Water Water Everywhere...
(or "Where the hell has shaogo been lately?")
A recent significant health setback has me filled with anger and self-pity.
So serious was my condition that a hospitalization (yeah, yet another
hospitalization) was indicated. Basically there's a lot of fluid accumulating in my abdomen and
chest cavity. Worse, both of my lungs have been reduced 25% in capacity because
of fluid being in them (a rather painful condition even when
the pneumonia is not caused by a virus).
Time to Pay the Piper
The icing on the cake? Pages of diagnoses in the form of physician dictation,
electrocardiograms, MRI, and CAT Scans which describe my overall health
condition as being similar to the condition of an automobile which has been run
absent any maintenance to speak of since about 1965. We can also suffice it to
say I've been deemed "morbidly
obese" by my doctor.
My symptoms include episodes of Atrial Fibrillation, shortness of breath
(take a Glad garbage bag and put it over your head for about a half hour and
you'll know how I feel sometimes), high blood pressure, and a general feeling of
weakness accompanied by dizzy spells. The machines spell it out much more
clearly; I need a Roto-rooter™ for some of
my veins. I must lose at least a hundred pounds. My liver is slightly enlarged
and so fatty it's the human equivalent of foie gras. One of my kidneys
is operating at about 45% of capacity and they don't yet know why.
The good news is that my heart is strong, my lungs are already showing
clearing because I've quit smoking (I just haven't told you all lest I "fall off
the wagon" and decide to light up at a time of stress. Interestingly, I was so
extremely sick of smoking that I no longer crave tobacco. I hope I stay that
I always look for the silver lining on the dark cloud. What I could find
immediately was the fact that hospital television has now entered the new
millenium. No more scratchy antenna-accumulated signal. Instead, a hundred
channels in digital color. So at least I could keep my eye on The Learning
Channel or The History Channel and learn something. (No food channel for
the time being 'cause all I needed to see was a platter of marinated lamb chops
ready to go on the grill and I'd have thrown my bed-pan at the screen.
An Angel Appears
A dietary worker brought me my tray for lunch one day and took the time to
ask how I felt. I responded, "lousy." She told me that my affect revealed not so
much physical pain as pain of the heart. She offered "I know it really stinks to have to be here, but why don't you
turn on the news channel and see what they've gotta deal with in the mid-west,
what with all the water and all. God's treatin' you alright compared to some of
those poor folks who lost everything..."
The transformation of my mindset from misery to gratitude happened so fast
it was amazing. I rang the nurse's bell and asked that the same food service worker
return to my room if she had the time. The answer was the usual healthcare
professional "neither yes nor no" kinda thing. And indeed, I waited
the same wonderful lady returned the next day at lunchtime to give me a tray
(which happened to be, thankfully, more substantial than was the luncheon of the day before).
I told this woman that she'd dramatically adjusted my attitude, in a
positive way, and I thanked
her profusely for doing so. She told me she assumed that since I had a private
room I had a little money, so why not send some to those who need it. I told her
my business was doing very poorly but that I'd do what I could. I also said that
I'd said a prayer of thanks to God for her words of wisdom and would continue
Now, things got a bit sticky when we discussed God. I'm a Buddhist. She's a
fundamentalist and is convinced that unless I accept Jesus as my savior I'll
burn in hell for all eternity (when whichever malady I'm afflicted with is
successful at the execution of the coup de grâce.) This amazing
woman, who had a family at home to tend to, and who had to take the bus to work
because she couldn't afford a car, came up to see me after her shift had ended.
Indeed, even asking the nurse in charge was risky so far as her job was
concerned. Suffice it to say I called a friend who has a livery and had a car
take her home after we talked.
And talk we did. For at least an hour and a half. The topics were many but
centered around how God occasionally visits troubles, trials and tragedies upon
us from which we must learn.
It soon became apparent that my own tribulations pale in comparison to
those she bears. Little did I know that her life had been impacted by challenges
so similar to the ones I suffered it was downright scary.
Freedom, at a Price
After a routine physical, my doctor had asked me to go to the hospital, where he'd made arrangements
for a bed. I made it clear to him that I needed a room with at the very least
dial-up internet service if not Wi-Fi. He said that no such thing would
happen. I told him I'd have no part of it and would rather wait in a hospital
outpatient setting than languish in a very expensive bed. He also told me that
if I didn't assent to his wishes, he'd have me hospitalized in a looney
bin on the grounds that I was intent on doing harm to myself.
