(with dedication to brother J.D. Stevens)
Yes, I remember it well; like it was yesterday. A day largely devoid of any and all self-esteem. Yeah, self-esteem was not meant to prevail on this day of days; it was written in the stars that night.
“You need to yet have a bowel movement, Mr. Hand. It is mandatory for your recovery and release from the hospital, you know.” Yes, I knew. This wasn’t my first day in a hospital. I was well-aware of the requisite for a demonstration of all bodily function prior to discharge.
Problem: to start off, I hadn’t eaten enough in nearly 20 days to sustain an anorexic sloth and skipped meal after meal favoring a weight drop over a picky pallet. I began to eat anywhere from one-third to one-half of my three daily meals. “This shall produce, and the Daktari will rest easy,” I affirmed.
It was late one evening, and the squad of nightly nurses had finally taken their leave of meddling and fussing over me. There was a lot to do; there were a lot of tubes in me. I was known on the ward as Tube Boy. There was one of every kind of medical tube I had ever heard of sticking out of me.
There was even one tube that was rather nondescript and ambiguous in its service, known to the community as a long-stay general purpose sort of tube, and it was unclear who had actually emplaced it. There was a point where a line outside my sickroom formed with interns and professionals alike who asked: “Is this the line for intubation practice.” I fancied that it just may well be.
I had a tube in my nose that fed down into my stomach that was there from day one. It was painful to insert, and was there for so long that I plumb forgot all about it until the day I was trying to clear the stuffiness of my nose… I tallied what appeared to be a mucous mass just at the edge of my nostril. I secure it an pulled and pulled until I had completely extubated my tube, much to the horror of the senior nurse.
“Oh my God!” she exclaimed over and over… “Oh my God I have never seen such a scene before… oh my Lord!”
“Hey relax there, Florence Nightingale; “I’m the one who is going to have to suffer through a reinsertion of that invasive conduit!”
“Ok when I tell you, swallow hard and clear your throat,” instructed the nurse. Yeah, yeah… I had been through all of it before.
I can tell you that the hour was one prior to midnight as I lay in my bed in my room listening to the cacophony of beeps, bells, and whistles of the monitors; there were ticking and clicking and clacking and hissing of pumps and sighing of ventilators. My stomach began to churn oddly. The feeling was reminiscent of that of the past, though I am vexed to know not exactly of what.
Then it happened.
It became shockingly clear to me that this was testimony of a pending movement at hand, one that would be formidable and spirited. I engaged the nurse call button and craned my neck to see the bathroom across the room. It was only six steps or so from my bed, but the gap may as well have been the Snake River Canyon.
Certain the nurse would be here soon I pined as I engaged the call button a second time. I began to disconnect some of the plethora of lines and tubes that linked me to Houston Control. To my utter dismay came the movement, much beyond my control and discriminating against nothing in its path.
The first wave was powerful and dominate; nothing was spared as my gut rearmed for a second salvo. I, in near panic, sat up and swept my arms around my person to detect any further connections. I sat up and braced myself to stand. I engaged the nurse call button a final time as I lay my lubber line on a direct path to the bathroom.
My britches sagged heavily.
As I pushed off from my bed I felt the alarming tug of yet another line I had neglected to locate and unhook. With no time to dedicate toward mitigating that circumstance, I pushed on and felt the line break under load. I moved on hand-over-hand supporting myself on anything I could find. As I neared the bathroom I looked at the floor and noted a heavy trail of blood originating from my bed and ending where I stood.
I scanned to my front and found a severed line from which a steady stream of blood poured. The culprit. The sophisticated side of my brain yielded to my baser survival instinct as I tied the free end of the tube into an overhand knot. The spurt surceased. I came to a short hover and then a heavy landing upon the throne of shame as it sat thereby.
The second and third deluge came forth with empty vengeance, just to spite the who and the why of the matter. I was being targeted, I felt, but mine was not to reason why; mine was just to sit and cry. I regarded the trail outside along the floor. It ran from my bed to the base of my feet. It ran brown and red and was a telltale entity that told a tale of pain and desperation.
Third time’s a charm, I pondered as the door to my room finally came open at the behest of my call nurse.
“Oh my God!!” soared the lamentation of the nurse as she levied eyes on the scene of my dismay.
“Oh, good grief… what in the name of heavens happened here??” she wailed.
I was duly bemused by the tenuous satisfaction that I had at a very minimum created a scenario that even she had not witnessed in her formidable career with University of New Mexico Medical Center. I accepted credit for this, if nothing else but for lack of credit in any other realm of my situation; after all, I had just shitted and bled out a remake of the Chisholm trail stemming from by bed to my bath…and beyond!
I saw the hand of my nurse appear on the door jamb and her face slowly pie off the scene in the bathroom. There I sat in all my glory: right elbow on left knee, chin resting on the fist of my right arm as I struck a remarkable semblance of Rodin’s “The Thinker” a noble sculpture. I had it all, except the nobility part, as there is no nobility or honor to be found in shitting oneself followed by a supplemental bloodletting.
The nurse’s gaze couple my own. I sighed and remarked timidly:
“Ah, yet another person having a better day than me.”
By God and with honor,
Images courtesy of Wikipedia