I guess I should start with recent events and then, if I really do return to blogging, move back to keep you all up to date. In June, my airline mile saving spouse, P, wrangled up three tickets for us to go to the Motherland. Little did any of us know, I wouldn't be returning with him and our now newly nine-year-old, Lanes.
P, meticulous to a fault, had created an excel spreadsheet detailing our schedule for the trip. Everything was color coded and scheduled to the minute. There we had it--every errand, meal, visit with family and friends, breath taken, all highlighted and allotted a specific time. The poor man tried to put down every conceivable eventuality onto his spreadsheet, but I just had to go and wreck it.
The Thursday before we left, I was grumbling about having a really sore throat. I got no pity, so I pouted and swallowed a couple of Vicks drops, the lemon flavor aptly complimenting my sour mood. I woke up randomly at 3 or 4 am, because that's what normal people do, and I realized that I could not get out of bed. I could hear P's voice ringing in my head; 'don't sleep in front of the AC with the fan on, you are asking for a cramp!'. Did I listen? No. Never. As such, I decided I must have caught one of these dreaded 'cramps' and I was determined to suffer in silence rather than hear the dreaded words 'I told you so', which incidentally, I hear far too much in my life.
However, I soon realized that not only could I not sit up, I couldn't stand or walk, and I had the strangest pain from my back right down my leg. Panic forced me to wake P up, and for someone who dispenses medical advice at the drop of a hat with great authority, he was almost at a loss for words when he realized that I had really done myself in.
Luckily, my mother's cousin, who lives two doors down, is an orthopedic surgeon. By 7am, I was in tears and desperate, and told P to call the poor man over at once. By that time, I was in a full blown anxiety attack mode because I could only manage to lie diagonally across the bed with my head and feet propped at a certain angle. To add to my troubles, my bladder decided to kick in at that very moment, and I couldn't get up to use the facilities.
My uncle had to show up on his way to the hospital to see me wild-eyed and wild haired, sprawled across the bed in my tie dyed t-shirt and owl print pink PJ bottoms. This was not how I needed to be seen in public, ever. He at once diagnosed a herniated disc and requested that I show up at the hospital ASAP for X-Rays and an MRI.
The first thing I discovered at the hospital was that only specific people are allowed to push wheelchairs, and they were identified by their dark green shirts. Godzilla might be on a rampage, but no one was allowed to push your wheelchair to safety except for one of these territorial folks, now affectionately known to me as the 'Wheelie Crew'.
I was zipped away by a chatty man who happily told me that I looked like I probably needed surgery. At that point, I began to feel nausea set in. I was not looking forward to the MRI because I remember my late father used to complain about feeling suffocated in it. I could hear his words 'and when they tell you not to move, you immediately feel like scratching your nose.'
I was missing my father so desperately that I was wishing to at least have an apparition of him, but all I got were those not so helpful words. I was shoved into the MRI machine before I could play 20 questions. As I went in, I wondered...am I completely sealed in? What if the lights go out? Would I be stuck? If I press the button to talk to the nurse, will I have to start over? How long was this? Will I run out of oxygen?
As I willed myself to calm down, I suddenly felt something on my cheek. Dengue is a big problem there and I was now worried I was trapped in an airtight cylinder with a mosquito. Being in a hospital, it would most likely be an infected one. Since I couldn't swat it away, I moved my tongue to my cheek, hearing my father's haunting voice...'feel like scratching your nose'.
After that debacle, the sound of the machine got to me. At one point it sounded like a band of people shouting 'help me, help me' and then gunfire. This was the longest period of time in my life. Tormented by the voices in my head, I turned to prayer, and I think I never willed time to go by as fast as I did in there.
I was in so much pain that I was breathless and speechless and as soon as I was bagged and scanned, I swatted at P and ordered him to push me out of the X-Ray and into physio, as was ordered by the doctor (my uncle). The nurses looked petrified, but P was too scared to disobey me so he jet propelled me to my destination, much to the chagrin of the Wheelie Crew.
