Thursday, October 13, 2011


My parents arrived around 10AM, and when they heard of the previous night's delights they again insisted I be moved.  This time they demanded an empty room.

It's a selfish thing to demand since actual private rooms (as opposed to semi-private) cost far more, and we couldn't expect them to just toss out another patient so I could sleep better.  Except they didn't have to.  They never had to.  Half of the floor was totally empty; they'd paired us up so the nurses had to check fewer rooms on rounds.  Finally I was brought to an unoccupied room, and the staff said they would attempt to keep the other side empty, but they couldn't promise anything.  Reasonable enough, as another patient may need that bed more than I needed my rest.

Just as I started to fall asleep, I got a new roommate.  An old woman had fainted, and though she seemed to have recovered they still brought her into a patient room where she and her family loudly discussed what they would have for lunch.  Most of her family was already in the building, as she was Mr. Liver's mother.  She had refused to be put in the same room as her son because she "didn't want him to see her like that."  At that point I'd been at the hospital for over two days (three if you count the day of the surgery) and had managed about three hours of actual sleep.  I think they decided on ice cream.

After two hours or so she left, and her side of the room remained vacant for the rest of my stay.

Dr. Brain came to see me that day, and was pleased at how well I was doing, though he was surprised to see that I still had my drain.  It had long run dry and should have been removed the previous night, but it seems no one ever got around to it.  One of his assistants would later finally remove the tube, though the incision required additional stitches.  Two, to be precise.  He told me I could either take it without anesthetic and feel two pokes, or I could take it with anesthetic, but that would require two injections directly at the site of the incision (in other words, feel two pokes).  I opted to go without the drugs, and my scalp was numb enough that I barely felt it anyway. 

I received some more detailed neurological tests.  First I was asked to memorize three words, which I had to repeat at the end of the test.  I copied a simple symbol on a page, drew a clock from memory, and wrote a fake check (at least I really hope it was fake).  I could still write, though my normally messy scrawl was even less legible, my hand weak.  I was asked to do some basic math and count backwards from 100 by 7s.  They asked me how many boroughs were in New York City, which I got right despite having only been to the city about four times in my life.  Their evaluation was heartening to say the least: no physical or mental deficits.  They wanted to monitor me for one more night, but felt confident that I would be able to leave around noon the next day.  That meant a total of three in the hospital; they'd originally anticipated up to five.

My parents had brought me my laptop, which helped me to pass the time immensely.  Up to that point I'd had nothing to do at all, as they hadn't anticipated I'd recover quickly enough to be able to use a computer (or even to simply be bored, I suppose).  Netflix streaming video is a wonderful thing, as is Steam.

I'd told myself to hold off on communication.  Between the drugs and the surgery, I knew I couldn't trust myself to maintain proper conversational etiquette and decorum.  It was not only possible but probable that I'd say something depressing, or offensive, or embarrassingly nonsensical.  To those of you who may be faced with a similar situation in your future, this is really good advice, and your friends will totally understand if they see you online but you don't say "hi."

So I pretty much ignored my good advice and sent out a few e-mails, sent a few private messages, etc.  I did not completely abandon my plan and kept my conversations very short and basic, simple reassurances that things had gone well and hey, check me out, I'm totally still literate, and so I did manage to avoid later embarrassment.

I actually managed to sleep that night.  Sure, it was less than perfect.  A nurse still woke me up every hour to give me some medication, or check my blood pressure.  I called a nurse so I could go to the bathroom and no one ever showed up (I was helped half an hour later by one who came with a nice cup of pills for me).  They left the lights on and I had to sneak out of bed to turn them off myself.  Four separate nurses cheerfully said that of course they would close my door, and then immediately failed to do so.  Even so, I managed to fall asleep quickly after each interruption.  Compared to the previous night, it was quite restful.

I slept about eight hours that night, enough that when morning came I felt rested.  The steroids they gave me were partially to thank (or blame) for that. 

I also felt very ready to leave.  I was tired of being treated like a slab of meat.  No nurse offered me any opportunity to bathe, at any point during my stay.  Not even so much as a toothbrush.  I felt greasy and sticky.  I stank.  My hair was filled with dried blood and gel. 

You can imagine my surprise when a nurse started an actual conversation with me.

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