Monday, September 19, 2011

What's first-hand research worth?

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, 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.

One of the awesome Gulf Shores rescue crews

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.


Anne Gallagher said...

Great story I'm all for in depth research, although not quite in that fashion.

And BTW, how's your eye? You never said.

Lisa Dunick said...

There's gotta be a better way to get first-hand research :O) Hope you're better now.

Lexi said...

Holy cow, Chris, what a story! Hope your vision is not impaired. Scary. See, exercise will kill you!

Carla Swafford said...

Chris, one thing I've learned from you. Anything you write about is awesome.

Glad you're okay. What an experience. Got to say, nothing was wrong with your brain (hunks and getting the research done).


Cari Hislop said...

I love how you pumped the ambulance crew for reference material on the way to the hospital. That's hard core writer-research! I think I'll stick with looking things up on Google. I love how the taxi driver turned out to be writing a book as well. If I were you I'd have felt like I was in a book.

Louisa Cornell said...

I hope your eye is much better, Chris! Some people will do anything to (1) Get their research done. and (2) Be looked after by a couple of hunks!

You definitely get the Purple Heart in Writing Award!

Heather said...

I hope your eye is better. The things that happen to you! We couldn't write this!

Chris Bailey said...

Oh--the eye! Yes, I'm all better. The emergency room physician glued the cut and gave me the basic eye test, and when I got back to Birmingham I made a quick visit to my ophthalmologist. Apparently, I'm aging pretty well. The black eye bruising is completely gone. And one more priceless moment--my husband said nothing about it when he got home. When I finally said, so, I should tell you about my day. . . . He said, "I saw that, but I didn't want to say anything--I thought you'd just done something different with your make-up! Sweet.
Thanks Anne, Lisa, Lexi, Carla, Cari, Louise and Heather--no worries! Hope to see you all Saturday!