Just before eleven o’clock Wednesday morning, a nurse at the Emory Clinic in Atlanta took my blood pressure – 124-over-75. Forty-five minutes later I’m sure it was in the oh-my-god-you’re-having-a-stroke range. Finding yourself on the floor of the handicapped stall in a hospital restroom will do that to you.
I was at Emory to have my baclofen pump refilled. Russ and I had started toward Atlanta at quarter of eight and all had gone smoothly. There were no backups of note on I-85; we arrived in plenty of time; my fifteen minutes with the doctor ended just about the time it was scheduled to begin.
The less than smooth aspect of the day was my tolerance for travel. Getting in and out of the car, going long distances in the car, and spending several hours in my manual wheelchair invariably cause my already stiff, uncooperative legs to become stiffer and more uncooperative. And there are the bathroom issues. I’d drained the bladder before we left Columbus and hadn’t had anything to eat or drink since. The need wasn’t urgent, but tending to urinary matters before we left Emory seemed to me the wiser choice.
Russ pushed me into the men’s room, and I made my way to the handicapped stall. Alas, the handicapped stall in the patients’ restroom in the Emory Clinic Department of Neurology is about the size of a handicapped stall in your average bus station. Once I got the wheelchair and me into the stall, there was very little room to maneuver. And I must maneuver in order to take care of business.
After a struggle, I stood up, dropped my pants, sat back down on the chair and used the catheter. Then I stood in order to pull up my pants. I need two hands to get my pants up and around my ample rump, and to get them adjusted and buckled. In the crowded restroom stall I was unable to safely let go of the bar with two hands. My efforts to move my legs into a position more likely to allow me to use both hands long enough to get the pants back up only made matters worse. My legs were getting tangled and tired, and my bottom was no longer aligned with the chair. The choice: continue trying until I fell, or let myself down easily. I chose the latter, and plopped down in the tiny space between the wheelchair, commode and the wall. To do that, my legs had to bend and contort into positions they hadn’t been in for years.
Thank God for cell phones. Mine saved me from the embarrassment of sitting on the restroom floor and yelling for help. I called Russ, who came to my aid, crawled under the stall door, moved the chair back, stood me up, hiked up my pants and set me in the chair. He’s my hero.
I spent the rest of the day fretting. I fret every time something happens that seems to say, “You’re days as a functioning, reasonably independent human being are numbered, Buster.” Lunch at Five Guys helped some, but getting in and out of the car there was yet another reminder of how difficult simple things have become for me.
Back at Covenant Woods, I took a short nap, which didn’t do a thing for my mood, scrounged up something to eat rather than go up to the dining room, and pondered what seemed to be a terribly dim future.
All that changed during Jeopardy’s first commercial. Now, if I’m tired and stiff, which I was in spades Wednesday, I have a difficulty getting my butt up when I move around in my chair in order to get more comfortable. As a result, every time I scoot back in the chair, my pants slide down just a little bit. By seven o’clock Wednesday evening, they had slid down more than I realized.
When Alex said, “We’ll be right back . . .,” I decided it would be a good time to stand up for a minute or two. My walker, which these days I use mostly to brace myself against when I stand, was over by the sliding glass door. Hey, I could stand and take in the breathtaking view of the parking lot. It took some effort for me to stand, but when I did, two things happened at once: my pants fell down and Amy, one of the servers, drove by on her way home. With a dogwood tree and assorted other flora between my apartment and the parking lot, no one save the most determined of perverts would notice me standing there in my BVDs. But in a flash, the images of me as a complete invalid disappeared from my mind and were replaced with thoughts of the smiles the story of my pants falling as Amy drove by would elicit from her, Isabell and Al at dinner the next night. A strange way to get an attitude adjustment, but it worked.
Say what you will about Burt’s son, he is entertaining – in a weird sort of way. Al and I were chatting in the hall Monday when he came by. After the pleasantries were exchanged he went into his monologue.
“You guys ever eaten at Country’s Barbeque? Nice place, isn’t it? Well, I was over there one day last week having lunch, and some guy started choking. He made the sign, you know, put his hand up by his throat, and everything. A man at the next table got up right away, went over, got behind the guy who was choking, put his arms around him and lifted him out of the chair. I thought he was going to start . . . you know how they keep squeezing the person’s chest real hard. But this fellow put the guy who was choking up against the table and pulled down his pants. Then he starts rubbing his tongue on the butt of the guy who is choking. Two seconds later, the guy coughs up whatever it was he was choking on. Everybody in the restaurant is giving strange looks to the guy who saved the choking man’s life. ‘What’s wrong with you people?’ he yelled. ‘Haven’t you ever seen someone do the Hind Lick Maneuver?’
“Did you see the story in the paper this morning about the guy who had to have his leg amputated? Well, he’d gone up to Alaska to hunt bear or something. The day after he gets there, he gets out his knife and somehow accidently puts a huge gash in his left thigh. All he has is Duct Tape, so he dresses the wound with it. And he’d been looking forward to this trip for months and he doesn’t want to just turn around and go home; so he just stays out in the wilderness for two weeks. When he got back here to Columbus, though, his leg was in real bad shape. He went to the doctor, who told him gangrene had set in and the leg would have to be amputated. So he goes to the hospital. When he comes to after the surgery, he’s feeling around and realizes both legs are gone. ‘Hey, Doc, what happened to my right leg?’ The doctor tells him that he took the right leg off by mistake. But when he realized what happened, he went ahead and took the left leg off, too. The guy says he’s going to sue him for everything he has. ‘Go ahead,’ the doc says, ‘but you don’t have a leg to stand on.’
“Well, I better get down there and check in with my dad. I really enjoyed talking to you guys.”