Tuesday, April 30, 2013

INVISIBLE


Evening in Bellagio, Italy - Fall 2009
I have mentioned that there were several low points on this journey that will always stand out in my mind.  The second one happened the morning after I was admitted to the hospital and put into isolation.  This low point was really bad.  I call it “Silent on the Stretcher”.

I woke up soaking wet because of the fever.  I had been sweating so much that it seemed like someone had dumped buckets of water into the bed.  It was really gross.  There was someone in my room telling me that I had to go for a chest x-ray or something.  I was half asleep.  They said that they were taking me right away.  I didn’t get a chance to clean myself up or anything.  I hadn’t brushed my teeth or washed my face, my pjs were soaked, I was shaking and shivering like crazy, and I was generally feeling like total crap.  Plus I looked like crap.  Remember not only is all of this going on but I’m also bald, pale and puffy.  Really pale and puffy.  Some young porter, or whatever he was called, took me on the stretcher, with his mask on too, and off we went down the hall.

He was a nice-looking young guy and then he saw another hospital staff person, who also happened to be a young guy, and the two of them were talking to each other about their weekend, what they did, the clubs they went to, girls and friends and so on as if I wasn’t even there.  Like I was f*cking invisible.  It made me feel really crappy.  I wanted to scream at them, “Hey I’m right here you know.  Look at me!!  I used to look pretty good.  You wouldn’t ignore me then you idiots!”

Cold Day in
Wakefield, Quebec - 2013
I tried to make myself shrink into the stretcher.  Then I noticed that everyone we passed in the hallway would try not to stare at me but that made it worse and more obvious.  I was a car accident.  Worse than that I think I was a train wreck.  I had become that sick looking person that we all have seen in hospitals at one time or another and felt sorry for them.  Now it was me that had become that “poor sick person”.  That really pissed me off.  I was fine, really.  This was just a little setback and then you can be sure I was going to be back on my feet kicking ass!!  So quit staring at me with sympathy you stupid people.  I can see you, you know.  I see your eyes.  Can you see mine?

The orderly left me in a stretcher line up to wait for my chest x-ray or whatever the hell they were doing with me.  Everyone else in line was about 70 or older. It was getting worse all the time.  While I was waiting and nobody was really paying any attention to me, I decided to reach over and grab my file on the side of the bed.  I thought I should read everything in my charts about myself just to be sure I wasn’t dying that day.  I wasn’t too sure at this point.  Maybe this stretcher line up was actually death row.  I read through my entire file and discovered that there were no plans for my demise that day.  Whew.
Late Afternoon
by Lake Superior - 2009

Finally they wheeled me inside the room where I would wait a bit longer.  Then I saw him.  One of the hospital staff.  Oh for God’s sake!  It was the father of one of Alex’s classmates.  As if he worked there and happened to be on a shift that same day when I was there too.  I don’t know the father very well but since the kids had been at the same school since junior kindergarten we knew who each other was.  I was mortified.  So I did whatever I could to pull the covers over my face.   I turned my file upside down so my name wasn’t showing.  I physically tried to shrink and be as silent as I possibly could.  I hoped he wouldn’t see me and if he did, maybe he would be forgiving and just pretend he didn’t see me and ignore me.  It seemed like forever but they finally took me away in to the room for the chest x-ray.  I had averted that chance encounter.  Another whew. 

Afternoon in Torun, Poland - 2012
Then I had to stand in all my sweaty, puffy, bald, white and feverish glory, in front of yet another young man and get the x-ray done.  When this humiliating experience was finally over I returned to my room to find out that they were moving me to the oncology floor to a private room.  It was a much nicer room, cosier, with a great view of the Christmas tree at the front entrance of the hospital.  Plus Mike was there shortly afterwards.  So finally some positive things after all the crap of the morning.

I was exhausted in so many ways and I think it was only 9:00 am.  I took a deep breath, choked back the lump in my throat, and made the decision to face the day as best I could.  One hour at a time.

Invisible - Bruce Hornsby


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