1.11.18

The Hospital California

In order to be discharged, after nearly three weeks in that sterile joint, I would undergo the procedure to install a PICC line from my right arm to the top of my heart, threaded through an artery. This would become the valve I could use at home to continue intravenous antibiotics for the next six weeks, 24/7.

One of the medical technicians prepping me before the doctor arrived to insert the PICC line was playing a solid collection of 80s classics, like Tears for Fears’ ‘Shout’. I complimented the musical backdrop, and the three of us began praising that musical era. I even divulged that my go-to band of choice had been The Cure, really my first ‘band’, . . The PICC line installation was the only painless procedure I had experienced as a hospital patient.

*

The mystery of my case was how a person’s hip socket could become infected by Staph (the M.R.S.A strain) in the absence of any lacerations, let alone serious, gory injuries.

I admitted myself to the ER thinking I had a bad tear in my left quadriceps, judging from the sharp pain. Many infectious diseases doctors visited my contagion-control hospital room trying to figure it out -- wearing their bloated, yellow disposable frocks and rubber gloves (M.R.S.A. is not airborne, otherwise they would have been masked, too).

I happened to mention something that occurred about a week before: an ingrown hair in one of my nostrils, and a brief small swelling. The infectious disease doctor clapped her hands as if to say, ‘that’s it!’ -- she said that M.R.S.A. can live happily in noses.  So it all could have started from trying to pry out one of those dry Colorado nasal stalactites. This my friends, is why it is important to ensure that your immune system is as strong as it can be.

The tiny infection in my nostril was like a door opening. Once in the bloodstream the bacteria made a beeline for the weakest area of my body at the time, the hip -- and the rest is history. My ordeal included four operations, a fourteen-inch incision that got stapled shut, and an eighteen day holiday in a quarantined hospital room (with precautions that apparently had made it a little more difficult for nurses to enter when I hit the call button).

*

Back home after being discharged, every night I was dreaming about getting assistance from the nurses in my own bedroom -- in these dreams, I was managing them much more strongly than I could have done in my otherworldly hospital room, sometimes even excoriating their mistakes. To be fair, my nurses and surgeons saved my life, and they remained my heroes regardless of mistakes or scarcity.

In the hospital, I had one episode at night when my assigned nurse and assistant were well over an hour late to arrive with prescribed pain meds during a particularly hard period.

When they did arrive, the scanner would not recognize my ID bracelet, a necessary step before dispensing any medicine -- seemed the situation had become a nightmare. I eclipsed the max ‘10’ pain scale, and had begun to show neurological symptoms of the pain, like shaking feet and tapping hands. When you get that far out, it takes too long to overcome the pain threshold even after swallowing your pills. It was a very difficult, excruciating night. The next day, I had a good talk with the head of nurses.

But in the morning, I watched the sunrise sunbeams stream into my room, and, I had an epiphany about my life (it was, that I had to finish the Ph.D. dissertation and get my degree after a ten year sabbatical of living abroad).

*

Hospitals are strange zones. Many times my tongue got tied up between the words Hospital and Hotel. When you are cozied up in your room, with unlimited food room service, just expected to wait on and further your own healing, one can lose the plot of normal life, with things such as bills to pay.

Room service was available strictly on an old analog phone, a bulky thing, by dialing a special four-digit code. I had a half-depleted blood supply, a bit anemic, and the doctors were encouraging a blood transfusion. Instead of that, I was ordering, on that archaic phone, the pot roast entree, with grilled sweet potatoes, and gravy: the most concentrated and iron-rich things on the menu. My blood strength increased measurably every day, which meant I could stave off the transfusion.

Once I was discharged, I hit reality, my bills, the question of how I would get through the convalescence period, and so on. A friend had mentioned the GoFundMe site, and then I cleared up my view of it. I was a member of Kickstarter, another crowdfunding site, but GFM is like its shadow side, when people’s lives go awry and other people help them get through it. Starting my own campaign* (see link below) turned out to be yet another lesson in humility and in trusting fellow human beings.

* www.gofundme.com/hip-injury-4-surgeries-in-10-days

*

My friends, there is a clear moral to this story. Two, actually.

First, never, ever, fail to understand the initially hidden lessons and meanings of your misfortunes. It may seem clichéd -- but fuck it, it's so true. My time in the hospital was like being held in a mirrored room: for me, at least, it was a fully psychological as well as strictly physical recuperation space. There was a lot of self-reflection, pretty much going on all the time.

Waiting for others to provide assistance was its own humbling scenario. Misfortunes actually are intense and effective times to allow transformations within the personality to occur – especially in the general area of expressing mutual respect for the humans we come into range of, or contact with, on a daily basis.

Secondly, for God's sake, don't pick your nose -- no matter how hard those boogers get. Better just to blow your nose, and get on with your business.

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