What’s your name? Katharine. How old are you? 36. Where are you? Riverside Methodist Hospital. Good, here’s your Ativan. You swallow it. You have to put it in your mouth. Yes, like that. Here’s your water. Swallow it.
My world was full of nurses and “techs.” The techs were also called PSAs. I can’t remember what it stands for, but they did a lot of the yucky nurse-like work, but couldn’t give meds. I think they used to be called orderlies. I don’t mean my ignorance to sound like dismissal or criticism in any way. These people were all amazing and I have much more coherent memories of them once I was transferred to Rehab. Anyway, whenever a staff member came into the room, they were required to ask me the above questions to confirm that I was lucid.
I was not lucid. Not at all. Matt still talks about how I would answer the questions perfectly (albeit with a slower, slightly slurred voice) and then immediately slip back into my haze.
So, the two weeks between May 8th and May 23rd are a strange void. I have bits and pieces. If this is the first entry you are reading, I suggest you start here as we are getting into that tricky territory I wrote about in that entry. My memory is hazy and not to be trusted. I spent those two weeks “tripping” on the drug cocktail they were constantly pumping into my system.
I remember my mom. She was constantly bringing me new pillows. My mom’s been suffering from chronic pain in her neck since a fall a few years ago. I’ve also had my share of neck and back pain due to too many years dancing and cheering back in high school. It really freaked her out to see me in the neuro-ICU with my head –my bald, stapled, blood-draining head–sort of hanging to one side, so she was constantly telling the nurses to prop me up better and eventually took it upon herself to brace me with every conceivable pillow to keep my head from rolling off my body and out into the hallway where it might trip somebody.
She sat with me for hours. Inevitably, I would ask her how I was getting up to pee. The women in our family are always talking about their bladders (if this is TMI, then just leave for today and come back tomorrow). We call it the Basile Bladder. Basile was my grandmother’s maiden name. The name came from Robert Basile, my great-grandfather, an immigrant from Naples who came over in 1912 and settled in St. Louis. I still have a bevy of relatives carrying the Basile name there. The Basile Bladder may not have come from that side at all, but rather the Duffy Irish side that Robert Basile married into, but we call it the Basile Bladder anyway. The women in our family tend to have the dual problems of a small bladder and a penchant for caffeine, so we are always looking for the next restroom (that’s washroom for my Canadian friends). We used to joke that my grandmother, who traveled quite extensively with my grandfather before she got sick, should write a book “The Bathrooms of Europe.”
Oh, the grandfather. That’s right. Where was he, anyway? Turns out my mom and stepdad rather unceremoniously put him on a plane back to New Mexico the day after my surgery once it looked like I was going to pull through. He was in the middle of divorce proceedings from Trophy Wife anyway and needed to be there. More importantly, my family needed him NOT to be here.
Remember how I said The Hunger Games Trilogy was the last thing I read before going into the hospital? Well, it pervaded my consciousness and colored all of my perceptions during those two lost weeks. Back to my bladder (aren’t you glad you kept reading?), I kept asking to use the bathroom. Not because I felt like I had to, but because I just always do and I had this vague impression that it had been a long time since I had. Enter nurse/tech/mother/husband/anyone-in-listening-distance. “You have a catheter. If you need to go, just go.” That did not compute, so I would ask again. And again. And again. I would wait for a new person to arrive and ask them because, clearly, the people already in my room didn’t understand the Basile Bladder.
At some point, I turned to my mother and said, “I feel like I’m in The Catheter Games instead of The Hunger Games.” She laughed. Making her laugh, even in a drug induced stupor, was better than making her cry and I had done enough of that over the previous week. In an an email she sent me a few days ago, she reminded me that we actually laughed a lot during those missing two weeks. We used to get in trouble with my dad at church. We attended the big Episcopal cathedral in Denver and I was always too shy to participate in any of their children’s programs, so I sat with them during the 90 minute service. Every once in a while, though, my mom and I would get the giggles. Bad. Once we started, we couldn’t stop. My dad would just glare at us, willing us silently to pull ourselves together. It rarely worked. We would get into those same fits of giggles in the hospital.
And so, in the midst of staples and drains and antibiotics and Ativan, my mom and I laughed about small bladders while visions of Katniss Everdene wildly looking for a bathroom in the Hunger Games Arena danced in my head.