It was about 10:30, I was sitting in my cabin (naked) and watching a movie called “Machete” when I heard the knocking on my door.
As I’ve explained, I’m a hermit, so knocking on my door at 10:30 might be the best way to kill me and make it look like an accident. I probably shouldn’t have told you that, but what’s done is done.
While clutching my chest to keep my heart from exploding through my chest, I opened the door to see Stuey and his son, and Stuey was clutching his chest, too. Coincidences can be funny, except he was clearly having a problem and I’m just an idiot.
“Can you give me a ride to the hospital?” said Stuart, “I think my lung collapsed.”
This is the moment I learned a lot about Stuey, because if my lung collapsed, the first thing you would have to do is slap me until I stopped screaming like a little girl. Then I would expect no less than a helicopter and a team of doctors at my side RIGHT NOW. But no, Stuey’s tooling around in a golf cart looking for a ride to the hospital. He’s like Brad Pitt in Fight Club, but less imaginary.
So, my first reaction is, “What about an ambulance?” Not that I had a problem doing it, because I’m happy to. Well, not happy, that would have been weird. “Sure! Let’s do it! Lung collapse, huh? Bummer. You want road snacks?”
My main concern was that I wasn’t qualified enough to treat someone with a collapsed lung while driving. I mean, if I’m not driving, no problem. I’ve got an air compressor in the car and I saw Platoon twice. But Stuey wasn’t as concerned and felt comfortable that he wouldn’t die along the way or that I would have to perform any lung rebuilding while also driving. (I should also mention that my truck has a manual transmission.)
So I threw some clothes on (which I almost forgot to do, and that’s happened about seven times. I swear I’m going to end up at Wal-Mart completely naked one day) and we took off to the hospital.
Since, we’ve been able to catch up with Stuey to get his perspective on the whole experience, because after all, his lung collapsed, not mine.
Mayo: You were in the hospital for… 4 days? 5 days? It was hell for me, so you know. When I went to take a shower, you weren’t there for me to talk to. That’s pretty selfish of you. Whatever. Anyway, tell us about your little vacation.
Stuey: I can’t recommend it enough. I mean, you rarely get an opportunity like this to really rest and sleep and recharge the old batteries. Well, maybe the opera comes close, but there you’ve got people running around all over the stage and the constant motion can be distracting. So the SYMPHONY, now THERE’S a relaxation nirvana, but even then you don’t get the benefit of having medical types come in to wake you every time you’ve just managed to doze off in order to take your vital signs and medicate you and make DAMN SURE that you’re resting. If for some reason you can’t sleep, you can lay back and listen to the middle of the night cleaning crews as they have furniture races up and down the halls. This goes on pretty much all night, so you’re sure to be alert for at least 2 or 3 hours of the action. I believe toward the end there they finish off each shift by throwing pianos down the stairwells. Another late night allure of the Halls of Chest Pain is that the pain killers administered to the entire wing cause copious amounts of intestinal gas. From up and down the hallways, the effect is similar to hearing the chorus of bullfrogs on a summer evening in the country. Quite charming.
Mayo: I had never considered the amount of farting that must go on in that place. I was concerned enough when everyone in the emergency room was wearing SARS masks, but now I also have to worry about the ass to oxygen ratio. Great. Do you know what it was like for me in that place? It’s like you don’t even care. It’s a germophobe nightmare, is what it is. What about me, Stuey? Seriously. I couldn’t imagine having to eat like fifteen meals with all that ass floating around. What was the food even like? Did it taste a little assy?
Stuey: OMG, it’s amazing. It is so nice to be able to enjoy a nutritious meal without the annoying presence of any spices whatsoever. We have become so spoiled in this country on food that has flavor and is tasty that I think it’s nice to be reminded from time to time how much of the third world has to sustain itself on a steady diet of wallpaper paste and notebook paper. Fortunately, there was a product provided with each meal called “Mrs. Dash” which was apparently intended to be blown into the eyes of your enemies to slow them down as you make your escape. As I wrote late one night, when several great friends were staying up late with me via Facebook to monitor my progress, give me encouragement, and taunt me mercilessly about Nurse Martin (more on him later): “While salt can give food a yummy, salty, foody flavor, Mrs. Dash made my eggs taste like I had sprinkled them with a mixture of sand and the dried crystallized pungent peppery sweat from the armpit of a migrant lettuce-picker.” True story. Also, mealtimes provided an opportunity for Nurse Why-Must-You-Do-This-EVERY-Single-Time-I-Try-To-Eat-Didn’t-You-Just-See-The-Lady-Come-In-Here-With-My-Tray to once again check my vitals, but she considerately waited until I had my tray painstakingly set up on the little rolling table, had gotten everything positioned JUST SO, and had actually taken a couple of bites.
Mayo: Wow. I’ve never tasted the armpit of a lettuce-picker, but I did just throw up on my tongue. And that Mrs. Dash sounds like a total tease. Shakin’ her flavor right in your face, only to leave you flavorless. I hate chicks like that. And isn’t she married? That’s just not cool. But I’ll bet they weren’t all like that. Tell us about Nurse Martin.
