Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cold Steel Doors Of The Mind

The past few weeks have been extraordinarily stressful, to the point where my normal coping mechanisms have failed me repeatedly. Not surprisingly, Nancy has had the greatest insight as to how to deal with these breakdowns, as well as the unceasing compassion to help me through this. What is not surprising is that so much of my stress revolves around trust and responsibility. Even less surprising is that these same issues also trigger my PTSD response.

All of which means it's time for another story:

When I rolled over, I could see the floor beneath my hospital bed. The room was silent and warm. For most folks it would have felt comfortable, but for me it was a touch too warm. If I could have gotten out of bed I would have opened a window, turned on a fan, something to move the air. I couldn't leave the bed. From my new, rolled-on-my-side position, I could see the floor and it was covered in small hypodermic needles. Dozens of them.
As my eyes regained focus, I could make out the small post-it note left on the bottom edge of the television. It said something to the effect of "take one shot every four hours for diabetes". Okay. That couldn't be me because I wasn't diabetic. It would explain the needles scattered around the floor though. I realized that I must have been out for quite some time because I was mildly hungry and thirsty... a strange sort of thirsty. Dry throat, raw from abuse, and my eyes were so dry that they burned each time I blinked. 
A note on the bedside explained that my nurses were gone for the weekend and wouldn't be back till Monday. If I needed anything, I should call my friend Bridgid and she would bring anything I needed. I found a chart near the bedside note and started reading through the scrawled information. Apparently I had become diabetic after suffering from hyperkalemia. Mind you, I had no idea what hyperkalemia was. The news that I needed insulin injections to treat it though was quite a surprise.
Looking around the room, I assumed I would find a nurse-call button somewhere. Usually they left the call button near my right hand, with a small heart monitor-sensor taped to the call button so I could distinguish it from the other buttons on the remote. Nothing was there. I tried calling out, yelling, in hopes that someone would hear me and would come help. The whisper that was my dry shredded throat didn't make it past my doorway. I started to panic realizing that I HAD to have these insulin injections before too long. 
Across the table, not far from the notes and patient status forms, there was a small cell phone. Surprisingly I could remember Bridgid's number and after three rings was able to reach her answering machine. As I was nearly finished leaving the message, she picked up. She'd had a very busy day and wasn't there someone else who could come down and bring more insulin? I was at a loss. At that moment I heard a heavy metal door downstairs slam closed. Some quick footfalls followed and another nearer door opened and closed. Two quick gunshots followed, then more running and doors slamming closed as the runners made their way outside. Another louder gunshot rang out as the huge steel door closed. 
Time held still. Holding my breath. Hoping that whatever was being looked for had nothing to do with me. Time passed slowly.... each breath held as long as I could. I fell asleep expecting someone to come banging on my door. On waking the hunger was worse, except this time it was accompanied by nausea and an odd flavor in my mouth. I felt like someone had stuffed a ball of tin foil in my mouth. Somehow, I knew that I needed an injection immediately. 
Banging my hand on the wall near the door, I suddenly heard more rushed footsteps on the stairs. This time it was a policeman, walking up the stairwell with Nancy in tow. Once he'd established who I was and that Nancy had come bearing fresh meds, the officer left. Nancy sat down at the foot of my bed and quickly pulled together the alcohol swabs and prepped the injection. A quick jab in the stomach later and we were past the fear. Looking into her eyes, I tried to explain my fear and all the crazy stuff that had happened. The gunshots, the needles on the floor, the inability to speak... and Nancy put her hand across my forehead. "You're running a fever again." With that, she left the room and returned briefly with a wet washcloth. Dabbing at my neck and chest, she kept talking about how it was okay and how we would get through this. She kept saying it wasn't permanent. I closed my eyes and waited for the heavy steel door to slam.


  1. wow. the helplessness coupled with the callousness of most of those you relied upon. pretty powerful.

  2. yeah... there's that trust thing... raising its ugly head...