If I only could make a deal with God,
To turn back time, to wind back the clock,
It’ll never happen, it aint how life works,
You only get one shot, for better or worse,
Swallow your pride, quit feeling sorry,
Reality’s hard enough, why fill your head with worry?
Fight back hard, Kid, you aint dead yet,
Slow and steady is the key, take it step by step.
29 July 2018
I woke up at around 7:30am, feeling as though I had been run over by a mack truck. The last twenty-four hours sure did a number on me; my eyes felt unusually heavy and there was a painful, throbbing sensation in my head, as though Travis Barker was using my noggin as a snare drum. I glanced over at my father, seated on a chair beside my bed, still fast asleep.
If he’s still asleep then I’m going back to sleep.
Not a chance of that happening, as if out of nowhere a nurse suddenly sprang forth next to my bed like a jungle cat and demanded to check my blood pressure.
Man, was this chick waiting round the corner for me to wake up?
Too weak to put up resistance, I surrendered my right arm. Thankfully, my blood pressure was still ok.
“All good, sir,” she said enthusiastically. I wished I could bottle up some of her pep and good cheer for myself. If she was running on minimal sleep it did not show. I just felt like shit and try as I might, I couldn’t snap my body to life.
Seeing no point in trying to fall back asleep I slowly sat up my bed, persisted through the dizzy feeling in my head and noticed that my breakfast was sitting on a small table beside the bed’s headrest.
You’ve gotta be kidding me.
They weren’t bluffing when they said that I would be put on a liquid diet for the duration of my stay. ‘Breakfast’ was a small cup of yoghurt, a small cup orange juice and a small cup of milk.
Sorry, buddy. But no banana, egg, toast and oatmeal for you.
I quickly lapped up my first meal since the previous afternoon. It was better than nothing, I suppose, and the yoghurt didn’t taste too bad. But man, talk about depressing, I was eating like a baby!
My father woke up shortly after I had finished eating and seemed just as groggy, which was understandable since he had to sleep while sitting.
“Did you eat yet?”
“Yeah. If you could call it that.”
Dad practically laughed out loud when I told him what was on the menu. The way I was feeling at the time I would have given up all four of my limbs for a steak.
I then gazed out the window, which overlooked the building’s reception and exit plus a walkway lined with cafes and florists. The sun still wasn’t in full bloom and the few staff members that walked outside were bundled up from head to toe and steam emitted from their mouths as they exhaled, signs of the freezing winter chill outside. I also surveyed the hospital room I was in and I noticed that my roommates all still had their curtains drawn. They were each slumped on three other beds, positioned in the other three corners of the room. The walls of the room were painted white, typical of hospital rooms, and various machines in the room made noises all day and night. The overhead television screens mounted on the ceiling did not seem to operate, although we also had access to screens on our bedsides if we wanted to watch TV. Nurses frequently came and went to drop off and pick up trays of food as well as to check on patients’ various health reports.
A nurse dropped by to pick up my empty food tray and also asked me some questions regarding my symptoms. Again, I rattled off the blood, the feet and all that but also let her know that I had a blood transfusion the previous night.
“Ok, thanks for letting me know,” she said.
I would later learn that this will not be the last time I would have to repeat my symptoms to anyone and that I would be subject to another blood test during my stay in this damn place.
I turned my attention to my father, who looked rather worse for wear.
“Are you ok, Pop?” I asked.
My father yawned and stretched his arms and back. “I’m good, Son,” he slurred, still exhausted.
I’m fairly certain that he was feeling the various aches and pains that came with being in a seated position all night but he hid it for my benefit. What a tough guy! He then pulled out his phone.
“I’ll text your mother.”
I came to realize that while I was doing it tough my parents were, too. My father had sacrificed the comfort of his own bed to sit by my side all night and he and my mother each took turns looking after my sick-ass self. Imagine that, they had put their weekend on hold just for me. Looking at it in that light made it easier to feel grateful rather than stay stuck under the dark clouds of misery.
My mother replied to my father’s text, stating that she had packed breakfast for me and was about to leave the house. My heart sunk when my father informed me.
“She made me breakfast!?”
“But Dad….I can’t eat solids right now!”
Too late to tell Mom now, she’s probably already driving. I guess Dad will just have to eat the food that Mom had lovingly prepared – but after what he did overnight he had more than earned it.
