Thursday, April 22, 2010

Alive Again

Downtown Baltimore

It felt a little odd to be traveling for a medical appointment, surrounded by enthusiastic tourists in the emptier than usual airport. I arrived far too early for the flight (we are told to be there three hours early) and had time to observe and listen to my fellow travelers sharing intimate details about their experiences in Ecuador and the home life they were returning to. We all commiserated about the excessively intrusive security checks, being patted between the legs and inside our belts, and all carryon luggage stripped open layer by layer. The flight was easy, except that I chose an emergency exit row expecting to be more comfortable with extra legroom, without realizing that the seatback did not recline and I sat bolt upright for the entire five hours plus, unable to drift off. I wonder who can sleep sitting up.

Customs is always an issue for me, this time being informed that after a year away I would lose my residency, despite my exhortations that I had been gone only eight months! With fingerprints and iris checks the norm now, I am no longer mistaken for anyone else. It may be appropriate to finally after 21 years in the USA, apply for an American passport!

We circled over Baltimore Washington International Airport for almost an hour. The fog on the ground was so thick, one could not see more than 20 feet. We landed hard through the mist. and it was so much colder than Quito! I took the bus to the Rental Car kiosks and after being told that insurance for the car was almost $54 a day, I couldn't quite stomach driving, so I took a cab to Emily's house and decided to try Baltimore without a vehicle. There is a bus between university and hospital, which stops 10 minutes away from the house, so it will be public transportation for me this week.

It was wonderful to see Emily and to be in her warm and inviting home, except that I am scared of the alarm system, having set it off last time I visited resulting in neighbours and several policemen confronting me. Emily promises to carefully go through the alarm system when I am not so exhausted and sleep deprived.

Baltimore was sunny and warm once I showered and changed and got ready for the day. Emily works at the School of Public Health next to the hospital, so she was able to drive me to my appointment. The neurosurgical outpatient clinic was on the fifth floor, with views of the downtown sparkling in the distance. I find the hospital very comforting in its crisp efficiency. I had a very thorough examination and discussion about my circumstances and options. A surgery date was already in place, but after reviewing my MRI and my symptoms, Dr. Wolinsky and I decided on a more conservative path; to wait and review findings in three months. I was relieved and encouraged. I am still advised to take care and not re-injure myself, but I can continue cautiously with my usual activities.

I feel almost numb as a result of these weeks of anxiety and anticipation. I am relieved that for now, I have been given a chance to heal without the threat of surgery, that there is a chance that surgery will not be necessary. I can live again.