Wednesday, January 11, 2006

How I spent October 2005, Part Two

What else did I learn in the hospital?
- Hospital food is just as bad as advertised. And BLAND, oh so BLAND. At least airline meals come with salt and pepper to add flavor. Because I spent nearly a month in the hospital, food tasted incredibly salty or sweet after I came home.
- Between the 3/4 right leg amputation, picky eating, and 3 hours a day physical therapy, I weighed forty pounds less when I got sprung from the hospital. I don't recommend anyone else doing the same thing. Try South Beach instead.
- In the hospital, dignity equals pants. Wearing pants means you're going home. When you have pants on, you don't accidentally flash your friends when they come to visit. In short, I heart pants.
- Coming back home after amputation is disturbing. You're back in your old life but in a new form, and unlike the hospital, you don't have people there to help you so the difference is dramatic. Want to eat on the couch? You can't because when you're on crutches you can't carry plates or bowls! Want to take out the garbage? Same thing! Buy groceries? Ditto! Enjoy having your body hold you hostage and being wholly reliant on other people!
- While they do usually help you get better, hospitals are also a great place to pick up something to make you sicker. I was home from the hospital for four days, then felt horrible on day five. My brother-in-law took me to the Emergency Room when my temperature hit 101. By the time they put me in a room my temperature was 103.5.
- When your I.V. gets ripped out of your arm/vein accidentally, you have a total Sam Peckinpah moment; the blood goes PPSSSHHHH, spurting arcs all over the place, seemingly in slooow mooootion. To stop blood from spurting PPSSSHHHH out of your arm, apply direct pressure to your arm yourself, because your nurse will be more comfortable yelling at you ("Direct pressure! Direct pressure!") instead of applying the actual pressure herself. It's not like she took years of training and school to learn such a thing, or worked in a place where such a thing could EVER happen, you know?
- It's very very embarrassing when you pee all over the floor on the way to the bathroom because you are weak and on major painkillers and feverish and are still not able to move quickly enough on crutches to reach the bathroom in time. Please note that THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN TO ME ANYMORE. AT ALL. IT HASN'T HAPPENED FOR QUITE A WHILE NOW. I'M FINE, REALLY. MORE OR LESS.
- If you pee all over your hospital floor and yourself, just tell the nursing staff about it; they've seen worse. Do not try to clean up the floor with paper towels while balancing crouched on one foot because you will just fall over.
- Falling down after a leg amputation is extra horrible if you, on the way down, reflexively stick out the leg that is not there anymore and land directly on the end of your stump. Falling directly on the end of your stump will make you shriek louder than you ever thought you could.
- Nurses move very fast to get to you when you shriek louder than you ever thought you could. Try it, it's fun!
- There is a V.I.P. section in this particular hospital and they actually get better food. I heard that because of the hospital has many specialists treating sports injuries there are members of every major sports team going into and out of the place. When I was put in that section, on the first day I had a lunch of steak, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, and apple pie for lunch that had 'flavor' and tasted 'good'. Once they realized that I was merely one of the hoi polloi and not some overpaid pro, that kind of meal never happened again. If Nellie Bly was still with us, I bet that's what she would be working on an exposé about.
- If you are infected with something that may be contagious, aka a staph infection, possibly the new unstoppable MRSA infection, you get a whole hospital room to yourself.
 - Mind you, you will not be told anything about having this very important and possibly life threatening operation until the doctor on the night check glances at your chart and says offhand, 'I see you're being operated on first thing tomorrow.'
 - The surgeon will flush out the wound and cut off the infected tissue, sewing up the remainder of the limb, leaving a bigger, deeper scar running completely across your leg.
- Two years later, if you draw two dots above the side-to-side leg scar on your residual limb it looks like a brontosaurus's happy face.
- The brontosaurus was actually two different dinosaur skeletons accidentally combined and is now not considered a legitimate type of dinosaur. So for accuracy's sake, let's say the limb-with-dots face described above looks like an apatosaurus's jolly happy face.
- As Eudora Welty once said, being in the hospital on Halloween sucks big donkey dicks. Eudora was no fool.
- When your birthday is a few days after Halloween, nearly a month from when you checked into the hospital for the original operation, you sure as shit do not want to be there on that birthday. 
 - Rushing to get out of the hospital, being careless, if you fall down again on the end of your residual limb, this time starting from a standing position, you'll shriek even louder than the last time and will think that you broke some your pelvis. Have an X-ray. Please, I insist.
- If you are sitting on the floor after you fall, crying in pain and your hospital gown slips off your shoulders leaving you naked from the waist up (you were trying to change your clothes when you lost your balance) a nurse will pull it back up over your tits if you're lucky. I was.
- Finally, when you finally get to go home from spending nearly another two weeks in the hospital you don't want to go back again. Ever. Not for the rest of 2005, anyway. 2006 is a whole other story altogether.

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