While waiting for physiotherapy, I felt like I had a hot coal wedged in my throat. Before I had time to go on a flight of fancy and imagine that to be something horrific, my thigh started spasming and I had massive waves of pain from my back down my leg.
The devices at physiotherapy all looked like leftovers from a set of a horror movie set in a mental hospital. The good side of being in pain is that these things seemed appealing instead of terrifying if they meant some relief.
The lead physiotherapist was a robust lady imported from India. She was loud and commanding and had her little minions in a spin. She got to me, gave me a look of pity and announced for all and sundry that I would not have been in such a situation had I not been obese. Obese! I'm well rounded (pun intended) or curvy, but now this was pushing the limit.
By this time, I had not eaten all day and had grown weak. P was wishing he had the power of teleportation because he didn't know how I would retaliate to this battle-axe. Undaunted, she repeated 'You are obese!'. Then she turned to P and said 'did you know your wife is obese?'. P started sweating and remained mum, really wishing he was anywhere but there.
She then ordered him to get me some sort of band, and she insisted that it be XXL. P asked if that was a bit too much, but she persisted and reminded him what she thought my proportions were. By that point, I was literally melting in pain and P was relieved that I had not verbally maimed this woman, who was probably my only shot at feeling better.
THE START OF THE STAY...
I spent two days going to physiotherapy, tormenting my uncle by not listening properly to his medical advise, and taking very strong medications because I am allergic to the ones that one normally takes for a herniated disc. However, between being unable to sit, wiped out from the strength of my pills, and being unable to eat (despite my mother trying to feed me and P even offering eclairs), I wound up extremely weak. On Sunday night, I nearly fainted and by Monday I was admitted to the hospital.
I don't know how but my aunt and her family materialized while P was shuffling around trying to get my paperwork done. I could barely sit in the wheelchair. I was slightly bemused that my aunt, as always, carried with her some crackers, a bottle of water, and her thermos of coffee. She usually has a chocolate too.
Eventually, I was given a room, and several blood tests later, I was given the good news that not only do I have a herniated disc, I had pneumonia as well. I guess that would explain the sore throat and fever.
I asked my aunt to put the TV on in the room, not just for a way to pass time, but for company and noise. The first channel caught our attention because it was an Indian serial with subtitles. We were 'oohing and aching' at the gorgeous colors and jewelry, and within 2 minutes, I got hooked on the ridiculous and devious story lines.
By the end of the week, in my fever induced state, I decided I was going to pack up, move to Bollywood and try my hand at acting. Who cares about language barriers when I got the facial expressions down packed?
I would never want to testify to it, but I never changed the channel after that. Each show had a plot more dramatic than the next, and I found myself almost not wanting to leave the hospital because I wanted to know what happened to the guy who got poisoned, blown up and suffocated all within three episodes. Not only was not one hair on his head harmed, not one was out of place.
My second favorite show was my favorite because it annoyed me. It was about an evil woman and her equally menacing mother-in-law. However, the younger protagonist looked like she was 40 and the elder one looked 20. Was the person who did the casting for that show drunk?
Despite having found the serials, that first night was tough, and obviously all of us missed our scheduled flight. Tuesday was a blur, between the pain in my back and leg and the inability for me to eat or comprehend anything around me. I vaguely heard P calling the travel insurance company and I heard words like 'immediate repatriation', which made me hyperventilate.
In a weird turn of events, I had lost my most loyal and constant companion—my appetite. My food deprived, drug abused brain gave me visions of a helicopter hovering by the window as a swat team grabbed me out of bed and sent me back to Canada while I was protesting that I was in too much pain to be moved. I genuinely believed that was the case until P explained to me that they did agree I was in no position to go anywhere.
By Wednesday, my fever was in full swing, as were the effects of my medication. Each time I closed my eyes (or thought my eyes were closed), I would see these massive, terrifying 3D colorful images before me.
