The Suitcase Half Full

‘Life is rocky and all the more beautiful for it’. Coastal walking in Galicia, Spain.

WHAAA’AMM! My body slammed into the AstroTurf, my left ankle unnaturally inverted beneath me. Adrenaline coursed through my veins. “¡Cabrona, Lucy!” (“You idiot”), cursing to myself, I limped across Vigo University’s football pitch to collapse on the benches. “Solo necesito un descanso” (“I just need to take a break”), I assured my alarmed friends who had stopped the game to create a protective shell around me. The gravity of the situation was reflected in their contorted expressions. “Lucy, mira tu tobillo” (“Lucy, look at your ankle”). I looked, and I gawped. My ankle joint had swollen to comic book proportions in a space of two minutes. It was plain to see that a trip to A&E was in order. Not wanting to make a fuss and deploy an ambulance, I phoned for a cab.

The white Mercedes taxi crept up nonchalantly, 30 minutes later than expected. It transpired that the driver had originally gone to the Pabilón Municipal and not the Pabilón Universitario. Whatever. He and I squabbled over whose fault this was in a typically brazen Galician manner, until I promptly realised that we had exited the town and were now high up in the mountains. “Where are you taking me?! The clinic’s down there…”, I spluttered. “Mujer, I’m not taking you there”, he began in a gentler tone, “They’re so overrun you’d be waiting for a médico all night. No, we’re going to the regional hospital”. I love Galicians.

In Hospital Miguel Domínguez, a big part of me wished that the nurses would focus on my ballooning ankle, rather than the spectacular sunburn I had, true to my British roots, acquired on the beach at the weekend. Startled exclamations of “!Chica, estás quemada!” (“Girl, you’re burnt!”) were reiterated at every juncture as my wheelchair was shuttled from reception to radiology.

Eventually parked and left to my thoughts in a waiting room full of ailing patients, I began to feel Very Sorry for Myself. You see, I could be facing weeks, months even, of no football, no dancing, no coastal walks… How on Earth could I enjoy my Erasmus experience now?

Wallowing in self-pity, I kept replaying the fall sequence in my head, as if that would reverse it somehow: having sprinted to recuperate the ball, I needed to perform an acute pivot at the side-line, but lost control of the momentum…

Suddenly, a white figure in medical scrubs burst into my fluorescently-lit purgatory. “Lucky…?” she called. No answer. Then, looking up from her clipboard, “¿ Señorita Lucky Sabin, por favor?” Then it dawned on me – “She must mean Lucy!” Of all the attempts Spanish people have made to pronounce my name, this was the zinger. I let out a real laugh and raised my arm. “Sí, yo soy Lucky” (“Yes I am Lucky”), I proclaimed.

The irony of the situation wasn’t lost on me: “If I was truly lucky, then I wouldn’t be here!” But, sardonicism notwithstanding, this grumpy monkey had been shaken from her pessimistic tree. A nurse had inadvertently reminded me of all the lucky things in my life, not least of all access to foreign medical care. I mustered a smile on the way to my diagnosis. It was going to be OK.

The obligatory injury selfie. Well, I had to entertain myself somehow while everyone else was out enjoying the sun*…

I bet you have an ankle story of your own, figuratively speaking that is. Of course, you can let these unexpected events ruin your fun. Or you can embrace them as part of your adventure and accept the alteration to your travel plans. I’ve found that resilience and adaptability are amongst the most important lessons I’ve learnt on the road. Oh, and a sense of humour helps too! Ultimately, whether an event has positive or negative value is a question of attitude. This goes without saying and I’m sorry to get all cheesy here but sometimes we need to be reminded of it in darker moments. Like when you miss the last bus out of town, or your camera gets stolen, leaving you with nothing but your memories, or you get lost and end up somewhere entirely unexpected…

*when I finally hobbled down to the seaside I had to enter and exit the sea hopping along whilst holding onto my friend’s shoulders because my crutch sunk into the sand. It was hardly a Bond girl moment, I must admit.

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