Towards the end of my initial hospitalization, I had a young nursing assistant named susie most everyday for first shift. She was very sweet. She was desperate to encourage me to eat. I tried, but it was next to impossible. She spent a large amount of time engaging me and offering TLC. Susie could sense things were not quite right in many ways. Once, while shampooing my hair, she tried to talk about my living situation. I guess the cool relationship Denise and I exhibited was noticeable.
“A lot of people have no one,” she said.
“You have no idea how alone I actually am," I replied. There was a long pause.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
Her response was not a trite response to what might have been construed as a melodramatic statement. She knew I meant it, and was genuinely sympathetic.
I left the hospital after fourteen days. It turned out to be a case of not necessarily being well, but being well enough that there was no reason to remain under 24/7 medical care. The cynic in me--and he is a powerful little bugger--says the hospital bottom line is the culprit. Suzie helped me get dressed and into a wheelchair for the ride out to the car. She held onto my right arm as I transferred from the bed to the wheelchair. I wobbled enough for her to put her arm around me. I told her thanks weakly, and decided to hug her for all she had tried to do for me. We held it for a long moment. I almost cried, but resisted.
I came home, but in extremely bad shape. I had dropped from 95lbs to 75. Fod was not on my mind because I could barely hold it on my stomach. Friday afternoon was my first time home. By Monday morning, I was back in an ambulance headed for the emergency room. My sister drove me home. We were the only two there. I was as wobbly as I could be and still put one foot in front of the other. Denise half walked/half carried me to the far end of the house to my bedroom. I had to stop halfway to rest at the breakfast room table. Boo, the cat, came to sit in the doorway in order to stare at me. She radiated that quiet contempt cats often have when their owners have been gone awhile. She would like at me, close her eyes, turn her, then look at me again before she walked off. Contrary to what I had been told, Boo did not miss me. Just saying.
I only lasted the weekend. Of course, I only ate a banana and some chicken noodle soup over the two and a half days. They made return visits, if you catch my drift. In the emergency room, I was prepped for a CT scan in spite of uncontrollable nausea. I was warned if I could not hold down the contrast, another NV tube would be inserted. I managed to drink about 20oz before barfing it all up. The attending physician, who was probably not interested in being thrown up on as he tried forcing an NV tube down by nose, changed his mind and opted to send me through the CT scam naturally.
It turned out I was dehydrated, anemic, and had a minor infection. I was still so wiped out, I could hardly move. While they pumped me full of fluids, antibiotics, and blood for three days, they did not even sit me up in bed. A physical therapist came by to do range of motion exercises with me while I laid down. She wound up moving my limbs through most of the motions herself. Just like my previous hospitalization, I never watched television. Unlike the previous hospitalization, my doctor suggested my refusal was a sign of depression and urged me to allow a psychological consult. I asked the doctor if she knew watching too much of the idiot box was a sign of depression. She did. End of argument.
Also like last time, I split my stay even between the ICU and a regular room. This was probably another case of booting me out before I was well enough, but this time I left with a daily appetite enhancing pill. It was the same kind given to chemotherapy patients. I had hit the low70’s by this point, so it was necessary. The effect is difficult to describe. The pill did not make me hungry, but it made me feel so desperately empty, I had to eat or else. It did not work out too well. Eating even the blandest food was at best painful. At worst, it was literally sickening. I returned to the hospital twice more between Mid-November and Christmas. I was officially labeled malnourished on the third visit, but there was not a whole lot to do other than experiment with soft, bland foods and hope for the best.
Over this two month period of time, I dropped nearly thirty pounds. I looked like a Holocaust survivor. I slept fourteen to sixteen hours a day while virtually never getting out of bed when awake. The home physical therapist got me up twice a week with a walker, but I could barely make it down the hallway leading away from my room. I was constantly queasy over eating when I did not want to do so, constantly in pain due to surgery, and ready to give up emotionally. I never expected to survive another colon surgery, much less live with the aftermath. My weight kept fluctuating in the low 70’s. for a month and a half. Initially, the stagnation caused most everyone to think I would never recover. My languishing certainly put a strain on life in general. Denise would leave work at lunchtime to tend to me, but otherwise, I was left to sleep and simmer with my thoughts. There had been a slight buzz for about a month by then that I was starving myself on purpose. The buzz got louder as time advanced.
I got the first hint my demeanor was becoming worrisome after my third hospitalization. Denise had gone through my room and removed a bottle of Percoset, razor blades, trash bags, and a pair of large scissors. She also set up a new bookshelf, brought in a new chair, and brought in drinks and snacks. I wondered if she believed I was entertaining suicidal thoughts and spruced up the place alongside clearing out all possible instruments of exit as plausible deniability. Three weeks later, I discovered the answer was yes, pretty much. That is a story for tomorrow.