Well, folks, I'm coming to you from the blogspot again because 3 of my 4 sites have been completely restored but themissourimugwump.com still has a glitch. I can't go another week without my blog, so, I'm here, I'm awake, I'm blogging. Life continues.
It's frustrating to be sick. I've wrapped myself in a warm robe and slid my feet into slippers. The doctor listened to my lungs, declared them clear, told me to take Vitamin C and Tylenol and to drink plenty of water; and sent me home. Now I'm thinking of every time I've ever curled myself into a ball in a hospital bed and wondering why I keep putting one foot in front of the other.
The pile of tissues grows as I blow my nose and cough. I don't like February. I always get bad news in February and I would be fine if they eliminated the month. In the quiet of the house this morning, I'm remembering the February that I spent in St. Luke's hospital, in 1982, with a crushed leg and resentful attitude. The saga began on 09 February 1982 at 4:55 p.m. when I stepped into the path of VW Cirrocco driven by an Iranian citizen without insurance.
"My roommate snores," I thought, as I lay miserable on the hard mattress with my leg encased in something intended to stabilize it. The ER doc counted 32 breaks in the X-Ray. "More will appear by tomorrow," he hazarded. "No operation until the swelling goes down." From flat on my back, I would have rolled my eyes except for wave after wave of pain rippling through my body.
Now I lay beside a snoring old woman in the peculiar semi-darkness of the medical world, surrounded by a curtain, on the other side of a closed door. Muffled sounds drifted around me: Beeps, murmuring voices, the faint wail of a distant siren. I closed my eyes and beckoned sleep, but she taunted me and slipped away.
"My roommate snores," I repeated, out loud this time. But no one answered.
On my first morning at St. Luke's Hospital after the accident I met Dr. Frederico Adler, a short brown wrinkled ortho guy who seemed positively delighted that I had catapulted through the windshield of a moving car. He described the breaks with a gleam in his eye, nearly rubbing his hands together. When he left the room, I leaned back on the thin pillow and contemplated the potential of suicide. But no: These damn folks would probably save me and then stick me in the psych ward.
My roommate snored through the whole exam.
Because of the curtain, I never saw the woman for a long time. The patient techs would talk to her in loud voices but hers barely rose above a stage whisper. She didn't get any visitors. I had a lot of them those first few days. Classmates and professors from the law school brought me contraband food and lecture notes. "Quiet," I'd caution. "My roommate is sleeping." And she snores, I'd add sometimes. They'd smile.
The three Davids spent the most time by my side in that first month: David Frye, David Stever, and David Boeck. One from my class; two LLM students. We had formed a quartet and spent a lot of time together during the prior semester. Frye brought me tapes of our shared classes. Stever stood in the framed doorway and cracked jokes. Boeck sat silently beside me, occasionally uttering a short sentence but mostly holding my hand and shaking his head.
Through it all, my roommate snored.
I learned that she had broken her hip falling at the nursing home where she lived. She had a little dementia, just enough to cause confusion in the mornings. Since the fall, she barely spoke and the nurses figured that her mental state would quickly decline. They kept her comfortable, worked her muscles, and waited for the decision that she'd gained enough strength for surgery.
In between ministrations, she dozed and snored.
Three weeks into my stay, I woke with a start in the middle of the night. "Did someone speak? Is someone here?" I uttered the words in a quiet voice, not sure if I had been dreaming.
"Water," came the reply. "Water." The hoarse voice had to be coming from my roommate. I pulled the nurse's button on my side and waited. When the night aide came into the room, I told her that my roommate had been asking for water. She disappeared for a second and came back. "She's sound asleep," the aide informed me. She snapped the curtain back to show me the huddled form before leaving the room.
My roommate snored.
A half-hour later, I again woke with a jerk. "Water," croaked the same voice. I struggled to find the button which would lift the back of my bed, helpless myself. The plea repeated. A water glass stood on my bedside table, melted crushed ice really, cold and plentiful. If only I could take it to my roommate.
At that point in my medical odyssey, I had only been out of bed with assistance, someone to hold my leg while I lowered my body into a wheelchair. The chair stood a foot from my bed where Boeck had left it. He liked to sit and roll back and forth. Boeck was like that -- a little OCD, into repetitive motion.
It took ten minutes to scoot my butt to the edge of the mattress, the bed already lowered with a press of that magic button. The noise had made me wince. What would I say if they caught me? "Just had to go to the bathroom," I'd insist. They would roll their eyes and point to the call light. I'd shrug.
I can't describe the pain which wracked my body as I lowered myself into the wheelchair. I doubted the wisdom of my decision. I should have called the nurse again. I'll probably lose my leg. How in God's name will I get back in the bed? I grabbed the water, tucked it between my knees, and started to manipulated the chair by grasping its wheels and jerking it around.
I got tangled in the curtain and nearly spilled the water, but I made it to the lady's bedside. Her snores continued. I studied her face, with its wrinkles, the stray hairs that plague us women as we age, ashen cheeks framed by limp hair.
Suddenly her eyes popped open. "Water," she whispered, and I held the straw to her lips. She drank, long pulls, the whole cup. One solitary tear slid down her cheek. "Water." She uttered the word like a prayer, and then slept again, snoring gently, adding her night-song to the others flowing around us. I sat in that damn wheelchair no longer caring if I ever got back into bed.
When I'm sick, I want a warm robe, and a hot drink. I need clean sheets, a good book, a quiet house. And water. Lots and lots of water.