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Because they knew I was a diabetic, they kept bringing me all those desserts (pudding, Jello) with fake sugar. I know I should not have sugar in great quantities (probably not at all), but let’s be realistic — that fake stuff is crap— and I told them so. So what do they do the next time? Bring the same horrible stuff! I made it clear I wanted the real thing despite what my chart said. I was living on apple juice. They finally decided I could have real food again. And it wasn’t that bad. Or maybe I was just desperate. I wasn’t really hungry like I was before this ordeal. I could eat a lot back then. Not now. It was a challenge. I hated to leave anything. They had a jerk chicken dish with rice that I really thought I could finish. Not by a long shot. I would save these meals (more like hide them) because they had a habit of giving you a certain amount of time to consume them and then it was garbage time. I felt like a squirrel. I hadn’t eaten cereal since I was a kid, but the Cheerios and Corn Flakes were actually enjoyable.

I was told I had to start using the incentive spirometer. That’s a little gadget you blew into that is sort of like using the mallet at a carnival to see how high you can hit the ball. I didn’t do very well with it. That really pissed off Nurse Ratchet who made it clear I wouldn’t get out of there until I could reach a certain level. Yeah yeah.

Sometime later in the day, a nurse practitioner showed up. I had no idea why she was there. Little did I know what she was going to do. Again, they keep you guessing. First, she removed the bandages from my chest. I don’t know what it is about these people with ripping off bandages, but they must have gone to sadism school. Now keep in mind, when I go swimming in a pool or the ocean, I like to work my way in gently — I don’t just jump in. I have to get used to the water. Well, I guess these people don’t have the time to wait for you to get used to anything so they just rip that damn bandage off. And that happened more than once because we get band-aids and bandages all the time in this place. Any body part with hair is fair game. Just grab a corner and tear. So after she was done doing that, it was now time for the meat and potatoes part of our meeting. She was going to remove the drainage tubes from under my chest. She was what???? Yes, they don’t tell you about this little parting gift. It is necessary to remove these things and she was about to do it with, once again, no anesthesia. I panicked. My chest was incredibly tender; I had just been knifed and cracked and she was going to yank three tubes from out from under my chest. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t escape. She said “count to three and turn to me.” “No, I can’t,” I said in a quivering voice. Well, she yanked them out and I saw stars. It felt as if she opened my chest again. Maybe she did. Because of this procedure, however, I had now earned my brownie points to leave the CCU and go back upstairs to my room with a view. That would happen the very next day.

In the meantime, I was stuck with Nurse Ratchet, the constant noise and the bed made for midgets. The second she left for the evening, I contacted the nurse on duty and asked if I could have a different nurse in the morning. She was surprised I had spoken up, but smiled as though she knew exactly what my reasons were. Nurse Ratchet was relieved of her duties with Brian Gari. I saw her pass by my room a few times and wondered if she really gave a rat’s ass. I was proud I had the guts to ask for the change. It was worth it. Her replacement was very nice.


Ding Dong, Is Anyone Home?

Well, I got through the weekend despite the fact that sleeping doesn’t seem to be allowed in this place. They continued to wake me up even though I begged them not to. I called in a doctor the night before and said this was ridiculous. I had no way of healing without sleep and the night nurses were so arrogant saying “they had their orders and no one told them different.” The doctor said she would advise them otherwise. I thought it was all set. Nope. They completely ignored the orders and woke me about every hour. I was furious. I had to get my blood sugar checked (which was very high from the operation. I don’t know what they expected considering I wasn’t on my medication anymore). They started giving me insulin shots and sometimes not in the arm. A new location seemed to be a priority — the stomach. Yep, a shot in the stomach. No, it didn’t hurt that much, but when you see them coming with a needle toward your belly, you are in high fear alert! They also want to wake you up to give you pills, take your temperature again, do your blood pressure…totally exhausting. And keep in mind, they don’t do this all at once — they come in probably every other hour so just when you fall asleep it’s “knock knock…Mr. Gari?”

Now I contacted another doctor who guaranteed me I would not be wakened. I told her I’d believe it when I saw it. She couldn’t believe the orders had been ignored. They actually weren’t even written down. Whether or not that first doctor would be called on the carpet remained to be seen.

The replacement for Nurse Ratchet was lovely, considerate and helpful. Just goes to show what will happen if you buck the system a little. My surgeon came in with his crew, looking once again as if they were posing for the school yearbook or about to do a doo wop number. There he was out in front with his background singers to his right. He was great. He said I was coming along very well. He said I could actually do anything when I went home. Really? Yes. Just as he was leaving, I whispered to him “what about sex?” He said “you can have as much as you want.” I thanked him for saving my life. He said, “Oh I was just the plumber.” I was scheduled to do a benefit for the carriage horses of Central Park, and he encouraged me to do that and said he would have attended, but he truly had a prior commitment. (I actually did bow out myself because there were stairs involved and I wasn’t quite ready…sex, on the other hand…)

I was told I was going to be shipped back upstairs to my private room with a view. I was back on the gurney for my ride to the 10th floor. When I arrived, my old friend, Michael the nurse, popped in to see how I was doing. He really cared. He also made sure my street clothes and belongings followed me because I had no idea where they went after I checked in that first innocent day.

When I went to use the bathroom, it looked suspiciously like it had never been cleaned. There were bandage wrappers in the sink and some piece of chipped plastic lying near the toilet. I mentioned it to the nurse, but nothing was done. It took several requests before anyone took a look; they apologized and went about cleaning it.

