Friday, August 12, 2011

The Lighter Side

I've been writing about some serious stuff lately (well, maybe not Captain America, but lung gunk and whatnot.), so I thought I'd change it up a bit and give a little of the humorous side of a long hospital stay.  I'm going to tell you about my roommates.  Be warned, however, when it comes to hospitals, you leave your dignity at the door, so some of this may be rather low-brow.  Gotta be done.  Don't worry.  I won't use any names.  Well, maybe one.

Upon arrival, my room was occupied by an older, Hungarian man who apparently spoke very little English.  His daughter was able to translate for the doctors, but she didn't come by very often, so when they would do their rounds in the morning and ask how he was feeling, they did what most people do when someone doesn't understand what they are saying: they said it louder.  I realize it is a normal human reaction, but the guy wasn't deaf, he was Hungarian.  He didn't speak English.  He's not going to get it any easier if you say, "ARE YOU IN ANY PAIN?" as opposed to "Are you in any pain?". As a result, I knew everything that was up with this guy because they shouted at him every test and procedure he was going to have.  
 The best part came when they were going to take him for a X-ray, and he was... in disposed.  And he refused to get off the toilet to be taken for his X-ray.  They waited a little while, but the guy just wouldn't budge.  In a minor panic, the nurse used her personal cell phone to call the guy's daughter to explain to him that he had to get up and go.  She then had to hand the guy her personal cell-phone through the slightly open bathroom door so he could talk to his daughter.  Of course, he had not washed his hands before handling her phone.  I met a lot of nice, helpful and good people at the Beth Israel, but this girl was clearly an idiot.

When they thought I might have had pneumonia, they shipped him to another room and I had a day where I was all alone.  So, I lived it up, going so far as turning down the oppressive heat to cool the damn place off a bit.  All the nurses and techs who came in said they loved it because it was so cool in there.  We had a ball.

Then they brought in Money.

"Money" Johnson was brought in late on a Saturday night, and he had clearly been enjoying himself.  I liked keeping the curtain closed, so I didn't see what was going on, but based on what I heard, it seemed that Money had passed out in his home, and someone I believed to be a landlord or a neighbor with a key to his place brought him to the hospital.  I then heard them say good-bye to him and rush out of there like Scooby-doo running from a thief.  The nurse then brought Money a bucket for him to puke in, which he used extensively (and loudly) for the next several minutes.  He proceeded to yell over and over that he was cold and he needed a blanket, and another nurse turned the heat back up, so I went back to sweating my brains out in there.  Damn you, Money!

As the days went on, I alternated between feeling sorry for Money and being angry at him.  For one, I was able to deduce that this was not his first trip to the hospital, and heard several doctors ask him if he had ingested rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover, because they found some in his system.  He claimed a friend had given him a shot of vodka that "tasted kinda funny."  Of course, no one believed this, because as Dr. House says, "People lie."  Clearly, Money was (and is) an alcoholic, and rubbing alcohol was all he had handy that night.  He also claimed that he must have had a stroke while walking out of his apartment and someone found him in the hall, but the doctors informed him he was brought in by someone who said they found him in his apartment, probably in a pile of puke.  But that's conjecture.  So, in general, I don't feel a lot of sympathy for people who take up hospital beds because they can't lay off the rubbing alcohol.  I know it's a disease like anything else, but he was obviously a repeat offender and I just don't feel bad for people who seem intent on destroying themselves.  And how the hell do you drink rubbing alcohol anyway?

On the other hand, Money never received one visitor the entire time he was there.  He talked on the phone a little bit and watched some TV, but even the nurses and doctors seemed to pay him little mind.  And he never talked about missing work, so I'm not sure he had a job.  After a few days, they shipped him off to some rehab facility.  He's probably back on the street now, possibly still drinking funny-tasting vodka.  In that respect, I do feel slightly bad for him.  He seemed alone in this world, except for the bad friend who gave him the "vodka," and he seemed like the type of guy who could use a friend once in awhile.

