When I was nineteen I was going to a community college in Maryland and living in a small studio in Washington D.C.. One morning I was getting ready for school and trying to decide if I could wear my new pair of Doctor Scholl's sandals. I was worried about how much walking I needed to do and maybe getting a blister. I decided to go with the work boots so popular for hippie chicks back in the day.
I had just crossed an intersection, looked up and saw a large German Shepard barreling across the yard of the corner house and I realized there was no fence. I thought I'd just step off the curb and walk around him. A small van/truck went by just then and the side view mirror hit my head, knocking me into a spin and my right foot went under the wheel of the truck. If I'd had the sandals on I would probably not have a foot today. The work boot wedged under the wheel. The truck driver stopped and tried to get my foot out from under the wheel but it was stuck. He had to get back in the truck and back up. Pretty freaky.
The event is a blur but I remember a person got out of his car and said he'd seen the whole thing and the dog chased the girl into the street. I imagine he was concerned about the driver who was really blameless. An ambulance came and took me to a hospital. I must have been in pain but I remember joking a lot. You're supposed to have on clean underwear in case you go to the hospital and I wasn't wearing any. I feel like a long time went by. They called my mom and told her to come get me but by the time she got there they had determined I needed surgery because a hole had been scraped in my ankle and there was no easy way to cover it. The surgery involved creating a flap to cover the hole, and taking skin from my thigh to cover where the flap had been. It was a long surgery. At some point I came out of the anesthesia enough to hear the doctors and nurses talking. This may have happened more than once because I think there was a shift change and people were leaving and others were coming in and I think there was some talk about an award show. And then there was the moment when they began to talk about my pretty face and what a shame it was that I was also fat. The anesthesiologist realized I was hearing it and made a face. I remember feeling like I needed to reassure him that I was OK. Memory is a shape shifter so the details of this memory might be off but the feeling is true.
I was in the hospital for a month. I was home with crutches and instructions to keep my foot elevated for a month. I was on crutches for another month. Long recovery and really a break in trajectory. I didn't finish the semester. I was moved out of my studio. I was back in the dreary suburbs with a story about a truck and a dog and some shoes. And a really big scar.
Every day of my life I hear things about fat people. Jokes, false concerns for our health, blame for all the troubles of a broken health care system. Sometimes things are in the background and mostly abstract. It's just noise. Sometimes it's more direct.
I have very positive experience of most of the medical professionals I've met in Hood River. Even the knee surgeon who won't fix my knee because I might stroke out on the surgical table danced around the fact that the only reason to imagine I'd stroke out is my weight. I've had two EKGs in recent history both of which were good. My blood pressure is good. My liver function, my temperature, my activity level, yada yada. All good. The surgeon who will be removing my gall bladder isn't worried. My GP isn't worried.
And really. The truth is. All in all. The idea that someone might say something stupid about my weight is the least of my worries and I'm not really worried. I'm the worried well. Just average worried. Mostly just tired of feeling like crap. And I'm tired of thinking about surgery. Filling out paperwork. Being asked the same health history questions over and over. I'm ready to move on.
But it's a weird thing, isn't it? Just the idea that I will be completely dependent on a group of people and I need them to take care of me. Heal me. And I might have to listen to them say stupid stuff about my body. It's just weird. And wrong.
And that space that I hold in which I feel the need to comfort an anesthesiologist, or make jokes, or just holding the idea that something might be said. It's just weird. It's tedious.
Just the number of stories I have in which something is said to me or about me and my pretty face and shameful size.
It's just wrong.