Monday, September 08, 2008
CANCER JOURNAL - NOT A CHEAP DATE
"I think, therefore I am" said Descartes. The more down to earth philosophy of my Red Hat group is "I'm still breathing, therefore I'm entitled to chocolate martinis." We try hard to keep the commitment to our philosophy at every Red Hat luncheon.
"Let's go out to dinner after Mass Saturday night," my husband offered. I haven't forgotten my dating days, even tho they were a lifetime ago. A Saturday date with the man in my life is a sure bet. He knew I wouldn't say no.
A little restaurant out in the country, halfway to Pennsylvania, has fond memories for us. We settled on steak at Ben's. Heading out to the restaurant was a pleasant drive, and we arrived at the tail end of the dinner rush. By the time the bloomin onion remains and dregs of my chocolate had been cleared and the steak arrived, we had the section where we were sitting all to ourselves. All the better to whisper sweet nothings of long ago memories without being noticed, and to wonder why I was just as sober after the chocolate as I was before it. Well, nothin's perfect.
I was about half way through my steak when I started feeling a bit lightheaded. I put the knife and fork down and sat back. Husband asked what was wrong. Apparently I had started looking a bit peculiar. I told him I was going outside for some air and got up. He got up as well with the intention of stopping me. Five steps later he was catching me as I fell to the floor unconscious, but only for a short time.
The next thing I remember I was sitting on a chair with a crowd around me and paramedics on the way. I assured them I would be fine in a short while. They got out the EKG. According to my husband I looked like I was having a heart attack and felt cold and clammy while the sweat ran down my face. There were murmurs of an irregular heartbeat and my blood pressure was too low. No one was hearing my claim that I would be fine or that I was not going to go to a hospital.
They gave me a choice of one in Youngstown--even further away from home--or the hospital where the unexplained blood clots had mysteriously appeared--the ones that the technician in another hospital couldn't find. I asked to go to the hospital where my oncologist practices. They said no.
In the emergency room there was a guard with a bullet-proof vest and a man in the next cubicle who kept admitting to more and more beer as the staff kept asking him how many he had drunk. He was vomiting and complaining about a stomachache. Out on the lawn in front of the emergency room there were loud voices and talk about marijuana. A woman in a bad frame of mind came into the hospital but was later escorted out by police.
After a few hours and more radiation, they still hadn't found a reason I passed out. All of the tests they ran turned up negative, but they weren't about to let me go home, and I wasn't about to be admitted to the hospital I didn't trust. We were at odds but finally compromised on another ambulance ride. The doctor asked me why I hadn't just gone to my hospital of choice in the first place.
The paramedic who rode with me in ambulance No. 2 was on a 24 hour shift. By now it was 3 a.m. and she was scheduled to go off-duty at 6:30. She was tired and frustrated by her previous transport. He had been high and homeless and needed a place to crash, so he called for an ambulance to get him to his preferred motel--the hospital emergency room. He spent the ride complaining about everything and making demands. She said it was unlikely the ambulance company would be paid for their service to him, and equally unlikely that the hospital would be paid. She said one hospital was petitioning to close their emergency room for this very reason. It happens all the time.
The remainder of the night and Sunday morning in hospital No. 2 was spent on more blood tests and an echo-cardiogram all of which turned up normal. Around 8 the doctor on call from my oncologist's practice told me I would be spending another night there. Around 8:30 the doctor on the hospital staff told me I could go home. I hadn't yet had any sleep.
I finally did get home in the early afternoon and got a couple hours of sleep. Then last night I slept 12 hours, and I'm still groggy.
I've always enjoyed doing new things and seeing new places. The inside of an ambulance was a novelty, though I think my husband would have preferred cheaper transportation back from our restaurant in the country. The room at the second hospital was quite surprising. As I was wheeled into it I took note of the bathroom that looked like a hotel bathroom. The room was large with four guest chairs, wood laminate floor, pictures of flowers on the wall and only one bed. The nurse explained the eating arrangements. I was to call down to the kitchen when I got hungry. Room service was on call from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and the room service menu was on my bed table. This particular wing of the hospital had been completed a couple of months before. It is now possible to be sick in luxury, which apparently the drunks and drug users know better than I do. It seems that the news about Hotel Hospital has made the rounds.