I used to be afraid to go to the hospital, so frightened in fact that the mere mention that I might have to go to the ER would send me screaming into a state a hysteria that rivaled a hyena. This past Friday when it became evident that I had to go to the Emergency room, instead of hysteria, I responded by gathering magazines to read and an extra pair of socks. If I weren’t nauseous and vomiting, I would have brought a snack too.

On the positive side, I seem to have discovered the ER’s version of what you might call Go to Jail. Go directly to jail, Do not Pass Go. Do Not Collect 200.00, just give your

insurance card to the triage nurse and tell her you are a diabetic and about to pass out.

Avoid those annoying long waits. Let the crying babies cry! Let the workman hold is severed finger on ice. I’ve got myself one comfortable stretcher in my own private

cubicle, complete with Johnny coat that opens in the back.

While sitting in the cafeteria once I spotted a young man I believe was a 1st year resident I had thrown out of my room as I quoted the patient bill of rights while standing atop my

unmade bed screaming for a sedative.

Even as I flailed my arms like a mad woman ultimately threatening to take my own life with a plastic soup spoon, the resident insisted I behave like a calm rational adult so he could determine if in fact I really needed the sedative.

With great self-control, I attempted to regain my composer and explain that the sedative was a medication I regularly take for situations such as this. I calmly explained that I am easily

overwhelmed and being in the hospital compounded that stress. He then smiled, turned to me and said,

“You seem calm now, and do you really think you need the pill?”

I have had a myriad of roommates in the hospital that have varied as much as Heinz’s has pickles

There was this one roommate who loved telling anyone who called or visited every detail about the nature of her condition. Every time the phone rang she would enthusiastically

describe every detail of her recent surgery and weeklong recovery, always ending the story with a description of her most painful bowel movement and how she was lucky to

have survived it. She thought she has indigestion but after weeks of medication and no results, her doctor, had she mentioned, he is considered the best and all the nurses raise their eye brows when she told them he is her doctor, discovered that she had a mass at the tip of her pancreas, but for reasons I could never quite understand, they had to remove, other body parts and a piece of her liver as well. I remember how happy she was telling people about the liver part. I would tell you how her case ended but the night I was standing on my bed screaming for a sedative, the nursing staff decided it was time for a room change and while I clutched my pillow and pouted, they started

moving her things to a room down the hall. In truth I was quite embarrassed, certain that my tirade had caused the woman to request another roommate. On the other hand, I was relieved to no longer have to relive the details of her last bowel movement.

I should have been more considerate of my last roommate because it wasn’t an hour later that they brought in my new roommate who bleated like a goat all night and whenever I

passed her bed to use the bathroom, she would rise from her demented state to ask if I could go outside and walk the dog. Thankfully she was sent to a nursing home the

following day.

During almost every hospital stay, I had at least one demented roommate. When I broke my ankle and was on a morphine drip, I was so confused that I found myself fluidly

conversing with one of these roommates much to my family’s horror. I would find myself agreeing to make tuna salad while my roommate wandered aimlessly thru the

kitchen of her demented mind looking for the mayonnaise.

During my last stay, my roommates consisted in descending order of, one demented old lady, one middle aged alcoholic, and an Aids afflicted heroin addict.

The demented old lady talked incessantly day and night, however she never said anything that made any sense. If a doctor entered the room, she would mutter something about burning her hand and the alarmed doctor would anxiously run and find the nurse. They would search the woman’s hands in vain looking the burn and then she would ask,

“Did you help Homer milk the cow?”

Many of the doctors were foreign so they would assume that they just didn’t understand her correctly and continue looking for the burnt hand. In an act of futility, they would order warm soaks. Once, when I walked passed her bed to go to the bathroom, she asked me if I could bring her out some coffee

My alcoholic roommate was on an all liquid diet but had somehow managed to sneak in, much to the nurse’s annoyance, fried chicken and preceded to eat it alongside her

chicken bouillon and orange Jell-O. She later disclosed to me a cachet of booty that included several chocolate bars, a can of sardines, one dried out piece of chicken and the

remains of a super-size French fries from Wendy’s.

