Hope you visited the restroom and dropped by the snack bar for a wide variety of mouthwatering treats during the intermission. The lights are flickering: it’s time for…
Act III: In which I escape the sucky small-town emergency room.
Setting: An ambulance on I-55 in 2008.
So the tiny doctor with the enormous name found a surgeon willing to remove my appendix. He was an hour away in Springfield. I had been so extraordinarily impressed with the local fine health care professionals that my departure would be wrenching, indeed. I left anyway. And this time, they didn’t make me walk. Because for the moment, I was still checked in.
My new ex-boss, who had been fired just a week prior, was an EMT. In a rare bit of good luck that night, he was NOT on my ambulance staff. It would have been awkward to greet the guy who hired me, and then got canned, in an ass-baring gown, much less ask him for a plastic pot to pee in.
And oh, my God, did I have to pee. I hadn’t gone since I got to the hospital and with the CAT juice and the contents of a jillion IV bags in my system, my bladder bulged like an overripe cantaloupe. The (male) EMT was both competent and kind (clearly not a hospital employee) and handed me some weird pitcher thingie that was supposed to be ergonomically simple to use. It didn’t matter.
I soon discovered that my body will not urinate when someone is watching. Or listening. Or nearby. It didn’t matter how many times I begged my internal HAL: the pod bay doors were not going to open.
Fortunately, the hospital was not that far away. I got a gurney ride from the ambulance through about 40 corridors , or maybe the same corridor 40 times (flourescent lights all look the same), and finally to a semi-private room. With a bathroom. And more importantly, a bathroom door.
Relief is a marvelous thing.
By now it was about 3am.Still on a gurney, I met my surgical team. They looked like legitimately fine health care professionals, though it’s hard not to be impressed by anyone in actual surgical scrubs (not those dental-assistant Winnie-the-Pooh pajamas) leaning over you. Or people who look perky in puffy blue hairnets at 3am, for that matter. Hands were shaken all around, I made a few wise-ass remarks (it’s what I do), and then it was off to la-la land.
Act IV: In which I discover the perils of a semi-private room.
Setting: A semi-private room.
The return trip from la-la land was a bit bumpy. I woke with a hellacious headache and an equally hellacious roommate. This hospital sucked, she said. Everyone there was stupid, she said. She said a whole lot more, most of it on a cell phone that she shouted into like a toddler with a Fisher-Price walkie-talkie.
My migraine and I retreated behind an enormous icebag and some naproxen sodium (Aleve is my shepherd – I shall not throb). My husband came to visit, and there may even have been Olympics on TV. My sense of time was severely skewed, and I was in and out.
But even semi-conscious and semi-coherent, I memorized my roommate’s life story. Her problems had all started a few years back when she was working at the DMV and slipped on the sidewalk and hit her head and she wouldn’t have been outside in the first place if any of the idiots she worked with had known the first damn thing about doing their jobs. Sure, she got a fat settlement, but that was already all spent on a new car and stuff for the kids, and now she wanted more money, but what can you do, and she didn’t have health insurance any more, but it didn’t matter because she wasn’t going to pay this damn hospital one red cent.
Severe diverticulitis, they said. Go easy on the fat, they said. Lay off the butter, the meat, the eggs and cheese, they said. She hadn’t checked into the hospital for stupid diet advice – she wanted them to shut up and give her some medicine. By the way, did I know that I could get a milkshake for breakfast? The kitchen would send anything on the menu!
I listened (it wasn’t like I couldn’t) to her order breakfast. Sure enough, they sent up a chocolate milkshake to go along with her cheese omelet. And a side of bacon. Within a few noisy minutes, it was gone. And not too many minutes after that….
How is a seagull different from my roommate? A seagull flits along the shore.
That’s right. All that richness rocketed through her diseased system faster than she could react, and fell into a trail of noxious puddles from her bed to the bathroom. I hit the nurse call button and tried to sleep.
I woke up to my roommate on her cell again, setting up her own big welcome-home barbecue with all her favorites – ribs, steaks, beer and baked beans with lots of bacon. Then she called some smoke shops to see how much cigarette rollers cost, because her husband, on oxygen thanks to emphysema, still smoked three packs a day and it was too damned expensive even though she’d switched him to generic cigs and he hardly noticed the difference, since his sense of smell was just about gone and he couldn’t taste a damn thing.
I despaired for the future of the human race. And I tried to sleep.
Act V: Denouement/Epilogue
They sent me home too soon. My insurance wouldn’t cover more than 24 hours in the hospital, and the clock started ticking when I was wheeled in the door.
I’d had a laparascopic appendectomy, which meant instead of an LBJ-style zipper scar, I had smaller holes for lights, camera and action. I soon suspected that they had used IMAX equipment. I hurt! But I also had a high-deductible policy and minimal savings, which meant I was homeward bound.
I needed to change out of my beautiful buttless gown, but I still only had my bathrobe and jeans stuffed in the bag that went with me on the ambulance. I asked my husband to bring me a shirt, bra and undies, and when he came to take me home he had clothes in hand.
A thin white t-shirt. And two pairs of panties. Where was the bra, I asked, since wearing a t-shirt without one was not an option. My husband pointed to one of the panties. “Isn’t that a bra?”
So now joining the remnants of my migraine and the ache in my gut were disbelief and disappointment in my husband’s lingerie discernment skills.
And I ended my adventure as I started it – doubled over in jeans and a bathrobe. And checked out.