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post #229
bio: stu

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My Time in the Hospital: Roommates
 I spent over ten weeks in the hospital. Other than my time in the ICU and my time in Isolation after I got a superbug, I had roommates pretty much the entire time. I managed to get a private room for a couple of days, but then I was authorized for open heart surgery and moved to another floor for that. So other than my moments of most intense recuperation or danger of infection, I had at least one other person in the room with me at all times.

These roommates pretty much unanimously sucked. Trust me, you'll want to stay around for the last one, especially.

#1: A talkative, friendly, older black man. His sister was a nurse in the hospital and she would bring him dinner from the outside. It's from him that I learned that you could get dinner from the outside, pretty much any dinner you wanted and could get someone to walk out and buy you. He was my favorite roommate of my entire stay in the hospital. My memory is hazy from the pain of that time, but I think we were roommates for two days.

#2: After a stay in the ICU with no roommates, I was brought up to Telemetry late at night. I technically had a second roommate for that night, but he checked out the next day. He could have been awful--he definitely snored loudly--but in our relationship I was definitely the bad roommate: moved in after midnight, with an alarm on one of my machines that kept going off, malfunctioning around 5am and keeping both of us for most of the early morning until he checked out 6 hours later.

#3: One of the worst of the roommates: a prissy gay man from Florida, in town for a couple of days and staying in the hospital the entire time. He seemed to be running some complicated and obtuse scam. He kept the TV on at all times, and tuned to ABC Family, so whether he was awake or not reruns of Sabrina the Teenage Witch or Full House. He'd fall asleep to these episodes and they would repeat during the day, so while he was able to sleep I got to hear the full episodes multiple times. There was some family sitcom I didn't recognize, featuring the main kid trying to learn to play "The Entertainer" on the piano, and doing it badly, over and over and over--an episode I hated more and more each time I heard it.

When I say this guy seemed to be running some scam, well, he wouldn't complain about pain unless someone asked him, and then he would complain about the enormous and overwhelming pain he was experiencing and how he needed immediate relief (in my experiencing, if you're feeling that type of pain, you ring the call button and ask the nurses to do something about it, which they would). He refused every test of his heart that they offered, either out of not wanting to do it (like an EKG, which involves electrodes being put onto at your bedside while you lay there, and is about the easiest and least painful test that can be done to you at the hospital), or claiming allergies to the dies or drugs used to execute the tests. In one case, a doctor insisted that if he was allergic to one of the dyes, he would be the first documented case ever for that test--yet still this guy insisted that was the truth and that he'd refuse the test. He even refused to have his blood pressure taken sometimes. He claimed that his medical records were being brought up by a friend who was driving them in, and would be here "at 4pm tomorrow." The friend never showed. At one point, someone came in to talk to him abut his insurance--he said that his friend would provide the full information when he arrived. And oddly, he claimed that someone had stolen a work cell phone from his bags during a move from one room to another, but although he complained about it bitterly for fifteen minutes, he did nothing to follow up on the "theft" or to alert security or to do anything to make it sound like he was doing anything other than making shit up to bitch about for awhile.

And when the time came, he checked himself out of the hospital and went to catch his flight back to Florida. He seemed to be either a prissy hypochondriac, or someone executing a weird scam. He stayed at the hospital for half a week without allowing anything to be done to him at all, all the while complaining and delaying.

#4: Muhammad Ali was my fourth roommate. I believe he was Iranian. He was frail, didn't speak much English, never interesed in me, and had COPD, which gave him the most fascinating snore--a hitching meandering thing with no rhythm but lots of volume. Subsequent roommates with COPD would turn out to have variations on this snore.

#5: After a stint in a private room and another stint in the Cardio-Thorasic ICU, I moved back to Telemetry again, this time with a window bed. My first roommate in this room had nothing special about him at all, other that the COPD snore. He was Russian, and had a lot of trouble conveying to a nurse at one point that he was suffering from constipation, but that was definitely more his problem than mine. His doctor spoke Russian, and would do so loudly, which woke me up once or twice. But that's about the closest things I have to complaints about Roommate #5.

#6: A Hispanic man missing his left hand, with a weird growling snore. We lived almost completely independently of each other--He watched a lot of Telemundo soap operas, but he was goo about turning off the TV at night and not letting it keep either of us up.

