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.
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.
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.”
- More from Andrea Shewchuk
I experienced appendicitis twice – which is physically impossible anatomically except in the case of attempting 2 routes of healing. My first choice was to be treated by an intravenous deluge of antibiotics, as it was presented? sold? to me as an effective alternative to an appendectomy, appealed to my greatest fear (the profound invasion and alteration of my body) and, I knew how to repair my constitution following this therapy. Upon recovery, I became consumed with the creation of a document dedicated to the improvement of the patient experience in the area of abdominal conditions and surgeries. Based on Read More…
I happened to catch an episode of the CNN series “The Sixties” which featured the rise of the feminist movement. It caught my immediate attention as we here at Patient Commando were hard at work preparing our 2nd Annual Canadian Women Changing Healthcare. It had escaped my memory that in my lifetime there was a time when there were quotas on the spaces available to women in medical, dental and law schools. There was a time when airline stewardesses had to be single, with soft hands and were forced to retire at the age of 32. There was a time Read More…
I was compelled to begin this review having not yet finished the last page. Perhaps it’s that while the “end” is important in some way, no less – or perhaps even more significant and relevant - is the inspiration at any moment in Passage to Nirvana. An unconventional autobiography, we come to know Carlson as he comes to know himself again after an ironically-charged event leaves him to live a life transformed irreparably by Traumatic Brain Injury. It is the story of a writer, now struggling with writing, writing to heal, writing to learn, writing to share the specific and Read More…
By Andrea Shewchuk I began the process of rebalancing my intestinal flora, cleaning and rebuilding my liver tissue and nourishing my body with cocktails of antioxidants, freshly-pressed juice and a variety of fibres almost 2 months ago, addressing rapidly spreading and debilitating eczema from a systemic perspective. Until now, the process had expressed itself very logically and linearly as not only the eczema cleared before my eyes, but the many other side effects of candida pollution, emergency pharmaceuticals, passive exposure to chemicals, my emotional toxins, elusive unhealthy dynamics etc. gracefully disappeared. Only very once in awhile did I want to Read More…
By Andrea Shewchuk I went into my stationery and boxes to find wrapping for the trinkets I would take to Susan tomorrow. I had wondered late last week, before, where the calendar had gone, through our recent move and other clearings, what had made the “filter” process, my mind drifted momentarily into the bigger concept of change, impermanence, importance… I rooted around in the envelopes and cards, and there at the back, peeking out, was Anne’s 2011. She had given it to me and said that hopefully it would be marked with many more times getting together in the future. Read More…
By Andrea Shewchuk What is care? What is caring? Who is the “care” in healthcare”? What is the worth of a pear. It’s Sunday September 30th, and in 6 days it will be one year since I found myself in the Emergency Room for the second time, afflicted with appendicitis (which I fondly refer to as “Appendicitis II”). Now, I am enjoying a day of knitting, yoga and quiet and, a pear. This time I was in a cozy ER room within earshot and a good view of the nurses’ station. I had been at a play earlier that evening, Read More…
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 Read More…