Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cellphone, Glasses and Underwear

That was my list of belongings the day I was discharged from the hospital: cellphone, glasses and underwear. It does go to show you what's important in my life. I haven't stayed in a hospital since I was 5-years-old. I had my tonsils out on the children's ward at St Raphael's in New Haven in 1963. I still can remember the smell of the anesthesia.

I liked the hospital back then. There was a kid's room where I punched out paper animals from a book my mom had given me. As I worked, I stood them up on the table. I was hoping to get started on my airplane book when it was my turn for surgery. My mother was there, and I remember being hungry. They wheeled my down the hallway. I have no idea how long it was, but I woke up sick and in pain. My parents were there feeding me sips of of a cool drink.

It was a week of Jell-O, ice cream and ginger ale.

I was thinking about the disruption to my normal routine. That's my self winding watch up there - it just stopped ticking at a quarter to two, Sunday the 3rd. I was in the throws of the stomach flu, and soon to be heart trauma.

My email box started filling up, no one had quite yet missed me on Facebook, even I was expecting to be at work in a day or two. It turned out I didn't need work clothes, in fact, all I needed was underwear.

This whole thing started around lunch on Saturday, that sightly nauseous feeling. I had just finished working out - my light day at the gym. I planned on visiting my daughter at 3 pm. We hadn't seen each other since January.; in spite of how I felt I got in the car anyway.  I listened to some of my favorite music during the two hour drive. I tried to focus on my time with Erin, and not the rumbling of my stomach.

I arrived in Hyannis, and met her at work. We took a ride to the mall, and went out to her favorite restaurant. I decided to have some iced tea, and try to enjoy her company. We sat for an hour or so, and then I dropped her at home. I dove the 2 hours back to my house, and dropped in the bed as soon as I walked in the door. I slept for four or five hours and rolled around until Sunday morning feeling really ill, with a splitting headache and seasick stomach.

The next 24 hours is pretty much a blur. I didn't really sleep, made a number of trips to the bathroom, and tried to get down a cup of chicken soup on Sunday afternoon. I could not remember having been this sick for years, many years.

Monday morning I was even worse. I felt like I had been run over by a truck. Up most of the night, I called in sick to work at 6am. I called my primary care doctor at 9, and they returned my call at 10. I could either see the doc late in the afternoon, or go the hospital where he was on duty in the ER. I chose the Emergency Room; I just couldn't go another minute with the pain and nausea. I had been on the verge of parking the Buick for nearly 3 days and was simply looking for some relief.

Then it all changed after an EKG. The wheels of emergency health care went spinning into action.

I am still pondering the moment of peace I had just before the ambulance ride. I wasn't really thinking about anything in particular at the time. The paramedic chatted with me about my family over the wails of the siren. Then on to the table with a cardiologist working frantically to tell me what was happening - all a bit of a blur - which may have been due to the Fentanyl and Kytril.

I have thought a lot about what is important in life, and this week I am praying it through. It's a lot more than teasing my wife about counting the hundreds of thousands of dollars from my life insurance policy. In fact this is not the first time medicine has given me a second chance at life. It's been a good time to reflect on things like lifestyle and purpose.

How about you, what's important in life to you?


Charlie's Church of Christ said...

my wife, my daughter and having fun with them.

You're a great writer David, thanks for giving us the story.

Charlie Chang said...

Being cancer free is important and health in general.

My wife and kids are very important to me and I wouldn't know what I'd do without them. I'd be a very selfish (less selfish) man who just came home from work and played on the computer.

Thanks for the story David.

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