I finally lay down in yet another crappy bed made for midgets and tried to get comfortable when a strange lady appeared in my doorway. She was smiling like someone trying to convert you to a religion. She was, in fact, the religious lady! This is the person that makes it her business to visit everyone in the hospital who might need some prayers in their life. I made it clear (in a friendly way) that I was not religious and did not need any prayers. (Hey, if they want to help you out with a dose of religion, they shoulda been there when I was being shaved and prepped for the slaughterhouse!) Okay, she was very nice, but she saw she had no customer here, so she went on her merry way. She came back again two days later (that was her schedule) and Jeanne and I both thanked her for her concern.

Exhausted as I was, the parade of visitors did not stop with the religion lady. An old friend took it upon himself to pop by from two hours away in New Jersey. It was a real surprise since I did not encourage visitors. I looked like hell and needed to sleep so badly. We chatted (or he did) for a while, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open. He offered to sit and watch me sleep. I offered him my leftover breakfast — a hardboiled egg and some tea. He took me up on it since he hadn’t eaten a thing and I had had the cereal, which was enough for me. He was there for around an hour and a half, and I told him I really did need to sleep. He understood and bid me farewell. Just as I finally dozed off, the intercom system in the room blasted that they were looking for a certain nurse. This was the start of announcements all through the day and night. In this day and age, you would think the particular nurses they were looking for would have a beeper of some kind; not a chance.They found an annoying way of reaching them…using the intercom system in every room to locate them. I even got up to see if I could turn it off myself. No such luck so I called Michael, my friendly nurse. He and some others went about looking for a solution. It stopped for a while…but then returned with a vengeance. I asked a tech person who simply told me to call maintenance. He gave me the number, which I was suspicious would not work. I was right. There were more numbers to dial to reach maintenance. I got through — it was a phone machine. No one responded. One more piece of insanity this hospital had to offer.

I mentioned to Michael that it was too bad they charged for the TV. He looked at me very puzzled. “The TV is free,” he replied. “You’re kidding…they told me I had to pay last time I was on this floor.”“Nope,” he reiterated. “It’s on the house.” And with that, he clicked it on. Of course, I still didn’t have a remote. That was like asking for the Queen to visit you, but Michael rounded up one that worked a little better than the last.

One thing that is a little disturbing is how closely you are monitored. They told me I was hooked up to a system that told them everything you were doing. Does that mean on video? audio? This made me wonder how much they knew about what you did in the privacy of your room. Do they know when you scratch? (or anything else for that matter!) They also pop in without any warning (oh yes, there’s always that knock on the door — once they’re in!)

There was a bureau with drawers right next to me and that’s when I decided it was time to write down some of this lunacy. A friend of mine on Facebook dropped the hint that I would probably be writing a new song about my experiences. I knew a song wasn’t in the cards, but a book might be another story (so to speak). I searched the bureau. Not a pen or piece of paper. Maybe they knew. So I asked for the materials. What they came back with was a riot. One piece of hospital paper and a pencil so small, I thought they robbed a miniature golf store. I made do. I had no choice. The thoughts were coming so fast.

One thing you don’t expect is the flood of emotions you feel. I started thinking about how my wife was almost a widow. What would have happened if I had dropped dead before the operation — or during? This poor girl had married only six months earlier and here was her husband hanging by a thread. And then there was my mother. What would she have done if I hadn’t made it through? I was her first born and the only child still in New York. I don’t think she could have coped. Tears started welling up in my eyes. Oh and my father. He went through this as well. I was wishing I could have talked to him about it. But he was gone. It made me sad again. I was grateful, yet depressed.

I realized it was past lunch and none had arrived. Yep, they forgot about me. I called the nurse and they said they would send something. It never came. I wasn’t that hungry, and as I said before, I kept a little stash just in case. Nevertheless, it kind of sucked because at least the food would make my days a little more interesting. Oh, well. Perhaps I could count on dinner?

Jeanne was now back at work for the full day so I could only stare at the clock, hope for some sleep and count the hours until she arrived. I tried to use the incentive spirometer again, since they told me it was imperative that I make progress with it in order to be released, but I hated it and got bored with blowing into that thing. I would recover on my own time.

The doctors came by again and told me I would be released on Wednesday. They said I was doing very well and they didn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t make it home just fine. They believed I would recover much faster in my own environment and considering the lack of sleep I was getting there, I wholeheartedly (another pun?) agreed. I asked if there were any more “surprises” that might be disturbing (i.e. removals of anything), and I was so thrilled to know there would be one more — a wire attached to my heart. Oh, great. God knows what that would feel like. They swore it was nothing and certainly not as bad as the tubes. It put me into another panic. Just the thought of a wire being yanked out of that same area scared the crap out of me (well, not literally as I still wasn’t “going.”Too much information? sorry).

Jeanne stayed for a few hours, but I was concerned about her getting home when it was dark. She had brought me all my newspapers, which I was determined to finish (including the entire Sunday
New York Times.
) I went through a ton of email and Facebook notifications. I answered a few but it was truly overwhelming. I kissed Jeanne goodbye and told her there would be just one more day there and after that it was home! She was pleased. I watched her depart as I was left to the hounds arriving with needles and whatever else they had in mind for my nocturnal interruptus.

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