The home health physical therapist visited on the afternoon of January 4, 2013. We did not exercise much because I was feeling weak and queasy. He asked to weigh me. The scale had been kept under the nightstand beside my bed for over two months at this point, but I had not weighed myself in at least a week. I clocked in at a paltry 68 lbs. The physical therapist began inquiring as to my general health. Ny heart rate was elevated to the point I needed medication. He warned of kidney damage, perhaps even failure, if I continued to drop weight. Then he brought up the issue of a feeding tube for the first time.
I did not entirely understand feeding tubes at that point. All I knew was that film critic Roger Ebert had one that he complained bitterly about on his blog. He had lost his bottom jaw to cancer and could not eat or drink anymore. Ebert’s vivid description of the food and drink cravings he now suffered were haunting. But I would still be able to eat with a feeding tube. Somehow, that was a relief even though I hated the very idea of three squares a day at the time. The physical therapist called the home health nurse assigned to me and asked her advice on the issue. She was keen on a feeding tube for me. I did not commit. But I did not foresee what was about to happen, either.
I am still not aware of all the details. Now that Denise has cut me off completely, I do not see how I ever will. But I will fill you in on what I do know. Denise walked the physical therapist to the door. A few minutes later she came into my room and snatched up a bottle of Percoset that had been sitting on my nightstand since my last hospitalization two weeks prior. Neither of us ever talked about the items she had removed from my room even further back than that, but I looked at her now and she knew what I was thinking.
“I’m taking these out so I won’t confuse them with your vitamins,” she told me.
Fat chance of that mistake happenening.. They were store bought chewy vitamins in a bottle I had the strength and dexterity to open myself. The physical therapist just put the idea in her head I was trying to kill myself. Even though I could not open the pills by hand, she took the matter serious enough not to underestimate my ingenuity.
“I weigh 68 lbs. am I going to starve to death?” I asked. In order to bring up the issue without actually bringing up the issue.
“Not while you’re in my house,” she said bluntly. Her response has echoed in my mind many times over the last year. If you think about where I am in life now, you can see it is meaningful in a number of different ways. None of them good, mind you.
The home healthcare nurse arrived the next morning. She did not say anything about the feeding tube, but advised I go to the emergency room for IV fluids. I agreed. Oddly enough given my suspicious nature, I did not think much of the trip. Unbeknownst to me, the home healthcare nurse had asked I not be released. Even after the suicide “discussion” the previous day, I did not suspect I was about to get an intervention.
The emergency room physician asked me three questions. Do you want to die? Are you suicidal? Are You depressed? I answered no, no, and yes even though the answers were yes, yes, and yes. I was not keep on being committed to a mental institution. The real answers would most certainly have landed me in one. I was being steered into the direction of accepting a feeding tube in order to prove I did not want to die. I even snickered that it was not like I was on death’s doorstep.
“Yes, you are,” the emergency room physician replied.
This was on a Friday. I did not have the procedure to insert a feeding tube done until Monday. It was a long, strange weekend in which I said the heck with it and ate only what I wanted to, which wound up being much of nothing. I figured it would not make much difference at this point. Apparently, I was right. No one hassled me about it. I had the procedure done Monday morning, then slept the rest of the day.
Tuesday morning Denise came to my room to tell me the social worker wanted a private meeting with her. We both knew what it was going to be about, but said nothing about it. We were right. The social worker did believe I was trying to kill myself. Denise--I say to her credit; you may disagree--denied this was true. I had a feeding tube inserted, for heaven’s sake! What more would I have to do to prove my will to live? The social worker did not buy it. I was faced with the ultimatum to go to a rehab hospital or face a Department of social Services investigation into the last few months’ worth of hospital stays and time spent at home. Who knows what that would have meant, but to be on the safe side, I went to the rehab hospital. What could have potentially been months wound up a stay of only twelve days.
But before that, Denise and I got a lesson in how to use the feeding tube. Afterwards, she sat by my bed for an hour or so. Now that I was about to get 24/7 care for who knows how long, I was more open about how I felt. I finally told her I knew she was lying about the reason she took the Percoset bottle. She admitted she thought I might now try to overdose on them. She took them even though she believed I could not open the bottle. Never underestimate my creativity. Nevertheless, she still denied my death wish in order to keep me from being committed. It was a weird moment when we had a casual meeting of the minds regarding my desire to die.