Sunday, September 6, 2009

Days 2 and 3

Thursday was a day of both adventures and misadventures. After what seemed like an endless night the morning finally came. While the hospital stay was characterized by hustle and bustle and an almost constant stream of people coming in and checking things and doing others, there's a block of time at the hospital that's particularly quiet. From about 3 or 4 in the morning until about 6, nothing happens. No blood pressure checks, no meds, no traffic. I tried to watch TV but the 70s-era TV in the room had missing channels and volume problems. The newspapers were boring. I read and dozed and thought about what would turn out to be the day's parlor game: whether I would be set free and sent home Thursday or not.

Out of nothing but boredom and lack of control, I changed my clothes in the middle of the night. It was more symbolic than useful (it's much easier for the nurses and docs to do their stuff when the patient is in a hospital gown) but it made me feel a tiny bit better, and like my apparently extraordinary bathroom success impressed the staff. It also made possible another of my misadventures, which I'll get to in a moment.

Mercy's opinion was that I'd be staying another night, and Nick felt strongly that I should. Unsurprisingly, I had every intention of going home. The people closest to the decision were Kim, the ortho's PA, and Alex, the hospital's nurse-practitioner. They came to see me frequently, and were terrific. They also acted as a proxy for the ortho, who never came by, which was mildly shocking. But Kim, Alex and Mercy were great -- attentive, ever-present and thorough. Nick canceled the second night at the Carlyle, figuring that either I'd be released that day or if not he would just go home late at night and come back early the next morning.

When the morphine stopped helping they decided to try something else -- a heavy-duty narcotic called Dilaudid. Shortly after they gave it to me in an injection, I developed a rapid allergic reaction: itching, shortness of breath, tingling in my hands. Nick went to find Mercy who immediately recognized the symptoms as a reaction and gave me benadryl. One more drug, one more set of toxins flowing through my system. The benadryl worked and neutralized the dilaudid. Then they added a new drug to my cocktail, a muscle relaxant called Flexiril which I now take every 12 hours.

The day wore on, and no decision was made, which in and of itself seemed like a decision. By mid-afternoon Mercy was urging me to start walking, which is a recovery requirement. And so I decided to indulge my delinquency, and sneak out for a smoke. I was already dressed (good prior planning) and we were told to go walk. We rode the elevator down, I kept my hospital bracelet hidden inside my sleeve, and we left the building. I managed just a few drags before I started feeling dizzy, but we stayed outside a few minutes longer just because the weather was so beautiful and the air was fresh and fragrant. When we walked back into the hospital and started to walk by security, we were busted by a guard. He told us what we already knew, that I wasn't actually allowed to leave, and because we didn't want to get him into trouble we apologized, feigned stupidity (that was easy) and quietly slunk back upstairs.

Shortly after we got back upstairs Alex came back, told me that he didn't like the way I looked (I took that in the spirit in which it was intended) and said that I should stay that night. By then the fight was beaten out of me and I assented. Nick felt better that the decision was made and wisely chose to stay at the hotel another night.

He had a lot of fun at the hotel. He pretended to be an out-0f-town hick blown away by the big city, here only because his girlfriend was in the hospital. He wisely spoke little, because his accent would have instantly given him away. But he had fun. And loved the hotel and all the excellent service they provided. The only surprise was that he ordered the in-room breakfast Friday morning, and when he got the bill for what was really just coffee, cappucino, juice and some baked goods -- $52. That's the big city for you. And to get to the business center he had to walk through the tea room, filled with ladies who lunch (or more accurately, ladies who drink tea), all well-dressed and well put together. Dressed in shorts, tshirt and sneakers he felt more than a little out of place but enjoyed the juxtaposition.

The bill for breakfast, along with my hospital bracelet, goes in our memory box.

Nick stayed with me till late that night, and ate my dinner so he wouldn't have to go out. That was fine with me; hospital-issue baked tilapia, canned peas and carrots and potatoes au gratin (which were apparently weird but tasty) weren't exactly my meal of choice.

By then I was sanguine about staying. Once the decision was made and the uncertainty was gone it was easier to just settle into the situation. Thursday night was very long too, though less traumatic than the night before.

Next: the return home.

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