Before the lights get turned off, I get moved out of the semi-private room. Now I’m back across the hall where I was the first night. Michelle and Jodi are still here. Kim either got moved, or finally went home. There’s a girl named Debbie in the bed next to me. She’s eighteen. She’s here with a broken ankle.
It’s less lonely being here with three other girls. But it’s a bad time to have to move. My cast isn’t half dry yet, and it’s hot as wet tar. Every time I breathe in, my stomach hits the inside of the cast. The last thing I want to do is disturb anybody. I just can’t help it. The steaming plaster makes my stomach jerk. So I start taking short breaths to avoid hitting it. It’s been at least ten days since I thought about dying, or I’d think I died and went the wrong direction.
When we all should be sleeping, I start to moan loudly. I’m only half aware there’s a boy across the hall doing the same thing. The reason I notice is I hear a voice that’s not mine echoing back at me.
In the morning, a nurse walks in. When I mention the moaning boy, she says, "You were just as bad." Now I’m embarrassed. Last night I didn’t realize I was that noisy.
"I’m sorry, but I’m just not used to sleeping in this thing." I say.
Once the cast is dry I’m much more comfortable, and things start to get interesting. Michelle has to get up early in the morning to go to P.T. for a hot oil bath. The nurses make her walk a lot, so her arthritis will get better. It must hurt a lot though, because she walks like an old lady. She grumbles everyday when she puts her shoes on. This morning when she complains, one of the snippy nurses jokes, "I’ll have to bring a camera in here and take a picture of you guys."
Does she think she’s fifteen?
One wicked nurse yells at Michelle constantly. She can’t resist the temptation of the vending machines when she’s walking around all day long. So she comes back with snacks she can’t have because of her diabetes.
Every day when she comes in from a walk, this bleached blond B word yells at her at least once, shakes her down like a prisoner, and confiscates whatever dangerous junk food she finds.Does she think being a nurse makes it okay to be cruel? Michelle can’t eat anything she wants. But why not help her understand diabetes? Don’t let her walk alone. Send her money home with her Mom. Save her from repeated humiliation. She’s a twelve year old girl. Not a female inmate.
Michelle’s tired of the hospital routine. She gets Debbie to go along with a joke. They get markers, and a big piece of poster board, and start asking me for the names of all the doctors I’ve ever seen there.
"Why? What are you doing?" I ask. They’re being secretive. They won’t tell me anything.
"I’m not telling you anything until you tell me why!"
"Come on, just give us some names!" they take turns insisting.
Fifteen minutes later, they suck me into the plot, without telling me what’s up.
The sign on the door reads: DO NOT DISTURB! Orders of... It would be funny,except they got me to list people I don’t even remember.
Cousin Lori comes to see me on Tuesday. She’s by herself. How the heck did she get here? She’s only fifteen. She can’t drive. If her parents brought her here, I’m sure they’d come see me. They wouldn’t let her take a bus all the way downtown. Oh well I don’t care how she got here. However she did it, I’m happy to see her. She brings me a large Mickey Mouse poster she drew on a piece of posterboard. Mickey’s standing on his tail. It looks just like it should be on a T-shirt. I can’t draw like that. I feel special because she took the time to draw it herself.
I don’t say much besides, "I’m glad to see you. Boy am I happy I’m almost out of here." I don’t want to talk about hospital stuff. Lori’s quieter than usual. She doesn’t know what to say. If I was on the other side of the bed, I wouldn’t either. She sits with me half an hour, and hangs Mickey where the curtain goes, at the end of the bed. I keep the poster till the ink runs.
Even if we couldn’t think of anything to to say, I’m happy she came. When she leaves, one of the nicest nurses on the floor says, "You sure are happy when you have visitors." She’s the same one who mentioned that yesterday.
When Dr. G comes in at night, I have to ask, "Dr. G., did you put an extra set of incisions in my groin area?"
"You would’ve been one very unhappy young lady if I hadn’t." He says. "By the time I finished, you had loose skin hanging all over the place." He’s apologetic about it.
"It’s okay. I understand if you had to. I was feeling around, and it felt like you must have. I just wasn’t sure why you would have."
Until now I haven’t had too many visitors, though I’ve had a lot of phone calls, cards, and cheerful letters. Everybody probably realizes that I’ve been very uncomfortable for the last couple of weeks.
Anybody who comes to see me usually tries to help me eat or drink something, and gets yelled at by the nasty head nurse. I wonder how she’d like to try feeding herself lying almost flat with plaster up to her armpits if she felt too lousy to eat at all?
