Monday, September 21, 2009

The Hospital Diaries

Yesterday, I received this in an e-mail:

I've had two heart attacks and a triple bypass, accompanied by type II diabetes (genetic predisposition to create too much cholesterol as opposed to bad diet), have a slough of allergies and now have arthritis in both hips from 26 years of sitting torqued forward improperly on a chair, facing a monitor. Upper neck bones are shot too. So the former athlete (speed swimmer, breast stroke) is reduced to a woman of middling years who has to roll over onto her knees and push up from the floor and is trapped in bathtubs if there is no grab bar.

But I'm young between my ears, as are you, so our disabilities are annoyances in our lives, they aren't the definition of who we are.

It's that fighting spirit that attracted me to your posts and then to your blog. . . . But most of all,having a blisteringly good sense of humour makes ALL of it worthwhile.

She and I claim it is our ancestral Celtic blood—hers is Scottish, mine is Irish—that bestowed us with humor. Without it, I think our ships would be adrift in the water. With that in mind, here is a true story I wrote after hospitalization over Christmas, 2005.



No siren, no flashing lights, stop at every traffic signal and sit there even if it’s green, and keep blathering at the cargo even if he’s in no mood to blather. And then, when they finally arrive at the hospital, they carefully unload the cargo and punch in the door code so they can hurry him into the emergency room.

“The code isn’t working,” the ambulance guy standing at my feet said, pushing numbers on a keypad that would, in theory, open the emergency room doors if the numbers were correct.

“Do you know the code?” he asked, looking at the unopened doors with a mixture of frustration, longing, and stupidity—and like me, wishing that we could get inside the hospital. He was talking to the other ambulance guy standing behind the cargo (whom the cargo didn’t know was there), so the cargo assumed he was being addressed.

“Nope, haven’t got a clue,” I said from the gurney, no more in the mood for puzzles and ciphers and enigmas than I was for blather. I wasn’t feeling well, you see, but in a blast of oxygen-induced brilliance, it suddenly came to me.

“Try the da Vinci Code,” I suggested.


“Mr. Callahan, I’m here to take some blood BANG!”
“Uh, watch out there, fella, there’s a big fucking chair right behind the door!”
“Oh. Sorry.”

“Time to take your vitals, Mr. C., stick out your BANG!”
“Uh, watch out there, lady, there’s a big fucking chair right behind the door!”
“Oh. Sorry.”

“Charles, we just got your sputum tests back from the BANG!”
“Uh, watch out there, Doc, there’s a big fucking chair right behind the door!”
“Oh. Sorry.”

“I have lots of nummy drugs for you, Mr. Calla BANG!”
“Uh, watch out there, nurse . . .”

Intelligent, caring, wonderful people all, but ten thousand idiots when it comes to MOVING a big fucking chair from right behind the door to the other side of the bed . . .


“OOOOH, my goodness, where did you get that TREE??? It is so BEE-UTE-A-FULL!!!”

It wasn’t a tree, actually, but rather a floral designer’s ceramic implementation of an imaginary visual concept of “a partridge in a pear tree”—meaning it was rather odd-looking.

But Victoria, the round, Russian, infinitely ebullient day nurse who kept correcting my English, loved it. I mean, she really loved it.

“It was a present from a co-worker,” Martha told her, “and I brought it to Charlie to cheer him up—he’s still bitching about the ‘no siren and flashing lights in the fucking ambulance’ thing, you know.”
“OOOOH, but it is so BEE-UTE-A-FULL!!!”

So Martha did a nice thing. She went home and got the bird’s box, a big red bow, and a gift card. She wrote “For Victoria” on it.

“You are KID-DINK!!! This is for ME??? OOOOH, it is so BEE-UTE-A-FULL!!!”

There were big Russian hugs all around, a few happy tears, a nice warm feeling in all of our tummies and, on December 24, it was a wonderful Christmas.

But I'm young between my ears, as are you, so our disabilities are annoyances in our lives, they aren't the definition of who we are.


Tiffin said...

aw Charlie, that's BEE-UTE-A-FULL!

Wandering Coyote said...

"But I'm young between my ears, as are you, so our disabilities are annoyances in our lives, they aren't the definition of who we are."

How true, how true! I needed to hear this today, think.

Great post! Most caregivers are well-intended but yes, they can be stymied by simple things once in a while.

Mary Witzl said...

(I just managed to delete an entire comment. The writer's equivalent of running into a chair.)

