Friday morning I was working on the farm.  I was bending over putting hay into a sheep’s pen and couldn’t stand up again.  I hung over the pen for about ten minutes trying to give my back time to recover, the pain was scaring me, but my hands were going grey and I knew I had to get back to the house and call for help.

We keep our sheep out in the forest during lambing season so I had a way to go before I got back to the house.  I could not stand up.  I had to shuffle sideways bent over holding onto the wire fence to support my back.  Toddling over the terrain with 10cm steps took me forever.  I had to bend down and pick up a tree branch for extra support – I needed something to help me cross the ravine as there was no fence there.  Half an hour later I was half way home.  The kids, Lilu (4) and Lil’Red (2) opened the house door and yelled to me wondering where I was.  Out raced Bear, our Saint Bernard.  The kids closed the door quickly because they knew they had done something wrong.  Bear doesn’t get a chance to be off the leash much as he scares a lot of people with his brute size so he was racing around everywhere.  I wasn’t going to be able to catch him and even if I did he could hurt me even more just by pulling me.  I called him over.  He was half way to me, stopped and saw a jogger on the road and then ran after her.  I couldn’t do anything but watch.

It took me an hour to reach the house but the kids had locked the doors.  They couldn’t hear me ringing the bell and shouting to open up because they were up stairs watching TV, loud.  I hobbled over to Farmors place.  Of course she was concerned but I didn’t want her to bother.  She gave me a key to our house and I hobbled back.  Inside I could not find my phone so I had to hobble back to Farmors.  I called Moose.  He had my phone.  He accidently took it to work which was on an island an hour boat ride away.  He could not come back to help me as the boat only came back at the end of the day.  He was stuck out there.  I called up the medical centre and they had no ambulance available.  I had no clue what the taxi number was.  Thank goodness the neighbours came over.  Farmor took the kids for me and the neighbours drove me to the medical centre.  Then they went back to go find Bear for me.

At the medical centre there were no other patients so I was very lucky.  Sitting for the five minute wait I had a little cry.  I was by myself and safe and my kids were being looked after so I didn’t have to be ‘tough’ for a moment.

My doctor was an Asian lady who was obviously new to Norway.  She spoke basic slow Norwegian but better English.  She tested my reflexes, made sure I could go to the toilet and took a blood sample to rule out diabetes (as I had diabetes when I was pregnant).  She told me that 90% of cases of back injuries go away with rest.  The other 10% was for concern and since my livelihood, dance and farming, depended on me having a strong back she was recommending an x-ray.  She breathed in ‘But the x-ray machine is broken so you’ll have to go to Hammerfest’.  She had to explain that because it was the ‘long weekend’ (it wasn’t really but in the minds of Norwegians if the 17 of May falls on a Thursday, then the Friday is a holiday too) they couldn’t get anyone out to fix the x-ray machine.  I certainly didn’t want to go to Hammerfest.  It was going to be a 2 hour taxi ride there and back (the State pays such expenses, thank goodness).  Hammerfest is where the regional ‘hospital’ is.  Even though Alta is a larger city of 19,000, twice as many people as Hammerfest, someone though it was better to build a hospital in the Northernmost city, which is not in the middle of anywhere.

My doctor called up to arrange the appointment with Hammerfest.  She got off the phone, turned to me and smiled with embarrassment.  She had to tell me that Hammerfest said that there wasn’t enough staff on because of the ‘long weekend’ and so had no one there to man the x-ray machine.  They further said that since arriving at the medical centre, as I was now able to shuffle forwards (with support from medical staff) and half stand up, that I was getting better, meaning that I was getting better, and so had no need to be x-rayed.  My doctor told me what Hammerfest had said because she didn’t believe it herself.  She was as gobsmacked as much as I was.  She obviously did not want to be a part of this Norwegian way of doing things but she was tied to the system she was working for.  However, she did whisper to me that because I still had a 10% risk she thought I should be having the x-ray.  I guess I’ll have to wait for the Alta x-ray machine to be fixed to hopefully be allowed to get one.

So I went home.  No pain killers, no crutches, no medical certificate to say that I should stay home from work for a week to get better.  I did have to pay kr.200 for the blood test and a taxi home.

The weekend was agonising.  Not the fact that I had to stay in bed for three days, I liked that, but I had my last dance classes before the end-of-year performance on Monday and I didn’t know what to do with them.  I couldn’t cancel and there was no option to shift them – the office staff who had access to all the contact information was away in Oslo for a seminar.  I finally facebooked my dancers to tell them the bad news.  My oldest dance girls rallied together and we came up with a plan.  On Monday they stayed back to help me with my other dance classes for five hours.  They also learnt the five new choreographies just two days before performance so I wouldn’t have to dance myself.  They did every warm up, every sequence and every choreography and leading every class while I stood with my crutches talking them through.  Even though it was hard work for them they loved every minute of it.

Sometimes Norway just beats you down even when you are used to all the silliness but there are always moments that keep your faith strong in Norway.  This rising generation of Norwegians are the best of the best.

(The painting is of Oslo Hospital in 1699 by Jacob Coning.) 

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