“How are you?” the young woman at the supermarket asked me this afternoon.
I’ve heard that line several times this week—I’ve said it myself--but it sounds a little strange in light of my recent trip to the ER.
I was tempted to say, “well, I just got out of the hospital and I’ll probably be going back, and I’m dreading it. My left arm still hurts from having an IV needle stuck in it for three days and I feel tired, old, and cranky. How’s by you?”
But the cashier isn’t getting paid nearly enough to listen to my grief, so I just smiled and said, “I’m fine.”
I feel like I’ve been away for a long time. But unlike vacation, I don’t feel refreshed or relaxed; I feel drained.
I looked at the pictures I posted on Facebook of my L.A. trip and I can't help but think that it wasn’t so long ago that I was happy and healthy, no idea that one of my organs was about to go haywire on me.
I'm so emotionally fragile that I actually got teary-eyed when a nurse from my insurance company called this week to see how I was doing.
"The insurance company doesn't care about you," my auntie rightly pointed out. "They just want to make sure you don't cost them any more money."
I hate missing my gym workouts, even though I know that I obsess over the gym too much and that there are more important things to life than working up a sweat and lifting weights. But I like the routine.
Food is a big topic now that the holidays are upon us, but I’ve lost interest in eating much else beyond soup, yogurt, and bread.
When I got out of the hospital I swore I’d stuff myself like Henry the Eighth, but now my appetite seems to be hibernating--along with my social life.
"In the criminal justice system..."
I’m scheduled to see my surgeon tomorrow where we’re going to talk about the next steps. I was supposed to get a colonoscopy, but the gastro-internist wanted to wait until my guts settled down before going to work. My oxygen numbers were also a little too low for his liking, so he wants a pulmonary specialist to determine if my lungs can handle the anesthetic.
I know there are people out there who have it much worse. Richard, my former roommate at Lutheran Medical Center, is a prime example. Richard, a large West Indian man, was being treated for diabetes, which had resulted in massive swelling in his right arm.
No one came to visit Richard during my entire stay at the hospital, even though he mentioned that he had both siblings and children. I don't want to imagine what that's like, given the way my family, particularly my sister, was there for me. And the friends and family who couldn't make it were wishing me well on the phone and online.
I had elected instead to feel sorry for myself and binge watch “Law & Order” episodes to a point now that I feel like donning an overcoat and grilling murder suspects with Jerry Orbach.
However, even though I felt rotten, I could sense Richard was enjoying the program too. He wasn’t fortunate enough to have someone like my sister to pay for his TV service, so I cranked my set around so he could watch along with me. Perhaps there’s hope for me yet.
When I was discharged from the hospital, my sister came to pick me up and noticed that Richard had no telephone service. She gave him cash and even left a message for Richard’s sister in New Jersey. I was more concerned about getting the hell out of there, but the discharge process takes forever.
As we left the hospital, Richard was being loaded onto a gurney for some kind of procedure. We wished him well and Richard raised his bloated arm.
“I love you,” he said.
I thought I was hearing things, but my sister confirmed it for me. This stranger, with all his problems, said he loved us.
Thank you, Richard. I hope someone is taking care of you now so you'll be able to say "I'm fine" and mean it.