Continued – Part 3 – COVID19
Our appointment is at 6 pm. Chris and I both have one. We are early. People in their sixties are like that. We snake around the empty hospital parking lot, questioning where to go.
“Are we suppose to go to the emergency room?” I weakly ask, knowing we can only guess. Barricades are everywhere. It looks like an international border station. I have seen a few of those—all posting information in bold letters. The words are easy to read but challenging to understand. EXIT ONLY.
“I don’t think we should enter the exit only.” I am a law abiding rule breaker.
He ignores me. He follows the barricades, and we see a few cars. This must be it. He pulls up to the emergency roundabout. He slowly gets out and disappears. He comes back, wheeling a pink wheelchair. I wonder. “Who is going to wheel him in?
I glance back at the running car, left open in the Arizona heat. Literally, he left the car on and the door open. I carry my phone, my charger, and my id. He has the same. Who will move the vehicle to the parking lot? Why didn’t he park the car? There are plenty of spaces. The late afternoon sun, the hottest part of the day in Arizona, and I am seeking a warm dark hole to crawl into. Maybe inside, it won’t be so bright.
It isn’t as bright, but it is chilly. The blocked entrance is uninviting. Long tables crisscross the room. Four make a square, and there are chairs for sitting inside the square. Security and hospital personnel mingle, sit, and stand at attention. You have to watch out for those sick people, they might jump the tables.
A young masked girl half sits behind the entry table. She looks like she might bolt. I know I would. Her long brown ponytail flips behind her head. She probably wonders about the big things in life, like, if she should cut it. Just do you, girl. Oh look, she does. She has a tattoo under her hospital scrubs. I wonder what it is. Is it a pretty one? Is it a ying/yang. I’d like to get a ying/yang. I also would like a small dream catcher on my ankle, but I won’t because I don’t like needles and pain. Maybe she has skulls and bones? I hope not. Not a pleasant message. I will never know. Her bored eyes lock into mine. Can she see the pain in my eyes? Her impatient voice indicates if she can, she does not care. Little bitch.
“Have you had, or do you have a fever?”
It is Arizona, in July, I am wearing sweats, a sweater, and a full-length sweater coat.
“Have you been tested for Covid19?”
“Haven’t’ received them yet.”
“Got it.” She glances up at Chris behind me.” Sir, fever?”
“Yes, haven’t received results, but I am feeling better, so I give up my appointment to someone else who needs it more.”
Say what? I would twirl my head around if I could, but I know that bat is warming up. Guess I now know that there was a plan for the car and such, I just didn’t know it.
“Thank you. We appreciate that.” She stands and pushes the wheelchair toward the newly installed plastic sheeted admittance window desk.
“What is your name? Push her closer to the microphone. I can’t hear her.” The puffy haired masked registrar woman instructs tattoo girl. I can feel the impatient push toward the counter. Ouch. I answer some brief questions, and the tattoo girl turns me around. Chris sits with his arms crossed. I guess he decided to turn off the car before it overheated.
“Bye, Pammie.” Yea, whatever.
Tattoo girl addresses him, “Sir, you are going to have to leave now. Good-bye.”
And he does.
I’m wheeled past the squared sitting area, past five other patients sitting in the hall in a row.
They sit in their own area on small sage green couches in front of tall windows. All look straight ahead, arms crossed, legs crossed. Are they all waiting for a Dr.? They roll my pink wheelchair to the last short sage green couch in front of my own tall window. I remain in the wheelchair. The light streams in, but no warmth.
There is a man 6 feet away on oxygen. I know he is going to try to engage. Please don’t try to engage. I bend my head down and cover my face to filter out any light. I pull my long sweater hood over my head. Yep, I wear hoodies. Get over it.
“The headache is the worst, isn’t it?” He couldn’t resist. I shake my head ever so slowly. And I wait. I hope I don’t have to use the facilities. That would be bad.
I can’t breathe with my mask on. I bend over, and I uncover half of my mouth. Above me is the mirror. You know the mirror—the big round ones. Ever wonder who looks at them? Does anyone ever really look at them? If they do, they will see me bent over with half my mask off. Forgive me, for I have sinned. I have to breathe.
