True Stories: The Most Pain I've Ever Been In - Mustard comedy magazine
The Most Pain I've Ever Been In

True Stories

The Most Pain I've Ever Been In

#1: Face Off

I'm heading home from school in Chadron, Nebraska – a small town about an hour north from my home town, Alliance. I'd stayed late for an assignment and was running late for my father's birthday dinner, so I gunned it.

There are few roads between Chadron and Alliance and in the last 20 of the 60-mile journey there is a four-way intersection. Going right or left gives you the safety of a paved road and higher speed limit. I preferred going straight on, which is more direct but a corrugated dirt road with a 50mph limit. I was doing 80, listening to Secure Yourself to Heaven by the Indigo Girls, when I hit the soft spot.

My back wheels spun to the left and I gently corrected to the right. However, at that speed on a county road you're basically floating over the gravel and any sort of movement is magnified substantially. I'd hit soft spots before and had to make serious corrections, but it was obvious that I wasn't going to come out of this one so easily.

The car overcorrected and spun around backwards at 65mph. My feet hard on the brakes, all I could do was duck as I hit the ditch with a bang and went unconscious.

The road was in miles of cornfields, a few farmhouses dotted around. During a moment of consciousness I found myself lying face-flat screaming "No one's ever going to find me here!".

I was in such pain that I could barely raise my head. I fell unconscious again. My next waking moment was in a brightly lit farmhouse dining room with a woman standing over me. There was a pile of towels on my head and everything hurt. "Where am I?" I asked, "Where's my car? I'm late for dinner!".

"Thank God you're finally making sense!" she said. "The ambulance is on its way."

In the emergency room, the walls were bright Crayola yellow. When they removed the towels, blood spurted all over the doctors. I looked down and could see my ear next to my shoulder. This was because my head was split open.

They showed in my parents and boyfriend, whose faces were blue. My father had to leave the room. I kept telling them that I was okay. I truly felt fine; it was a side effect of losing so much blood.

One of the most challenging parts of the hospital transfer and ambulance rides was the fact that they wouldn't let me close my eyes; they were afraid I wasn't going to open them again. When we got to the second hospital I went into the CAT scan machine and gratefully took a 30-minute nap. They found a pinprick rupture in my artery and we proceeded to the operating room.

"Okay," I heard them say, "shave her head". I pleaded with them not to, and they thoughtfully shaved as little as necessary.

At one point I was pronounced legally dead. I remember feeling at peace and that, if I were to die, I would be in a place of contentment higher than the happiest times of my life.

I was in the hospital for nine days, most of which I spent sleeping and waiting for my pain shots that came every four hours. Every three-and-a-half hours, my whole body would ache tremendously.

I had bruises all over my body the size of giant footprints and my back hurt so much that I was surprised that it wasn't broken. Not to mention my head, which felt like someone was smashing it with a sledgehammer every couple of hours.

A couple of times my neurosurgeon came into the room with a team of med students. I heard him say that it was a miracle my skull wasn't shattered.

I spent most of the next six months on my back, having ultrasounds and visiting the dentist as half of my two front teeth had flown off.

People who looked at me in the first few weeks did so with a horrified expression.

They'd stitched my head back together with wires and staples (20 of each), with a drainage tube dangling from the end. Three weeks later I had to get them removed; the doctor asked if I wanted the tube taken out quickly or slowly, comparing it to a Band-Aid. I said 'slowly', but as he began to pull I realised that the tube went all the way through my scar, and I could feel excruciating pain along all nine inches of it.

When he saw my reaction he ripped it all out instantly. All I could do was sit there for the next few minutes, holding my head, dazed.

The longest lasting pain was from the 'post traumatic vascular headaches' which were easily remedied with Tylenol 3 (I had a long-standing prescription).

The longest lasting benefit was the perspective it gave me on life. Everything is a little less important when you've had a peek at the other side."

~ J.D.

Illo: M.F.


#2: A swell time

Dawn sunshine dapples the palms. Waves hug the beach like liquid glass, their hue deepening imperceptibly until turquoise depths are indistinguishable from sky. A warm breeze whispers off the South China sea as I vomit, twice, over the verandah.

God, I feel terrible. Today is the last day of our lengthy stay on the Thai island of Koh Tao, already extended by my bout of temporary deafness resulting from a painful ear infection.

As I muse over the potential wrath of my travelling companions if I end up in hospital for the second time this week, I make a mental note to avoid the local whiskey tonight. On balance, it wasn't the whiskey that was the problem.

It's now 4.30am in the morning of our departure and, nobly deciding on an early night, I'm stumbling hutwards along the dirt track behind the beach.

Rendered almost blind by enthusiastic combustion of the local foliage, my only witness is a stray dog as my ankle twists on a hidden root.

Dimly aware of a ghastly howling noise, I am so shocked to discover it's me that I lull momentarily before clasping my blooded knees to my chest as my ankle melts in a white heat of pain.

If it weren't for the hound, I would have lain where I fell, but his attentive licking spurs me onward. Trying to stand, I retch with pain and fall to the ground and end up crawling on blooded knees through the darkness, slapping away his ministrations.

Next morning, the doctor prods my cauliflowered ankle as tears spurt, vertically, from my eyes. I have torn all my ligaments. I solemnly nod as she hands me 10 plastic bags filled with colourful pills, and instructs me not to walk for a week.

Thirty minutes later, I am on the deck of the departing boat, eyes glazed from the first round of pharmaceuticals, Sonia and Emma slumped in exhaustion after carrying me on.

Red and yellow and pink and green, orange and purple and blue – I get so good at swallowing painkillers over the next week that I can do 10 at once.

Time passes in a blur of crawling to and from the toilet, getting lifts on the hotel owner's moped for meals and swigging gin from a sawn-off water bottle as my companions dutifully bind ice lollies to my swollen ankle with knotted socks.

By the seventh day, the swelling is down, the drugs are running out and we are all bored senseless.

That night, as we pack for the mainland, I casually swipe a mosquito from my forearm. After breakfast the next morning, I return to our hut, eager to shake a headache.

Six hours later I'm being rushed to hospital for the third time in two weeks.

Whenever anyone offers me sympathy for the ankle, I just smile and say, 'that was nothing compared to the dengue fever...'

~ E.T.

Illo: M.F.


More True Stories »

The Complete Mustard

Mustard comedy magazine compendium
Mustard comedy magazine

Get the Mustard  Compendium: 
PDF  ·  Paperback

The complete 336-page collection of all 9¼ issues,
featuring new and updated funny stuff, plus expanded interviews.


Myth Management

Out now: Mustard's first spin-off novel

Myth Management: a Young Adult Urban Fantasy novel by Alex Musson
Myth Management: a Young Adult Urban Fantasy novel by Alex Musson

Paperback  £8.99  ·

Kindle  £2.99  ·