Dad’s Aunt Bernice, and Mom’s friend Mrs. Samsa both call Mom because they’re upset by the head nurse. Mom’s upset that anybody on the hospital staff would be rude to friends and family. She also continues to worry because I’m not eating much.
Before Mom leaves Tuesday evening, the head witch nurse makes the mistake of attaking her for trying to feed me. I’m homesick and feeling sorry for myself. Mom says, "If you’re going to start this, maybe we should leave."
They actually walked out one day when I was five, because I got in the habit of throwing up all over the bed, like a hyper little puppy. I couldn’t stand to get walked out on again.
"No, Mom please! I’m just missing everybody. I want to go home."
"You should be home by the end of the week." she reminds me.
She peels an orange, and persuades me to take a piece of it. When she’s feeding it to me, the head nurse walks in, and says insensitively, "Can she hold that in her hand?"
"Maybe she could." Mom says, "But she doesn’t care if she eats it or not."
About four o’clock Wednesday, a lady comes into the room. At first, I think she’s a nurse.
I say, "I need a bedpan."
She politely says, "I’m not a nurse."
"Oh, excuse me. Could you please get somebody for me?"
When she comes back, I see the book in her hand. She’s a tutor.
"Oh good. You found my book. I’ve been looking all over for it!"
In October, I lost my reader. I haven’t stopped worrying since then. I’m not thinking right. I should realize it’s not the same book I got when school started. Nobody’s been able to find it.
Dr. G. stops outside the door. He hears enough to know I’m confused. He introduces himself to the lady, and says, "I’m her doctor. She’s just had major surgery, and I don’t believe she’s up to schoolwork just yet. I think it would be best if you leave for the time being."
So, in a minute, she goes. I wish I could concentrate on studying. It would give me something to do. But I’m still in a lot of pain sometimes, and Dr. G knows it. He wants what’s best for me right now, just like my parents do.
A little later, I’m disappointed. I was supposed to go to P.T. sometime today. Before I can go home, I have to be able to put enough weight on my legs to let my parents carry me as easily as possible. But it’s almost five o’clock. I’ll have to wait till tomorrow
Early in the evening, the doctor comes up to the nurses’ station, after the third phone call from Mom. He says to the head witch, "Listen here, you old biddy, when she has vistors, you have no right to ..."
What comes next, I’m not sure. He lowers his voice. He’s probably afraid of creating a scene. The door is across the room, so I can’t see him. But from his tone, I imagine his face turning bright red
Any minute they’ll need to call the emergency crew up here. He sounds like he’s gonna have a heart attack "I know what that’s about." I say out loud , "Way to go, Doc!"
When Mom and Dad come in, I say, "You should’ve been here a while ago. Doc really let that old head nurse have it!" Eagerly, I repeat what I heard.
Mom looks at my chart. Dr. G says the bed can be raised to thirty degrees. She tries to ask the stupid head nurse, "Is this this thirty degrees?"
"That Is thirty degrees." She says in a sassy tone. But it doesn't look right to Mom.
She says, "Iwant to speak to the person in charge."
The woman says,"I Am the person in charge!" This middle aged prune happens to be a dark skinned black woman. Something about the way she talks to Mom reminds me of Gone With the Wind. I’m not sure if it’s just her bossy attitude, or something else I hear in her voice.
Mom asks another nurse, "Excuse me, is this thirty degrees?"
She says, "No, it isn't." and raises the bed a little. The head nurse is so nasty, she tried to pretend she didn't know what thirty degrees looked like. After this, she doesn’t speak to my parents unless she absolutely has to, and looks right through them.
Thursday morning is the first time in my life I’m happy to go to P.T. It means I’m almost out of here.
A nurse comes to get me about ten o’clock. She picks up a walkie talkie to talk to somebody in the nurses station. "I need help with her." She says.
It’s annoying to be nameless after almost three weeks. The only time a nurse called my name was the first night when she needed to find me in the adolescent lounge.
When I get to P.T,. Dr. G.’s nurse cuts the bottoms out of my casts. She carefully puts foam rubber under my feet, and puts new plaster on the bottom.
After everything dries, the therapists get me up on a special walker. I hang on to the wooden grips, and slide one side forward at a time. This lets me move a lot like I did when I used crutches. Only I walk with heavy elephant steps.
One therapist stands in front of me, and one stands behind me, to help me keep my balance. They remind me which arm or leg to move, because it takes all my effort to shift my weight. The room is as long as four rooms put together. I wouldn’t have to,but I walk from one end to the other, because I just won’t quit.