Time passes. Oxygen man is gone. I begin to wonder, are we in arrival order? Emergency order? Am I next in line? I reach behind me to touch the couch. Is it hard to sit on? Is the material soft? I half stand and slither to the couch. I lay in a fetal position pulling my sweater coat around my body. My hood hides my half masked face. Did I mention that my great grandmother tried to knife her future mother-in-law? No? Well, she did, so I am not afraid of the mask patrol. I am fearful of not breathing. I digress.
And I wait.
Tattoo girl calls my name. She bustles down the hall. I re-mask. It’s the considerate thing to do. “We really are trying to get you in as fast as we can. I have to put your wrist ID on.” I think she sounded nicer. Maybe I misjudged her. She walks away. She’s lucky like that.
And I wait. And I think I nap. It is late when the sound of my name wakes me up. At least I think it is. The sun has set. In Arizona, that means it’s after 8 pm. I get back in the wheelchair. I secure my mask. A man wheelchair pusher this time. He is in a hurry. My hood flies back. I can feel the wind through my hair as the “hospital personnel only door” swings shut behind us. We scurry past the ER patients inside their little ER cubicles. The only thing dividing them from the next patient is a thin curtain. I think, “Do all these people have the virus? If not, they’re gonna get it now.”
We two-wheel it around corners, more cold air, passing nurses, doctors, orderlies. It’s almost a Disneyland ride in the teacups. Spinning, twirling. And now the MAD TEA HATTERS music loops through my head. I have lost my mind. Clearly. It’s chilly. I wonder if they have a blanket I could grab or just rip a curtain from one of the ER stalls. Too late. The ER cubicles are gone. Now there are doors, more corners, more corridors. Nurse stations. And we stop. Are we at the morgue?
The wheelchair pusher opens a door—an examining room with a small, hard, blue, and wide examining table. Oh look, I have my own blue Porta-Potty. I’ve never seen that before. And really, why would I? Around the room are tools, blood pressure, monitor carts, scales, a whole array of fun toys for someone to play doctor or patient. Not my thing. I couldn’t even hold my babies when they got vaccinated. Don’t judge.
And the feast of all resistance is a big 18 in. in circumference white plastic monstrosity of a tube attached to an orange floor fan and headed straight up through the ceiling. Guess what it was doing, besides being the noise monster from the dungeons of hell. It is purifying the air by chilling the room! Of course, it was chilling the room because, dammit, this hospital isn’t cold enough! I slide my body onto the examining table.
“The Dr. will be in soon. Anything I can get you?”
I want to ask for a blanket instead, I ask,” Could you turn the lights out?”
I close my eyes. The room darkens. The door closes.
I relax my shoulders and fully begin to appreciate how hard this examining table really is. I turn on my side, but there is this nagging thing. Yes, a thing. It isn’t just the cold filter fan monster. It is something much more sinister. Through my closed eyelids, I can see it, teasing me and taunting me. It’s messing with my messed up mind. Screw it. I open my eyes. There it is. At the top of the white cold filter fan monster, a piercing blue light shining down. It could be worse. It could have been a white or red or maybe a bright yellow light. I have no inclination to go toward it.
I don’t know how long I laid there. Long enough to fall asleep. The lights fly on and in bounces Mrs. Tittlemouse without the weight or much hair. Her name really isn’t Mrs. Tittlemouse. She scurries around the examining room, making sure everything is in order. Her little hands cupped together at her chest. She seems so…. excited. She leans against a metal tray, all 5.3″ of her. Her white scrubs wrapped around her tiny circumference twice. I think her hair was shaved, at least one side. Her mask is odd. I don’t know how she keeps it on. It is small and pointy and sticking out of her tiny face like a blackbird beak.
“So, let’s talk about how you are feeling, shall we?”
Did I just see her clap her blue gloved fingers together in glee? Yes, yes, I think I did. What is her name? Did she tell me? It doesn’t matter. She is forever, Mrs. Tittlemouse. Not a real fan. I’m sure the feeling is mutual.
