My last night in Amsterdam was memorable, though I should have preferred to bid the city a less indelible farewell. As far as I can recall, I was hurrying across the street, alert for motorists, trams, and the speeding rogue cyclists who imperil pedestrians with impunity. HL, Miri, Pansy and I were on our way to a rijstaffel dinner, the final one that we would share before going our separate ways. I stumbled over something in my path and lost my footing. Miri, who was next to me, tried valiantly to keep me erect. Gravity, alas, defeated her rescue attempt. I dropped onto my knee on the mist-slicked street, breaking my fall with my right hand. HL and Miri helped me rise, and we kept walking towards the restaurant. My right knee was throbbing, and my wrist felt as if it had been gripped in a cuff of molten steel. The pain moved from my wrist up my forearm in relentless waves.
I seem to have tripped over one of the concrete teeth designed to prevent parking cars on the sidewalk.
Eating dinner in such a state was impossible. As HL led me back to our hotel, I hoped that the injury might be a severe sprain rather than a fracture. My assessment was colored by my reluctance to go to a Dutch hospital on a Friday night, and possibly miss our return flight the next morning. With the aid of ice and the strongest analgesics in our travel supplies, I was able to fly back with HL. By the time that the plane landed, my fingers looked like a bunch of miniature purple bananas.
You, my astute Readers, will have guessed by now that I had indeed broken my wrist. The X-ray that my usual doctor ordered revealed that I had sustained a Colles fracture, a very common type. Technically, it was a distal fracture of the radius with dorsal angulation. In other words, my wrist was a mess. Putting it in a cast would not be sufficient. In order to have my wrist repaired, I required the services of an orthopedic surgeon. My doctor had two possible candidates in mind. The first was on vacation. None of his associates would be able to see me for weeks. The second call was to Dr. L., a hand specialist who was also a cosmetic surgeon. I was able to secure an appointment with him a mere two days after my initial X-ray.
Here was the bad news, in black and white.
Dr.L.'s waiting room was small, with samples of silicon breast implants on the reception counter beside a vase of fabric flowers in need of dusting. The decor compensated for its lack of aesthetic distinction with an abundance of reading material, in the form of signs. These were mounted on the walls and all available horizontal surfaces. All bore slogans and quotations meant to be inspirational. Whenever I looked up from my book, I could not avoid a visual barrage of cheerful banalities. I had noticed similar signs in other medical settings, though never in such profusion. Poor taste is so widespread that it is not alarming in itself. Nonetheless, my unease increased as I awaited my consultation. As you will learn, my instincts had not failed me.