My 8-year-old daughter lies on the exam chair as the doctor gingerly unrolls the ace bandage from around her broken right foot. As he works, he jokingly chides my daughter for jumping ten feet from the top of the monkey bars to the ground, with no shoes on.
"My brothers did it," she explains confidently, "and my oldest brother told me not to but I had to show him that I could do it."
As we laugh together, the doctor reaches the end of the bandage and slides the fiberglass splint off her heel, revealing her naked foot. It is purple; swollen; plastic-looking.
The waves of nausea come on instantly. One moment I am listening to the doctor talk about hairline fractures, the next, the walls are becoming fuzzy, the air around me thick and warm. I move to a chair and sit down with my head between my knees, weakly apologizing for getting so queasy.
The scene from twelve years ago invades my brain like gnats on a summer night: my father's fatal car accident. The hospital gurney. My dad unconscious. Air like cobwebs. Walking underwater. The body that lifted me up to reach water fountains now motionless beneath an antiseptic white sheet. His right foot, peeking out from the starchy, thin fabric, unnaturally pale and pasty--swollen; misshaped; grotesque. His contorted face; tubes in a blown-up nose; tufts of hair caked with dried blood.
Doctors screaming at us to get out.
Paddles pushed onto his chest.
Body heaving up and down.
His foot: swollen, pasty, still.