Lum: Unexpected frolic and detour
You get sucked into the vortex of the medical world, and you might as well be on a roller coaster. If you scream, “Stop this world; I want to get off,” your screams fall upon deaf ears.
Speaking of deaf ears, I only have one hearing aid in — the other is somewhere in that bag, but where is the bag? At any rate, I can scarcely hear a peep from all these medical mimes around me.
Once again, my friend Hilary found me very low on oxygen and called the emergency room. Soon the house was swarming with medics and police, and I was loaded into an ambulance. If you think an ambulance would be a peaceful way to travel, you would be wrong. It lurches from side to side, and you have to hang on.
Tests, tests, tests. Blood, blood, blood. X-rays, CAT scan. I am feeling fine, my oxygen numbers are great, and I’m ready to hit the road for home, but my blood pressure is dropping, and there’s another number that is moot. The doctor says an appointment has been made for me at a Denver hospital. I protest. If anything, it should be St. Mary’s in Grand Junction, where I spent 36 days in 1999.
Someone tells me I can refuse, but it’s me versus them, and what do I know? The roller coaster doesn’t slow down, but it is going to Grand Junction (Grand Junk, the Fisher sisters called it).
There’s a reason why hospitals, like the post office, have removed the clocks. That way you can’t see how long you’ve been waiting. Time closes in like a third-grade classroom. If you look closely, you can see the mimes moving. I know that I am somewhere between Friday and Saturday.
The helicopter people come in. I am the only patient in the ER — not a good thing. My side of the conversation was “What?” “I can’t hear you” and “Pardon?”
I ask for a pain pill for my back, my most prominent affliction for the past five months. I don’t get it.
Action. I am swaddled to a modern-day stretcher and wheeled down halls, up elevators and out to the freezing-cold helipad. I am stuffed in front with the pilot on my right and a woman in back. Rev, rev, rev, then up in the air in my beautiful chopper.
Something is crushing my left leg, but I can’t adjust anything. There’s a blazing full moon. I was intubated and in a drug-induced coma when I made this trip in 1999. It was not only a full moon then but a blue moon.
In the ER of St. Mary’s, questions, questions, questions, blood, blood, blood. I’ve learned to tell the blood-seekers how very difficult my veins are (true), and, feeling challenged, they will show me just how good they are at taking blood.
My back is killing me; I ask for pain meds but don’t get any. “Do you know where you are?” “What day is it?” “Who is the president?” I haven’t been able to do my back exercises, haven’t eaten anything and am exhausted. The overhead lights are brighter than the moon.
Hours later, I’m taken to the telemetry ward. I’d been there before, but it has changed. I get some yogurt but no pain pills, though I am assured I’ll get them promptly, soon, the next blue moon.
The lights turn off. This room has a clock, it is 4 and dark outside, so it must be 4 in the morning. I try to sleep. I have seen several “hospitalists” who, after the usual questions, seem surprised that I’m there and say that if the last blood test they’re waiting for is good, I’ll be released. Catch and release, Aspen style. The helicopter ride alone costs more then $12,000. I’m guessing $65,000 for the total junket. Shut up; you’re going home.
My daughter Hillery arrives from Leadville just as I’m signing my exit papers. She brings the wheelchair she bought for me in February — we didn’t know how handy it would come in later.
Into the car, take my very own pain med for the two-hour back ride, and we are home again, home again jiggity jog.
Su Lum is a longtime local who is still recovering. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at email@example.com.
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Teachers are underpaid. They can’t find housing. Turnover is unacceptably high. If you are a teacher in Aspen today, you face losing your entire current work group five years hence.