Catastrophic Hospital Stay
Cold and blustery. Mail needs to be picked up. I walked down the driveway to get it and the trash barrel has been upended into a ditch full of water and ice. Nasty looking area. Went back to the garage to find something to use to snag the barrel and pull it out of the ditch. Settled on a rake.
Back as the ditch, I stretched and hooked the tines of the rake in the handle of the barrel.
Wonder how it got there. Almost had to be the county grader that goes through. They probably bumped it and knocked it in. Too much trouble to stop and get it out.
I tugged at the rake handle. Barrel didn't want to move.
I shifted the handle and the tines a little and pulled again. My feet slid forward and I sat down on the hard, frozen surface of the driveway. “God Damn”, I exploded as a sharp pain shot through my upper left leg and hip.
Calling The Ambulance And The Trip To The Hospital
Sitting for a moment until the pain subsided, I then moved sideways and turned to put my weight on my left side. Excruciating pain shot through me again. I had to get up, though. I ignored the pain and moved closer to the big tree by the drive. Using my arms and the leg with no pain, I got up and leaned against the tree. Some progress, I thought.
How to get my wife's attention in the house? I yelled loudly and realized that she couldn't possibly hear me. Whoever heard of anyone carrying a cell phone to get the mail. I hadn't and didn't. I yelled again.
She poked her head out the door. “What are you doing?”
“I hurt myself. Come help me.”
“I'll get a coat.” And, she disappeared back inside. She popped out the door a couple minutes later and came down the drive. “What happened?”
I explained it to her and then: “Maybe if I lean on you we can make it to the house.”
She got beside me and I put my arm over her shoulder. I tried to take a step but I'd have to put weight on my left leg and I couldn't do it. Again the pain from my left leg shot through me. “That ain't gonna work.”
“Let me go back in and get the phone.” She leaned me back against the tree and went in the house, reappearing with the cell phone in her hand. “Let me try to get someone.”
She dialed and listened. “Where are you?” “Good” “Good” “Don fell and hurt himself.” “Good” “Okay”. She folded the phone. “That was John. He's about 5 minutes from here.”
I couldn't imagine the luck that would have him in the area. Five minutes later the youngest son pulled in the driveway and jumped out of his SUV.
I swung my free arm over his shoulder and with him supporting me tried to go towards the house. Pain was too great and I couldn't move. He maneuvered his SUV so it was closer and lowered the tailgate. He picked me up in a bear hug and sat me on the tailgate.
Then he maneuvered the vehicle around so that I was near the garage. They got me off the tailgate and onto the ground where I dragged and crawled to the kitchen steps and up and into the kitchen. I got stretched out on the kitchen/dining room floor near the living room door and laid there while they called 911.
The ambulance came and the EMS guy gave me my first shot of morphine. It got easier. They got me on a stretcher and we headed for Alma, MI, where the hospital was located.
Getting A Surgeon and The Operation
I laid on a gurney in the hallway waiting for xrays. My wife and youngest son were there with me. Clerk took all kinds of info. Finally admitted me to a room
Gave me another shot of morphine and I went to sleep.
Unbeknownst to me, my wife was looking for a surgeon to fix my leg. It was the day before Thanksgiving and nobody was working on Thanksgiving eve. She finally got one that agreed to come in and do it.
He stood at the foot of my bed with a clipboard in his hand. “How are you doing?” he asked.
“Pretty good,” I said. “Who are you?”
“I'm the guy that's going to fix your leg. We'll get you in there in a little while and straighten it out as good as new. Maybe even better than new.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“When did you eat last?”
I looked at Sharon. “I'm not sure exactly,” I said. “In fact, I've sort of lost track of time since I've been in here.”
“Well,” he said. “Those pain meds will do that sometimes.”
“I don't think he's had anything today,” Sharon said.
“That's great. As soon as we can get a room, we'll get started. He'll be back here for a couple days and you can take him home.”
He clicked his pen and put it in his pocket. “Any questions,” he wanted to know.
I shook my head.
“Very good,” he said as he left the room.
A nurse came in. “You doin' all right?” she asked.
“Are you hurting?”
“Can't give you anything now but if it bothers you after surgery, we'll take care of it. See if you can doze off for a while.”
Surgery was performed. A pin was put in.
Later we saw xrays of the area and were shocked that the pin was about 12 inches long. It runs down through the big bone of the leg.
Got me back to the room and kept me doped up on morphine so that I mostly slept.
The First of the More Morphine Times
The nurse came in. "Do you hurt?"
"On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad?"\
"About a 7"
She gave me another shot of morphine. I dozed off.
I walked out onto the train trestle. It was quiet and peaceful. There were white and fluffy clouds passing by under the trestle. There was a smell of lavender in the air. I could hear peaceful music in my head.
A boy – about 10 years old – walked beside me. He held my hand and balanced himself on the rails as we walked.