I would wake in the middle of the night to the crackle of paper and gasps of breath between bits of chicken and

fries being hungrily eaten in secret. About 4:00am I heard the seal of the sardine can pop followed by the smell of fish.

When asked, she always said she felt fine, but later confided in me that she suffered from a chronic stomach ache although she would say nothing to jeopardize her pending discharge. It was her devoted alcoholic boyfriend who

apparently brought her the contraband food that also included a cigarette or two that she would intermittently smoke between nicotine patches. When her boyfriend came to pick

her up at 10am, he reeked of alcohol and the two of them refused to wait for the discharge paper work to be finished. They just left, but not before offering me their phone number which they both had trouble remembering and graciously offered to be there for me should I ever need them.

My most colorful roommate by far was the Aids afflicted Heroin addict. She was very warm and friendly when she entered the room and immediately introduced herself.

She complained that she was hungry and unlike my last roommate did not come prepared with a cachet of food. When they brought her a dinner tray with a meager gleaning of chicken bouillon and the now familiar orange Jell-O cubes, she started to whale at the top

of her voice,

“I want some meat! G-d Damn it give me some meat!”

She then asked me if I had anything on my tray like meat. I told her I had some chicken but she was welcome to it. Then she started screaming “G-d damn it, I need some salt!”.

But it sounded more like “sought” the way she said it. I didn’t have any salt so she asked me to call the nurse and ask for some. Luckily, some doctors came to see her and I was

saved from having to ask the nurses for salt which I already knew they didn’t have.

Later the doctors tried to explain to her that she was on a special diet for her kidneys but she either didn’t understand or didn’t care. She said nothing tasted good without salt so

finally I stole a saltshaker from the cafeteria for her. I figured I might need her to return a favor and considering her current state, giving her salt was like throwing in a copy of Catcher in the Rye at a book burning.

Through the thin veil of the privacy curtain I discovered that she was actively using heroin and sharing needles that led to a nasty little abscess on her hand. They had arranged at great effort to schedule an ultra sound for her that very night because they were very concerned about her kidneys. She also needed a blood transfusion.

She said she wasn’t sure she needed a blood transfusion and had to think about it. She was concerned that the blood pool was contaminated. I thought it ironic that she shared her needles when using heroin but was worried about the blood supply being contaminated.

When the transporter came to bring her for the ultra sound, she refused to go claiming she needed her rest. When the tech came in asking if someone had rang the call bell, she

threw back her covers and started to rant that she was sick of everyone always talking about death.

“Whose dying now God damn it! Why is everyone always talking about dying?” Then she pulled the blankets back over her head and went back to sleep.

Later, her doctor, in broken English, tried to persuade her to go down for the ultra sound he had scheduled. She started to scream at him that she needed her sleep and if he didn’t

shut up she was going home.

When she was awake and there were no doctors around, she was actually quite pleasant. She was always offering to help me as I was on crutches, by holding open the bathroom

door and when I complained that the room was too warm, she offered to switch beds with me so I could be near the window but my friend pointed out that my roommates generous

offer could lead to the theft of my personal possessions. Alas, I stayed in my own bed.

As the effects of heroin withdrawal further took their grip on my roommate, she refused everything from her EKG to a cup of water that she claimed had invisible bugs in it. She repeatedly threatened to leave but never made it further than sitting up from her bed and then flopping back down.

During one of the short periods that she was awake, she told me that her boyfriend had cashed her “check” and would be in soon.

Later a bone thin old black man with a cane hobbled into the room. Minutes later he was in our bathroom and she came over to me and my visitor with a wad of bills, her cashed

check I assumed. She whispered to us that Milton, her boyfriend had spent $100.00 She begged us not to say anything, as if there was any risk of us getting involved, and then she left with Milton. My visitor who is savvy to the ways of today’s heroin addicts said they were going to shoot up. I was sad because I was packing to leave and wouldn’t get to see my roommate anymore.

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