051:336 Health

With all the news of late regarding health care (such as here and here) this week, I offer this story of one of my earlier interactions with the health care industry.

Well, at least the earliest that I can remember.

This is my story.

It is the mid-1970s and my age is in the single digits.

At my house in southern California we have a guest. A long-time friend of my mother – who is so close to our family that my siblings and I actually refer to this friend as “Aunt” – is visiting us. She has traveled all the way from the far-off land of Hawaii to spend time with us.

I greet Aunt B and am glad to see her, but after some time passes and all the adults are doing is just sitting around talking, I grow restless and want to do something.

I walk to the front of our house and through the large window that offers a view of our driveway, I see the white Lincoln Continental that Aunt B has rented while she is in town. It is a large car and it looks more interesting that whatever it is that adults drone on about.

I walk out our front door, onto the driveway, and sidle up to this boat of a car to inspect it. I circle the car admiring the tires and whatever else about this automobile that attracted me. I try all the door handles and am rewarded with the satisfying click of the front door on the passenger side opening. I climb into the car and shimmy my rear across the front seat until I am face to face with the steering wheel.

As any fun-living child would do once placed in front of the giant circle that steers a car, I placed my hands upon the wheel and began to move it from side to side pretending I was driving down the road just like my parents do. Another thing I noticed that adults do when driving is to shake a lever that moves an indicator across some letters such as “P”, “N”, “D”, and “R”. Since I do love to read and enjoy letters, I challenge myself to see how many letters I can make the orange indicator hit.

I grab the lever and shake it up and down, but to no effect. The lever appears to be stuck and I can only make the orange indicator waver on the “P”. I shift my position to obtain a better vantage point and as I do, I grab the lever and pull it towards me. This does the trick as I can now make the indicator jump between the letters as long as I pull the lever towards me first.

Since I know “D” stands for “Drive” and that’s how my parents make their car go forward, I do the same and now I can really pretend that I am driving just like the big people do. In my head, I arrive at my destination – probably a bookstore – and I know I need to place the car in park so I move the lever to “P”. However, I don’t quite seal the deal and the lever becomes stuck on “N”.

Perhaps I should now take this moment to mention that our home’s driveway is on a slight incline that slopes towards the street. The Continental, now in neutral, begins to roll towards the street. Surprised by the sudden movement of the car, I begin to panic (which seems to be a theme with me from stories from this week). Instead of putting the lever back to “P” or “D”, I try and open the driver’s door, but it is locked and I don’t take the time to figure out how to unlock it. Since I know the passenger door is unlocked, I scramble across the front seat and open the door. Since the car’s speed is picking up, I can’t walk out of the car and instead I roll myself out. I drop onto the driveway and simply lay there. This situation lasts for only a moment as I have not rolled far enough away from the car.

The front passenger-side tire rolls over my left arm. After the car has run me over, I weakly get up and walk back into the house to find my parents. As soon as my parents see me, they ask me what’s wrong. I’m still too stunned to really say anything to help my parents out, I just walk towards the front door to lead them to the driveway. Once outside, they survey the scene where Aunt B’s Lincoln is now in the bushes that line our driveway. Thankfully, I had moved the steering wheel enough to one side that when the car became free it did not roll in a straight line towards the street. Instead, it veered to one side and into our lawn. I show my parents my arm and they see the deep red tire tracks now emblazoned on my limb.

My parents rush me to the nearest hospital where they have to explain to the medical staff that their son has been run over by a car he was driving (they don’t cover that in parenting class, I can tell you that).

I am examined by the doctors and nurses and I do recall having an X-ray taken of my arm. Their ultimate diagnosis is that my arm, though heavily bruised, is not broken.

It will be a good decade before I am allowed to drive a car again.

That’s my story.

P.S. If you want to hear my other brushes with the medical community, well…those are stories for another day.

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