"How Are You With Pain?"

Amman, Jordan

That was what this doctor said the first time I met him, back in Peace Corps, when I thought I was just going in for a consultation, but instead got a baker’s dozen Plantar’s warts burned off my feet, ending with me passing out and the panicked doctor calling the Peace Corps Medical Officer to come and rescue me.

Why do medical people always freak out when you pass out? I know, it’s not something they do themselves, but it has a perfectly clear physiological explanation. It’s not that I’m afraid of pain, or of needles. It’s a purely physiological reaction to trauma to my hands and feet. I can’t control it. It runs in my family.

Anyway, when I went in to have an ingrown toenail looked at this morning, I knew there was a high likelihood I would pass out. In fact, as the doctor was starting to put the anesthetic in my big toe, I warned him that I might pass out. He gave me this look of utter disgust, as if he couldn’t believe that I could be so weak of character as to even suggest such a thing. But of course, as he made the second injection, that’s just what I did! Out like a light.

It’s a little-known fact about passing out that you tend to dream while you’re out. It’s never anything I can remember, like most dreams, just a whirlwind of images. Every time, I’m reminded of an essay I once read by Henry James about Victorian women who would deliberately make themselves pass out because they believed their dreams revealed the secrets of the universe. I had one of those episodes once, but not this one. I don’t remember much, except that it was chaotic and loud, and I was in America. So imagine my disorientation when I woke up in Jordan!

Good news is, I got the day off work, and my toe feels much better now!

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