Michael goes off shift and a new nurse comes on board. I wish I could remember her name. She was sweet, but single-minded in her duties. I could tell by her movements that she was very watchful and knew what she was doing.
With the room fully lit, something I was not quite adjusted to, I was lying on a bed with all sorts of things stuck in me. The image of old Frankenstein came to mind. I felt more machine than human. I certainly did not feel like myself. It's almost surreal and impossible to put into words, but what begins to ground you is PAIN. Yes, pain is what we avoid in life, but it was pain that was both my hell and my reminder that I could still feel something.
I was cathed (gently this time, mates), had a line in my left leg, the pict line, an IV in my carotid artery, and a chest incision that had metal staples holding it together. My hands were free and my voice was slowly coming back. Again, this condition is impossible to adequately describe.
She was constantly checking the line of drug and saline pumping machines which were lined up on my left. Back and forth, then to the desk for paper work, out the door, back in again. All the time, moving with purpose. I'm trying to sleep- a broken thing, an interrupted thing.
My mouth was so dry that all I wanted was a cold glass of water. Like a pornographic image, this played over in my mind.
"Could I have some ice chips?" I had watched my mother-in-law many times in the hospital and how she asked for ice chips, so I knew the game.
"You can only have one ice chip an hour." Fuck a duck.
Then she told me that it was time to move me on my left side. Is she fucking kidding?? No. She pushed me on my side and then insert a pillow so that I would stay that way. I don't think I screamed, but my cries of pain were probably very similar to my psycho ex-roomie: "Ooohhh. Goddd..."
I stayed that way for what seemed five minutes and then it was time to go on my right side. Same horrible rush of pain. She wasn't fooling around. When it was over and time to painfully return to lying on my back, I figured I had a bargaining chip.
"Since I was a good boy, can I get an ice chip?"
She was reluctant, but caved in. That small chip of ice tasted like medium rare Filet mignon coated in butter. It was heavenly. I must have made some sounds of delight because she asked, "Tastes good?" She smiled. Well, she smiled in her purposeful way. We went around like this with me constantly asking for ice chips while I tried to sleep.
She had to lay me back to do something which I can't recall, but that was excruciating to the chest. Despite the anti-inflammatory drugs and the pain meds, nothing can truly shield you from the raw, naked pain of the chest incision. Fuck you, fuck me, only a coma could work. That's how painful it is my friends.
When my wife and her friend came for visitation, the expression on their faces told me that I was already doing better. They were shocked to see me, sans tube, talking and acting coherent. Seeing family is so reassuring. It's your connection to what you once were (and everything you are) before undergoing this incredibly traumatic surgery.
Nurse Purposeful eventually told my wife and her friend that visiting hours were over. They both felt that the nurse had said this in a bitchy way, but later when I told them that she was sweet to me, they forgave her. Besides, my wife's friend has no indoor voice. It's as subtle as a cannon going off. Not really cool in ICU.
I do not mean to disparage Nurse P at all, she was my angel. She did her job and treated me like I was human being, not just another body on an ICU slab.
Shifts change and now I get a young nurse who was obviously just learning and the older nurse (Cheryl?) who was her teacher. To be honest, I didn't really like Nurse Newbie. Compared to my previous caregiver, she seemed like she was in a rush, that this was an annoyance to her day. By this time, gentle readers, life is slowly returning to your body and you fucking know it. I am aware of how restricted my movements are, my back is hurting, not to mention the horrific and unspeakable pain of the chest incision.
At one point, the TV was on and playing a Jericho marathon. I watched episode after episode and none of it really sank in. My friend who works at the hospital came in and visited. A simple act of conversation with an old pal can transform your surroundings into something manageable. Suddenly, you realize that you have been inside the belly of the beast, but now you are on the outside, not quite free, but neither ensnared. He asked me what I was watching and I told him, but it didn't matter. It was eye noise, a distraction, an airport for a mind that doesn't quite absorb anything.
Then came some arresting news: they were going to get me out of ICU and move me upstairs.
What? How is that going to be possible? No fucking way. I can't move.
Whether it's good medicine or they just need the bed, sure as shit near a doghouse, they began the process of removing the various tubes from my body in order to move me.
"Once you get those tubes out of you, buddy, you will feel better." May I note here how many times nurses have called me "buddy" or worse "bub." Is this a way of neutering the male patient? Am I a "bub?" No. No way.
The line that went into my left leg, this is the one that goes into the femoral, that had to come out. This is a major artery and once you remove the line, pressure must be applied by the nurse for quite a while. Now, after some time has passed, it's time to remove the chest tube. This is so the chest cavity drains naturally. The young nurse is doing the procedure while the older one watches closely. The experienced nurse is a comforting presence.
You have to cough and press down as they pull the tube out. The young nurse rehearses this process and I hear, "OK, are you ready, buddy?" I'm not your buddy, but call me what you want because I want this shit out regardless of discomfort. Cough, bear down and out comes a long tube. Gross,but fuck it, another one out and down.
NOW comes my favorite: cath removal. If you are shy about strangers seeing your penis and balls, then my friends, maybe surgery is just not for you because your stuff is out for all the world to see. There he was, my little friend, no doubt shriveled beyond recognition due to fear of unearthly pain it had been through earlier that month. I have a vivid recollection of these two ladies looking down, as they must, at my most private self, ready to release the foley catheter.
"OK, big breath, are you ready? Breathe out!" Out it came. It's always a creepy feeling when something foreign is sliding out of your urethra, but this was no pain fest. Thank the lord.
The neck IV, the pict line and the chest tube complete with a little bulb that collects the residual blood drainage-these were all that were left in. One last step, get me up.
Nurse Young and Inexperienced and Nurse Cheryl tell me that they are going to move me upstairs as they have a bed ready for me. They position me with my feet on the floor, but I'm still sitting.
"You may experience some dizziness."
No shit. I sat there and watched the curtains first and then realized that the room was moving with my heart beat. Zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom-the room and everything in it all pulsed in rhythm of my heart.
"I need time. The room is moving."
"That's OK, take your time." Though Cheryl said this, I sensed the young one's impatience. I didn't give a shit. "This is my moment, my time," I told myself.
Enough of the self-reflection, let's light this candle. I move to Nurse Cheryl and we do a slow, slow turn towards the wheel chair. I am seated.
Suddenly, my body begins to jerk. What the fuck? I'm cold as a bitch in a snow pile. I stutter out my predicament as best I can, the nurses have left me alone in the chair. Some poor guy, who's been sitting outside my room doing what appears to be paper work, realizes my dilemma and gets me a pre-warmed blanket to put on me. That almost instantly provides relief. Bless him.
The ride is fast up to the room. I am wondering why we are moving so fast as nothing seems to move quickly in a hospital. The cool draft as we move shakes me to my bones. I am old, fucked up beyond recognition and heading to a new room. They say that at some point you realize that you are mortal, helpless, not an alpha male anymore, and this causes depression in men after this surgery. This is not that time, but infirm, a resounding "yes." I am at their mercy.
Next" The Fourth Floor, Hotties, Percosett Dreams and a Model Nurse