I'm laying in a hospital bed after an emergency tonsillectomy. As a child, having your tonsils removed is no big deal, but as an adult it's a bit of a shit storm. When I came in, it was almost too late, an abscess on my right tonsil was infected with some sort of plague. It was eating quickly into my lymph nodes, and the doctors figured the best thing to do was cut it out. Fast. I was fully conscious when I signed the form. Ten minutes later I was in a hospital gown and parked in a yellow hallway. The scrub nurse asked me when I had last eaten.
“Two days ago,” I wasn't lying, I had been forgetting to eat lately, and my ribcage was evidence.
“Well, usually that’s not such a good thing, but at the moment, that's quite convenient. I'm just going to put this butterfly needle into your hand, look away, ok?” I didn't look away. I never look away from needles. I like needles. I like what it means if you have a needle being put into one of your veins. It means drugs are coming. Some sort of external medication will be flowing into you shortly. At that moment, I knew it would be surgical grade narcotics. I was already dreaming of opiates.
The nurse pushed me down the hall into the operating room. Other nurses hooked me up to electrodes. I said “I'm a computer person, I quite like all of these cables.” No one laughed.
“We're all set,” one of the nurses said to the surgeon.
He looked at me, “Are you ready?”
“Do I have a choice?” Again, no laughter.
“Goodnight sweet lady,” the nurse said as he pushed the drugs into me. I didn't want to sleep. The narcotics washed over me and I felt that feeling of relief I hadn't felt in years. That thick, warm blanket of opiates. That trusted numbness. I didn't want to sleep.
“Wow, most people would be out by now,” I heard echo through the chamber that used to hold my brain.
“Should we give her more?”
“No, she'll go, just give it a minute.” And then that minute came.
When I woke up, four scrub nurses were watching over me in the “Wake Up Room”. I had read the name of the room while I was parked in the yellow hallway. I thought it showed lack of creativity. The nurses weren't watching over me so much as standing next to me. I was just another patient. Just floating through. I would be taken to the recovery ward soon, no connections to be made. They were younger than I was, I'm sure of it. I was groggy.
“Welcome back,” said the only female. She had red hair and a nice round, plump face. She wasn't plump, just her childish cheeks. She felt alone there, always having to play with the boys. I wanted her to like me.
“I don't feel quite right.”
“On a scale of one to ten, ten being the most severe, how's your pain level?”
“8 and a half,” I was lying. My pain level was much less, but I wanted more drugs. I like hospital grade opiates, and I'd stopped using drugs recreationally, so this was sort of a free for all. I got to take drugs and not feel guilty about it. A little white lie so that I could get rid of the pain and enjoy myself wasn't a bad thing. Not in my opinion. She wrote it down on her pad and then switched out the narcotics bottle flowing into my butterfly needle. I felt the surge immediately. I tried not to smile.
I floated in and out of consciousness for a while, and then they took me upstairs to the Recovery Ward.
Now I'm here. I've been here for five days. They don't want to let me out until the biopsy comes back. They haven't seen that sort of self mutilating cell before. They don't know if I'm contagious. They don't know if it's elsewhere in my body.
About six people have visited me from work, but no one I really like. They all brought cheesy “Get Well Soon!” cards. I always wondered about the exclamation point at the end of “Get Well Soon”. Did someone think that that little marker of enthusiasm would facilitate in the curing of what ails? I can understand it on a birthday card, I guess. For some reason those cards are really bothering me.
I've been having a lot of tests. The nurse comes in and says something cryptic, which I don't understand. She then puts a needle in my belly and injects me with something. I've been getting meds every two hours. After the surgery, the meds were good. I got high. But now they've become rather boring. They switched from the fun drugs to the standard ones, and I'm anxious to leave. Yesterday I asked if I could leave.
Two nights ago, I coughed up blood. A lot of blood. I spit it into a paper towel for a while before informing a nurse. I wanted to choke on my own blood. I'd never done that before. Even when I'd gotten into fights, my opponents always stopped beating me up before I had to choke on my own blood. I sat up in my bed feeling a long thread of bloody mucus tickling the back of my throat. In the seconds between bouts of coughing, I could feel that thread vibrating. It was such a curious feeling. When I informed the nurse and showed her handfuls of bloody paper towels, she asked me why I didn't use my call button. That was her reaction. “Why didn't you use your call button?”
