Pardon the Interruption

by John Delach

Last Wednesday, August 27, the same day I last published, I also had an appointment with my gastro specialist, Dr. B, to evaluate my need for either or both an endoscopy and a colonoscopy. Dr. B, formerly a blazing redhead has turned gray protecting my insides for almost twenty years. This appointment was needed because a previous blood tests had indicated a hemoglobin level of 10 where 12 was considered normal. Dr. B, my wife and I all took this in our stride; Dr. B had tests taken and scheduled an endoscopy for September 11.

All hell broke lose that evening when her associate, Dr. P called me at home announcing my score that day was a six and it behooved me to get my ass into an ER for a transfusion ASAP!

On a gurney, less than an hour later at St. Francis Hospital, I was probed, evaluated, subjected to an X-Ray and EKG. Quickly admitted and benefitting from the first of two units of a blood, I arrived in Room 2537 about 12:45 am. Tests of all kinds continued during the early morning hours by competent and beautiful nightingales each lovelier than each other.

Memo to file: “Is this in heaven?” ….”No Iowa.”

About 3:30 am I began receiving the second unit of blood forcing me to remain on my back with the receiving arm straight out. At 6:15 an alarm signaled my transfusion was complete. The result, hemo count went from 6 to 8.6. A sweet nurse cooed, “By the way you are fasting for an endoscope, today so nothing by the mouth.”

Thursday was a longest day as nobody had scheduled me for procedures as they believed their challenge was to keep me alive through the night. Neither my family nor I could argue with that call so, thank God, I broke even.  

E, my roomie, ten years older than me was in bad shape. Suffering from cancer and diabetes, he’d become a victim too many different medications that had screwed him up. I overheard various docs who each explained why they were giving him “X” or “Y” Each diagnosis taken alone made sense, but together left him at mercy of the next big brain’s best bight idea.

 Memo to the good Lord: Take me before I ever become like E.   

All this time Mary Ann and Beth kept vigil taking turns to run home and tender to Max and Tessie. I was now on a semi-liquid clear diet of apple juice, broth, tea and Jell-O. When Beth called to see if I needed anything she was appalled when I explained to her that vodka was a clear liquid and a double was just what I knew the docs wanted me to add to my diet. With Mary Ann’s help, I prevailed but not before Beth dropped a dime on me within our family. They too were appalled, but Papa John got his drink.

The previous lousy night and my libation gave me my most sleep-full night for the rest of my stay.

Even so, I first had to endure the first of two cleansing procedures for my colonoscopy scheduled together with my endoscopy for Friday afternoon. A hospital room is a good place to become addicted to television and what could be better than watching the slow progress of a hurricane churning toward the Bahamas and Florida’s east Coast?

Mary Ann, Beth and I had to endure interruptions, like the hospital chaplain who anointed me in Sacred oils and Stanley and 80 plus volunteer who came in to say hello to Mary Ann who also volunteers in the hospital. Stanley, a retired doctor, dresses in outrageous clothing; different colored sneakers, one polka dot sock and one stripped sock, a large bow tie and that day, an angry bird shirt.

Stanley presented a small elephant with a raised trunk for luck to both Mary Ann and Beth. (Later, looking back from the other end of a successful endoscopy, I wondered which helped more, the Sacred Oil or Stanley’s elephants?)

My good doctor found the problem, bleeding nodules in my stomach and cauterized the damaged ones. Now my future depended on my hemoglobin levels. Lucky number seven was the minimum acceptable score and my evening count was 7.3, close to failing. My roomie had a bad night and consequently so did I. Close to 1 am, I decided to sit up watch Hurricane Dorian’s progress but soon grew bored. Instead I tuned in WFAN, our local sports talk station on my radio. An old friend, Steve Summers was filling a one-hour slot from 1 until 2 am. How do you fall so low that you accept an early morning one-hour time slot on the Saturday of a holiday weekend? But the old schmoozer was up to it. When one caller demanded that Steve predict how the Mets would finish and noted: “Steve, everybody is listening.” Steve replied: “Everybody? Joe, it’s just you and me.”

My numbers were a roller coater on Saturday but stabilized sufficiently on Sunday that I was discharged just after 4 pm. I had ceased being a happy camper until the good news came down releasing me. When they wheeled me out to the parking garage to meet Mary Ann I proclaimed:

Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, I’m free at last.