He leaned towards me and up against me. He turned to me and smiled.
On the far side of the trestle I saw what looked like a tent city. Although we didn't increase the speed with which we were walking, it came towards us rapidly. Suddenly we were in the midst of the city.
It was a flea market. On my left was a woman selling paintings. In front of us was a book dealer where I saw some rare books priced ridiculously low. An old man sat on the ground near a large stamp collection.
I asked “How much is it?”
“If you'll take good care of it, you can have it for nothing” he answered.
I picked it up and it fit in my hip pocket.
The boy smiled at me admiringly.
There were hundreds of people in the area but very little sound. It was peaceful. A pleasant place to be.
And More Morphine
The nurse came in. "How's the pain."
She gave me another shot. I dozed off.
There was a breeze across the deck of the ship as it moved through the waters just off the shore of Saginaw Bay. It blew softly through my hair as I lay in my bed on the deck. An attendant was nearby and I could see inside the structure of the ship through a small window.
It was a cruise to nowhere and the attendant brought me a meal. It was good stuff. Medium well steak and baked potato. Ice cream for dessert. A really good cup of coffee. The ship rocked a little, sloshing my coffee. Couldn't eat all of the food.
“This is really the life,” my brother said.
I looked over at him. I hadn't realized that he'd come along on the trip. “Isn't it, though,” I agreed. “Not many patients get treated like this.”
“Where are we heading?” he wanted to know.
“Just out for a cruise,” I answered. “I do this every once in a while. And, each time it is just as pleasant.”
There was a whirring noise by the head of my bed and I could feel movement other than the sway of the ship.
The light in the room was low. My youngest brother sat next to my bed. His wife was across the room. The rest of the family was upstairs. Why the family reunion was being held in the basement of the school hadn't been explained.
“You've got to leave that sensor on your finger,” he said.
I picked at it. What he said was clear. What he meant was not.
“Don,” said my sister-in-law. “Lay back down and leave it alone.”
I laid back down. I picked at the sensor and pulled it off my finger.
“Don,” said my brother patiently. “You've got to leave it on.” He clipped it back to my finger.
Some kind of fog machine over in the corner caused a cloud to drift through the room. It was a big room. I couldn't quite see the wall behind them but over in the corner was a kind of dim staircase that went up from the basement.
I wiggled on the bed. I swung my legs over the edge to sit up.
“Don, you can't do that,” he said. “You have to stay in bed.”
“I just want to sit up,” I told him.
“You're not supposed to do that,” he told me. “Just lay back down and try to relax. Get some rest.”
The ceiling disappeared for a little while and it rained. I could feel the drops on my face but the bedding didn't get wet.
“You're not treating me very nice,” I told them.
“Just take it easy,” she said. “It'll be all right.”
Something was wrong and I couldn't quite figure out what it was.
And MORE MORPHINE
The nurse was standing by my bed. He had a syringe in his hand. “How's the pain?” he asked.
“Hurts,” I said.
He emptied the contents of the syringe into the IV line. “That'll help,” he told me as he turned away.
I faded off.
I woke up.
“Sis, you see that cabinet?” I pointed across the foot of my bed at what looked like a set of kitchen cabinets. It had a sink and there were several doors and drawers.
“Yes,” she said.
“You remember the monkeys in 'Wizard of Oz'?”
“In the top right cabinet, there one of them that has grown up to be a human being. When I'm here by myself, he comes out and talks to me”
“This one?” she asked and pointed at the top right door.
“That's the one.”
She opened the door and it was empty.
“I'll bet he moves around and when you open one, he moves to another shelf. He's really pretty nice. I've only seen him angry with me one time. When he gets that way, his eyes sort of flash and he bares his teeth. Pretty scary.”
She put her hand on my shoulder. “I'll bet it is. Just relax.”
And, Yet Again, MORE MORPHINE
A nurse came in. “How are you doin' Mr. Rust?”
“Pretty good,” I answered.
My sister started to say something and then stopped.
“Do you have any pain?” the nurse asked.
“Oh, some. But not too bad.”
“On a scale of 1 to 10, what level is it?”
“Maybe a 5 or 6”
“I think we can do something about that,” she said and went out.
I dozed off.
My wife and the youngest son were standing next to the bed.
“They just gave me some more blood,” I told them. “They've been giving me a pint of blood about every 15 or 20 minutes.”
He looked at me. She looked at me.
“There isn't any blood hanging here and no line with blood running into your IV,” She said.
"They must have just stopped then.”
I peered up over my shoulder but couldn't see anything. They'd placed everything just out of sight.
“When they finish with a pint of blood, they just take it down and throw the empty over in the corner. By now there should be quite a pile of them because I don't think they clean them up at all.”
The son looked at me. My wife looked at me.
The nurse came back in with a needle.
