Thursday, February 7, 2008

Let's Play Patient

The numbness in my arm returned so I went to the emergency room on Tuesday. After giving me an EKG and a CAT scan of my head, they admitted me to the hospital. My friend Sam visited me in the emergency room and kept me company while we watched the primary results come in. The doctor examined me and said the numbness in my arm might be a pinched nerve. I was placed in a small room in the emergency wing while nurses checked my vitals and every time my blood pressure was high. They transported me via wheelchair to my room and I was given Ativan and slept for a few hours. The next morning, I was given a few tests – an ultrasound on my carotid artery and heart. As they wheeled me to my test, I saw my friend Pam, who works for the hospital’s public relations. I waved to her and she stood there, shocked to see me.
“What happened?” she asked, horrified.
“Long story. I’ll tell you later. I have a room,” I said.
I spent the rest of the day in bed. My mother, Zack and Pam visited me on Wednesday. It was a real comfort seeing familiar faces in the hospital. I spent the hours watching TV or trying to sleep, and every four hours a nurse came in and checked my vitals. Wednesday night I received a roommate – an elderly Mexican casino worker who suffered an accident at work. His English was limited but his daughter translated for him, telling the nurses he was in great pain following his surgery. I slept little on Wednesday night. The nurses had to give the man a catherter tube so he could pee at 2 a.m. Try sleeping through that.
Thursday morning I had an MRI and MRE – an experience I’d soon forget. Twenty minutes of solid mental discipline spent on your back in a confined space. Time to practice Zen Buddhist meditation and remain perfectly still. After that, I was given an EEG, where they connected several wires to my head and shined lights in my face. I felt like Alex from A Clockwork Orange. I waited for them to play Beethoven and show me a video of Nazis raping schoolgirls.
Tuesday afternoon, the doctor discharged me from the hospital. He said tests revealed no stroke, tumor or heart attack. He said my cholesterol was high at 221 and that I am to have a low cholesterol, low sodium diet instead of taking medication. He said he didn’t want to put me on medication and said I had three months on this diet to lower my cholesterol through diet and exercise, or it was Lipitor time. Guess my days of eating English chocolates and Ben & Jerry’s are over. After a few anxious nights, I returned home, unwashed and smelling like a Third World outhouse, yet determined to take better care of myself.
My experience at Shore Memorial was scary, but I was in good hands. The nurses, doctors and hospital staff all were professional and made me feel at ease. Say what you want about hospital food, but I devoured my meals when they brought them. As I lay in my bed, looking out the window at a church steeple in the distance, I ruminated about my life and existence. I wondered if I did have a stroke, heart attack or tumor how would I deal with it. Before I knew the final results, my father called me and said, “Whatever it is, we’ll deal with it. We’ll adapt.” That’s a healthy philosophy. I like my dad.
After I got home, I went to the food store and stocked up on oatmeal, Cheerios, vegetable and fruit. I’m going to eat better and exercise. A sedentary lifestyle binging on high fat, high sugar foods might be the agenda for other Americans, but not me. I’ve seen the light. And all this stress bullshit is over, too. You know what I say to stress? Fuck stress! It’s exercise, meditation and relaxation for me. Life’s too damn short to stir yourself into a tizzy and punch someone out because they sorely deserve it. You can pay someone else to do that for you.

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