• Tara B. Vasi

January 7th- The day I smashed my skull and "assaulted a doctor".

The sound of barking dogs is my new alarm clock. I guess it’s not that new...

I walked to the platform for breakfast.

The morning before I facetimed with Care Bear on my 10-15 minute walk from my house. I showed her the dogs and the elephants and we talked about introducing crocks into my life. This morning I was feeling too run down to chat with anyone.

I had a cup of coffee and a half a slice of toast with peanut butter. I toasted the bread on a grill using my fingers, even though tongs were there. Burn me if you want, I dared the grill.

I wasnt hungry, but the last few times I came for a meal, the cue was so long, the peanut butter was gone by the time I got to it.

I was feeling feverish, lightheaded, and my stomach was knotted, and this was even before I smashed my skull. Whats that brewing inside of me? I ask. Is that a meltdown?

I decided it was better for me to rest for a few more hours, so I went back to my room hoping to sleep off the crazy.

I had been through a lot this last month and never really recovered.

I put in an eight hour work day the day before, walking dogs, cleaning cages, lifting disabled pups into wheelchairs, etc etc, and perhaps that amount of manual labor was too much, too soon.

I joined the crew for lunch and ate a whole plate of salad, spring rolls, and papaya. Our diet is actually vegan, not vegetarian like I thought.

I am not very talkative at lunch. A few people ask if I am feeling better and if I need anything. I appreciate their consideration and say that I am fine, just getting in my new groove.

I ordered a latte at the cafe. The lattes at the cafe are the best I have ever had and I think its because they use pistachio milk.

After lunch, we have a list of runs (groups of dogs) that need to be walked and then taken to the farm for play time. I feel bad about missing the morning routine, so go along to help even though I am still feeling energetically depleted.

We enter an enclosure, play cowboy and lasso any pup we can, take them for a walk down the street passed all the elephants, and loop back to the large fenced in area with a pool for them play around. The dogs are all really sweet and excited to be out of their area and smelling new smells and interacting with new people. Being around the dogs makes me feel so much better.

We head across the street to the five runs that are behind the main property. I had never been there before. One of the volunteers that had been there for a while, Andre, goes through the side door to scope out the scene in the enclosure and snatch up a big black dog that is quite the trouble maker.

We all enter through the main double gate. When I see the small size of the entrance way, I make a lame joke about the door definitely being made for tiny Thai people, or something like that. We all enter and follow the same routine. The rescue is legitimate, honorable and unbiased as to make sure each dog gets the same amount of food, exercise, attention, etc, etc.

I walk a little black jumpy girl who was initially a challenge to capture on the lead. I don’t remember her name, but she should have been named fucking pogo stick or something like that. She eventually calmed down. We bring them back to their home, take the leashes off, and start to exit the enclosure.

I am one of the last people to exit and I completely misjudge the height of the short metal door frame and whack my head hard. My sunglasses are on the top of my head. I am not sure if they were in between my head and the door frame, but they do not break. I yell, “God dammit. I am such an idiot.”

One the other volunteers says, “Are you ok? I have hit my head on that before. Friggin hurts, huh?”

I don’t respond right away, because I don’t actually know if I am ok. I think to myself, “Damn, that really hurt.”

I put my hand on my hand. I feel a little moisture, look at a bit of blood on my hand, and say, “Faaaaaaack! We are going to have to call someone.”

Then the blood really starts pouring down.

Its running down my face, down my arm, all over my body and onto my feet. The blood is so warm.

I gaze over at the other two volunteers who are looking down at their phones. Are you looking for the number of the coordinator or playing fucking Tetris?

I say, “Ok, can someone seriously help me, Please.”

Their jaws drop and we walk further down towards the rescue.

I am no doctor, or nurse, but I know I need to apply pressure to the wound, so I act quickly and take off my own shirt, ball it up and press it on my head.

The group of volunteers see me covered in blood now, and synchronously say, “Holy Shit.”

I am guided into the vet office and they pull out a metal stool for me to sit on.

In my experienced with personal training, I have learned that you never sit anyone high up or on a chair without a back if there is even the slightest potential that they could pass out and thus injure themselves further.

I sit on the tile floor. Craig asks me to get up and lean over the sink, so that I don’t get blood on the floor. I tell him I am going to stay where I am.

The vet comes in and asks me what happened, and I laugh and say, “I stubbed my toe.” They laughed, and I think they appreciated that, at least at this point, I wasn’t freaking out.