My last night sharing the room there, though, he let his blood sugar level down (to a readout of 41, when it was tested), and he suffered a diabetic freakout. He starting shouting and muttering and growling, unleashing a constantly stream of ugly sounding Spanish. I didn't understand a word of it, but he sounded like he'd gone feral. It was about 2am, and none of the nurses noticed. No one came to see him. I eventually called the nurse myself "for something to help me sleep," and when the nurse arrived with the Ambien, she noticed that my roommate had gone nuts. He was at that point whimpering for "aqua fria" rather than growling, but he was still not in good shape. They gave him a shot of something to restore his blood sugar, bumping it up 100 points within two minutes, and he was suddenly sane again. They gave him a snack and some water and he was fine.

Except part of the reason his blood sugar was so low was that he was NPO. I don't know what NPO stands for, but it means no food or drink from midnight on: you get an NPO standing when you're going in for surgery the next day and you're not supposed to eat or drink so you can safely be adminstered anesthesia. So the water and snack that they gave him meant his surgery had to be rescheduled for another day.

#7: I was then moved to Rehab, and the worst roommate yet. He was kind of cranky, and kind of whiney, but all asshole. He had the softest snore of all my roommates, which was his only positive characteristic. He compulsively called an automated system that listed every stock in his retirement portfolio, and how much it'd gone up or down over the course of the day's trading. It would take over 15 minutes for him to listen to all his stocks in alphabetical order, and he would call this phone line between three and five times every day, on a phone set up to be loud enough for me to hear all the information audiably, so I know he's got a large portfolio worth about $400,000 that he was too obsessed with to enjoy.

I had guests my first full day there--four of them, one arriving around 4:15, the rest trickling in over the next hour or so. They started leaving around 7pm, the last leaving when visiting hours ended at 8pm. The moment my last guest was out of the room, my roommate was on the phone, complaining about how annoying it was to have a roommate with visitors, how obnoxious they were, as if I couldn't hear or had left with my visitors. If I'd been feeling more aggressive and defensive, I would have said something--if I could have thought of anything to say. At the time, I thought it was better not to say anything, to try to preserve relations with someone I'd be stuck with for awhile. Now I'm not so sure; maybe it could have prevented some of the later bullshit.

He started complaining about my girlfriend on the third day. She'd come to visit me after work every day, arriving around 6pm, and she'd stay until visiting hours ended. It wasn't a lot of time for us, but it was nice. He started complaining on the phone while she was there: "He has this girl come up every night and they talk for hours and hours. It's so annoying," he'd whine on the phone to his girlfriend, who visited every second or third night and stayed for a couple hours. He would bitch at her for awhile, and then try to get her to jack him off.

"I'm all backed up with love juice," he complained one night on the phone, as if I wasn't in the room. "When you come, I want to play with your pussy."

His girlfriend was fragile, more modest than him, and undeserving of his bullshit. She also, from the first time she saw me, believed I was religious in someway. She was talking about how much time I spent reading the Bible (I was reading a thick sci fi book with a black cover, actually), and then she became convinced I was Hasidic, possibily because of my beard. One night, when he was complaining, "This guy always has a bunch of women, like six or seven visiting him all the time," (which sadly wasn't true), she replied, "I think he's a Rabbi!"

Their relationship made me sad. One night, when I could hear him trying to jack off while on the phone with her, he asked her if she ever comes at the same time that he comes. She told him that she's never come in her life, and definitely not during their relationship.

This is more than I should know about anybody else's relationship.

The begging for a handjob got worse over time. He asked her for a paper bag so he wouldn't make such a mess. And he kept saying, "tussy." I don't know if this was just a repeated mispronunciation of "pussy," or a weird slang for some other body part, like a portmanteau of "tush" and "pussy." I suspect the former, but he said "tussy" a lot and "pussy" a lot, and they seemed like different things.

I finally snapped at him when he complained about my girlfriend visiting one night. "Oh, here she is and now they're going to talk for hours," he said, and I snapped: "You're sitting over there talking to your girlfriend right now for hours, so stop being such a fucking hypocrite. My girlfriend visits for a couple of hours and leaves when visiting hours are over, just like yours, and there's nothing wrong with that and stop pretending that there is." He didn't respond. I honestly don't know if my comments registered; he didn't seem to actually listen to me--just pay attention enough to complain about my presence.

I was eventually moved out of that room into isolation when I contracted a highly infectious antibiotic-resistant urinary tract infection: it was a disease that could have killed me, but at least it meant that the rest of my time in the hospital would be in a private room.

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