Meanwhile, the nurses gradually drew open the curtains that blocked off my roommates’ beds and I caught a glimpse of them all. All three were significantly older than me and were probably slightly perplexed at the sight of a young man lying in a hospital bed while his elderly father sat beside him.
Shouldn’t this young whipper-snapper be out painting the town red with his buddies!?
The world has a funny way of throwing a spanner in the works, my friends. Anyway, allow me to introduce you all to my roommates. On the bed a few feet away from mine was an older gentleman, probably in his sixties, with a rather rotund physique and had slight difficulty moving. Not sure what his ailment was but his quick wit remained intact in spite of it and he wore a rather funny pair of pyjama trousers that his wife probably had to twist his arm into wearing. Looked like something that his children gave him for Christmas as a gag gift.
Across the foot of his bed was another older bloke in his forties. He was of Maori descent, earning the nickname ‘King Of Samoa’ from his other two roommates. He was rather soft-spoken and introverted, remaining taciturn during his downtime and becoming animated only in the presence of his wife and children.
And across the foot of my bed was another older man in his late fifties to early sixties who had an infected wound on his leg. He was not quite as boisterous as my neighbor but nevertheless was a friendly and genial sort and was frequently visited by his wife and adult daughter.
These blokes seemed to be studying me, trying to figure out what I was ‘doing time’ for. Their guesses were as good as mine. The man with the funny pyjama pants finally broke the ice.
“What’re ya in here for, young man?” he asked?
“Anaemia,” I replied.
“Side effect from some mysterious illness.”
My father and I smiled back at him before we all went back to our own respective businesses. My mother then texted my father to let him know that she had found parking and was making her way up towards my room.
“Get some sleep when you get home,” I reminded him.
My mother entered the room a short while later and my eyes immediately locked onto that big bag of food that she had brought.
“How are you?” she asked.
I motioned to the bag she was holding.
“Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to eat solids yet.”
“Yeah. It sucks.”
My mother shook her head in disappointment. She had packed a couple of English muffins with poached eggs and bacon plus a couple of bananas and apples. Man, if I had it my way I would have leaped out of that bed, onto the bag and absolutely gobbled up all the grub and probably the bag itself, too. I was ravenously hungry! In the end we let Dad go home with the bag so he can enjoy his well-deserved meal(s).
Mom had bought the Sunday morning papers for us to read to stave off boredom and we both read in silence, the beeping of various machines in the room breaking the silence. My roommates also kept to themselves, doing their own thing. Shortly after reading the sports pages my mother suggested that I take a shower to freshen up.
“I brought you some toiletries and a spare pair of pyjamas,” she noted, “they’re in the overnight bag by your bed.”
A small bag sat on a chair next to a bedside set of drawers.
“Ok, Mom. Thank you.”
I took the toiletries and change of clothes from the bag and headed towards a vacant bathroom. It was a rather spacious room with white-tiled floors and a solitary window that allowed the sunlight in. Having been deprived of direct sunlight since the previous noon, I savored the sun’s warmth.
Vitamin D, come and get me!
I slowly disrobed and almost jumped back a I took a peek at my reflection in the mirror.
Oh my God……what the hell happened to me!?
The man in the mirror was gaunt and almost skeletal, wrapped up in skin that was pale almost to the point of translucence. The lips were almost colorless, the eyes lifeless. And that catheter was still stuck in my arm and hurt like hell. I looked like a cadaver, a far cry from the athletic person I knew. Looks like the blood transfusion from the previous day had yet to kick in and whatever mysterious beast inside was making their point loud and clear – they were NOT messing around.
After my shower I walked back to my room where my mother had just finished reading the newspaper and was texting my father and my sister. One of my three roommates, the guy with the infected leg noticed my fresh clothes and wet hair.
“How are ya feeling now, young man?”
I guess I looked much better than I did before the shower, although I still felt like shit.
“All good, Sir.”
“You look good, mate,” added the bloke with the funny trousers.
I didn’t share his view but smiled at the compliment.
“As do you, Sir.”
And with that, I climbed back into bed and rested. I was still running on low energy and so I tried to conserve as much strength as I could. Can’t say it was easy, however. During the best of times I find it extremely difficult to sit still and it was no different even in my depleted state. Not to brag but at my physical peak I am the type that can smash out a tough workout session after a long day at work.
“Rest up, son,” said Mom, “go back to sleep if you can.”
I laid down and closed my eyes to rest, but was suddenly jolted upward by an all-too-familiar feeling. That sickly rumbling from the pit of my stomach that made its way down to my ass.
