a note that I take out with me everywhere I go – can be interpreted), we were on the road again, cycling under the full heat of the sun on a cloudless, blue-sky day.
Shortly we arrived at our last intended stop for the day – The Anping Banyan tree Tree House. And I was feeling notably heated, perhaps quite thirsty, a little stressed at the fact that I was struggling so much to find food in this country, and also I suppose just generally tired from a day of cycling in the heat and half a week of battling jet lag.. But none the less, I kept my thoughts to myself, and ran from shade puddle to shade puddle while Sam bought us tickets to get into the tree house. And almost as soon as we were inside.. My whole self began to shut down.
I thought perhaps I might faint. Which would have been no big deal in particular. And so I sat down on the side of the footpath, in the shade of the Banyan tree to cool off and reduce the height from which I would have to fall. Sam walked on into the tree house. So I must have looked nothing but tired at this point..
But after a couple of minutes of sitting… I just knew I wasn’t getting better. I felt SO exhausted. I suddenly wasn’t sure if I could get back up. And sweat started POURING out of me..
And when Sam resurfaced from inside the tree house.. it was like I let go of what ever strength was keeping me together..
My hands went numb and my thumbs curled hard into my palms. My forefingers cramped into a dead straight, backward pointing position, and all of the other 6 fingers curled into 2 half fists..
My breathing became more like panting. And uncontrollably tears streamed from my eyes, as I laughed intermittently at my wide awareness of the whole, bizarre situation.
Sam went for help.
The help took me inside, put me under a fan, raised up my arms and fed me sports drink in an attempt to rehydrate and cool my body.
..And all I could think about was my fingernails pressing into my palms..
I think.. The weirdest part of it all, was how aware I was of the fact that I couldn’t control my own body. My hands. My hands were so tight! And I couldn’t feel anything but the pressure they were putting on themselves. They were folding in on themselves. Like they were trying to get inside my palm..
I had to tell Sam to straighten out my fingers. I needed them to look normal. To feel. To stop hurting themselves.
And then… The ambulance was called.
If I think about it now… I must have looked a frightful sight.. Sam joked I’d been exorcised in hospital… But really… To any stranger at the tree house that day, that may well have been exactly what it looked like I needed.. With tears rolling down my cheeks and laughter coming out of my mouth. Panting for breath. Hands crippled into claws..
But I really didn’t think I was going to go to hospital at the time… Not until the stretcher came in.. And they strapped my legs down. And then they carried me off..
I was shut into an ambulance. Asked my name in broken English, and asked for a passport… which I didn’t have.
I heard the sirens going. I lay back. And I think I panicked even more at this.
And then as soon as they started rolling me into the hospital – all of these people that I couldn’t even communicate with properly if I was in good health.. the panic set into the depths of my stomach. And my insides went numb and tingly and tight… just like my hands. And I thought.. if my insides curl like my fingers have… what will happen.
Sam could straighten my fingers. But not my stomach. And at that moment I thought maybe I had contracted rabies. Maybe I was having an allergic reaction to the food here?.. What ever it was, I was thinking that somehow.. I was going to die on this island.
But alas… I did not.
Slowly. Slowly my body came back to me. Although it took my hands quite some time…
I was put on a drip. And made to lay in the emergency room for 2 or 3 hours… I was given no diagnosis. No explanation. No wise advice. Just told to rest.
And at the end of it all… I was exhausted. I could barely hold my eyes open. I felt entirely wasted. It was like I’d unlocked a new level of relief and calm.
And now. We take eating very seriously. We make sure there’s always water with us. We spend some of the hottest parts of the afternoon indoors.
And I am not so afraid to tell Sam – That I just want to read my book, I don’t want to climb another hill…