Sunday, March 04, 2007

Sunday Mop Up 03/04/07

Look, kids, I know I'm not exactly pumping out the posts, but give a fag a break, huh? I am currently lugging around two separate pumps connected to my body by tubing, and I am supposed to be lying in bed with my leg propped up at all times. Just getting to the bathroom to pee is a logistical nightmare, never mind sitting at my pc, yammering on about my plight while my leg swells below me. I'll spend some time today doing it, because it's SUNDAY, after all, and I cannot handle the cluttered chaos around me. 'Organization' is hardly my strong suit, to begin with. You should see the jumble of tubes, wires, and machinery I have become. That I haven't yet unplugged something accidentally and bled to death in a thick puddle of ooze during sleep is simply astonishing.

Word on the street is that I may get to unplug from the portable i.v. pump on Monday. This would make Life As I Know It MUCH more manageable. I'll be attached to the wound vac on my leg for several more weeks, as it tries to suck the hole in my leg into filling from the inside out. A smartass friend thinks all I need is some wood putty to get the job done. When I relayed this to the nurse at the Wound Care Clinic, her response was "Never seek medical advice from Pinocchio".

I'm hobbling around doing some much needed laundry, slurping my bucket o' coffee, and clearing Casa del Jimbo of remnant bio hazard from another week's worth of Bachelorhood Gone Awry, and babbling a bit to you about the things that have been kicking around my skull as of late. I loosely label this phenomena as 'thought'. So, here goes this week's installment:


Maybe I have said this before, and I apologize if I am repeating myself, but I LUVS me some anti-biotics. My complexion is ever-so clear ( I haven't had a zit in friggin' weeks), any chance of b.o. is non-existent!

Bloodwork Results

My PCP insisted on drawing blood and doing lab work on me before releasing me to work a sparse 3-4 hours a day at my job for the next two weeks or so.

[Yes, in between drs. appointments I am hauling my tubed ass to work for a few hours a day now. It's kinda cool. I show up in flip flops and cargo shorts and have a drs. note insisting that I keep my leg hoisted up (on my desk, mind you) while cranking out work on my desktop. Right about the time that shit starts to hit the fan on any given day, I get to announce that I'm going home to rest. Why can't my job be like this all the time?]

Well, the bloodwork results are in, and I don't mind telling you that I RAWK! My LDL, HDL, and triglycerides were well within range. My overall cholesterol was 181 (down from 218 in the Fall). My a1c (longterm blood sugar level) was 6.3 (down from 6.8), and my fasting blood sugar was 102. My doctor's nurse is a sweet little thing named Chris who LOVES to lecture me about my numbers had nothing to bitch at me about. She, instead, congratulated me. But I think she was a little disappointed that she couldn't crawl up on her soapbox about SOMEthing.

Okay, all this crap about my medical status is even boring the shit outta ME, so I want to tell you about someone I met while in the hospital. Get comfortable, this may take a bit.

(pronounced "LE.hee.ah")

She was my day shift nurse for three days in a row during my hospitalization. She is a 65 year old Colombian woman who is fairly new at this hospital. Ligia used to be a psychologist and had a private practice while she lived in Colombia, many years ago. As a young woman, she studied and got her Ph.D, from a university in Paris, France.

Ligia was married for 19 years to a Colombian man who was a corporate bigwig with Esso (now known as Exxon) Oil. As she tells it, leaning in and whispering into my ear, he was "an asshole. He cheated on me constantly. He was irresponsible with our money. He refused to grow up. He gambled, he drank, he ran around with whores." But, in Colombia, divorce was not socially acceptable, so she remained married to this man while her career as a cognitive therapist (for the 1% of the Colombian population that could afford such a luxury as counseling) flourished. She learned quickly to put back her own savings for the future.

She would tell me about her life as she tended to me. The more I heard her story, the more I was fascinated by her. I asked lots of questions. She never refused to answer, sharing these personal things as she emptied my urinal, perched proudly upon the table next to my bed ("Oh!" she would coo, "Your kidneys are working wonderfully! This is a good sign that you will recover quickly!"), strip and change the sheets on my bed while my fat ass was still in it ("If I had known how to do this while I was still married, my husband would have never wanted to get out of bed. Ugh!" And then she'd lean into me again and say, in a hushed tone, "He was an asshole."), or give me a sponge bath because I could not stand up to get into the shower at first. Her story made me forget about my aching leg, if only for a little while. It also took my mind off the embarrassment of being helpless to tend to myself.

Ligia and her husband had a daughter who wanted to attend college in the United States. Ligia's parents had residency in New York state, having moved there years before, and the daughter was attending class at NYU, studying fashion design (I think). During the daughter's first year of school, Ligia came to the U.S. to visit. It was her first time in America.

She LOVED it here. New York City was like Paris in her youth, only 5 times bigger. She was surrounded by Culture and Art and Freedom and Choice and even more, Family. She had missed her daughter, and was delighted to spend time with her parents. She had initially intended to stay two weeks. She stretched that into a month. She called her office in Colombia and pushed her waiting clients' next appointments back further and further.

At this point, I asked her if she felt bad, or guilty, about not being there for her patients in Colombia.

