10561-1.jpgSay hello to my little friends.

The good news: my heel’s not broken. The bad news: it’s probably just as unpleasant – Achilles tendonitis, an inflamed tear in the tendon where it connects to the heelbone, a result of my senior moment on the stairs a week ago. My night was as bad as any I’ve ever had; unable to sleep or even walk because of the pain, I was reduced to crawling around and cursing. There was no pain reliever in the house, I had no way to get any in the middle of the night (the bicycle was a mile away, not that I could have ridden it), and I found to my dim surprise that nobody answers their cell phone at 3 am, because who calls you at 3 am unless they need something (booty calls notwithstanding but still applicable)? Finally, as the sun was rising, I spotted a neighbor through a window, working in his garden, which is what most Japanese people have instead of a front yard. During the long night I’d memorized three words: ashi (foot), itai (pain) and byoin (hospital), and I have a vague recollection of hopping/crawling out the door and into the street and screaming these words repeatedly at my neighbor, whom I’d never officially met. I make no apologies; I was pretty much hysterical with pain at that point. The happy result: a quick ride to Fukui Hospital, where I spent the rest of the morning dozing in a wheelchair, getting x-rayed, listening to a parade of medical types talk about me in Japanese, and thanking all the gods in heaven for whatever was in that little yellow pill they gave me and where can I get some more of those?

In the x-rays, it’s easy to see the angry black knot in my heel just next to the bone, sitting there like a spiteful little beast intent on ruining my month. After I’d spoken to the orthopedic surgeon – who, judging by the way the attending nurses all melted into nurse-colored goo when he glanced at them, is living a Grey’s Anatomy-style Doc McDreamy life in Fukui – I underwent an hour of brute torture in the hospital’s physical therapy room (what a depressing place; is this what old age looks like?). They then handed me a pair of crutches and two prescriptions and sent me packing. The total damage for five hours of uninsured medical care from Fukui’s finest? A whopping ¥11,344 – or about $96, not including the $12 prescriptions (that’s for both).

Is this a great country or what?