Poor P, who really got a sore deal when he proposed to me, had to run off to a stuffy immigration office to get my visa extended on my behalf as I was clearly not leaving the island anytime soon. For some reason, he decided I was incapable of being left alone, despite the fact that the nurses had grown fond of me and were in and out of the room every 20 minutes.
He had placed me under his mother’s care while he went to make sure that I didn’t become an illegal immigrant. I complained to her that I was so tired, I just wanted to sleep, but that I kept getting these images. She calmed me down, switched off the lights and said she would lie down on the sofa and pretend to sleep, so that I would feel sleepy and nod off.
So everything was dark and cozy in the room, and I willed myself to sleep. My wrists were sore because my canuala had come off and had to be placed on my right hand instead. As I have a constant fear of the needle in the canuala snapping off and rushing to my heart, this made life difficult for me as I am right-handed and not every ambidextrous at all.
At some point after I was quite sure my mother-in-law had actually fallen asleep, I saw two fishermen, a tiny wooden boat and a river at the end of the room. My mother-in-law was to my right, and I was trying to gesture to her to wake up, but at the same time, I was afraid to mess up my canuala.
One of the men was holding out a big rickety old flashlight and the other was telling me very rudely that I need to come with them immediately. Naturally, I was thinking why is there a river in my hospital room? The men were growing more agitated and kept beckoning me to them very rudely.
I was tired and pissed off. I felt like part of me got up off the bed, and in a voice that sounded like I was 60 instead of 39, I told them very firmly, and equally rudely that I am not about to go with some strange men, and that I was very offended that this is the quality of light that was sent for me. I went on to tell them that I'm a wonderful person (clearly pissed off me is not a modest me), and that if I am going to any light, it will be a beautiful big yellow light and not this dingy piece of rubbish before me.
This really angered fisherman, but I was not afraid, and they went off. Meanwhile, the part of me that remained on the bed, was a little offended and petrified, and I was gesticulating madly towards my mother-in-law for her to wake up and see what I was seeing. I figured if she saw it too, she would most certainly tell the men to get lost and leave her daughter-in-law alone. She can be a formidable force to be reckoned with, and I really wanted her to tell the rude men off.
I 'woke up' right after that, and my sheets were drenched in sweat, which was a feat because I rarely ever sweat. My mother-in-law woke up just then and I told her what happened while she was out like a light, but she announced that I must have had a fever.
THE MIDDLE OF THE STAY....
The good thing was that after about five days of having fever, that was the last of it, although I still needed physiotherapy and medication for the 'pneumonia'. For some reason, this condition was more baffling to the doctors than anything else, and before I knew it, I was sent for a CT scan.
After my experience with the MRI, I interrogated all the nurses about the CT scan to make sure that I would not be encapsulated in any piece of machinery. It turns out that besides my lack of ability to follow instructions…complicated ones like 'hold your breath', 'take a deep breath', it was a cake walk compared to the MRI. They finally figured out what was bothering my lungs since last September, and I was grateful for that. It turns out that this hospital visit was a blessing in disguise.
Had I not herniated my disc, I would have come back to Canada and been put on multiple inhalers, never knowing the true state of my lungs. At least now I have concrete proof to get through a GP and to a chest specialist.
In addition to the MRI, CT, and regular X-Rays ( four total), I also had every organ in my torso scanned. I was the one person testing dummy for the entire Radiology Department. I wouldn't be surprised if I am radioactive and glow in the dark right now. I have had everything except my head (which probably needs the most help) examined.
Once there was a neat box to tick for the state of my lungs, I had to do chest physio. Again, it seemed complicated because it involved breathing techniques. Then I was rather stunned to find out, I also get the joy of being pummeled to bits to get phlegm out. Simultaneously, I was thinking this man looks like a very tall, well dressed, cartoon mouse. Although I protested (in my head) while it was going on, I did feel better after.