"Guilty?" she asked, "About what? My practice was day after day of listening to rich businessmen, and mostly kept housewives, complain that their children did not love them, although they were never home to spend any time with their family, that sex with their spouse had become routine and uninteresting,and that they were so depressed because they cannot afford yet ANOTHER house with a swimming pool and maid staff. My life was all about handing out anti-depressants to the self-centered Rich. These people weren't interested in working to improve their lives. They wanted Happiness brought to them on a silver platter. They thought they could buy Satisfaction and Contentment through me. Let them wait for me a little while longer. I needed a break!"

When Ligia phoned her husband to announce that she was staying in the States longer, he became anxious. It looked bad that his wife was gone for so long. He worried about what people might think and say.

"He asked me how much longer I was going to stay and I told him, half-joking, that I might not ever come back. This really got his attention. He said to me, 'Ligia, I miss you. I need you! How about I come up there and spend a week with your parents and our daughter, and then I take you to Orlando for a second honeymoon? We will spend a week together, just the two of us, and then we will come home together. I'm sure I can arrange to take the time off from work and my busy schedule.' Then, he asked me if I would like that."

"I had heard that 'second honeymoon' promise for years. He didn't miss me. He wanted me home for appearance's sake. To stop the gossip, I'm sure. He was coming up to take me back. To make sure I came back." She broke into a whisper, leaning in, "You know..."

"Yes, I know." I jumped in, whispering back. "He was an asshole!"

We both burst into laughter.

The night of his arrival, the whole family went to LaGuardia to meet him, Ligia, her parents, and their daughter, waited to welcome him to New York City. But the plane did not arrive on schedule. Arrival was set for 9pm. At 10pm, families of the passengers of the flight began asking questions and getting restless. They were told that the flight was delayed. At 11pm, an announcement was made that all friends and family of passengers on the flight were to meet in a conference room at one end of the terminal. Once there, officials from the airline announced that they had lost contact with the plane over the Gulf of Mexico. It was unclear what the status of the plane was, or where it might be. Everyone was told to return home, and the moment anything was known, they would be telephoned.

By the time they had returned to her parent's home it was 1 am in the morning and there was a message on the answering machine. The airline was alerting the media that the flight was "lost and presumed crashed" into the Gulf.

In the following days, helicopters were sent to cover the flight path of the plane. In one area of the Gulf, a large oil spill was found. Upon further inspection, luggage and clothing from passengers of the flight began popping up at sea level. The evidence confirmed the suspicion. The plane had crashed, and there were no survivors.

"When it sank in that he was dead, I realized that I had an opportunity. I had no more reason to need to return to Colombia. I wasn't happy there. My family, my future, was here in the United States. I packed my bag to go back to close my business, to sell the house, to tie up the loose ends a week later. As it turned out, my husband had put all of his insurance policies into his mother's name. She got the death benefit from Esso, she got the proceeds from the sale of our house, he even bought flight insurance for the flight that crashed. He bought that insurance every time he flew. It went to his mother. I didn't get a dime."

I was stunned. "You got nothing?"

"I didn't need his money. I didn't want his money. I had my savings. When I returned to Colombia I was the talk of the town. You see, when a woman becomes widowed, it is custom to grieve and wear nothing but black for five years. Five years! I was finished grieving after five days! Can you imagine me in black for five years?!? I got off the plane in Colombia wearing brown slacks and a red blouse. I didn't care. I was there to bury that part of my life. His mother..." she stopped and chortled, "was furious!"

"I closed my practice, and returned to the United States, and decided it was time to change careers. I went to school to become an RN and that is what I do now."

"Isn't that a big difference in pay?" I asked, blinking.

"Oh," she laughed, "Very big! But I have plenty of savings. I invested my savings and it continues to grow. I make enough money to pay my rent and buy my groceries. I love my job. My life is very full. I get up every morning at 4am and have a breakfast of egg whites, a piece of toast, a piece of fruit, and a little piece of cheese. Then, I go to the gym and walk 7 miles on a treadmill. Then, I sit in the sauna for 20 minutes which I adore, and then I swim for a bit. When I get to work here at 7am, I am fully charged up and alert and ready to tackle the day. I see young people stumble in to work, hung over and exhausted. They eat doughnuts and sugared coffee to wake up, and can't understand why they feel so lousy.They stay up all hours, with the parties. I am in bed by 9pm every night."

"But, wait" I said, "I don't understand why you, a Ph.D in Psychology, would give up your education and training in that field to become a health care provider who spends the day wiping butts, cleaning up vomit and blood, and working in an environment of sickness and disease. I see patient after patient like myself: frustrated, angry, and in pain. Why would you choose this world over the world you left?"

"Oh," she smiled, "the difference, for me, is that the body is a wondrous thing. If given the chance, the sick body will always try to heal. But, the sick mind will sometimes refuse to heal. Sometimes it does not want to get better. I choose to work with this amazing, beautiful thing we have called our body. Watching the sick heal is an inspiration to me."

I have spent a good portion of my life discounting my body. I like to tell people that our bodies are just the bags we live in. But, Ligia has make me think about the astounding miracle that these things we live in really are. The superficial beauty of them has no relevance to the awesome determination they possess to stay alive and vital. We abuse and forsake ourselves with so little thought. Our bodies have to combat a world full of contaminants and dangers and sickness, but it also has to combat a sometimes sick, sometimes unthinking mind. Its war is external AND internal. Isn't that amazing? Isn't that beautiful?

One of my favorite sayings is: When the student is ready, the teacher appears. I think I was ready to meet Ligia.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

What an incredible post. I love Ligia's story.

I hope you're feeling much better now, sugar.