She determines that I am dehydrated. News flash. This is not my first dehydrated rodeo. All you have to do is pinch the top of the hand if the skin sticks, it’s a given. My skin sits in a permanent pyramid.
She wants to look at my ankles. She removes my socks and shoes. She rubs my feet. “Oh, what lovely ankles you have.” What the? She doesn’t put my shoes and socks back on. I do. Cause you know, it’s chilly in here.
“I need to check your chest.” I remove my sweater coat, and she begins to touch my chest area and stomach. Does that hurt?”
“Only when you push down on it.”
“I see. So, We need a urine sample. Just a little. We are going to run some other tests too.”
I am dehydrated. Urinating doesn’t seem possible right now. “I will try.”
“Try hard. Just a little.” She pats my shoulder a little too condescendingly. “Once we have tests results, I will come back. Is there anything I can get for you?”
“A blanket?” She reaches out and barely touches my sweater coat.
“You can put your sweater thing back on.”
I’m sure that was a smile under the bird mask, but I don’t know.
I lay back as the door closes and the light goes out, but not for long. The door opens, the lights are back on, and a guy stands there.
“Hi, I’m your nurse. I’ll be getting the tests run. The first one is a chest Xray. He pulls out the X-ray board.
“Wearing an underwire bra? Jewelry? Ring?”
The one choice I made before coming. Remove bra to free the beasts. They aren’t quite ready to live in the recesses of my armpits, but they are checking out the real estate. And I don’t care. I can talk about this for some time—this idea of breast containment. I decree, someone needs to make a comfortable bra for the woman wearing it and not for anyone pretending to avert their eyes. Women avert their eyes from men’s balls swaying in the wind and being pushed up whenever they actually sit with their legs, not sprawling about as if they own the world. As if that is attractive. Cause it isn’t. Maybe you should wear ball bras. See how you like it. Women should design them cause we know what is comfortable for ya’ll. Where were we?
“Yes on the necklace and ring.”
The necklace is tangled. Who knew? I want to grab it, rip it from my dry throat, and let it be sucked up by the air monster. Instead, he pulls it up over my chin and chains me in—the irony.
“That’ll work. Lean up. Good. Okay, when I count to three, try not to move or breathe. One, two, three. Done.”
He hands the X-ray out of the room.
“We are going to run an EKG on you all night. I’m going to place these on your body. They are sticky. Maybe it would be better if you put on a gown.”
He tries to provide a shield for modesty as I remove my sweaters and slide on the gown through my chilled arms. He kindly folds my sweaters and places them somewhere.
Nods attached. EKG running. He connects the automatic blood pressure machine, and every hour that sucker is scheduled to pressure my blood. I have an Oxygen monitor on my finger.
He pulls the Porta-potty to the other side of the examining table.
He yells down the hall. “I need a hat!” I think he wants to wrap my hair up in one of those hair things. I have a lot of hair. Someone throws him a plastic hat. It drops to the ground. Three-second rule. It is not for my hair. He places it on the blue Porta-potty. “When you go, push the nurse’s button. I’ll take the sample and get it tested. Here are some wipes, but don’t put them in the hat. The wipes go behind the potty, somewhere.”
Like on the ground, I wonder.
He pulls a tray around in front of the Porta-potty. It is getting crowded on this side of the room.
“I’m going to get some fluids and meds into you.”
“I see. Well, my left arm is much better for IV’s, blood sampling, and stuff.”
“Well, if I can’t find a good spot on the right arm, I’ll try the left.”
He found something, right in the crux of my elbow. He seems pleased. I am crying. It hurts. Small veins.
“We have to draw some blood first.” Did I mention I am crying?
He says he is halfway done with the bloodsucking. “Just four more.”
Just four more? I counted 10 vials of blood. Could that be right? What are they testing for?
“I’m going to give you some blood thinners, pain meds to help with the aches, and some other stuff.”
“You are giving it to me. I can taste it.”