Oh no…..here it comes!
Much to my mother’s surprise I jumped out of bed and flew out the door, down the hallway and made a beeline for the toilet, slipping and spinning past nurses and ‘civilians’ on the way. I locked the door and did my business. No more pain, no more waves but there was still plenty of blood.
So much for that transfusion.
I cleaned myself up and walked back to my room, suddenly reminded of the fact that I still had yet to find out what type motherfucker from hell was responsible for all this bullshit torment. I slumped back onto my bed, totally drained. Mom knew right away what had happened.
“Is there still blood?”
She let out a deep, sad sigh and sat back onto her seat.
“You rest now, son. Try to sleep again.”
It was sound advice but there was no way in hell I could fall asleep after that. I lay down and stared at the ceiling, my anxiety kicking into overdrive.
And eventually so did my bowels – AGAIN!
For fuck’s sake, I just emptied y’all half an hour ago!
Looks like I had very little to say about the matter. My bowels were demanding to be emptied again. I hopped out of bed once more and prepared to make my way down the hallway.
“Where are you going?” asked my mother.
I was too upset to answer. I returned to the same toilet and once again sat down for further bloody business.
God dammit. I think that’s half the pint gone already.
Again, I cleaned myself up and shuffled out of the toilet, dragging my feet all the way. That fucking toilet might as well had said, “thank you, come again!” I trudged back to my room and climbed back into bed while my mother proceeded to grill me.
“Where did you go?”
“Are you ok?”
I let out a short grunt that let her know that I was in no mood to talk. She got the message and let me be. Once more I was adrift in that fucking ocean of emotions with no God damn lifeboat and was treading water to keep myself from drowning. I just wanted to fall back asleep and be rid of this sickening feeling.
A nurse then approached my bed to take my blood pressure. It once again returned a normal reading.
“How are you feeling today, Sir?”
“All good,” I lied.
“I understand that you are the one that had bloody stools?”
“Ok, sir,” she went on, “a group of doctors will come by later on to interview you about your symptoms and to maybe find out the possible cause of your anaemia.”
“Sounds good. Around what time?”
“Maybe just after mid-day. Answer them as honestly as you can.”
And with that the nurse left.
At around 11am my mother informed me that she was going to leave for a little while to attend to some chores around the house that she had mapped out for the weekend before they were obliterated by Dr. G’s phone call. She also wanted to give me some alone time to relax and reflect so I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed.
“Rest up, ok?” she said, “Your father, sister and I will visit later.”
“Ok, Mom. Thanks for your time.”
She kissed me good bye before leaving. I lied down on my bed and finally fell into a short but deep nap, a temporary reprieve from my fucked-up situation.
I woke up half an hour later, shortly before lunchtime. One of the nurses came around with a lunch tray for Mr. Liquid diet over here; Orange juice, vegetable soup, mango mousse and chocolate milk.
Lunch of champs!
My three roommates chatted away as they ate and I listened passively to their conversation from my corner. Those lucky bastards got to eat steak, mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. They mostly talked about work and family life, but one of them made a remark that, I’ll admit, almost made me feel murderous.
“Would have preferred something off a grill to be honest,” he said in between bites.
Yeah, that pissed me the fuck off.
At least you’re allowed to eat real food you ungrateful gronk. Quit being a bitch and eat your fucking steak!
It’s not a nice thing to say or think and I harbored no ill feelings towards that bloke but Mr. Nice Guy had closed up shop for the time being. Being hangry as fuck does that to a person.
About an hour after I ate a nurse approached me and requested a blood test. She drew some blood from my right arm through the catheter, about two or three vials’ worth. One of my roommates, the one whose bed was across the foot of mine, laughed out loud.
“Darl, you can’t take blood from him after you’ve just put some in him!” he cackled.
“Oh yes we can,” she fired back.
I looked at him and smiled. “They’re trying to kill me, man!” I joked.
Both he and the nurse erupted with laughter. Oh well, at least that little exchange brightened my mood somewhat.
A group of doctors arrived at my bedside at around 1:30 in the afternoon, shortly after I had another liquid meal. They were a rather young-looking group, with the oldest among them probably in their early to mid-thirties and looked like extras from a medical show. They took turns asking me questions about my symptoms and I was only too happy to regale them with my little horror stories. I felt like a professional athlete in a media conference before a group of journalists, minus the microphones and video cameras!