"Who cares if it’s hard or it hurts." I say to the lady who had the hip replacement.
"That’s a very mature attitude." she says.
But when I’m through, I say to one of the therapists, "I think I over did it. My legs are so sore."
"Nobody else was pushing you that hard. You did it to yourself" She says
Before I go back to the room,I go to the lounge for a little while. It’s the first time in week I’ve been out of bed.
Lunch time is disgusting. Three of us make the mistake of asking for chicken noodle soup with lunch. When it comes, such an atrocious stink fills the room, that Michelle thinks I peed. She asks, "Did you have an accident?"
"No, I didn’t. I swear!"
I wanna disappear right through the floor.
Yesterday, I did pee. But only because I can’t hold it too long. It’s only been a week since my catheter practically fell out. When it was inside me where it was supposed to be, I couldn’t even feel it when I peed. So, I have to remember to ask for help, before I have to pee so bad it just comes out.
When it happened, one of the nurses asked hatefully, "Do you know what wet plaster smells like?" It was only wet at the very top, and I couldn’t help it anyway. So I forgot her angry question, and broke the crumbling plaster loose a little at a time. That way, I didn’t have to smell it, or worry what anybody else said about it.
But the odor in here right now isn’t my fault. When one of the nurses finally says, "It’s the soup!" she asks if we want something else. We all have the same reaction. "No, just get it out of here!" Thank God I’ve still got my hot dog. Nothing can mess a hot dog up too much. I can only choke about half of it down though, because I want to gag.
A little later, Miss Newhous’ class calls. I talk to everybody except Danny. He sends notes, but he doesn’t use the phone, because he’s Amish.
It takes a while to guess who’s on the phone. Except for Vikas. His Hindu accent gives him away. He’s so disappointed when he says, "How you know it was me?"
How could I not know? Miss Newhous laughs when I tell her this.
Of course I have to tell everybody about the stinking soup. Mrs. Katona says, "You’ve got to be kidding."
Tonight when Mom and Dad come in, I’m in a wheelchair with reclining back. It takes a few minutes to get over being boiling mad. The nerve of that blond ogress to ask, "Do you really need a bedpan, or is this just an excuse to have me put you back to bed?"
The question makes me wanna say,Listen, you bubblehead, I’ve been toilet trained since I was three, and I don’t play bathroom games. Right now I can only wait about five minutes. If you think you can stick a bedpan under me right here, go ahead. But if I pee on myself, you’ll be sorrier than I am. I wanna say it so much. If I was eighteen, I would. But I don’t have the guts. Since the nurse wouldn’t care anyway, I tell it to Mom.
"Calm down," she says when I’m done exploding. "Let’s see if we can do this. We’ll have to figure it out sooner or later, if we’re going to get you home." Somehow,she and Daddy wrestle me back into bed, and help me pee. What kind of nurse won’t believe you’ve gotta go, and refuses to help you?
Blondie reminds me of one of chicks I see on Sha Na Na, except she always yells like a lady drill sargeant. She’s the same one who always screams at Michelle about her junk food stash. If she smiled once in a while, instead of yelling, she’d be pretty. This devil woman is between thirty five and forty. Ten years from now, she’ll have angry frown lines in her face.
When Doc comes in later, I ask him to sign my cast. He writes "Good Luck," in green, and signs his name.He never says, "Darlin’ you’ll need a miracle." He cares enough about me not to say that, even if he thinks it. By the time he leaves, I forget all about the encounter with the blond witch.
Friday morning when the doctor pops in, I say, "Dr. G. I hate to keep pestering you about this, but how soon do you think I might be able to get out of here?" I’ve been asking every two or three days for almost three weeks.
His answer shocks me. "I think I can let you go this afternoon, if your parents are willing to take care of you."
"I’m sure they’ll be willing, if there’s any way they can possiblymanage." I tell him.
Now I’m so anxious to get home, by two o’clock, I call twice. They might be on their way to pick me up, because I get the answering machine. About three o’clock, they’re here to get me.
Mom brings a pull over sweater and a pair of her slacks to put on me over top of my casts. Putting the sweater on is no big deal. But it takes ten or fifteen minutes to squeeze me into her slacks. They’re a lot bigger than I’d normally wear. Still, they almost don’t stretch enough.
"Mom, what are you doing? This makes no sense!"
It seems totally unnecessary to struggle into a pair of slacks. How can I get that cold with eighty percent of me in a cast? Even it is the end of January. The only place I still need covered is around my private areas.There should be an easier way to do this. But Mom would feel funny anyway because I’m naked underneath.