Sunday, April 13, 2008

Why I've Been Absent, Part Two

As I said at the end of "Why I've Been Absent, Part One" on February 9 of this year my life took an abrupt turn. My health began to fail me. It started with a cough. And went downhill from there...

I was down with the flu for ten days. Then I worked for a couple of days, and went down with a really bad cold. Which apparently turned into "walking pneumonia." The cherry on this little cake? I went functionally deaf for about two weeks. More time in bed. Working fewer hours when I did take a cab out. Ignoring the signs of impending disaster...

Because I don't have health insurance (a stupid situation, because I could have afforded it, as it would have cost less than my smoking habit, which by the way ended on February 9), I kept putting off seeing a doctor until March 13. At that time I was treated for the pneumonia. And told I had very high blood pressure. So high that I should have been immediately referred to an Emergency Room. But all the doctor said was, "You might want to have that looked at." No urgency was attached to the situation. I figured I'd save up some money and come back when I could afford to. Later on, a friend of mine told me I couldn't afford to wait, I needed to get treatment immediately, that the doctor should have insisted I go to an ER immediately.

But I waited. Five days later, suffering from extreme "blahs" and continual mild to moderate headaches, I finally decided to go to the local Emergency Room. Even at this point I dragged my feet. I worked most of a shift, dropped my cab off, got in my car, and went to Del Taco for dinner. Well, why not? It was "Taco Tuesday", three for a dollar. I ate half-a-dozen, and washed them down with a large Mountain Dew.

After dinner, my plan was to go home, and put together a few things I would want in case I was admitted. You know, things like books, toiletries, a few pairs of underwear and socks, pajamas, and my cellphone charger. Another plan thwarted
by the vagaries of life. Given the route I take home, my apartment is only about a quarter of a mile past the hospital. I never made it.

On the way home, I developed a very bad headache, shortness of breath, nausea and blurry vision. I decided to skip home, and go right to the ER. I guess I didn't say the right things to the receptionist, because I had to wait about forty-five minutes to see the triage nurse. I guess collapsing to my knees in front of her didn't convey any urgency. To be fair, since I couldn't hear what she was saying over the noise in the lobby (still functionally deaf at this point), I took the contact form from her to fill it out. She may have thought I went to my knees to be level with her desk, making it easier for me to fill out the form.

My friend Dean said that rather than standing up and going to a chair to wait, I should have just clutched my chest and laid down on the floor. He says this puts you to the head of the line every time. That's good to know, just for future reference. But I didn't think of doing something like that. So I took as seat, alternately crying, moaning and holding my head, praying I would hear my name called over the bedlam in the waiting room.

I found out later that a forty-five minute wait was relatively short. When I was called back by the nurse, the first thing she did was take my blood pressure. Which was so high that she went into overdrive. Within minutes I had an IV line in place, and serious blood pressure meds were being pumped into me.

Was I scared? Sure for about two minutes, which was how long it took for the nurse to get a syringe of morphine from the drug locker, hook it up to the IV, and squirt it into me. And about four seconds more for the morphine to take effect.

Once in my brain, the morphine instantly erased the pain, and filled me with an incredible sense of euphoria, well-being, and a complete disregard for the seriousness of my situation. I reverted to form and started telling taxi jokes, which were well received. Then I told a couple of morphine jokes which really cracked the nurses up. Actually, they're funny riddles. Here they are:

Question: What's the dumbest a nurse can ask? Answer: Would you like some morphine for the pain?

Question: What's the second dumbest question a nurse can ask? Answer: Would you like some more morphine?

This was my answer to the first question: "Sure would."

This was my answer to the second question: "Why wouldn't I?"

When asked the second question a second time, this is what I said: "You know, a good bartender doesn't ask questions. She just keeps the drinks coming."

Actually, I didn't say that out loud. But I was thinking it. She must have been a mind reader, 'cause she poured me another, and just kept them coming.

So, I was in the ER for a few hours while a bunch of tests were done. After a while a doctor came over to talk to me. "Cab Guy," he says, "In addition to severe hypertension, you are suffering from acute kidney failure. You're down to about 15% of normal renal function."

Which is devastating news. Or would have been if I wasn't juiced up on morphine. This is the beauty of morphine: when administered as a clinical dose calculated to ease pain, it leaves me lucid and completely aware of my situation. But calm. Very calm. It should have pained me to hear his words. But pain is pain, even if it's emotional. And morphine eases pain...

Looking him straight in the eye, I said, "Hmm... well I'm not surprised!" I could tell that this response was unexpected and shocking to him. The conversation continued:

"Doesn't this bother you?"

"I'm sure it will later, Doctor, after I sober up!"

"But you haven't been drinking!"

"And that's the beauty of morphine, Sir! After it wears off I'll worry about my condition. Right now I trust you'll fix me up."

Or words to that effect.

Shortly thereafter that I had my own private room. In the Intensive Care Unit. Where I laid flat on my back for the next five days. Mostly deaf. Hooked up to an IV tower with a continual infusion of blood pressure and kidney medications. And morphine, at least for the first day or two. But I didn't care, because I had constant care from a whole series of nurses. Who were all very friendly, competent and compassionate.

Who ran the gamut from very attractive to smokin' hot. Except for Steve, who I'm sure most women would have found to be attractive, but didn't do a thing for me. But he was a friendly guy who laughed at my jokes, so he was okay in my book.

Pretty nurses, a comfortable bed, and morphine. What more could a Cab Guy want?

To be continued...

I hope to see you out there on the road.


The Cab Guy


Paradise Driver said...

What can a person say except "Welcome back".

The Cab Guy said...

Paradise Driver,

It's good to be back. Thanks for your loyalty and persistance.

The Cab Guy

Lucky 327 said...

sheesh, i guess i should really get that doc appointment i've been putting off for so long.

Anonymous said...

Hey cab guy, give me a call. Max.

John said...

Walking wounded..
Perhaps its time to put you cigarette money into medicare.
I guess we all need a good kick up the arse to realize that our health is all we have.

King of New York Hacks said...

Good Luck Road Rager, One of the guys in my garage just lost a kidney but he's back driving again...Hopefully you'll be back in goo health and spirits !!! Lots of great treatment for the kidneys these days. Best of luck brother.

Real cab driver said...

I know what it's like, a doctor grounded me for 5 months. Fortunately I was only in tough shape for 3 weeks, and given a clean bill of health in the end. I wish you well brother. And, I hope you're still around to read this.