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.