I could hear the machine outside the door of my room. A large forklift was sliding the tines under my room and lifting it. It motored down the hallway and out of doors. It placed my room on the bed of a truck along with other rooms it had already loaded. Workers strapped the rooms to the truck.
The truck drove off through the parking lot and after a few miles pulled into a parking lot next to a ship. Cranes lifted the rooms from the bed of the truck to the deck of the ship and we steamed off into a foggy morning.
It was cold on deck and nurses kept popping in and out of the rooms, giving patients more blankets to keep them warm and making sure the windows were closed so that the spray of the water didn't come through and dampen everything.
We kept plowing through the fog and it kept getting foggier. Soon there was nothing.
In the hallway outside my hospital room is a closet. Inside the closet – as with most closets – there is hangar space and a shelf above the hangars for storage. The closet is usually dark and safe.
I could open the door to the closet and using the doorknob, boost myself onto the shelf where I could curl up into a small fetal ball in case they came looking for me.
Sometimes I cried and shook until I slept.
And - MORE
“Pain any better?” asked the nurse.
“Not too bad,” I said. “When can I get up and about?”
“We'll see what the doctor says,” she replied.
She reached for the IV line and inserted the syringe that she had with her. She depressed the needle. I watched for a minute and dozed back off.
The grainy farmland stretched beyond the horizon. A gentle wind made the stalks sway. Coming towards me but still in the distance I could see my father and an inspector looking at the crop. They were animatedly discussing its quality and whether the farmhands could do anything to improve it.
The antebellum farmhouse was on my right. I hadn't noticed it before but several women were on the porch drinking iced tea and fanning themselves in the late afternoon heat.
I knew that it was urgent that I talk to them. I tried to get their attention. No one looked up and gradually they got further and further away and then faded into the distance.
I woke up.
“The next time our son comes in,” I told my wife. “Ask him to get rid of those bags over in the corner.”
“The used bags that the blood comes in. When they get done giving me a transfusion, they just throw the bags over in the corner.”
I gestured towards the wall. “There should be a pretty good stack of them there by now. Seems like they hang a new bag every hour or so.”
I dozed back off.
In the hallway of the high school was the glass wall that contained all of the trophies awarded to the school over the years. It was a severe, vacant looking area.
I wandered by the trophies, carrying a blanket over one arm, pulling an IV stand behind me. It was cold.
I unfolded the blanket and hunched under it, sitting down against the wall. I went to sleep.
We were sitting on the top deck of the bus. It was enclosed and we were in the front two seats. We had a great view out the front window but it was raining and the view was a little distorted. The windshield wipers kept it reasonably clear.
The driver kept going too fast for the traffic and I wished he would slow down.
We climbed a really long hill and when we came over the top I could see a long downward slope in front of us. The rain on the windshield started freezing and I could see rivulets of ice streaming downward as the bus began to pick up speed going down the hill.
At the bottom of the hill the road came to a T and had to make either a right turn or a left turn.
We were going too fast to make either turn.
I pressed the call button to get the nurse and she arrived promptly. I don't think she was a nurse, but rather a nurse's aide because she was young and had a more innocent, unsure look about her.
“Would you ask that fellow to come in for a moment?” I asked her.
“Right there in the hall. Ask him to come down here. I know that he'll help me and would like to talk to him.”
“Mr. Rust,” she said. “There isn't anyone in the hall. It's 3:15 in the morning and you must have been dreaming. Just relax and go back to sleep.”
“What do you mean - 'There isn't anyone'? I can see him standing right there. He's 6 foot or so tall and as black as the ace of spades. Please ask him to come in. I know he can help.”
“Just calm down.” She was beginning to look someplace between frightened and concerned. “I'll get the head nurse.”
I was getting frantic. “I don't want the head nurse. I just want to talk to that guy. Just ask him to come in and I'll quiet right down.”
“I think I can get you some medicine that will help,” she said and walked down the hall.
I called loudly. “Please ask him to come in.”
I was frantic. “I know he can help.”
She returned with a needle.
And, Yet Again
I was tired from walking back from the cruise but knew I had to get back in before curfew. In the distance I could see the fence surrounding the hospiital and behind it there was a big clock that was creeping towards the time when they'd lock the gates.
As I got closer I could see a line snaking along the road leading to the entry and knew that even if I got to the line, there was no way I could make it to the gate by curfew.
Then off to the left I saw a gate half hidden behind some bushes that led to a building where steam was coming from the smokestacks. I knew it was the laundry facility and that if I could get in there I could probably make my way to my room.
There was no one around when I got to the gate and I sneaked through it. I found myself in a room with lots of washers and hot steamy air. It felt good after being outdoors in the cold nighttime.
There was a door on the far side of the room and I headed towards it. When I tried to open it, it was stuck. I pulled harder and harder on the door. It finally came open. There was a black void two feet beyond the door.
