A 'Dam Good Time'

Aashana Daru

© Copyright 2020 Aashana Daru 

Photo of bandaged leg.

This is a very real incident that happened to my family and I; 'A 'Dam Good Time' is a short story about a summer vacation to Amsterdam, during which the strangest medical emergency occurs and everything that could go wrong, does. 

Amsterdam is known to be the city of cycles, canals and poffertjes, not of midnight accidents and ER trips. Summer of ’19, my family––sans my dad––were in De Dam. “Family” consists of myself (hi!), my mother and my much younger sister.

Amsterdam is also the city of all things PG-like-21, but owing to my sister’s age, and my mom’s discomfort with anything out of the Indian norm, we stuck to the milder parts of the city; trams, fries and canal cruises made up our days and I, for one, could not complain at all. I loved the city, everything it stood for and everything it was made of. The cute houses enchanted me, the waffles were delicious and the number of things to do was endless.

Unfortunately, we weren’t really staying in the middle of this dream destination; we’d booked this gorgeous house right outside Amsterdam, a short train ride away.

The house was perfect, architecturally so-to-say. It was compact and cozy, with French windows overlooking a nearby stream and the forest opposite. A small kitchenette, sofa and one bathroom, the house was complete with exactly four sleeping spaces––two beds side-by-side and one geometrically-unconventional bunk bed. It was presumed that with a family of four, the kids sleep on the bunk and adults on the singles––as if anyone can ever be too told for a bunk bed! My sister and I clamored to reach the top; like most things, she won the argument and that was that. Frankly, I was too busy falling in love with the Netherlands to care at all.

In my typical fashion, I’d drawn out an entire itinerary––each day was just perfectly packed with things to do, leaving enough time for us to traipse around in the tram, browse cheese shops and do our favorite activity: grocery shop. Now, I know that’s an odd thing to love, but these stores were unlike anything we ever see in India. Fresh fruit of all kinds were stuffed into little cartons, you could get fresh waffles, and everything had a fat-free option!

We spent the first day doing a canal cruise, walking around the canals and just generally admiring the city. The evening was spent cycling and stocking up our little kitchenette, the night spent reminiscing the past day and mulling over excitement for the next.

Our second day was eventful, to say the least. We wanted to walk, and walk we did––24,000 steps, if my Fitbit was to be believed. My usually finicky sister had tried mini-pancakes, I’d gorged on fries and my mom had marveled over the wonderful draught beer. The best part? The two of them hate museums, so I’d toured the Rijksmuseum all on my own––for free, student discounts rock! I’d admired sculpture after painting, loving the architecture of the building in itself and strolling through the lush surrounding gardens.

Safe to say, we were all really tired. Barely an hour after dinner, we’d passed out––a surprising feat, because none of us could sleep properly when the sun was out. Deep in the middle of a dream about milk and cows, I was jolted out of it by a large thud. I’d shot up, and my mom had skidded into the room.

At 4:30 am, I turned to see my little sister sprawled on the floor, having fallen off a bunk bed that was taller than I was. She’d scratched her leg on the edge of my bed––an understatement because really, she had torn her entire shin open. There was blood everywhere, staining the hardwood floors and her clothes and our vision. She, of course, was barely awake; she’d turned in her sleep, and tumbled off.

My mom, being a doctor, and I, aiming to be a doctor, immediately got to work. We grabbed a wad of unsanitary-albeit-clean toilet paper and pressed it to her gaping wound. Just about then, my mom had a syncope attack; she nearly passed out, nauseous and dizzy, because of the stark change in her blood pressure––I mentioned that I want to be a doctor, right? I was in a not dissimilar state; a quick face wash later, I was ready to get to work.

(Side note: My mom thinks I was nauseous because of the blood, and she still mocks me relentlessly for not being able to stomach it. That is grossly untrue––I’ve watched Grey’s Anatomy’s operating table scenes while eating, so.)

While I sat with my hand pressed to the wound, my mom put herself back together and got an anti-inflammatory. My sister was still barely conscious, drifting in and out of sleep; a blessing, really, because she would have started crying had she been awake. She slipped back into sleep soon enough, leaving my mom and I alone in a mess of blood-soaked sheets, wood and toilet paper.

Couple hours later, my sister woke up not in much pain, but in deep shock. The wound was deep enough to reveal the bone underneath, and tissue was spilling out with new blood. The skin around it had blackened, and we could see more scratched skin around it. We’d debated on it the night before, but looking at the wound then, we decided that we had to take her to the Emergency Room.

This is when the story gets interesting––a bit late, huh? We were supposed to rent a car when we’d arrived, but only my dad had an international license so we’d cancelled that. My dad was supposed to fly out with us but had to stay back for work, making it one of the sparse times the three of us had travelled alone. At the risk of repeating myself, we weren’t really close to the city––or any city, for that matter.
So without a car, we were pretty helpless; Uber was our next best option. I distinctly remember the face of our Uber driver when we got into the backseat with a child with nearly a roll of toilet paper wrapped around her shin––not a common experience at all.

Fortunately, it was only a twelve-minute ride to the nearest ER. It was kind of nice, to be honest. We drove past what one could call suburban Netherlands; larger houses, more play areas and residents milling about. We’d accounted for everything––passports, health insurance, travel papers, everything except the weather. India is infamously a tropical country, it’s hot all. the. time. The Netherlands, on the other hand, is not. Fragile night-shirts helped minimally as we hobbled our way to the ER in the chilly wind.

When we got to the ER, multiple other things went wrong. They wouldn’t accept our insurance papers and they wanted us to book an appointment and of course, the Dutch-English language barrier. Finally, an hour and half later, we left the hospital with a lighter wallet and four long, winding but excellently-done stitches through my sister’s shin. Fun fact: that was the first time anyone in my family had ever gotten stitches, so it was a truly exotic first.

We look back at it now and laugh, laugh in thanks to the wonderful staff at the hospital and the caring lady at the reception and the patient Uber driver who did not ask us not to stain his seats (he should have, oops!). I would be amiss to say that the whole thing didn’t affect our trip at all, but it did make sure that our first trip to the Netherlands was a memorable one.
Because that is the story of the last time my sister ever gets on a bunk bed.

Aashana Daru is a young writer for India. Her love for writing stems from her love of reading, switching between the two as she feels. She writes mainly recreationally and academically, and will be pursuing a degree in English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago (Class of 2024).

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