The Orange Light or Room-mates


By Andrea Shewchuk

Almost 11 p.m.

We looked out of the 14th floor wall of windows at the orange CN Tower. The CN Tower was lit different colours to mark seasons or occasions. It was that time of an evening or that time anytime when something happens and all truth can be spoken and it’s safe. You just “know” that “time”. We had just come back from a walk around “the lap”. “The lap” was the obstacle course of gown and other disposal units, nurses’ trolleys and other walkers rather than safe passage for people with disconnected abdominal muscles and the impediment of an over-sized, shapeless, hopeless gown with malfunctioning closures to be managed concurrently with an IV in tow.

My room-mate was J. She had a gaping wound that ran several inches vertically from her chest down her abdomen. The doctors had left it open to “heal” after having worked on it in the afternoon. I wondered where I was. I thought of the movie Beautiful Dreamers.

J. had recovered from surgery to remove part of her colon because it was so damaged from one of the many possible syndromes, conditions and dis-eases that we have names for. And then a year later, she wasn’t feeling well and it was discovered that the colon had not completely healed and the lack of complete closure was poisoning her. I thought about how the dis-ease could have been arrested and prevented and reversed had it been recognized and treated before it had to be cut out. I thought about J.’s life and what brought her here.

She was in great pain and discomfort from the walk. I got out of my bed and made a concoction from my meager supply of oils, an embarrassing fraction from what I have access to at home, but made the best of a foot massage. I was hand-cuffed to my antibiotic cocktail IV machine. We talked about our lives and this and laughed, and sometimes cried, a little. She was drifting off to sleep.

I returned to my bed. The sky was dark.

[Appendicitis I]

3 a.m.

I pressed the nurse call button thing. For the, nevermind, I’ve lost count how many times.

She is moaning and wailing and banging and crying and yelling and demanding morphine.

I am not calling the nurse for myself, I am calling the nurse for her.

The first time I was wheeled up to the 14th floor, I remembered the nurses talking about how lucky I had been to have been put in “that” room. I didn’t understand. When I was able to take a break from managing my pain, I asked the nurse what they had been referring to. You’ll see.

I am being wheeled up to the 14th floor for the second time because the antibiotics didn’t cure the appendicitis. I had opted for a non-surgical option, wanting to avoid surgery, my ridiculous attempt to control what was clearly Fate.

I arrived in my room-mate-less room, excited that I would be able to be ill, and heal, in peace. There was no view of the CN Tower. The view was dark, always dark, in the shadow of the neighboring building or at night, darker. But at least I would finally get through all of this in peace.

I was dealing with “the shakes”, what had just happened and figuring out how to inflate my collapsed lung (because the doctors had no solution or answer except that “it would get better in a week or so”). I started thinking of ways to set up my bed so that I could do a restorative yoga pose. Anything to help myself, to find myself. But I couldn’t free myself from the grip of the flannel sheets to move without pain or worry and my attempts to use the controls to find comfort only resulted in folding me in half. I wondered who designed these beds, who bought them, if anyone had ever tried to use the controls, the patient for whom it would be comfortable (if any) and how to re-design the whole mess, including the sheets and the XXXXXXL gown they fashioned me with.

I couldn’t rest. I was supposed to be sleeping. And then they brought in my room-mate.

I remembered her from the Emergency Room.

She was receiving pain management. Hmmm, “management”.

I had not been able to sleep since I had been put here and now it was 3 a.m.

Why

am

I

here?

[Appendicitis II]

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Professor Falconer was my first year French Literature professor. He looked like Adrien Brody as an elderly gentleman. He was British.

While I can’t recall much of the curriculum, what left the greatest impression on me was his pausing and scattering of personal philosophies. At the end of the year, I made a list of them and presented it to him. This pre-dated computers and I had typed them. I wish I had a copy now.

But I suppose we must find comfort in what we do remember, not what we do not. Perhaps we recall what we need to know and not what we think we need to know.

He would say, “You have to step back and put your magnifying glasses on.”

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