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April 6, 2013

As Time Goes By: Getting sick in the southern sun

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The Daily Star

---- — I went and did it – I have heard about southern hospitality so much that I thought I would see if it extended to the hospitals as well.

I got sick with my old friend cellulitis. Diana noticed that I was acting strange so she took my temperature. Sure enough, I was sick. She called our GP in Myrtle Beach and was advised that the hospital was going to be our next stop. Minutes later I was loaded into an ambulance and the EMTs started taking my vitals. I was a sick puppy!

I don’t remember much about my grand entrance to the Waccamaw hospital. Apparently my fevered temperature was stopping me from focusing on my surroundings until I heard someone say, “Let’s get the Foley.”

If you do not know what a Foley is, it is very similar to a colonoscopy but in another orifice. I could have sworn that they had just inserted a splintered two-by-four or at least a 1-inch diameter plastic pipe. I had the urge to get off from the gurney and run but I was fearful of what would happen when I ran out of pipe. I kept saying over and over the wish that Dorothy has about “Going home.”

The next morning I was introduced to a bevy of young ladies who were a part of the Technical Training Nursing Program at Waccamaw Institute.

They discovered what an ulcerated stomach and inner thigh area could look like. I was not embarrassed to show them because anything “south of the border” either fell off or dried up years ago.

I got a sponge bath and a new hospital gown and we got along just fine until at the time of receiving my medication one of the lovelies said “I think I dropped a pill.” There was a scurry of activity with mumblings about the hope that the instructor would not be back soon.

Most of the pills I take could be forgotten because they are not instrumental in keeping me alive but there are a few that are essential to my well-being and survival.

I asked if it was a small round one (essential) or a big fat pill (not critical) that was lost. She didn’t know for sure. Well, I am still alive so it must have been one of those fat ones.

There is something about push buttons on hospital beds that fascinate me — I simply must “touch and play.”

The mattress on hospital beds leaves something to be desired as if simply stuffing them with more straw would alleviate cramped back muscles.

The bed I was in was concave — it was higher on the sides than in the middle. Getting out of my bed was a chore — the higher sides kept flipping me back onto the mattress. There was no escape and perhaps it was fulfilling its destiny.

I woke at 3 a.m. and decided to sit up. I pressed the “down” button for my legs and the “up” button for my body from the waist up. This should have gotten me into a very comfortable “easy chair” position. Nothing was working right and in a matter of seconds I had myself bent like a “U.”

I started compressing parts of my body that haven’t been compressed for years. The bed stopped moving. I carefully pressed a button and, if it made me breathe easier, I held it until it stopped. I did the same with other buttons until I was back to normal. Just then the night nurse came in and asked if everything was OK. I told her everything was fine. She should have been there five minutes earlier.

My doctor thought there might be something wrong with my thyroid. We need to get an echo scan. For that they needed to move me from second floor east to the ground floor. They will not let you walk, and I can’t use a wheelchair.

They decided to unhook all my life support (television remote) and take me to the echo lab, bed and all. As I came out of my room (287) I announced that I was going for some fresh air and a quick brew at “Bubba’s Fish Shack.”

The echo lab is run by a young lovely lady who told me to do nothing but lie in bed while the tests were run.

She then proceeded to slather very warm gel and started the tests probing my neck. I was relaxed and commented that I hoped this would end with a full body massage. It didn’t. Apparently she had heard it all before.

I was released on a Saturday night. They had replaced all my blood with gallons of penicillin products.

I still had open sores or ulcers on my stomach so off to the wound-care hospital where I was stripped, probed, measured and had pictures taken for the next issue of some physician’s journal.

The doctor entered and all I could sense was an enveloping cloud of positive healing. I relaxed knowing that I was in good hands.

The solution to my ulcers was simple — honey! Not any honey but honey from a special bee getting nectar from a special flower that grows in New Zealand. Happily it was not stamped, “Made in China.” It came in large thin sheets and after application was for a while waterproof.

It does have one disadvantage — there is a large bear named Yogi hanging around the front door anxious to put me in his “picken-nick” basket and have me for lunch.

As time goes by, it’s the same old story of watching what you eat, making sure nothing is eating you.

Henry Geerken is a three-time NYSUT award-winner writing humorous articles addressing retiree and senior citizen concerns. Geerken also writes for Sail-World, World Cruising Newsletter, regarding his many humorous sailing episodes through the years. He can be reached by email at hgeerken@stny.rr.com. ‘Senior Scene’ columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/seniorscene.