I now know why mobsters break a person’s knuckles as punishment.

It really

really hurts.

Really.

Life has been challenging lately. Try buttoning jeans or putting your hair in a ponytail with one hand. I can still type (though it takes forever), drive (though tight corners are scary), and I am mastering the art of one-hand washing itself, but daily tasks are considerably more difficult.

It is humiliating and humbling and will probably turn out to be one of those events that helps me grow into a better human being.

The Story:

Not wanting to admit I’d been reduced to uncontrollable tears by a football game where most of the players were half my height and a quarter my age, I waited a week to see if the injury would miraculously heal itself. On day seven, I lightly bumped my finger on the car door and began crying in the middle of a parking lot.

Public tears!?

Time for an X-Ray.

The American clinic squeezed me in the next day. They were overworked and severely understaffed. The radiologist ended up telling the nurse to wrap my hand with the only bandage they could scrounge up, which looked like something the ancient Egyptians would use in the mummification process of cats.

The nurse sandwiched my finger in a padded aluminum splint then wrapped it until my finger was roughly the size and shape of a beehive.

The nuse told me I should leave it on for 4 weeks, and then darted out the door.

My family laughed when they saw the ridiculous bandage, and I would’ve laughed too if not for the white hot surges of pain that occurred whenever I lunged to strangle them.

That was a Friday. On Saturday I was biting off the heads of people who loved me. By Sunday the pain was so intolerable, I decided to see a German doctor.

German doctors, for the most part, are excellent. The only reason I don’t seek them out first is because stepping into a German clinic requires stepping out of my comfort zone. I don’t know all the words–especially medical words–and babel fish does NOT accurately translate in all situations.

After a couple recommendations from friends, I decided not to go to the village veterinarian, but to Doctor F., who had done Mike’s foot surgery. Mike said he was really good, knowledgeable, professional, and spoke perfect English.

Great.

I did really well explaining my situation in German to the receptionist and the nurse. I didn’t get completely bewildered finding the X-Ray room. And I even made it back to the doctor’s office with my X-Rays without the help of the hospital map the receptionist gave me (I think she was worried about me, since I speak like a preschooler).

As I waited to meet Dr. F., I held my X-Ray pictures up to the window. It’s really quite cool to see pictures of your bones and particularly fascinating when they’re broken.

Soon, in walked Dr. F., who was older than I’d imagined. He was very pleasant, kind of a grandfatherly character, but his eyes looked weary, and I couldn’t imagine him even winning a game of “Operation,” let alone slicing open joints for orthopedic surgery. He only spoke German, which was fine, since I’m the foreigner here (I should speak the language), and I assumed he was trying to help further my language skills.

He placed the X-Rays on the lighted board and studied them. After a few moments he said to me: “The pictures look good! There is no break! Your hands will last a hundred years!”

I stared at him with what must’ve been an expression of shock mingled with horrified, bemused confusion. After a moment he asked, “Did you understand what I said?”

“No!” I blurted out, trying to formulate a response, while also thinking my husband was crazy to recommend this guy.

The doctor asked how old I was and when I replied, he said, “You are 38, and your hands will last until you are a hundred. You have strong hands.”

At this point, I slid down from the table and pointed to the broken bone on the X-Ray.

“But it IS broken. Here.”

I glanced at the nurse, who was covering a smile with her hand. He quickly said something to her, and she ran out of the room. She ran back in a few moments later with his GLASSES.

He put them on and stuck his nose six inches away from the picture. He consulted with the nurse, and she pointed to the broken bone.

He turned to me and said, “I am sorry. You were right. But it IS a very small break.”

As the doctor tried fixing my broken knuckle with fingertip splints, a man wearing blue scrubs whisked into the room. He glanced at my X-Rays, showed the nurse which splint to use, and in perfect English, discussed the fracture and therapy needed for my knuckle.

The old man, who had cast aside the box of splints and stood watching, said, “Do you know who this man is? This doctor?”

“No,” I said, as the nurse wrapped my finger with a pink bandage, “I do not know him.”

The old man smiled broadly and exclaimed with a tremendous amount of pride, “This is my son, Doctor F!”

Alles Klar.

And I couldn’t help but laugh.

Funny, quirky, wonderful Germany.

I can’t imagine living any place else.

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