I told them I hit my head on the metal door frame of the enclosure across the street. They pull my white tank top off my head and it is soiled completely with dark red with blood. They act quickly to clean the wound and bandage it up. I feel lightheaded and like a huge migraine is about to come on, but I was hoping that would be the end of it. Like, thanks for the bandage guys, see you at dinner!

They tell me that all patients with head wounds have to go to the hospital in case of concussion or if stitches are needed. DAMMIT! THE HOSPITAL? I start thinking about insurance and how much is this going to cost me… I dont think at all about getting proper care, for what could be a really bad gash... I don’t want to have to deal with this right now.

A sweet volunteer names Xan was there to comfort me. She is from Vancouver. She brought me some water.

After I learned I would have to go to the hospital, I started telling Xan the situation I came from in Sri Lanka. I tried to make light of it all and shared my…, “Well, this makes for a good story,” punch line, but I couldn't hide behind sarcasm or humor this time.

I told her that it would be really fucking nice to not have a " good story" for a while, to have a chapter that was a little boring or uneventful. At this point, the tears took over.

I told her that I was so excited to be at the rescue center, doing something that I loved, and to start a new chapter… a better chapter… and this wasnt supposed to happen.

I asked her to take my picture. She did and told me things will definitely level our for me soon. I wanted to believe her.

She went to my room and got my wallet, passport, a new shirt, and a sweatshirt.

A mechanic at the park was going to take me to the hospital. He didnt speak English. I composed myself, and stood up slowly. Yup, my head hurt, but I felt all right. We drive to the hospital about 15 minutes away.

We drive in silence, but I don’t mind. I actually laugh to myself, and think, "You really can’t make this shit up. Haha. Whether I want this to be happening or not, its friggin happening, so get it together..."

He parks and we walk into the ER. The lady at the desk asks me what happens and I tell her I hit my head. She doesnt seem to understand me. I point to the gigantic bandage on my head and try not to have an attitude, though it seems pretty obvious as to what part of me is injured.

I give her my passport. They take my blood pressure and measure my height and my weight. The bar that measures your height was so low, I almost hit my head on it. I tried to joke with the nurse about that, but she didnt understand. Or she did understand, and it was just a bad joke... She gives me back my passport.

I ask if there is a bathroom and she doesnt respond.

She sits me at a desk for a while and then someone comes with a gurney. I lay on the gurney and am wheeled into the examination room.

Three nurses flock to my head. Another nurse takes my backpack off of the gurney and relocates it. Thats my wallet, passport, money, etc, and it makes me feel uncomfortable not having it with me or knowing where its going.

They not very gently remove my bandage and do something to the wound that really hurts. I assume put some sort of cleaning solution into it.

I start crying and ask, “What are you doing? What is going on?” They don’t respond or tell me what is happening. I have one hand covering my face and the other hand gripping the bar of the gurney.

They tell me “Don’t cry” and “Don’t touch head.”

They cut my hair with scissors.

During this time, the nurses are laughing. Maybe the blood was spitting out of my head or someone dropped something, I don’t know, but it seems like laughing in the ER is inappropriate and it makes me angry.

I asked them, “Why are you laughing? What is so funny?”

One nurse said she was sorry. Wait, so can you understand me or not?

One of the nurses said “anesthesia” and then “two stitches”. Was she talking to me or was she talking to the other nurse?

She must have injected me more then once because I could feel multiple stings radiating throughout the left side of my head. Or maybe thats just how local anethesia feels on the scalp. I screamed out in pain.

I didnt bother telling them that I have a high tolerance for anesthesia. Whenever I get a root canal or dental work, the dentist needs to give me an extra injection or two, for the area to be completely numb. So, when the nurses start sewing up the wound, I can feel them squeezing the wound close and threading through my skin.

I asked for a nurse to take a picture of the wound so I could see what it looked like. I wanted to see how serious the injury was because it didn’t seem like anyone was going to give me any information.

A woman I later learn is the doctor walks over with her phone out and says in perfect English, “We can’t take pictures of injuries. It’s illegal. You can take a picture when you get back to your own country.”

Ok, well, that makes sense, but you didnt have to be such a B about it. I ask her if she can tell me what is going on? She just walks away.

The nurses tell me that I cannot wash my hands for the next week. I ask them what the hell are they talking about, I can’t wash my hands? They say, “Oh, no, no, not hands, I mean hair.” And they laugh and they laugh and they laugh…. And this only makes me more hysterical.

I ask them if they are done. What is going on? They pull my torso up without warning and I turn to see the giant blood stain on the white bedsheet. I think I might vomit.

They have me go sit with the doctor at the desk. Negative energy radiated off this woman and I knew the interaction was not going to be pleasant.

