I was nearly finished with my absolute final round of revisions on the climactic scene when I decided to double-check a few facts.
I sent a bit of backstory and a list of questions to crimescenewriters.org, an excellent yahoo group in which professional public safety and law enforcement officers help writers get it right. And then I headed out for a break: the 9:30 conditioning class at my local city gym.
At 10:10, the resistance band wrapped around my foot slipped off in mid-leg lift and the hard plastic handle slingshot into my eye. I went down; somebody went for ice; the instructor told me to stay on the floor and keep my towel pressed against my face. That’s when I discovered that the half-inch cut on my brow bone was spurting enough blood to distress the rest of the class.
I was way more frightened about my left eye’s hazy vision, but I didn't say so. I didn’t want to worry all the folks now showing up: the front desk clerk, the fitness center manager, the trio of fire and rescue first responders.
Yep. In today’s litigious society, no one dares let an accident victim get away to (figuratively) lick her wounds in private.
The young hunks who arrived to assess my condition took a look at the cut and announced that the bleeding had stopped. But they have a protocol to follow, so they checked my vital signs. In case you haven’t had this experience lately, that means blood pressure, heart rate and insurance card.
They asked if I’d passed out, if I knew what day it was, and if I knew who the president is. (I passed the cognitive portion of the test.) They shone a penlight into my eyes and asked if I’d ever been told before that the pupil in one eye is larger than in the other.
Uh, no. So now I’m terrified. I asked for a moment to take out my contact and see if a rinse would clear my vision. The paramedic handed me a quart bottle of sterile saline, and I trotted into the restroom to see if I could remedy the problem on my own. My contact came out with no problem, but my eye was so swollen the contact wouldn’t go back in. Without it, my visual acuity is so poor that I couldn't tell whether the haze was extraordinary, or regular nearsightedness.
I didn’t want to risk my eyesight. And I didn’t want to waste a writing day. So I climbed into the ambulance and, while the paramedic checked my vitals (same as above) I asked questions about firefighting, smoke inhalation, other possible injuries from a house fire, emergency treatments, and arson investigation procedures. By the time we reached the hospital, I had answers to most of the questions I’d posted earlier.
The easiest way to sum up the day is to borrow from that beloved credit card ad with a financial analysis.
Exercise class: $10.
Hospital co-pay: $150.
Cab ride* from hospital back to gym to pick up bicycle: $36
First-hand research: Priceless
*Another story for another day. Teaser: the cab driver is writing a novel about a womanizing 200-year-old undead bartender.