Lum: Life’s little frolics and detours |

Lum: Life’s little frolics and detours

Su Lum

The thing is we’d like to be prepared for every bump in the road and hole in the asphalt, but it isn’t easy to plan ahead.

In retrospect, I should keep a survival kit consisting of — at the minimum — a radio/CD player, my blood-sugar kit, my hearing aids with extra batteries, my reading glasses, my distance glasses and a long audio book so that if I wind up at Aspen Valley Hospital with pneumonia — from whence I write this column — I don’t have to send my family and friends back and forth for vital provisions.

Once you get in here, it can be iffy when you can get back out. I am hugely improved, but my oxygen levels still aren’t quite up to snuff.

Exactly how I got here is something of a mystery. I’d had a nasty cough for a couple of weeks and was being treated for that with steroids and antibiotics, but last week my oxygen levels started going down (not what you want), and when I called my doctor Thursday morning he told me to go to the emergency room and get checked out.

I’ve assured everyone that I will use no names in this column. That’s not because I have anything bad to say about anybody (quite the opposite) but because there are too many, some I don’t remember or never knew, and mainly because the people in the medical world are definitely completely paranoid about getting their names in the paper under any circumstance.

Anyway, I was on my way out to the car to drive up here to the hospital, made a couple of phone calls, left a note on my door and sat down at my kitchen table to tie my sneakers. I don’t know if I fainted or what, but I kind of felt myself slide off the chair onto the floor and couldn’t move.

The next thing I knew, I heard my friend Hilary, who is not paranoid about being in the paper, screaming, “Su! Su!” and a man loudly asking me the name of the president of the United States, to which I replied, “George Bush.” Later I tried to say I thought he meant who was the worst president, but we were off in an ambulance.

To the best we can figure back, I was unconscious for almost two hours and was on neither my portable nor my stationary oxygen device, which I can only guess at explaining by saying that when your oxygen levels are low, you get really, really stupid and don’t realize you’re not thinking straight.

So I made it to the emergency room all right, the hard way, where it was quite the mad scene. I was lucky I didn’t have to be intubated but was covered with cannulas and masks and a machine that forces oxygen into your lungs with loud puffs. I was not a happy camper.

Everyone was sweet and efficient (“We’re going to undress you now” — zip) and asking a lot of questions about allergies and things, which Hilary hoped I wouldn’t try to take a stab at after the Bush faux pas.

I don’t know how many hours it was before I was wheeled into an intensive-care-unit room for a sleepless night, because of course I wasn’t cleared for any of my meds. I’m not suggesting smuggling your meds into the hospital, but I could have used some pills in the emergency kit I should keep with me at all times. I also should keep up with leg-shaving, which I appear not to have done since 1942.

The days have been a blur — getting better, relearning those hospital ropes (whole new routine, whole new vocabulary) and creeping into the acceptance stage where I no longer expect to get back to my dogs and house within the next couple of hours.

A visitor dog named Dennis the Menace (not paranoid) came in for a snuggle, leading me to investigate their rules regarding my dachshunds Freddie and Nicky. We had to get secret clearance for them from the vet and show proof of (ut-oh) amiability, but it was a moot point after Hilary brought Freddie into my room and he completely panicked and wanted to get out at once.

It almost renews my faith in humanity to have been treated with such tender kindness and thoughtfulness by everybody up here. I mean, you have to be careful not to jokingly say you’d like to have a live giraffe brought to your window lest they rush out and try to rustle one up for you.

I haven’t met the CEO, but all of my caregivers have been great, as shown by the many letters of gratitude we get regularly at the newspaper.

But guys, this is Aspen, and you’ve got to do something about your goody bags. You might be sending the wrong message by giving potential donors a toothbrush that has no more body than a gummy worm, a comb that bends to the touch and table knives in the cafeteria that are so absent of serration that they could pass the airline terrorist test.

But thanks for the comb. And thanks for saving my life. Again.

Su Lum is a longtime local who can’t wait to see what the bill will be. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at