The next day when he came to my room, I was feeling a little better so I said 'ah, you've come to beat me up again, have you?', and this sent him two steps back until he realized I had a twisted sense of humor.
As my stay went on, I had become friends with him, the other two sweet physiotherapists (who had to listen to my tales of medical woe) and even the battle ax lead physio who by that time had decided to stop calling me obese and instead wound up making nice with me.
On the home front, I was in a spin because Lanes and P had to fly back, and I had not seen her because they were determining the root of my pneumonia. My sister-in-law, who especially made time to distract Lanes from my sudden disappearance, came to see me the night before to tell me that Lanes was putting on a brave front, but she feels she is struggling deep inside.
I called my mother immediately and I heard Lanes singing in the shower in the background. She came rushing to the phone and grabbed it from my mother and said 'mom, when are you coming home? Come home!' and she burst out crying.
That's when I nearly had a tizzy. The nurses came in soon after with my medications, and I told them about Lanes. They were like my buddies by that point. They at once alerted the GP on the floor and by morning he came in saying that Lanes could come in, but to wear a mask as she has to travel soon.
THE END OF THE STAY...
Lanes came in to the room the next morning, and she ran into my arms and squeezed me so tight, I felt so sad at the thought of her going back to Canada without me. How could father and daughter survive without my nagging? I mean supervision. I mean loving advise.
P came with about a dozen canisters of Pringles, much to my confusion, and bad luck, because that evening when the chest specialist came in, he asked in horror 'are you going to eat all that?'. He sees so many patients that by the time I saw him the next week after I was discharged, he was like 'ah the Pringles lady'. Thanks P.
The night P and Lanes were leaving, I had an emotional crisis and asked my mother to send me dinner. P and she were really happy since I had been refusing food all week. That night, was all alone in the hospital, with only my Indian serials for company, and I was about to tuck into the dinner when ALL the nurses in my ward sauntered into my room.
Whenever it was time for medication, they came in pairs because they knew that each time I would whine about the quantity and size of the drugs, and then I would ask which ones were absolutely mandatory. It did not help that my aunt chimed in most helpfully on my first day there that I used to throw out all my medication when I was a child. After that, the nurses decided to watch me like a hawk.
So when I saw them all, I thought that a major procedure lay ahead for me. As it was, they were constantly drawing blood, nebulizing me, giving me steam inhalation, etc. I asked about my fate fearfully, and they all smiled and one of them said 'nah, we just came to see you because we know your family is leaving and we thought you could use some company'.
I was so touched that tears welled up in my eyes. Then one of them came forward and said 'are you actually eating dinner today? Everyone out. She is finally eating! Now when we come back we will check that you actually ate'.
With that they all left cheerfully and I was starting to think I will actually miss them when I eventually get released, although I wondered how they constantly knew everything that was going on in my life.
By Friday, I had become well known in the hospital. Every time I was carted to physio or some test, I would be waving and making small talk with various members of the Wheelie Crew, who by now were happy that I no longer looked like I needed surgery. I was greeted with gusto by everyone in the physio department and I always had a joke for my nurses. If that hospital was a small town, I could easily have run for mayor or town crier. The place was starting to feel like home, and then I realized, perhaps it was time to return home.
I needed approval of three doctors, luckily one of them being my uncle who really was rallying for me, to be dismissed and finally, I was set free on Saturday. With rounds of cake bought for all as a thank you gift, I sadly bid adieu to everyone. I returned everyday for physiotherapy until I was forcefully repatriated by the travel insurance company.
I will always be grateful for friends and family who came to visit me and cheered me on during and after my hospital visit, and for my poor orthopedic surgeon uncle, as I probably was his most challenging patient to date.
Two weeks to the day I busted my leg, I found myself back in Canada, with much ado, but that's for another blog.
If you would like the blog to return, please do comment below or on my Facebook page. I'm still on the fence, although I do have many stories to tell…I need some encouragement to fuel this madness…..