Friday was but three hours old, and Russ and I were on the road to Atlanta and the Emory Clinic again. It was pleasantly cool, and I-85 was eerily devoid of traffic. Or, perhaps it was me feeling homesick for Erie, the lake. I was listening to WCLV on the Internet earlier in the week, and the forecast for Lake Erie included ten- to fifteen-foot waves. Watching them slam against the break wall at Ashtabula would have been worth the price of admission: standing out in the cold, wind and rain.
We did encounter a few rain drops along the way, but none worth mentioning. So, please feel free to disregard the last sentence. It was quarter of five when we pulled into the Emory parking garage. There is an advantage to arriving in the hours before old Sol makes his appearance: no problem finding a spot to park. Using the map we were given Monday, Russ proved himself an able navigator of Emory’s labyrinth of hallways. And in timely fashion, he got us to the place where I was invited to remove my clothes and step into a stylish blue robe that offered a stunning view of my rump.
The tarted-up gurney on which I was told to lie was easily the most uncomfortable, high-tech bed in the history of the human race. The hospital must be trying to discourage malingerers. Nonetheless, with Russ seated at my side, I promptly fell asleep until I was awakened by an endless line of questioners.
“Why are you here today?”
“To get a new battery and whatever else the baclofen pump requires.”
“Where is the pump located?”
“Right here,” I told them, gently patting the lower right side of my abdomen.
Then they would look at the chart, smile and say “Good.” But I was certain that eventually one of them would watch me pat my right side, look at the chart, frown and say, “Oh shit, but it says here…”
And the questions went on:
“What is your medical condition?”
“When were you diagnosed?”
“Have you had anything to eat or drink since midnight?
“Have you taken any medications?”
“Did you take your bupropion?”
“Did you take your atenolol?”
“It says here, you occasionally take aspirin. Have you taken any aspirin?”
“When was the last time you took aspirin?”
“At least two weeks ago. They told me to stop taking it until I was done here.”
“Good. Have you taken any Bactrim DS?”
My face says, “What the hell is Bactrim DS?”
“The antibiotic we prescribed.”
“Oh, that. Not since midnight.”
“But you have been taking it, right?”
“Twice a day since I got it.”
“That’s perfect. Are you allergic to any medications?”
“None that I’ve taken.”
“Have you ever had trouble with anesthesia?”
“Did you have any difficulty with the anesthesia when they put your pump in?”
“Your honor, I object, the medical professional is badgering the witness.” Well, I didn’t say that, but I wish I had. I just said “No.”
Then this fellow came in, looking far too chipper for seven-thirty in the morning. He introduced himself, but in that stream of people introducing themselves to me I have forgotten if he said he was a doctor or a nurse. In any event, he was there to start an IV. He quickly earned the distinction of being the first medical professional to fail to find one of my veins on the first try. He did, however, find my radius – or maybe it was the ulna – but it certainly wasn’t humerus.
Ten minutes later, I was carted off to the OR and put into a sound sleep from which I awoke in the recovery room at ten-thirty and was told that all went well. The best news was that there weren’t any problems with the catheters and I would be able to go home shortly. I hadn’t looked forward to the prospect of spending Friday night in the hospital. Then I was wheeled to another recovery room, where they continued to monitor my vital signs for a while, decided I would live, and gave me some orange juice, something they had audacity to call coffee – Juan Valdez turned over in his grave, I’m sure – and a few crackers.
Russ was invited in and helped me dress. When he finished tying my shoes, the nurse told him to fetch the car and meet us out front. It’s no short walk to the parking garage, and before the nurse took me down, she told me I could shower later in the day so long as I did not aggressively scrub around the incision. She said I should call the surgeon if I experienced uncontrollable pain, and she handed me a prescription for vicodin.
“Vicodin? I don’t like that stuff.”
Back in the fall of 2005, when MS began intruding on my lifestyle in earnest, I hyperextended something in my right knee as I tried to master the art of walking with a less than cooperative left leg. The doctor gave me a prescription for vicodin, telling me to take a pill before going to bed, that it would ease the pain and help me sleep. In the words of Colonel Potter, “Horse pucky!!!” Maybe it did help with the pain. I don’t remember. What it did, was bring back memories of my college days, more precisely, my college nights spent in non-academic pursuits at the Old Town Tavern, of going to bed those nights and lying there while the room spun around and around.
“In that case, just take some Tylenol,” she said.
Then we got on the elevator and went to meet Russ. By four o’clock we were back in Columbus. Shortly after five, I took to my bed and slept until seven. I puttered around for a bit and was back in bed by nine.
It’s Saturday morning now, and I’m feeling surprisingly upbeat. I don’t know if this is because I no longer have to worry and fret over having the pump tinkered with, or because they mixed some happy juice in with the anesthesia. And my extremities are a looser than they have been in weeks, which leads me to believe my suspicion that the battery had been dying a slow death wasn’t farfetched.
And so the day I was not looking forward to turned out to be good after all. Not a great way to spend the day with Russ, but a great day because it was spent with him.