HOSPITAL (Part 2)
My least favorite thing about dealing with health issues pertaining to my back are those plastic models of the spine that the doctors whip out when they want to show you what a herniated disc looks like. I actually came less than a millimeter away from fainting at the Hospital for Joint Diseases when my doctor whipped out one of those contraptions and started manipulating it, showing me what had happened to my lower back and neck when the car hit me. I can’t even stand to look at posters of the human skeleton. I don’t know why, and I have no idea where this phobia started. It’s just too much information!
On August 2, 2005, I underwent a six-hour cervical spine surgery. The doctor replaced three of my discs with cadaver bones and then put my neck back together with a four-inch titanium plate and eight screws. When I awoke, I noticed several people were surrounding me, saying, “Marcy….Marcy, can you hear me...Marcy…” I tried as best I could to respond, but my throat was too sore. The doctors had temporarily moved my esophagus and windpipe in order to perform the surgery and I began to wonder if maybe they forgot to put them back where they belonged.
Before leaving my bedside, the doctor squeezed my foot and told me that I did a great job and everything came out wonderful. My parents squeezed my feet and told me that they would be back later after getting some rest. The nurse squeezed my foot and then said she was going to go get me some ice cubes. I sat there staring at the end of my bed promising God himself that I was going to chokehold the next person who touched my feet.
My hospital bed was situated right beside a wall of windows—not that I could look out of them-- I couldn’t turn my head. There was some huge plastic thing affixed to my neck and I could only stare straight ahead. Only three things were in my view: a sink attached to the wall, the co-ed bathroom door, and a poster of the human spine and all of its major diseases and disorders. I could not believe it! As hard as I tried, I could not get my eyes to rotate far enough to the right to be able to look out the window. I sat there for a while and just stared at the skeletal poster. I contemplated asking one of the nurses to take the poster down, but when I picked up the nurse call-button, I noticed that it had three frayed wires coming out of it. I didn’t dare push the button for fear of being electrocuted. I grabbed my Hydromorphone pump and gave myself a big shot of happy juice.
Nothing went right while in the ICU—for example, no matter how many times I filled out the ‘vegetarian’ menu, nor how many times I reminded the nurses that I was vegetarian, I always ended up with a large piece of chicken on my plate. It didn’t matter which course I was being served--breakfast, lunch, or dinner, I always got chicken. I constantly had to remind the nurses that chicken wasn’t a vegetable.
Not only was I starving to death because I wasn’t getting any of the food that I ordered, I couldn’t see any of the other people in the unit. Like I said, my make-shift bed location was right beside the window; the woman beside me was out of her skull, so she had to have her curtain pulled at all times. Every five minutes she would ask Bill, the ‘funny’ nurse on the floor, for a new pen. “BILL!” she’d yell, “I NEED A NEW PEN! THIS ONE RAN OUT OF INK! COME ON! GIVE ME A NEW PEN! ONE WITH SOME INK! LET’S GO! NOW, BILL!” The first time she yelled at Bill for a new pen I somehow managed to open the curtain between our beds and offered her my pen. “Here,” I said with a smile, “You can have my pen!”
She got this demonic look in her eyes and said, “Who ARE you? Did I ASK you for a pen? I don’t WANT your pen! Close the fuckin’ curtain! Who do you think you are? You think you’re special, don’t you? You think I want YOUR pen? I wouldn’t take YOUR pen if it was the last PEN ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH!! BILL!! I NEED A NEW PEN! HURRY! THIS LADY IS TRYING TO MAKE ME TAKE HER PEN! HELP ME, BILL! I NEED A NEW PEN! HOW CAN I WRITE THIS LETTER WITHOUT A PEN?”
I kicked myself for trying to be such a do-gooder. I should have just minded my own business and continued staring at the skeleton poster!
During my first evening in the Neurological ICU, I was offered a sponge bath. My nurse’s name was Patty; she was a Harley-riding throwback to the sixties, if there ever was one. I’m talking full blown ‘Age of Aquarius! We got along great. She was super cool, and I didn’t feel embarrassed at all at the fact that she was gearing up to clean my ass—until she asked if I would like to put on some underwear after the sponge bath:
“Wanna try puttin’ on some underwear after you’re all cleaned up?
