Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Singing the bones

'This is why,' the doctor explained when I asked him why my left lung was bleeding. He was a jovial Scandi sort. He held up his clipboard. 'This is your lung, right?' He smacked it hard into a pillar in the emergency room.
'O-o-okay. I think I understand now.'
'Broken ribs hurt don't they?' He said, as I crawled, gasping, onto the hospital bed.
He rolled some ultrasound goo around, checking for air pockets and also 'if you are pregnant.'
'Oh Doc, don't make me laugh, it hurts too much.'

Two days ago, drafting cattle with Stormboy, the vet doing the pregnancy testing looked at me with concern. 'Do you have experience with cattle?'
'No,' I said. 'But my son does,' watching him float around the yards like a dance between boy and beasts, and the vet nodded. 'Yes, I was out here last year and the one before.'

Halfway through the testing, it began raining and then blowing, the big gums whipping around over the stockyards. The cows, udders swelling, lowed for their calves. The banging of metal gates and Stormboy yelling 'Hoo up! Come along now.' Everyone was a bit twitchy, all confined into yards. One angry lady went for Stormboy's brother. Then for me. I was standing against the yard fence with my tally book and saw murder in her eyes and I couldn't run up that six foot fence fast enough. She was so quick but I climbed the fence quicker, tripped on the top rail and landed on my back on the other side. Oomph.
Stormboy was shouting 'Mum! Mum!' and I lay in deep green grass remembering the last time I was winded, unable to breathe. I was three years old and had fallen out of a tree house. The sensation is terrifying, like being buried alive.*

I was feeling a bit fragile, but necessary, if you know what I mean. We had to stick it out for the next few hours while the vet was here but my inner whiny monologue was 'Why can't someone make me a cup of tea? I'm sore. I'm wet. That number 224 is a crazy bitch ...' (She charged Stormboy as he ran to check on me apparently.) 'There's always one,' the vet said to me. Later a friend observed, 'Yes there IS always one. In the stockyard, in the writers workshop, at the pub. There's always one.'

I drank enough wine that night to sleep okay but yes, wine is an inflammatory in many senses of the word and I woke up yesterday morning in a world of pain. By mid afternoon I could hardly move and knew I'd broken a few ribs. But still I thought I'd tough it out because there's not much can be done with ribs. I decided against going back to the inlet where I'd have to chop wood and drive 20 kilometres along corrugated gravel roads, and to stay at Stormboy's for a few days more. But by last night I was coughing up thin tendrils of blood.  This morning I dragged myself to the hospital. Described my adventures to the doctor and, a few hours later, discovered the utterly delirious release of codeine after an injury.

Yesterday afternoon, at my height of heightened pain, I had a phone interview with a Noongar Elder. We were talking about the courses I teach. Every time I moved the wrong way, I'd moan or gasp and finally he asked if I was okay. Because the courses I teach are great, but not that great. I muttered something about a cow and my ribs. When we'd finished our meeting, he asked if he could pray for me. He then asked me to put my hand on my ribs and, over the phone, prayed for Jesus to heal me. Sung me, Jesus way.

* not speaking from experience here.


  1. This happened to me when I was about 10. I could move fast in those days. I ran and cleared the gate. No broken ribs. Keep taking the codeine.

  2. I had a few ribs broken by an irate (and military-trained) Israeli girlfriend once. I didn't sneeze for about three months.

  3. Oh yes I remember you writing about that girlfriend! Coughing or sneezing turns it up to 11.

  4. I've heard broken ribs are incredibly painful. Pretty tough dealing with it while you kept functioning Sarah.

    1. It was okay straight afterwards. At first I was just sore and like I wrote a bit whiney. The next day was dreadful. Dropped in to yours this morning x