By Fritzy Dean
Recently I spent several miserable days ”in hospital,” as our British friends would say. Even though I was quite uncomfortable and anxious to get home, there were some lighter moments during my stay. Those moments are my focus here.
The very beginning was far from auspicious. The intake nurse was a young black man. He was clearly bored, having asked the same questions over and over all day.
In a monotone he asked, “How tall are you?”
I told him.
“How much do you weigh?”
I told him, adding, “That is my weight this morning in my birthday suit.”
Without a pause, in the same dry monotone, he said, “Thanks for the visual.”
“Oh, you’re welcome! I’m sure that image is burned into your retinas for all eternity!” It was a little funny and I would have laughed if I hadn’t been in so much pain.
Among other indignities, I was told I would be going down to the basement of the hospital to the ultrasound lab for a tesy. AND I was instructed to EAT ALL DAY.”
Now there was a time, not so long ago, when that order would have made me delirious with glee. Eat All Day? NO problem! Now? Not so much.
I got used to be being quizzed by the nursed. Did you order breakfast? What did you have? Have you eaten lunch? You should order a snack, you know.
When I got to the lab, I was so stuffed that the probe used over my abdomen was painful. I felt like the Goodyear blimp, about to blow. But the tech was happy; he got excellent pictures.
One of the discoveries from that lab trip was a small amount of fluid on my left lung. So, in addition to getting Lasix, a powerful diuretic, every morning I was also given the same dose at night. So there was no sleeping. None.
I got a routine down after a short trial period. Get up, drag my IV pole to the bathroom, empty my bladder, go back to bed. Lie down, arrange the sheet and blanket over me. Get up, drag my IV pole and repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Every few hours, someone would come into the room and and ask me to look at the pain chart on the wall. The chart had a series of faces drawn in a line, with a smiley face at zero for no pain and a frowning: face at ten, for a lot of pain.
“The face I need is not on there,” I told them. “The face I’m feeling is a fire-breathing dragon and your numbers don’t go high enough to record it.”
Finally the pain began to subside. I felt as if I had gone 12 rounds with Mike Tyson. He kicked my butt, too.
One day the nurse, again a young black man, told me that instead of his usual five patients, he had six that day. AND he was the charge nurse so he would be extremely busy. Because of this, he asked if I would confine myself to the room, please?
WHAT? The only time I have left this room is on a gurney. Where do you think I would go? Just stay confined in the room, ma’am. Okay. Sigh. That is how I discovered I was in the maximum security Unit.
Another day, I was desperately trying to nap, while “housekeeping” was clearing the room. The housekeeper was picking up linens and trash and swinging a dust mop, all while speaking seriously into her phone. I was not trying to listen.
In fact, I was trying NOT to listen, when she raised her voice enough to be heard in Galveston. “Listen Here! I hope you don’t think my life is all rainbows and unicorn farts, 'cause it’s not!”
She saw me looking at her with my mouth and my ears wide open. She dropped her voice to a whisper, so I never heard the definition of unicorn farts. I was very disappointed. I’m still wondering if they smell like rainbows. What do rainbows smell like, anyway?
In spite of these light moments of levity, I was grateful to escape. My bed had missed me dreadfully. We were so happy to be reunited. If my prayers are answered, this will be my last visit to the charming, alarming oh-so-grueling eat-all-day, pee-all-night establishment in the Texas Medical Center.
[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]