From then on, I was mostly put in rooms where I was alone, which was really the way to go.  During my last stay, however, I saw the most roommates, most of them for only a day or two.  One guy had obviously had some sort of gastro-intestinal issue, because when the doctors asked him if he had, y'know, "had a movement," he said "No, but a lit a few good farts while I was in there."  The best part was, like any good comedian, he used that joke on a few different people, and it always got a reaction.  Unfortunately for me, I knew that he wasn't just coming up with it on the spot.  He was doing material.

The next roommate was a young man, who obviously came from wealth.  I know it's weird to say just based on over-hearing his conversation, but the fact that his parents visited and told him he could take the rest of the summer off and use their vacation home the whole time was a pretty good indication.  The curious thing about this kid was that he came in on a Friday, and by Saturday night had made enough of a stink to where the doctors allowed him to go home.  Mind you, this was his decision, and he came to it about 9:00 on Saturday night, so no pharmacy was open to get his prescription filled.  His parents, used to getting their way, asked the hospital to fill it, which they do not do.  Their policy is not to let folks walk out with drugs.  But the kid decided to grin and bear it and leave and get his script filled at the first opportunity because, as he put it, he "couldn't take another meal in this place."  I suppose I don't blame him entirely, but... Screw you, you whiney little bitch.  Have some sympathy for the folks who weren't given the choice.  yeah, no one likes to be in the hospital, but some of us have to be and we don't get access to Mom and dad's summer home when we get out.
They then brought in the coup de grace, Lee from Lawrence.  Lee apparently also had a gastro problem, although his seemed to stem from an earlier gastric-bypass surgery and a rather poor diet.  Lee was a talker, and had no problem telling me that he used to weigh 600 pounds, and was now down to a svelte 300.  Seems like Lee drank a lot, too, but was now having trouble keeping anything down.  So, while the doctors tried to figure out exactly what was wrong with him (besides the obvious), he was restricted to ice chips.  Lee begged and pleaded with the nurses, then yelled at them, then apologized, then yelled and apologized again, but to no avail.  Only ice chips.  He did seem to be placated by  afternoon soaps, which he claimed to only watch because of his girlfriend ("Girlfriend?" I thought. "He has a girlfriend?")  He was also very anxious to be in his bed and undisturbed by 9:00 on Monday to watch wrestling, only to then tell the nurses that he wasn't that into it and he just watched it because it was something he used to watch as a kid and he got a kick out of it.  Whatever, dude.  If it was just some show you watched, why are you spazzing out over missing it?  He even called this supposed girlfriend during the show so they could talk about it together.  He talked on the phone a lot, in fact.  Using the hospital phone.  The one that they charge about $95,000 a minute to use.  He's probably still there washing dishes to pay off his phone bill.

The oddest thing about this guy, though, was his apparent vanity.  Remember, he was 300 pounds of flesh that used to be 600, so he didn't exactly look like one of those professional wrestlers he was watching.  And yet, every morning he could not see or talk to anybody before brushing his teeth and taking a shower.  I guess that's good, but he never left that room all day, and no one ever came to visit him except the nurse who brought the ice chips.  Just who was he trying to impress exactly?  I mean, I guess there's personal pride, but at that point, just get better and get out of there was my goal.  Who cares if your hair isn't washed every day?  Yes, I did brush my teeth after meals and washed up in the morning, but it wasn't an obsession.  Maybe it was something his mom told him during one of their marathon, million-dollar phone sessions.

After a few days, I was discharged and left Lee there.  He was the only one I left behind, after going through seven (count 'em) roommates, plus a few stints where I had no roommate.  In retrospect, they served their purpose in my life, because as bad as I felt at times, some of these people were doing much worse.  And I'm not telling these stories to put them down or make fun of anyone, because these people were all suffering.  I'm really trying to give a little perspective.  In the end, we are all lucky in some way.  Even if it's to not be Money.

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