The oxygen sensor on the end of my finger contains a code name and a message. I picked at it to try to dislodge it and thus interrupt the messaging abilities. I tried to see the machine that it was attached to. I couldn't see it. They kept the machines just out of my line of sight.
My wife said “Don, you've got to keep that on and not pick at it.”
“But,” I told her. “The terrorists can use it to pinpoint my location. If I don't get that messaging out of there, they'll find us.”
“Here, let me put it back on,” she told me.
The lights were bright on the high school football field. Students in the stands were making lots of noise in support of their team. It was beginning to mist a little but the students didn't pay any attention.
Behind the bleachers were three school buses. The first one had its doors open and the driver was standing beside the open door collecting money from the line of men waiting to board. The other two buses had their doors closed and it looked like they were waiting for the first bus to complete its loading.
“How much?” asked the next man in line.
“$22.50,” he was told.
He paid the fare and got on the bus.
Two guys at the back of the line were talking. “What's this all about?” asked the taller one.
“It's the school bus to the whore house. You load up here and they take you over to the gym where the girls are. You've got fifteen minutes to finish up and then they reload the bus and get you back here in time for the half time ceremony. Only place in the state where you have this kind of action at the high school football games.”
THEN - Finally....
Later the wife told me that I was just laying there in the bed. I was unresponsive to her conversation and was unmoving. It was like I was in a coma.
One of the cardiologists came in.
“Can you do something to make him responsive?” she asked.
The doctor looked at me. He peeled back my eyelids and stared for a moment.
“Nurse”, he called abruptly. When she appeared he ordered some medication which he injected.
“If that'll do it,” he said. “He'll wake up in two minutes.
He stood there. He reached and shook my shoulder. “Don,” he said. “Don, wake up now.”
I opened my eyes and smiled at him. My wife took my hand.
“He shouldn't be given any more narcotic pain medication,” the doctor said and wrote the order in my chart.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, how's the pain?” asked the nurse.
“Oh, probably a 2 or 3. Not too bad,” I replied. I was sitting up in bed, talking to my brother.
“We'll see if we can do something,” he responded as he went out the door.
Shortly he was back and came up to the bed. He injected something into the IV line.
“What was that?” I asked.
“Just a little morphine to help out,” he said.
"GOD DAMN!!!” I shouted. “I'm not supposed to have narcotics anymore. Can't you ASSHOLES get your act together.”
My brother was sitting there, looking shocked. The nurse looked away. I drifted off.
A hot dry breeze blew the flap of the tent. Four feet or so from the tent entry was a mammoth rock. And, on the other side of the rock was a stake that had been driven into the hard earth. I was tied to the stake.
The sun was merciless and burnt my eyes as I tried to pay attention to the men around me. They were dressed in scraggly robes and had mangy looking beards.
“You're making a mistake,” I told them. “My brother is with the FBI and he'll be looking for me.”
“Hah!!!” said the one that was obviously the leader. “He cannot get here soon enough to do you any good.”
The leather thongs they had used to fasten my chest to the stake left my arms and legs free. I was close enough to the large rock that I could feel heat emanating from it that it had absorbed from the sun.
The leader smiled a broken tooth smile. “Grab his arm,” he said. “And hold it over the rock.”
Two of his cohorts took hold of my arm and pulled it to them, laying it on the rock that was hot to the touch.
The leader reached back and picked up what looked like a cross between a hatchet and a knife. He smiled again and tested the edge of the blade with his thumb. Then he raised the weapon over his head and aimed it at my arm.
“You don't want to do this,” I screamed.
I was told later that in the Patient Review Group, my wife told the assembled staff from the hospital that “I'm afraid to leave him under your care. I'm afraid you're going to kill him.”
As a group, they were silent.
Several of the doctors professed to be offering the best care possible. A couple of the doctors expressed bewilderment at what could be causing the problems I'd been experiencing. One of the doctors said that he thought I would be better off with more specialized care.
The majority of the physicians present wanted to be rid of the responsibility of caring for me when they didn't really know what to do to make me better. The consensus was that if they could get a larger, regional hospital with specialized care available to accept me as a patient, I should be transferred.
One of the doctors accepted the responsibility for find a place.
Within hours I was in an ambulance heading for a larger nearby city and more metropolition regional hospital.
I was in the local hospital for just under four weeks instead of the three day stay it should have been.
As a result of the morphine coma(s), I was intubated three times and the last time, my epiglottis was damaged so that I had to have a feeding tube. The feeding tube remained in for three months.
I had multiple heart attacks while in the metropolitan hospital during the withdrawal from the morphine.
I recovered sufficiently to go to a nursing home rehab where I spent three weeks.
I then was served by outpatient therapy for a month and went to physical rehab for another three months. First, I used a walker and then graduated to a cane.
Gradually my body came back to normal.