I'd have tripped over that chair -- seriously. And I'll bet you had to warn Martha more than once, right? Do you think maybe a sympathetic nurse put it there, knowing what a kick you'd get watching everybody go ass-over-tit over it? No, me neither, but it's a nice thought, isn't it?

Power to your pen -- and to your friend's pen as well. Grab handles in a bath sound like a pretty good idea to me; I'm youngish between the ears myself and humor is just about everything.

Pat said...

Grab handles should be obligatory everywhere and thank goodness for showers.
You must have the patience of saint; that effing chair would have sent me bananas and having your English corrected with such good humour - from now on you are Saint Charlie to me.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I fully expect to hear that the ambulance guys came and took you for some more tours of the hospital, seeing as you appear to be the only person who can figure out the code.

Always remain a teenager between the ears, my friend.

Kim Ayres said...

I wonder if she'd like the "Wedding Bears" snowglobe my brother got us 14 years ago. It was BEE-UTE-A-FULL too, and I'd have been more than happy to wrap it up and give it away to someone with clearly more taste than me...

Charlie said...

TIFFIN: Thank you. I see some pretty witty comments from you too on LT. You must have some of that funny blood.

WC: I suspect the lady who wrote that email will be happy when she reads your comment.

"Stymied by simple things"—that's a good one.

MARY: As you can see, I got your comments cleaned up for you. This new format is confusing at first—either that, or you were having a typical Mary day.

I had a GREAT time with that chair—it was like being at the circus instead of the hospital. Sometimes you have to make your own fun—and you're one of those who can do it.

PAT: If you don't mind, I think I'll leave the "Saint" to Jude.

Both you and Mary mentioned grab handles—I think they should be in showers too because it's easy to slip.

Victoria is my favorite nurse of all time—she just naturally made a person feel better.

BARBARA: Yes, the code. It is twenty-eight digits long and requires one to be high to remember the sequence.

And talk about someone who's young between the ears—take a gander at yourself in a mirror and you'll see it in your eyes.

KIM: Hey, I'd LOVE to have that snowglobe! One man's junk is another man's treasure, you know.

I bet you didn't mention the snowglobe in your "100 Things About Me," did you.

koonsmother said...

I know that woman of whom you speak. You and she are both on the list of people I can't believe I've "met" totally by grace on this weird internet thingy. Life is good.

Kim Ayres said...

I didn't feel worthy enough...

Tiffin said...

I had to google that wedding bear snow globe to see what came up. Well! Charlie, you JUST missed being able to get one on EBay:

Charlie said...

KIM: . . . I know the feeling.


kara said...

She and I claim it is our ancestral Celtic blood—hers is Scottish, mine is Irish—that bestowed us with humor.

So what...the Welsh are stodgy humorless souls living joyless lives in a joyless land, stealing joy away from its ancestors? harsh.

Meg said...

No flashing lights even? I thought that was mandatory or something. Silly ambulance drivers.

Tiffin said...

kara, I think Dylan Thomas alone would refute that.

Charlie said...

KOONSMOTHER: I apologize for skipping over your comment—it was an accident, just like the time I put a perfectly good book down in a puddle.

You are a gift to me, and the "by grace" really touched me. May you bowl a 300 game next week and your life will be really good.

KARA & TIFFIN: I confess, Kara, that I don't quite understand your comment. And Tiffin, I've never read Thomas, so I'm at a loss there too.

When I wrote the quote about Scottish and Irish humor I was referring to just my email friend and me. There is no way I would ever preclude anyone or any nationality from having the gift of humor.

MEG: The lights and siren weren't used because I was stable and it was 3 a.m.—nevertheless, I bitched about it anyway.

Tiffin said...

Charlie, get a cd from somewhere, anywhere, of Dylan Thomas reading his own "A Child's Christmas in Wales". It's easily in the top ten of the most magical things I've ever read but to hear him reading it - ahhhh - incomparable.

kara said...

i was just giving you crap. i'm not even welsh.

koonsmother said...

Shoot. Now if I bowl a 300 I'll have to give you some of the credit for it.

Charlie said...

TIFFIN: The Dylan Thomas CD is on order—I should have it by Tuesday!

KARA: I have to hand it to you—you're an excellent giver of crap. Wanna play toss the crap sometime when we're in our old clothes?

KOONSMOM: You always have to give your agent and coach some of the credit. I bowled 177 back in 1978, BTW.