"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing —
to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from —
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing,
all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."

~C.S. Lewis


Thursday, September 13, 2012

In which I cut off my toe and sew it back on with a Band-Aid

I know many of you were concerned for my safety as I traveled around Israel and Europe this summer. If you weren’t anxious I was going to get kidnapped by some wild Israeli shopkeeper, then perhaps I’d be murdered in my bed in the hostel in Barcelona, or drowned in the ferry from Calais to Dover. At least, you fretted, I might get a cold.

Thankfully, none of that happened, and I thought I was going to get away with the worst injury being water in my ear from swimming in the Sea of Galilee. (And, besides, I figured maybe since it was water Jesus had touched, it wouldn’t be so harmful…)

But then I found the Toe Amputators.

It was my last Sunday in Jerusalem before we took the vans to Nazareth, and I, along with a few from my group, was walking to a Scottish Presbyterian Church, St. Andrews, for Sunday service. I, of course, relished the opportunity to chuck my appallingly un-feminine hiking sandals and wear my cute strappy ones instead on this pleasure trip a few blocks to the church, as obviously there was nothing dangerous between here and there.


I’m walking to church, chatting with the guy next to me, not bothering the sidewalk any, when without warning the thing attacks me, shatters my foot, and I lurch forward with one of those airless gasps of horror and pain. I’ve just impaled my poor unprotected bare foot into a ragged chunk of metal sticking up out of the middle of the sidewalk. (Who decided having those was a good idea, anyway? “Here we go, let’s see what stupid tourists aren’t paying attention and then PUNISH THEM FOR THEIR NEGLIGENCE!!”)

This is the church we went to, St. Andrews. There were all sorts of beautiful flowers outside that I put in my hair. They kind of matched the blood on my foot, come to think of it. I planned that, obviously.

So I stumble along for a few strides, trying to pretend my foot was overreacting and the almighty pain is totally in no way indicative of any permanent damage beyond a pretty purple bruise. I also refrain from looking down, as it’s one of those moments when maybe you’d rather not know how bad it is. But I looked.

No blood.

But actually that didn’t comfort me at all, because it sure seemed from my previous experiences with smashing body parts into sharp objects that in the worst gashes, it takes a few seconds for the uncontrollable bleeding to start. Maybe the arteries you severed just need a little time to get organized.

So I continue to limp along down the sidewalk, knowing full well that my next glance down is not going to be pretty.

No kidding.

You would’ve thought I’d cut my toe clean off. I’ve got blood all over my toes, all over my foot, all over my shoe, and pretty soon it’s going to be all over the sidewalk. I never knew you had arteries in your toes, but I sure don’t doubt it now, because I apparently found one and cut it clean through.

But the sidewalk is narrow, with a fence on my left, crazy Israeli drivers whizzing by on the right, and a whole group of people stampeding down behind me, so stopping to sew my toe back on right at this particular moment isn’t exactly feasible. So I keep staggering along and try to remember what sort of emergency medical equipment—you know, tourniquets, casts, wheelchairs, etc.—I have in my purse.

I remember. One single Band-Aid. (Oh, I think, that’s really great, that’s really going to go far.)

But it’s better than nothing, so when I finally get out of the herd of people, I move to the side, sit down, hike my skirt to my knees, and look down at my toe. There’s so much blood now it’s pooling in my sandal, and my poor lonely Band-Aid is looking a little outgunned. But I pull it out, slap it on, and think triumphantly that at least I won’t have to wash the cut, because losing half my body’s blood through it has probably cleaned it out pretty impressively.

This, my friends, is a Toe Amputator.

I stand and keep hobbling up the hill toward the church, trying desperate to keep pressure off the front of my foot, because now I have a new problem. This Band-Aid made a heroic effort, but it wasn’t meant to be a tourniquet, so my toe happily bled straight through it. Great, I think, I’m going to get blood all over the church. I’m going to walk in, they’re going to look down, and they’re going to freak that this crazy girl came in and is tracking her bloody footprints all over their nice clean pretty stone floor like she’s part of some sort of zombie apocalypse.

Ironically, I was way more concerned about the church floor than about my foot. Because that makes sense.

Or not.

But I wasn’t hired for my logical thinking, so I keep worrying about it as I stagger up the hill. Some Arab boys whiz by in a white pickup and whistle and yell out at me. Sorry, guys, but unless you happen to have a roll of bandages and some surgical tape and maybe a stretcher, you’re of no interest to me right now. Actually, ever, but especially right now.

I glance down again. If this thing doesn’t clot soon I’m going to need a blood transfusion.

The church looms overhead, and I push open the massive double doors: This is it. This is where the tourist walks in and horrifies everyone with her copious amounts of blood, and I consider ways to lessen the drama of the situation. (Smile? Nod? Pretend I don't speak English?) Thankfully as I step through the door, I see “W.C.” written off to the right of the aisle and rejoice at my new opportunity to rectify this situation: just wash off my shoe in the sink, clean off my foot with paper towels, and sit down in church like nothing happened and I didn’t just lose half my appendages.

I hurry into the ladies’ side, set my foot on the counter, and start to pull at my sandal when I realize I have a new problem.

I can’t get my sandal off.

The way it fits, there is no way to extract my foot from it without damaging the valiant Band-Aid now only holding on by a hair and re-opening the whole area, which had finally managed to slow it’s bleeding from its imitation of Niagara Falls.

I study the site. My white sandal. My white sandal with the great pool of blood in it. Red blood.

Certainly I can’t leave myself looking like I just got mauled by a rock. So I pull off a wad of paper towels and start mopping and wiping at the worst of it in an attempt to rapidly make myself presentable (after all, service is starting in two minutes) while salvaging Monsieur Band-Aid, who is having a mournful time of it.

No longer afraid I’m going to faint from blood loss, I toss the stained paper towels into the garbage and reexamine my foot. Unless you looked closely, now, you wouldn’t know I had just reattached my foot with a single Band-Aid and a few paper towels.

And nobody ever did.