Let me make this crystal clear. When someone tells me that my freedom
will somehow be
compromised I don't take it lightly. In fact I threatened him with physical
Doc was prepared for this. He told me where to drive and that if I was more
than an hour late he'd have a warrant put out to have any law enforcement agent
have me confined. He was gentleman enough not to mention the fact that he
could've had me jailed right then and there for suggesting that I felt like "opening up whole
new vistas of understanding of the pain experience for him with the aid of a
piece of iron pipe and his knee-caps."
He repeated his request that I present myself at the hospital. Three words
describe how that felt: "boy, does that suck!"
Everything turned around as I got off of the highway exit for the hospital. I
began having chest pains; not angina but the kind one experiences during a
panic attack. 'Twas the great fear of the unknown. My hands shook. I turned up
the air conditioner, found a parking space and waited for five minutes before
getting out of the car.
The fact that not one person out of the five at the admissions desk knew why
I was there gave me a brief, albeit false sense of relief. I finally found
someone who told me that instead of Thursday I was to have come in on Monday. So
then a phone call was placed to my doctor's office which, after an hour, set
them all straight.
I sat on a chair in the hospital's waiting room for no fewer than three
hours. At about two hours, I asked how things were going and was told by a
triage nurse to just be patient because they'd not expected me so soon. I
asked her if I could go across the street and have a bite to eat. I offered up
my cell phone number but she told me to sit tight. She finally agreed (at 4:00
p.m.) that I should be spared any more waiting-room blues if I could spend them
eating a piece of cherry pie a' la mode or something similar. I'd had nothing
but a Pepsi since about 11:30 that morning and had read just about every
waiting-room magazine but for Vogue. Between you and I, my brief glance
at Vogue gave me the idea to sneak out and buy some cosmetics and a
sun-dress and really fuck with their heads.
"So I see you're here for detox. What're you detoxing from?"
What the fuck?!
I told the nurse I hadn't any idea and she better find out why my doctor
committed me in the first place 'cause I was going to invoke my fifth
amendment rights from here on in.
In short order another lady who seemed to be in a supervisory position
explained patiently that my M.D. had decided that he'd put me into a hospital
for a week to expose me to Alcoholics Anonymous and see how I do without
having any liquor/pills/pot close at hand. I told her that I have no pot
"close at hand," take only pills that are prescribed by a doctor and frankly
wouldn't miss booze for a week.
I Ain't Gonna Bore You
There is nothing, absolutely nothing worth writing about spending a week with
about fourteen other people who were alcoholics, pill poppers, and junkies.
It became evident that most, if not all of these people a) had been there before
and b) were having their care paid for by the state.
In a nutshell, I'll give you highlights:
- The medical staff was rather astonished that I did not require
tranquilizers because in fact there was no "detoxing" necessary.
- I felt like I came from a different planet because during the
educational groups and discussion sessions it seemed I was the only one
paying attention. And there was marvelous advice being handed out
with regard to how one feels and handles one's feelings.
- The food was awful. But every cloud has a silver lining;
most of the things that were served caused me to fondly remember the school
lunches of my impoverished youth and how grateful I am that I don't have to eat this
- Last I heard, people went to hospital to get well. I was awakened at
least twice every night for the testing of my "vital signs" (blood pressure,
pulse, etc.) Suffice it to say that after a week of this I was so sleep
deprived I felt like a zombie.
- A good thing: Father's Day is tough. I had excellent therapists to
discuss my sadness and grief with during the first Fathers' Day since my dad
Free at Last, Free at Last, Thank God Almighty I'm Free At Last!
Ever since my long-time doctor retired I've been seeing this other fellow in
the practice. I am going to seek a better doctor. The reason? More than one
member of the "team" on the "detox unit" told me that perhaps my doctor didn't
know what was wrong with me. He probably feared I was drinking to excess but
feared more the idea of sitting me down and suggesting that I stop drinking and
perhaps go to an A.A. meeting or two to check it out.
Am I pissed? Yes, I was. This was a hell of a way to spend a vacation. My
absence took its toll on my wife and staff, who basically were not able to
communicate with me because I was relieved of my cell phone upon admittance. I
am no longer pissed off, however. I'm going to get a second opinion about the
symptoms that got me in the hospital in the first place. And I learned a lot
about myself. Hell, there's a strong possibility that I'll sign up for their
outpatient seminars and discussion groups.