The Neurology Ward
July 8, 2006
I recently got out of the
hospital after spending 5 days in the neurology ward, courtesy of several
I had the whole work up while I
was there: my brain was dyed, fried and MRI’d – and while it does indeed appear
that I do have a brain, I’m now on a particularly nasty and expensive
anti-convulsant called topamax. I hate
the stuff – it’s so impairing. My
neurologist assures me that I’ll get used to it but until that time I’m having
a hell of a time in the interim. I also
have to inject an anticoagulant into my stomach daily and jeez, it’s
expensive. Hundreds and hundreds and
hundreds of dollars and I have no coverage.
As an added side effect of the
topamax, the average patient loses 10-20% of their body weight. I started at 118 and I’m 5’5”. I’ve been on it since June 21 and as of this
morning I’m about 110. This ain’t good.
The hospital itself was
Dickensian – it was the filthiest place I’ve ever been in. The smell of urine hit you as soon as you
got off the elevators. Most of the
other patients there were in for advanced dementia or Alzheimer’s or similar
disorders and God help me, if I ever get to that point, just shoot me. They made me stay there while they switched
the meds over to be sure that I didn’t seize during the process. I paid $1000 for a private room because I
simply couldn’t get any rest otherwise – money well spent and I don’t regret it
but I could ill afford it considering what I’m now facing in ongoing medication
I was the only one there not in
diapers. It was like being trapped in a giant urinal surrounded by a throng of
incontinent zombies. That sounds cruel
and I don’t mean it to be – I was quite heartsick at the state of some of these
people – one in particular.
Her name was Sandy. She was in her 90s and was quite gone with
dementia. She’d been transferred from
an old age home and from the state of her, you’d guess that she had no family. She was clothed in filthy sweaters and
hospital gowns. On my one-day pass, I
went out and bought her some clean clothing and warm socks – she was always
cold. I sat with her every night, even
though she never really had a clue who I was.
We sat and chatted about her life although she really couldn’t keep the
thread. If you left her alone, she
would cry that people were trying to kill her – dear God, it broke my
heart. She wasn’t in any danger or
pain. She was simply terrified and
disoriented but she would settle if she had someone to talk to. The nurses had no time to tend to her so
they would tie her into a wheelchair and leave her by the nurses station, as
the rest of the patients were more or less completely dependent on them for
everything. I wasn’t doing anything
anyway so I sat with her and once in a while, we had a good laugh.
“Do you want a drink of
something, Sandy?” I asked her.
“Yeah – how about a
highball?” I gave her some apple juice
Once she asked me what I thought
of the men in the place. She asked me
if I’d ever “you know, done it”.
She was a sweetheart. No human
being deserves an ending like this, just sitting around in an increasingly
engulfing darkness waiting to die.
She’d forget me from one day to
the next but I arranged to have some treats brought in for her (timbits and
tea) and some body lotion (her bedsores were horrifying). I tried to read to her but she’d interrupt
me every paragraph or so because she’d forget what I’d been telling her, so I’d
just sort of go with it.
She talked about how she didn’t
understand why everyone got so bent out of shape about “mixed marriages” – her
version of that involved a union between a catholic and a protestant. She’d
share gossip with me like I knew the people involved and she’d expect me to
comment on it. She was grateful for
little kindnesses (like a manicure or a backrub) and by the end of the week,
she was even beginning to remember me a bit I think. The nurses said that this was progress.
The day before my release, I was
furious to learn that she indeed had a son, one who was apparently quite content
to let his own mother rot in filth and misery without even visiting her. I was ready to knock his block off. In the end, I just gave the nurses my
business card and left instructions that if she needed anything, they were to
call me. I suppose I shouldn’t be
surprised at how low people can go, but everyone once in a while, the sheer
assholery of my fellow man takes my breath away. If this jerk had just made the effort to spend part of every day
speaking to his own goddamn mother, maybe her connection to planet earth would
be a bit less tenuous and her last days of life would be less terrifying and
lonely for her.
What a fucking jerk. I wouldn’t wish this fate on my worst enemy
but I hope it waits for him.
Till next time,