She asked when I got my last tetanus shot and I said I don’t know. She pretty much flipped out about that and said “What am I supposed to do with that? How am I supposed to know, if you don’t know?” I’m like, “I’m not expecting you to know, I’m just telling you that I don’t... but you might as well give me one to be safe.” Jeez…. Does everyone know when their last tetanus shot was? Am I just a bad adult? I cant even think right now.

She gave me a piece of paper with directions to care for the wound in Thai. I told her I don’t speak Thai and do you have a copy in English.

She said that I could right down notes next to the Thai version while she was explaining it... and placed a pen down in front of me.

“Are you serious right now? I have a head wound. I just got stitches for the first time. I can’t write anything down right now.”

She says, “It’s just a head wound, write it down.”

“Are you serious right now?”

I don’t pick up the pen. She starts to explain about vomiting and seizures, etc etc. She went through probably about half of it, as I just stared at her in disbelief, my mouth open.

She stopped, rolled her eyes and said “You’re not writing”.

Then, I swiped the pen off the desk with the back of my hand... kitty cat style. I'm not proud of that behavior but I could not contain my anger for her lack of compassion, kindness, or empathy. I cant possibly be the first English speaking patient you have had.

She pointed to the camera in the corner where the ceiling meets the wall and said, “I have that on film! You can’t assault a doctor!”

I said, “I pushed a pen off the desk. I didn’t assault anyone. I’m scared. I’m in pain. I’m in a foreign country. What is your problem? You’re supposed to be helping me.”

I continued to wail in discomfort.

She ignored me.

A nurse guides me from the desk to a stool where I get my tetanus shot. They gave me the shot on my left deltoid in the leg of my elephant tattoo. The nurse said ok, so I got up and left to hunt down a damn bathroom. I need this whole experience to be over, like NOW.

I am not composed in the slightest, and am now walking around the hospital wailing. Am I causing a scene? YOU ARE DAMN RIGHT I AM CAUSING A SCENE.

I find a bathroom. No toilet paper. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? I was so upset with this at the time, but now I think it is so funny.

I look around for the driver in the waiting room, and don’t see him. Do I actually remember what this guy looks like? I go out to the parking lot to see if he is sitting in his truck. Was the truck black or gray?

There are no guys sitting in any trucks, so I sit on a bench outside to wait. Thai men and women walk by me to get to and from their cars, as I am crying and don’t say a word. I probably wouldnt say a word to me either. Sobbing white woman, alone, with a bloody gauze bow on her head. Seems like trouble.

About ten minutes later, the driver pulls up in the truck and I get in. I see the Elephant Nature Park decal on the side.

He hands me his phone. It’s the volunteer coordinator, Craig.

He’s like, “Where are you?"

"I'm sitting next to the driver. He just handed me the phone."

"I heard you were hysterical and throwing things across the rooms and then ran away..."

"Are you kidding me? Don’t come at me like that, BRO”….

I was still so fired up. "First of all, it was definitely more of a swipe!”

Jeez, what am I doing? Am I joking or being defensive?

I didn’t even know, but I did know that I didn’t appreciate the tone of this conversation right now. He said he was glad I was safe, but I could tell, it was just something you say to someone that just got out of the hospital. He didn’t mean it in the slightest.

We drive back to the park in silence. I go to get out and the driver hands me two packets of medication, an antibiotic and a pain killer, and two pieces of paper stapled together. The bottom paper I recognize as the Thai directions for caring for the wound the doctor wanted me to write notes on. The top paper, the directions printed out in ENGLISH!


It appears no one is at the rescue center when we get there, and I am not in the mood to track down the coordinator, so I walk directly towards my room.

The dogs bark at me as I walk by their enclosures. All of them. I beg them to stop.

“Please, be quiet. Please, not now.” It felt like the furthest, hottest, loudest walk of my life.

I want to lay down more than anything in the world, but my hair is covered in blood, some that is still wet. They told me not to wash my hair, but how can I not.

I accidentally tug on the bandage as I take my t-shirt off over my head. I yelp loudly. There is no one at the house, but the ten house dogs. I can hear them all congregating outside of the shower door. I bet they can smell the blood, but part of me thinks they are concerned because they know I am in pain.

The shower head detaches from the wall. I hold it in one hand and do my best to wash the blood out with my other hand, while also keeping the wound dry.

I remember a time in Burlington, VT when I helped my friend Jessie wash her hair after she broke her arm snowboarding.

I cry as I massage the dried blood out of my hair and watch it swirl down the drain.

I wished so badly that I had a friend here to help me.


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