Spring, sprang, sprung

Now that I was a living, breathing troublemaker and not some mutant Medusa with a strep infection in her blood, the critical care unit was ready to unload me onto the regular neuro wing. So they double-knotted me into my bed and wheeled me off to the fifth floor.

Clearly they had phoned ahead to alert the nurses, because the first thing my new nurse did was clip the bed alarm onto my bed.

“This alarm will go off if you try to get out of bed,” she told me. I tried to smile at her, but she was glaring at me. So was my partner, CF. So was Amy. So was my partner’s sister, the one who came from out of town with her daughter, who was also glaring. At least that’s how I remember it.

I figured there wasn’t going to be just one tiny little leaf outside my door indicating a fall risk. No, there would be the entire tree, ripped off about four feet from the ground by a windstorm, its jagged trunk at just the right height to take out eyeballs, its massive shattered top blocking the roadway, crushing several cars and a stray puppy.

Yup, they had my number over here.

They also had mandarin oranges and cottage cheese, which I found to be a particularly tasty combination at that point in my recovery. I practically lived on it.

And they had the biggest diapers I have ever seen. No, bigger than that. No, bigger. If I put it on upside down, it would be a burqa. I am talking wrap-yourself-AND-your-double-bed-in-it big. Not that I had a double bed. It was your normal hospital cot-like bed. The diaper was way too big for it.

Not to get too technical, but I was using the diaper as a tool. I had to buzz for a nurse to get out of bed to get to the bathroom, but I usually couldn’t wait that long, if you know what I mean, so the diaper did the—ah—paperwork for me. That way, the nurse didn’t have to change the sheets, which I thought was a nice little gift from me.

I was trying to redeem myself. I wanted them to take down the big fallen tree sign outside my door and put up a smiley face. I wanted the nurses to fight over who got to bring me my mandarin oranges. I wanted to be their favorite patient.

Mostly I just wanted to sleep.

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That insipid tone

It is fortunate, I suppose, that I was unconscious for most of the 13 days I spent in the intensive care unit, because I was out of control for the few minutes I was conscious.

Well, conscious isn’t the right word. Reactive is a better word. Thrashing about madly better describes it. I really hated that tube jammed down my throat. The doctors were surprised at how much pain medication it took to sedate me and kept gently pressuring my partner, CF, to make sure I wasn’t “abusing drugs.”

To minimize my thrashing, the docs kept me fully drugged. When they finally had the infections under control and wanted me to wake up, my dear, wonderful partner was there, of course, as she had been for 13 days, holding my hand gently, murmuring into my ear, telling me not to worry, that I was in the hospital, that everything was going to be fine, that I had had some seizures—

“Don’t talk to me in that insipid tone!” I snarled at her. She knew I was going to be fine.

My friend Amy had arrived from Massachusetts by now. Amy and I have been friends for dozens of years, bound together by some mysterious force neither of us fully understands, since we share few interests and fewer friends. But I would rush into a burning building to save her, and I know she would do the same for me. I know I can call her any time, let out one small, strangled sob, and she will immediately begin to purr a long, warm stream of encouragement. She knows I love her for who she is, wherever she is.

But we are dangerous together. Neither one of us likes to be the one to say no. So when we get a stupid idea, we tend to plunge ahead and do it. Because, you see, neither one of us will say no.

Now that I was awake, CF could take a break, go home, change her clothes, check in on work, leave Amy in charge. Amy is a responsible woman, knows a lot about medical care. But she’d been awake for 24 hours at that point, plus she was with me, always dangerous, plus I’d just come back from the dead, more or less, which more or less guaranteed something stupid was about to happen.

As soon as the coast was clear (and by that I mean that all the nurses were out of sight), I insisted that Amy let down the side of the bed so I could make a break for the chair about five feet away. To her credit, she hesitated. But that chair! Oh, promised land! It took me a few minutes, but I talked her into it. We were both giggling while she held my hands and I slipped my legs towards the floor.

And splatted everywhere. I had no strength at all.

She stopped giggling. “Get up,” she said, tugging under my arms. “Get up. You have to get up.”

I was laughing and trying to crawl to the chair.

“Get up,” she said. “Get up before the nurse comes.” That’s when I realized that I probably shouldn’t be found crawling on the floor. But I couldn’t stand up. I couldn’t crawl, either. I was stuck where I was.

It took two nurses to haul me back to bed, two nurses to strap me into bed, and from then on until I left the hospital a week later I was labeled a FALL RISK. I was tied into my bed. There was an alarm attached to my bed. There was a sign outside my room with a leaf on it (a leaf “falls”—get it?)

The hospital keeps track of these sorts of things. So many days without a fall. So many days without a burn. So many days without an eye injury. Etc. And I had made them reset one of the counters to zero.

I was a troublemaker.