October 15th, 2015
Routine is not a word that I would associate with my service as a Peace Corps Volunteer here in the Republic of Georgia. Seriously, before I was accepted into the Peace Corps my life was so predictable and now; well, I am never sure that I know what is going to happen minute-to-minute let alone day-to-day. So, I want to share with you an experience that was so unpredictable I can still hardly believe it happened.
It was a Wednesday evening; nothing really special going on. I was working with the family peeling potatoes so that my host mother could make lunches for school the next day. As usual the television was on and family members were working preparing the gruel in order to feed the pig. I was alone in the kitchen thinking about what I was going to do the next day and the upcoming weekend. However, what I did next cancelled out anything I had hoped to do in the next ten days.
I left the kitchen to go to my room on the second floor. I must have still been thinking about upcoming events because as I was climbing the steps I tripped and fell going up the steps. One minute I was walking upright and the next I was falling forward trying to figure out what was happening. I landed with my shoulder hitting the lip of one of the steps and my mouth and my upper lip hitting the next step up.
The steps are concrete so it was not a delicate encounter. I was in shock. The first thing I thought of was that I had broken some of my teeth and/or my nose. Did I hit my head? Is anything else broken? I literally started praying and moaning "Oh-No" as all I could think of at that point was would I have to go home to the United States for surgery? Would this end my service as Peace Corps Volunteer?
My mind was all over the place. After a couple of minute laying on the concrete thinking about what had just happened; I started to move. I realized that my nose and teeth were not broken. I also could feel that my shoulder was aching; but, it didn't feel broken. I had not hit my head but I realized that the blood was coming from my mouth. Although my teeth were intact; somehow the fall had created a hole inside my upper lip, as that was where the blood was coming from. I also realized that my mouth, upper lip and nose were numb. They all felt like when one gets a shot of Novocain at the dentist.
What I did next I think was a result of the shock. I went back into the kitchen and once again started to peel the potatoes. I was alone, bleeding and peeling potatoes. When I think of it now I see how ludicrous my actions were; but, initially I didn't think I was hurt that bad.
My family came in and could not believe what I looked like in the short span of time that they were away from me. We got something cold from the freezer and placed it on my upper lip. The bleed stopped and then I could feel the swelling start. I had a fat lip as well as scrapes and abrasions from when my face hit the concrete. I looked awful and realized it was probably going to get worse as time went forward.
My family helped me doctor myself with ice and antibiotic cream and made sure I was not going to faint; and then we all went to bed. I really thought the next day I would email for an appointment with the doctors and then go to school until it was time to leave for the appointment.
However, when I woke the next morning I could barely open my mouth. Everything was swollen. My upper lip was growing by leaps and bounds and I still could not really feel my nose. Although I had not hit my head or my eyes, my eye lids felt like lead. I realized that overnight the hole inside my upper lip had closed and that there was no bleeding. My body ached and I realized if I went to school I would absolutely scare the children; as I was scaring myself with the way I looked.
The doctors immediately responded to my email and sent a car from Tbilisi to deliver me to the Peace Corps Office for treatment. After I gave them a blow-by-blow description they indicated that an appointment would be made for me to see an oral surgeon as well as be examined by the Peace Corps physicians. I should also come prepared to stay a night or so in Tbilisi so they could monitor the situation. I realized at that point that I was in a daze. Things were happening that were not suppose to happen. I had lessons to teach and had to prepare the children for the upcoming spelling competition. What was happening should not have been happening; but, it was.
As always, dealing with the physicians associated with the Peace Corps is a comforting and professional experience. I knew walking in the door that I would be well taken care of and could feel the relief wash over me. After the doctors examined me and they concurred with my diagnosis (smiles) that I was bruised and battered; but, I was probably not going to need stitches and the oral surgeon. However, since an appointment was made and in keeping with their stance of "it is better to be safe than sorry"; off I went to see the oral surgeon.
A driver was called and an escort provided, and away I went to the appointment. The examination resulted without having to have stitches, thank heaven; but, a conversation going between the doctors in both Georgian and English reflected just how lucky I had been.
I walk slower now and when I go up and down steps I walk like a child just learning how to walk. My mind is solely on each one of the steps that my foot makes contact with. I thank whoever is looking out for me that my experience was not the disaster that it could have been.
I am recovering nicely. I am still black and blue along with many other colors of the rainbow. I realize I could use my face to teach the children the different colors there are in the rainbow; but didn't think that would be a good idea. I know that my face will heal; however, I was left with a tiredness that was off the charts. Maybe that was the shock or the trauma of my experience; but, for days and days all I could do was sleep; however, that symptom has resolved and I am ready to jump back into life here in Georgia.
I will finish my service in July 2016 and then what will I ever do without having the Peace Corps physicians in my life? The doctors just make things happen without a lot of red tape or waiting. I was told that the doctors do what they do (take care of us) so we volunteers can do what we do -- and I can attest to that!
For sure, I don't want another "day in the life".. like the day I tripped up the steps; but, the unpredictability of my service adds to the richness of my overall experience. I would not change that aspect of my service for anything!