“Yea, it’s nasty.”
I wonder if he really knows that. Do they sample this stuff in nursing school?
“Okay. All done, almost. Don’t forget to urinate.”
Can one forget to urinate?
“Just one more test.”
He pulls out a skinny Q-tip. I have done this before. I can handle it.
Screaming ensued. What the hell was that? That was not like last week’s COVID nose swipe.
The nurse feels terrible. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I’ll bring you a warm blanket.”
With a warm blanket in place, lights out except Mr. Blue, and with the sound machine going full blast, it was only a matter of time before I fell asleep. And I did. Then I woke because I remembered I needed to urinate. The question was how. I had wires for the EKG. I had the IV line and the automatic blood pressure, and I had a warm blanket!
I don’t know how, but I managed it twice. I pushed the nurse button, and he walks in. He takes my urine sample, pouring it from the little hat. I don’t know why, but this, after everything else, was embarrassing.
As I began to drift back to sleep, Mrs. Tittlemouse enters. How nice.
“The chest Xray shows lung scarring. We’ll get the nose sample soon to confirm, but it is Covid19. Sorry. We’ll keep monitoring your heart and get the other tests back soon.”
“When will I be moved to a room?”
She laughs. “Oh, no. There are people here from 7 this morning. They still don’t have a room. You’ll be here all night. I’ll get the light.”
And she was gone. And the blood pressure pump kicked in, and the blue light brightly pierced my eyelids, and the monstrous air filter whirled away. And I cried.
I thought I have a phone. I am going to call Chris and tell him to pick me up post haste. I can rip the IV off. I’ve seen it done on TV and in the movies. I don’t want to be here. I don’t even know where here is. Every time I move, a loud sound goes off. I try not to move. The nurse comes in. He places something in my nose.
“You need oxygen. Breathe in like you are breathing flowers. In through your nose, out your mouth.”
Slight problem. I am allergic to flowers. I breathe in through my nose and out my mouth. I am obedient. The door closes. But the warning sound keeps going off. The nurse comes back. He tells me what to do to make the sound stop. I don’t understand. The blood pressure machine is angry. He turns it off. He leaves the room.
“I cry myself back to sleep.
I’m reaching for my phone because it is ringing. It sits on the side table where the vials of blood were. It brightly announces the time as 11:30 pm.
It is Chris.
“Hi, How’s it going? I thought you would call.”
“I’m sleeping. I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Keep me posted.”
“Goodbye.” I hang up.
At 1:30 am, Mr. nurse man comes in and announces that he found me a room. He quickly unhooks my IV, my blood pressure cuff that isn’t working, the EKG line from the machine, and the oxygen. Maybe other things too, I don’t know. We were out of that door and flying down the corridor. I think we went into an elevator. Yea, I’m pretty sure of that. We entered a quiet unit, and I saw a nurse nervously turn around. Now, this nurse actually looked like Mrs. Tittlemouse. Short, blond, a little pudgy. Someone you wouldn’t mind sitting in their lap. But she didn’t scurry around cleaning up after everything. She just smiled reassuringly, sort of.
Mr nurse man wheels me into my quiet room. It has a bathroom! I crawl off of that dark blue examining table and onto the soft wide bed. Heaven.
The nurses exchange information. They hook up the oxygen. They hook up the EKG. They hook up the blood pressure cuff, and my man nurse is gone.
Her name is Michelle. It says so on the board with my name and vitals. She is in garb that makes her sweat. Every time she comes into my room, she has to put on a new protective outfit. She wears a mask and a plastic face cover. Her glasses sit high and aren’t really protecting her at all. I feel bad for her. Sweat drips down her temples.
“I have to get some more blood from you and give you some more meds.”
My head explodes. NO! She starts to withdraw blood, I am crying.
She starts the meds. I am crying. I beg, “Please stop. Please.”
“I’m going really slowly. I am!”
I close my eyes and breathe evenly. I decide to go to my happy place. It isn’t hard. I was just there a lifetime ago. Breath in. Breath out. Smell the trees.
Continue – Part 4 –