18. CHARITY HOSPITAL part VI
Morris began unhooking the cot that I had been laying face down on. Terri, the evening nurse, had been directing the procedure and was now repositioning the pillows so that I wouldn’t be pressing against the bed railing. “I’m sorry, but it looks like you’re getting a slight breakdown on your tailbone” she said with concern. “Are you sure you can’t tolerate any more time on your stomach?” It was an ordeal every time I had been flipped. Compressed between two cots and held in place by straps and pins, I felt like I was on a fun-house ride from hell as my head would rise perpendicularly and then lower into its new position. I’d get light-headed momentarily as my blood pressure responded to the pull of gravity and could only manage a couple hours sleep before the staff would have to flip me again.
When I shook my head slightly to indicate no, she said, “Alright, we’ll try to get you up on your side a bit more and relieve the pressure that way instead”. She had Morris hold me up on my side while she stuffed extra pillows and rolled towels in an effort to shift the pressure away from my tailbone.
“Hey Brom! What the Fuck?” said my brother William, coming over to my bedside with Florence the caseworker by his side. I looked up at him with a mixture of embarrassment, relief and pain. “I got here as soon as I could”, he said, while assessing my various tubes, electrodes, drips and monitors. Florence explained how I wasn’t able to speak on account of the tracheotomy and William looked at my lips and could read them right away. “Thanks for being here” I mouthed. Florence spoke up, “We have you registered for Medicare Health Insurance so you don’t have to worry about your ability to pay for your treatment”. I hadn’t given it a thought. “It looks as though you’ll be eligible for Social Security Disability based on your previous quarter’s earnings too”. I assumed this was good news too.
Terri came over to change the saline bag and introduced herself. “What can I do to help” William asked. “Plenty” she replied. Florence excused herself and Morris came over to orient William to my most pressing needs. “I’m most concerned about a pressure sore that’s developing on his tailbone,” she said. “If it gets infected we’re in big trouble”. She explained how my breathing tube had been disconnected from the respirator and what the suctioning procedure entailed. I could read the relief on Morris’ face knowing that William would be learning my care needs. William kept asking questions and Terri described the process of turning me and shifting my weight without putting undue stress on my spinal fusion.
“Man, you are a mess!” he said to me after Terri and Morris had left. I rolled my eyes and gave a shrug. “Mom should be here soon. They were traveling in Wyoming to visit Yellowstone National Park and just happened to see their names on a camp bulletin board. They didn’t have a credit card to get a plane ticket so they’re on their way back to Seattle to put some cash together”. He further described how cousin Mardi had gotten him a ticket and helped him get in touch with Boggs and Marino. “I dumped my stuff off at your French Quarter apartment and Marino gave me the key”, he continued. “Do you know what that jerk said to me? Oh never mind. It doesn’t matter. We’ll get you out of this, don’t worry.” He filled me in on the details of how he found out about my injury; “Fredrick had been visiting with Rodger at the folk’s place after they’d gone with Chris and Eric when the call from Marino came in. Rodger thought he better stay put in case the folks called so Fredrick biked over to my place on Lake Union to tell me and we started making calls.”
He further described his efforts to get to my side: “Once Mardi had helped me get my plane ticket, Sharon drove me down to the airport and we had a blowout on Interstate Five right at the turnoff to SeaTac Airport. While I had the car jacked up she went to get something out of the trunk and the jack slipped and the truck lid smashed her in the face. She was a bloody mess. The Highway patrol came and ordered an ambulance for her and drove me to SeaTac to catch my flight. I don’t even know how bad she’s hurt”. Now I was feeling guilt on top of everything else. I moved my lips so that he could read them, “Please rest, I’m okay now”.
He pulled over a large wooden chair obviously designed for long-term use and started arranging some of the supplies. “Yeah, I’m gonna sit for a while, maybe take a nap. I think I’ve been up over seventy-two hours”. He plopped down on some extra pillows. “Man, is it hot here. How do you stand it”? Even with air-conditioning and fans it was hot in the ER but I’d become used to it. “Don’t ya have a radio or somethin’?” He laid back into the pillows and was asleep within minutes.