I made a beeline to the front desk, pain rising quickly. “I burned my hand,” I said, out of breath.
The receptionist yelled back, “She’s here”. Next thing I knew I was in a chair next to a sink with my hand under cold running water. The nurse had me by the wrist. Firmly. My hand was facing up under the water, my forearm pressed into the side of a stainless steel sink. It hurt.
“This is going to hurt,” she said.
“This will hurt. I’m very sorry. Grit your teeth. Try to keep breathing. I have to scrub your hand.”
She started scrubbing my hand. She had a serious brush and she was not afraid to use it. Wire I guess. I’m not sure. But this was not something she did with any hesitation. There was no “test scrub”. She began to vigorously scrub my hand and I began to scream bloody murder.
I thought this would stop her immediately. I thought that yelling would stop her in her tracks but no. She started humming and talking low but she continued to scrub with total focus.
“I know it hurts honey… it won’t take that long. I’ll scrub as fast as I can. I have to get your hand cleaned.”
I thought she was insane. She had to be. I screamed as loud as I ever have in my life because I thought she must have missed the plot. This was a doctor’s office and what she was doing was inflicting supernatural pain.
I screamed some more, still thinking she would stop what she was doing, or possibly some other nurse will come in and slap her silly. I couldn’t see behind me but I sensed another person in the doorway. No one intervened and the scrubbing nurse was unfazed. She maintained a firm hold on my wrist and she continued to scrub. Harder than ever it seemed. Sobbing now, I yelled at her, “I can’t stand it.”
“You have to stand it honey. It won’t be that long. I know it hurts but I have to do this. We’ll only have to do this once. It’s very important, there is no other way.”
She sounded sane. She sounded kind. How can that be? And so what. Damned bitch.
I tried to jerk my hand back but she held it firmly and scrubbed with all her might. Fast. She scrubbed fast and the pain was incredible. It was out of this fucking world. She was digging in my hand with the brush. Digging and twisting. Sobbing, I contorted my body and slid off the chair onto the floor. I wound up sitting on the floor faced away from the sink while she held my arm up and bent it backward over the edge of the sink, palm up under the faucet, scrubbing like hell. Scrubbing, humming, singing, soothing.
“As soon as I am done scrubbing we can give you something for the pain and it won’t hurt anymore, honey. I am so sorry, it’s almost done. I’m almost done…”
I stopped with the protest. I quit yelling. I knew she is helping me. I knew it so I gave up. I gave in and I gave over. I succumbed and I cried and cried and cried and cried.
She scrubbed while I sobbed. She sang and I sobbed. She scrubbed and I cried out of control, buckets of tears. Tears just came and came and came. It was now like an accident in slow motion that just kept going and going and going. It was surreal the quantity of tears that had run down my face. Tears and tears and tears.
My whole arm was screaming, so I rolled my head back and forth to check out. I consciously looked up and looked around the room for a window. I’d had enough. I wanted to leave my body now and I felt a calmness come over me. Had I transcended? Fractured something? Was I dead? I didn’t care. I couldn’t stand the pain.
I stared at the corner where the ceiling meets the wall and I began to drift off just as I heard her say “Okay honey, you’re done”. This brought me back with a jolt and a wave of gratitude I’d survived.
“Don’t look at your hand. Just keep you head turned,” she said. “You don’t want to see it, it’s pretty bad. Just give me two minutes and it won’t hurt anymore. Hang on.”