Part III – My Second Life
Sorry for the delay in releasing this chapter of my on going saga. Christmas, New Years, and a bit of writers block got in my way.
So you’d think that I’d have rushed right to the emergency room from the doctors. I mean that would have been the reasonable course of action especially since the hospital is directly across the street from the doctor’s office. I literally could have walked there but for some reason I went home first. Why? To tell you the truth I don’t actually remember! The closest I can come to an explanation is that there most have been a few things I needed to do thinking that my Dad and other relatives would be stomping through my house. I didn’t want to have them passing judgement on my while I was laid up. Also I really didn’t think I’d be in the hospital for any length of time. I felt bad but not life threateningly bad.
When I got home I called my friend Netty one of the few people I knew I could get hold of in the middle of the afternoon. I thought it best that someone knew where I was going. Netty volunteered to come drive me to the hospital so that my car wasn’t sitting around in the parking lot. This was, in hindsight, a very good move, otherwise my car would most likely still be in the hospital’s parking lot!
Emergency rooms are strange and busy places. The last time I was in one it was five AM and I was pretty much alone. This time there were a wide variety of people waiting around watching bad day time talk shows to pass time. Heart issues get a priority so I didn’t have to wait too long. However I remember one woman waiting in a corner with her family who looked so tired and hurt that I wished they would take her before me. It was obvious from her bald head that she was fighting cancer and it seemed to me that she was very brave as she patiently waited to be called.
Seemly quickly I was ushered into a curtained area where I was examined, blood was taken, and I continued to wait. At one point I was taken out for chest x rays. After a small wait while the blood work was being done I was informed that I was indeed having congestive-heart failure but also had high blood pressure and diabetes. Swell. So I was to be admitted for “a day or two” while they got my condition stabilized. Little did I know that it would be weeks before I saw my home again.
I should say a word about the hospital, Kennedy in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. While it was obvious that it was in need for a infusion of cash to fix up the physical plant the staff was top rate. I am especially impressed with the nursing staff bout here and at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital. The shear amount of abuse and bullshit that nurse have to put up with is staggering! I’m in in total awe of their dedication and patience.
I was wheeled up to a room on the fourth floor. The usual modern standard is one or two people per room. Here it was four. I felt like I was in a malaria ward and it was here that I was first exposed to “the room mates from Hell”!
The absolute least offensive was an old man who did little but sleep and moan. I felt bad for him. He had a gaping down turned mouth and looked like a withered weathered old tree. He was never awake for more than fifteen minutes at a time and received no visitors. Periodically he would moan like the wind was whipping through his branches. He was just sad and I never did get to know anything more about him.
Directly across from me was a guy who was a sheet metal worker in for some tests. At first this guy seemed quite normal. That lasted until they took him down for some testing. Upon returning him to the room he declared that his cell phone had been stolen. Now I never saw him with a cell phone and, in fact , had I both a cell phone of my own and my laptop with me that were never touched regardless of how many times they dragged me out of the room for tests. The Nurse claimed that she had warned him to have anything of value locked up with security. However he had apparently passed on this and left the phone on his bed. Returning it was now gone. I’m not sure what kind of phone it was but it must have been solid gold from the way he carried on. He started screaming and cursing out anyone and everyone involved with the running of the hospital. As he built himself into a froth he became progressively more and more hispanic. What I mean by that is he initially came of as an average guy but the time his tirade hit fever pitch he was like an X rated “Speedy Gonzolas” cartoon. Doctors showed up. Nurses showed up. Orderlies, security, just people who wanted to know what the hell was going on began pouring into our room. Eventually his girl friend came and he got dressed and stomped off into the night not to be seen again. The next day the hospital’s administrator came by the room and apologized personally to me. She didn’t apologize to anyone else – just me. I think there must have been some guilt for keeping me in this mental ward.
The worst of the lot was the guy to my immediate right. I never saw him because of the sliding curtain that separated us but if he wasn’t in for falling off a roof I’d have suspected him in the great phone robbery. Where do I start with this guy? I guess I should begin by explaining that while you want to give those you are trapped with their privacy it’s pretty much impossible under these conditions. I mean I would have slept better if I knew absolutely nothing about this guy but that was impossible. He had a running number of phone conversations and arguments where the details of his life unfolded to me like some poorly written after school special. Over the course of several days I found out the following about him:
- He was about 22 years old and homeless living on the streets of Camden since his girl friend had thrown him out.
- He had been working as a roofer when he’d fallen of the roof hurting both his legs and back.
- His parents, whom he called “Mommy” and “Daddy” (which is just creepy for anyone over the age of eight) wanted nothing to do with him.
- He had been in Narcotics Anonymous.
- Although he had a history of mental illness and violent outbursts it had been a while since he had last “wailed” on someone.
So just terrific! Here I am confined to a hospital bed and the guy next to me is a homeless psycho drug addict with a history of beating the crap out of any one that even looked at him funny. I spent a lot time being quiet and pretending to be asleep.
He, in the other hand, spent a lot of time on the phone vacillating between threatening his girl friend and begging her not to throw his clothes out into the street – again. It was during this period that I began to really appreciate the incredible and difficult job that nurses do. Whenever a nurse would come by Captain Psycho would beg for pain killers and then argue about the amount and types he was being given. It was as if he was ordering from a wine list – “What do you have in the way of a dry dilaudid?”. He’d argue that the pills he was being given weren’t the same size and color as the ones he was used to. When the nurse would come around in the middle of the night to take blood and blood pressure he’d curse them out and then spend several whiney minutes apologizing before he asked for more pain medication. What an ingrate! A couple of hundred years earlier he would have been thrown over the city’s wall and left to rot in the moat! These men and women weren’t doing anything but trying to help, trying to make us well, and he heaped abuse on them at every opportunity. Nurses are saints!
Eventually they took him away. Off to the ungrateful bastards ward I assume and the bed to my right was blissfully empty for almost half a day – but it didn’t last.
The final room mate I’d have at this hospital was an older gentleman and in comparison to psycho homeless guy he was alright. His only problem was he was that he was partially deaf and refused to wear his hearing aids. Subsequently everthing he said was expressed as a shout. So at three AM “so you’re going to take my blood pressure” translated as “SO YOU”RE GOING TO TAKE MY BLOOD PRESSURE!!!”. Annoying but all in all an improvement over being scared for my life.
Next: How “just one more test and you can go home” became two months.