After five minutes of question time, one of them thanked me for my time on behalf of the group and also let me know that they were going to consult a more senior doctor who would then come to see me either later in the afternoon or during the next day.
Um, the NEXT day!?
That’s right, I was going to stay in this God damn place for another night!
Anyway, this doctor would also be informed of the result of the blood test I took earlier during the day, and that was fine by me. I hoped that they would be able to provide a clearer picture of what was happening inside.
Not long afterwards, my mother and father arrived. They took a seat next to me and asked me how I was.
“All good,” I replied, “liquid lunch wasn’t too bad and a group of doctors asked me about my symptoms. Apparently a more senior doctor is supposed to come see me later if not tomorrow…..”
I took a deep, disappointed sigh before adding in the punchline.
“Because, apparently, I’ll be staying here overnight again.”
My parents’ faces slumped. But not for long.
“At least you’re doing good, man,” said Dad, “you’ll be better in no time.”
I had the best parents in the world. I decided to change the subject.
“So what have you both been up to today?”
“You know, the usual,” responded Dad, “just cleaning around the house….”
My mother rolled her eyes. “He spent the whole day in the backyard while I cleaned up around the house,” she said.
And with that my Dad gave her one of those ‘how-dare-you-accuse-me-of-a-crime-I-didn’t-commit’ looks. Sounded about right, I had to laugh!
About an hour later, my sister texted my father that she had reached the train station. Dad left to pick her up and they both arrived at my bedside fifteen minutes later. My sister had endured a long, frustrating trip to get here, a thirty-minute train trip that ended up being an hour too long due to severe disruptions that day to the train network that became the headliner during the evening news.
“Hey, how are you doing?” she asked.
“All good,” I replied, “a lot better than yesterday.”
We talked for a while, during which she revealed that when I confessed to her the previous night about my health condition she was relaxing in her apartment, binge-watching Law & Order and enjoying a glass of wine. That text message damn near made her hit the ceiling.
“Sorry for ruining your night,” I joked. And we both laughed.
My sister and I are close. We were each other’s best friend as children and while we no longer live under the same roof and have our own lives we still get along and can always pick right up where we left off from after prolonged periods of not seeing one other.
Anyway, we sat down as a family and caught up about the week that was. I savored this moment, for a while the hospital ceased to exist and I was transported back home, sitting on a comfy chair in the living room sharing various stories and jokes with my nearest and dearest. I felt free and all was well in the world.
Our little reunion was then interrupted by a staff member who came around to ask me what I wanted to have for dinner. I went with pumpkin soup, chocolate mousse, orange juice and chocolate milk. Man, this liquid diet will be the death of me! I damn near salivated when I heard the meal options for my roommates, all of whom were entertaining their own visitors.
“Now you guys know what I’m eating in here,” I laughed.
My sister left at around 4:30 that afternoon. We gave each other a hug before my father drove her back to the train station. She texted me a short message of encouragement not long after, probably while still waiting for those blasted trains to arrive. That totally made my afternoon.
Shortly after my father returned from the train station my parents and I chilled for a while longer until they decided to go home and let me rest. It was 5pm and dinner was right around the corner.
“You’re doing good, mate,” whispered my Dad, “keep fighting.”
“You’ve got this, Son,” added my Mom.
“Thanks, guys,” I replied.
My parents then left my room and headed for the elevator down the hall that would take them to the ground floor. I got up off my bed once they had left the room and looked out my window. I waved to them as they made their way to the exit and they enthusiastically waved back until they were out of sight. My dinner arrived shortly afterwards.
As I ate (or rather, lapped up) another liquid meal I blocked out the sound of various machines in the room and my roommates’ bantering and meditated on the time I spent with my family and the effort they made to make sure I had someone to keep me from descending into the dark side. I’m not sure how many dollars’ worth of hospital parking costs my parents had accumulated by now and my sister had braved the fucked-up train system just to spend some time with her big brother. My parents used to always remind my sister and I when we were children that they would always have our backs no matter what and my sister and I both made a pact as children that we’d be friends for life. This hospital stay seemed to reiterate that and I couldn’t help but feel humbled.
I picked up my phone and quickly texted them all a message of appreciation. They deserved to know that their efforts were very much appreciated and had restored my fighting spirit. They all responded, in quick succession, with further words of encouragement before wishing me good night.
I’m the luckiest man on the fucking planet!
With that support system by my side how the fuck could I lose!?