Blood was dripping from my chin. There was blood in my mouth. My hospital issued pajamas were splattered like Jeffery Dahmer’s basement. The nurse acted like she didn’t even notice. She just cleaned me up, inserted a new butterfly needle, and called the doctor who had done my surgery.
The scabs make my mouth taste like old cheese. I've coughed up a few of them. Greenish-yellow patches of goo that slither into the drain when I spit them into the sink. I've been spitting a lot lately, my saliva slithers like the scabs. Slow at first and then when it hits the drain the weight of the matter already pulled in causes the back part of the goo to move more quickly.
I don't eat much, but it doesn't mean that I'm not hungry. The hospital brings me trays of saltless food. Today I have three pieces of stale bread, a single serving of butter, strawberry jelly, some hazelnut paste and a bit of liverwurst. I hate meat paste. Spreadable meat of any kind makes me want to vomit. I take the liverwurst and squish it onto the underside of the bed. I smile when I think of it rotting there. It will take them forever to figure out what's rotting. It's a hospital, everything smells like rot.
There's a knock on the door. “Come in,” I mumble as my mouth is filled with bread. I've used half the butter and half the strawberry jam. It's still a challenge to open my mouth, so I have to slide the bread in at a perfect angle to get it through the hole.
“The chief doctor would like to see you now,” the nurse informs me.
I walk to the front office, where the doctor is checking over the patients in his wing. This is the ear, nose, and throat section. This is where they cut off ears and noses and slice people's throats open.
There's an infant with half a nose. His twin brother looks fine. As the nurse passes she looks in, “How's the little guy doing?” The parents smile, they don't look concerned. But their kid looks like his nose got bitten off by a rabid squirrel. He'll never look normal. Even with a fake nose, the kid is doomed to a life of second looks. Those fucking parents don't even care, they're smiling about it.
“Miss? The doctor will see you now.”
I walk into the doctors office. He has two examining chairs. Why? He can't look at two people at the same time. Everything is clean and symmetrical.
“Yesterday you begged to leave,” he says, as if he had been there.
“Yes, I'm sick of this place, I want out now.”
“You can't leave until we find out if whatever it was in your tonsil has spread into your body. We hope we got it, but we can't be sure until the biopsy comes back. We took as much of the tissue as we could.”
“Well, you can send me the results, I can return if it's not gone.”
“Yes, well the problem is, we don't know if you are contagious.”
“Has anyone here gotten sick?”
“No, but we don't know how long you carried the virus before you got sick.”
“Yes, so doesn't it stand to reason, that I could have been carrying it for years and the whole fucking world is already sick and keeping me here is useless any damn way?”
“We can't let you go.” Of course they can't. It's always the same with authorities. They have their rules to follow, and none of them are rule breakers. They do what they are supposed to do whether it negates rhyme or reason or otherwise. I am not a fan of authority.
“Well, let's take a look at least, see how you're healing,” the doctor presses his metal tongue depressor onto my tongue, “just relax,” he tells me. “Did you have carrots for dinner?”
I'm surprised at the question. Yes, I had had carrots for dinner, but how could he possibly know that?
“Uh…yes…” I answer, questioningly, expecting an elaboration from him.
“Just a little stuck there,” he smiles at me. I try not to laugh, but imagine how disgusting it must be to look down a patients throat and see not only the nearly liquid scabs from surgery, but also food stuck in those scabs. Food from yesterday, food from last night. The scab growing around the food.
The doctor takes a small vacuum from his toolkit and sucks out the carrot. He pulls the tiny vacuum out of my mouth with the carrot still stuck to it.
“I'm so sorry!” I sputter, but the doctor just waves the apology away. I'm annoyed at his reaction. I've apologized, I want vindication that that was the right thing to do. Why wasn’t he revolted by what had just happened?
“Don't worry about it, those scabs get sticky. Your wounds look good, but you'll have to stay until the biopsy comes back, for your own good.”
“And how long might that be?”
“Not more than a couple of weeks.” Inside, I flip out, start yelling about this not being prison and such, but my visible reaction is a simple nod. I have no intention of staying here for two more days, let alone two more weeks.