“WHAT!” I ever so loudly whispered. I couldn’t bend my neck enough to see my crotch, but I knew that I had spent the entire day with no covers on because of how hot and sweaty the Hydromorphone made me feel. I also remembered that I had spent the entire day with my legs leaning against either side of the bed—spread eagle! ‘Oh my gosh’, I thought to myself, “How come that nice Jamaican woman didn’t tell me that I was flashing her the entire time she was applying lotion to my legs this afternoon? She walked right up to the end of the bed, squeezed my toes, and then offered to apply lotion to my legs. She put A LOT of lotion on them, too—and she never even batted an eye! She just stood there doing her job.’ I wish I was a fly on the wall.
Patty's voice pulled me out of the flashback and into the present—“Do you have any extra underwear in the bag your parents brought you this afternoon?” she asked.
A blank stare of horror was all I could muster. “I’m not wearing underwear?”
“No. You haven’t been since I got here about three hours ago.”
“You’re kidding! Why did no one tell me? I’m fully exposed?” I inquired.
“Yeah. Pretty much. Everything has been exposed since I’ve been here. Don’t worry; it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. I figured you were really hot, that’s all.”
I didn’t think I could ever feel more embarrassed than that exact moment…until Patty pulled my earplugs out of my crotch area. She had a huge smile on her face as she lifted the first earplug and then pulled the plastic string that held the two together. I could tell by the small amount of pressure I felt ‘below’ that she was pulling them out from between my upper thighs.
“Oh,” I said, “I’ve been looking for those. I thought they were in my bag.”
Then, as if things weren’t bad enough, she rolled me over onto my left side and pulled a grape out from underneath my buttocks: “I guess you were saving this for later, huh?” she quipped with a devilish grin on her face. I could tell by the heat that my face was crimson.
It didn’t stop there. When she rolled me over onto my right side, she pulled a AA battery off my left butt cheek. “That must have fallen out of my yellow bag.” My yellow bag was holding my CD player, my CDs and my extra batteries; except for the extra battery that was stuck to my ass. Patty and I laughed our asses off together. Patty told me that had been the very first time that she found earplugs, fruit, and a battery all in one sponge bath! I was beyond humiliation and was quite happy to be laughing.
While Patty was finishing my sponge bath, the patient next to me was getting unruly. It’s not that she wanted a pen or anything like that; she wanted her winter jacket because she couldn’t stand all of the snow that was covering her body. She also wanted to know if she could call her mother to bring in her snowshoes to help her navigate the ice while walking to the bathroom. I know it’s not funny to laugh at another person’s expense, but it was all too much to handle when ‘new pen’ lady began to complain of the snow just after I had three foreign objects removed from my private parts area. Patty and I exploded in a wild rage of laughter!
I stayed up most of the night eating popsicles, ice cream, Jell-O, and drinking decaf coffee. ‘New pen’ lady insisted that the snow was really piling up. I played along with her, asking if she needed to borrow any of my blankets. She didn’t want to borrow any of them, but she thanked me kindly for asking (I suppose this was because I hadn’t pulled the curtain open; maybe she thought I was merely a voice in her head). As usually happens while in the hospital, I fell asleep just as the sun was coming up and the nurses were changing shifts: translated, this meant that I fell asleep approximately five minutes before the nurses woke me up to take my blood pressure and temperature.
During my last day in the Neurology ICU, I was given the great prize of being able to watch Ellen on a portable TV. Bill decided that since I was the ‘cakewalk’ of the entire unit, that I should be the one watching TV, not ‘new pen’ lady. She wasn’t too happy about this, but I was so over being in the ICU that I didn’t care to appease her anymore. After I sent back my broiled chicken breast sandwich and received a proper vegetarian breakfast, I sat myself up in an armchair recliner, put my feet up on the rolling cart, and sipped my coffee while watching Ellen crack me up.
Speaking of crack—just before I was about to leave the ICU, I heard a gentleman named Tom, who was stationed in a bed across the room, say to his nurse that he didn’t need to put on his bathrobe just to go use the ‘John’. Hey Tom, if you’re out there reading this, I suggest you cover up your ass crack next time—I almost had a heart attack when you hobbled into the bathroom with your full moon shining. Remember what your Aunt Marcy says: ‘Crack is Whack!’