Stuey: A true professional. He would tiptoe quietly into the room so as not to wake me or in any way alert me to his presence. Ever so gently he would fasten the blood pressure cuff around my upper thigh, tenderly administer my Rohypnol, assuring me that it was indeed on my chart, and presumably wait for hours as the drug ran its course, ministering to me and making sure I was “resting comfortably.” He was thoroughly impressed with my DVD selection, and chatted and chatted about the actors’ personal lives. As I would take long slow inhalations on the plastic lung exerciser device, showing him how I could reach the 3000 mark on the gauge, he became very animated and excited, jumping up and down and clapping his hands. I tousled his hair and he swished out of the room whistling some cheery show tune. A true professional, with the heart of a teacher.
Mayo: Hmmm… are you sure it was Rohypnol and not Rufinol?
Stuey: Same thing. Try to stay focused here Mayo.
Mayo: I think the blood pressure thingy is supposed to go around your arm. I know because I tried to stick my leg in one of those blood pressure machines at the drugstore and we had to call the fire department. I peed, but they’re professionals and didn’t seem to mind too much.
Stuey: These people are EXTREMELY interested in secretions. I was told to use a little plastic bottle, which was promptly emptied into the toilet during each nurse visit. This was a bit confusing to me, as I could have certainly emptied it myself, or indeed saved a step all together and cut out the middle-man, as it were. I like to help out. But here’s the thing. Ice water was carefully measured and rationed, so at one meal I refilled my water glass several times from the sink, because I was thirsty and I like ice water when I’m thirsty. The resulting excess contents of the plastic bottle caused an inordinate amount of concern and I had to admit that yes, I had ingested extra water with my last meal, if you can imagine such a thing. Busted.
Now round about Day 3 I became aware of a discomfort that I was told was brought on by a combination of the amazing food and the pain killers. In hind-sight, I should have kept this to myself in light of the LASER-LIKE focus on anything and everything coming out of my body, or in this case, NOT coming out of my body. Throwing caution to the wind, I inquired if I might be allowed a cup of black coffee to help “move things along.” Incredibly, I was told that I could have all the coffee I wanted. Whenever I wanted. Yes, the same people who were aghast that I had sneaked an extra glass or two of ice water at lunch were now willing to feed me coffee like a college student who’s run out of crank cramming for finals. Alas, the potency of the coffee was not sufficient, so I hesitantly entered Level 2 with a potion that the nurses called a “Brown Cow.” The recipe calls for a 50/50 mixture of hot black coffee and hot prune juice, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to make it more palatable, or at least to fool your taste buds into believing that you’re NOT imbibing the boiling contents of Satan’s rancid cesspool. As luck would have it, they were all out of ice cream. I was agreeable to substituting a shot of vodka, but the nurses weren’t having it. They are justifiably proud of this recipe and do NOT want me or anyone else monkeying around with it. So I drank it straight. Success.
At this point I just have one thing to say, and if anything at all could put a damper on this astounding adventure, it is this: Kleenex. Freaking KLEENEX. Not Charmin Ultra or Quilted Northern or even crappy Scott tissue. Kleenex. Completely inadequate and several orders of magnitude shy of being up for the challenge. I shall not elaborate further, except to say if there ever is a next time I shall bring supplies from home.
Mayo: Kleenex? Coffee and prune juice? This might be the most disturbing digestion story I’ve ever heard. If my lung ever collapses, I’m giving it a go with one lung. I mean, it looked painful and yes I thought you were going to die in my car, but I will not drink coffee and prune juice. Have these people ever heard of a laxative? They even taste like chocolate! Sounds like my great grandmother is running the pharmacy. They didn’t try to put mustard on you, did they?
Stuey: The evening before I was to have my chest tube removed, Nurse Usually-Sensible came in to change the dressings. I suppose that since I was to have the tube taken OUT first thing in the morning, it was important to have fresh bandages on it tonight. She was uncharacteristically flirty, and I sensed that she was struggling to cover up her dismay that I would soon be leaving. I offered to assist her and the rest of the staff in setting up a support group to deal with their feelings of loss after I was gone, and promised to visit them from time to time. I like to help out. She managed a quivery smile as a loan tear rolled down her cheek.
So what did I learn from all this? Pain completely drains all the fun and enjoyment out of consuming controlled substances. So kids, if some quack ever tells you he needs to stick a hollow needle through your chest and into your lung and makes it sound like a good idea, just say no.
Mayo: Done and done. I will propose an alternative place where they can stick their needle. I already have a couple of ideas. Is there anything you would like to add that doesn’t strike fear into my soul?
Stuey: In all seriousness, I received a level of care none could have imagined 50 years ago, at one of the most amazing facilities in the country. More than that, I received the countless prayers and healing energies from a mind-blowing assortment of friends, which is after all the catalyst that makes the medicine work.