The Hospital: Day 2

July 20, 2005

This day is a complete haze, except for one moment of clarity and one repeated activity. My family tells me I was mumbling about a lot of things and asking people how they were, but I don’t remember any of it. I’m just happy that they aren’t telling me I did something truly worthy of shame and/or embarassment, since those stories will never die until you do.

The doctor wanted me to eat, since I’d had no food for a day and half, and he ordered up liquids for me. Broths, Boost, Jello, tea, milk, and coffee of all things were on my tray for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Swallowing was an adventure in not offing myself via choking. You never realize how much your tongue is involved in things until you lose about half of it. I swallowed enough air to pump into a blimp, which resulted in some interesting moments as my body expelled it one way or another (mostly through gigantic belches, after which I always excused myself, according to my observers). The Jello kept geting caught at the back of my mouth, and left me with two choices: either wait for it to melt, at which point I could get it down, or help it along by drinking a little warm broth (to help it melt) or something cold (at which point I could usually wash it down with another gulp of air).

One unpleasant activity I do remember is more puking, multiple times. Between my body getting rid of the blood I swallowed and the morphine, I barfed several times throughout the day. Each time, my neck fired itself up to remind me that it had some trauma the other day, and would I please stop this silliness.

The part I remember best about this day: the nursing staff telling me they wanted me to use the bathroom. I wasn’t particularly thrilled about the prospect of moving, as even with medications, the pain level was significant. I had a headache that would not disappear even when the other pain was dulled by morphine, and trying to find a comfortable position in the bed was both agonizing and annoying.

The nurses told me that if I didn’t go on my own, they’d put in a catheter. That spurred me into action. With my IV disconnected for the moment, I shuffled into the bathroom. In the hospital, they measure everything: the drugs they give you, your blood pressure, the amout of vomit you puke up, your temperature, your urine. Hanging on the edge of the toilet, in the bowl, was a cup that held up to 26 ounces. Once you’ve done your thing, the staff notes the amount, dumps it, and then flushes for you.

If you’ve seen the movie Apollo 13, you’re probably familiar with the part where Swigert (Kevin Bacon) is guiding the lunar module in a sort of docking maneuver. That’s about how it was with me. I managed to plant my ass on the toilet without incident, which boded well. I also managed to overflow their measuring cup – but this helped me avoid the specter of a catheter.

I was more awake on day two, but wished I weren’t. I was starting to notice the weakness in my left arm, my left shoulder and the left side of my face were almost completely numb, and my ear felt like it was about five times its actual size. They had also placed two drains in my chest to make sure we had no clots in that area, which made my chest alternate between numbness and a stinging, burning sensation that I couldn’t itch and that would only go away when the pendulum swung back to numb.

Overall, I’d rate the day 2/10. And I couldn’t even dance to it.