When you can’t drink anything after midnight and you don’t get liquids until around 5 the next afternoon, you develop a very small agenda: go to hospital, get fixed, drink something.
You might also bargain with yourself to do bad things: “maybe just a toothpaste cap full. How bad could that be?” I don’t think you realize how many images of liquids there are until water or coffee or tea or juice becomes about as accessible as Area 51. What you might ignore or only stare at in passing becomes a lust object: those big pump things full of coffee, giant pictures of running water, bottled water, kids splashing in water, people with 20 oz. of refreshing liquid. And the one that nearly finished me off: an enormous picture of a cup of hot coffee in a bright green mug with those little bubbles around the side and the steam rising and I could just smell that aroma and my knees almost buckled. Welcome to the hospital and why did I come in through the nice Miami style cafe instead of some grungy corridor?
Now let me tell you what happened after that…
Good things! It’s wonderful to go to the hospital and come back better than you went in. That’s the idea. What you try to keep far from you is the sense that you’re being followed down the halls by your own mortality. Despite the sense of comfort and “it’s gonna be a cakewalk” that surrounds you, everyone knows the deal. But go ahead, provide me with an iron-clad guarantee and a wink when we all know better. Roll the dice, hope it’s not snake eyes.
Some of the defining moments that are vivid in the middle of the muddle that drugs will do for you are saying “adios” to your kids as they wheel you away, seeing the door of the lab and knowing it would really be bad form to jump off the gurney and run screaming down the hall, realizing that the room is not made entirely of steel and inhabited by demonic aliens as you had conjured up on your last sleepless night at home, and that the people behind the masks have names. There was also being told I might wake up in the middle of the procedure (I did) and that it might be “painful” (it was) but, hey, just ask and we can do something about that (they did). All in all it wasn’t too bad.
Which brings me back to my room. There has to be a way to buffer the noise in a hospital room. Somewhere there is research grant money for this. I swear that someone was mowing the lawn at 3 a.m. outside the window. I was five stories up on a cement courtyard. Someone was yelling random comments about the Olympics across the hall and the monitors on the other side of the curtain were serenading me. When one nurse came in at 3:30 a.m., and I was deep in my Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House, she asked if she could get me anything. My request for an espresso garnered a cold smirk.
Still, for good and all, it might have been noisy but at least everyone on my floor this one night made it through to the soggy pancakes in the morning.
Here are some of the tips I picked up during my stay: always test drive a car in either a rainstorm or a snowstorm and take it to an empty lot where you can slam on the brakes and do donuts, if you’re going to Russia make it a river cruise, never trust a man with a pinkie ring, don’t make the IV nurse laugh when she is playing thread the needle in your arm, ask for a “no moon” johnnie, limit political conversations because the cardiac unit is no place to get all het up over the coming election, get your children to make outrageous promises like “if you survive this I’ll buy you an iPad”, thank the nice person cleaning your room, find out the first name of everyone treating you, bring earplugs.
They sprung me at teatime. I was most grateful. When someone observed that you don’t go to the hospital to get any rest, they wouldn’t get an argument from me.
By morning, I’d logged in over 24 hours of insomnia, was probably not as lucid as I thought I was judging from some of the looks I got when I laughed at my own jokes, and was ready to hit the road. Pity I wasn’t allowed to drive.