Thursday, January 24, 2008
He Thinks He Missed the Train To Mars
Here, in a not-so-nutshell, is the reason behind my five-day-and-counting battle with the Flu From Hell. Defenseless except for a single bottle of NyQuil, a cheap Cab Sav, and a People magazine stolen from my orthodontist's office two weeks ago, I can only wait it out. And punish you with the story of why. Why. WHY:
Last Tuesday, January 15th, at approximately 1:30 p.m., SB pokes his head in my office to tell me he's going to UPS to drop off some packages. Not a minute later, I hear the front door bang open. My beloved spousal unit stumbles back to my office, clutches the back of his head, and urges me to, "Quick, take a look back here and tell me if I've cracked my skull open. I slipped and fell on the ice."
Swallowing my fear at the possibility of having to endure a Saving Private Ryan moment as my husband's brain matter spills out of his head and onto the carpet (will Resolve get that out?), I take a deep breath, move his hands out of the way, and give the back of his head a thorough examination. "Nope, everything's intact," I report. "But, uh, you got quite a lump going on there." One one thousand. Two one thousand. Three one thousand. "Maybe we should go to the emergency room?"
Which prompts SB to shoot me one of his "Enough with the sissy girl stuff" looks. "Nah. Just give me a few minutes to shake it off."
I give him a full thirty minutes. After which time, I go into the kitchen to find him staring at a cast iron frying pan I'd put there earlier for a cobbler I'd intended to make that evening. "How you feeling?" He gingerly fingers the back of his head, "I got a big bump on the back of my head and it really hurts."
"How you feel otherwise?" I ask.
A puzzled look crosses SB's face. He looks at the frying pan again and then at me. "You didn't hit me with that thing, did you?"
Then I remember back to a series of neurological tests the doc had given my step dad during an emergency room visit of his own two months ago.
"SB, do you know who I am?"
"Of course," he says, rolling his eyes. "You're Moi."
"How long have we been together."
Another eye roll. "Like, forever."
"Where did we go for Christmas this year?"
"Come on. You must remember."
"Nope. No idea."
I try something else. "Who is our current president?"
Big smile. "Uh, guy with the big ears? Junior Bush?"
Then this: "SB, I'm going to say three words to you and have you repeat them back to me. We're going to talk for a couple minutes and then I'm going to ask you to tell them to me again."
"Cool." SB loves games.
"Here we go: 'dog, ball, tree'."
SB repeats them back to me. Then a few seconds later he shakes his head and says: "Wow. How long have I been sleeping? And how did I get this bump on my head?"
The panic I'd managed to hold at bay for the past hour now demands my full attention. I ask SB if he remembers the three words I just told him.
"What three words?"
First phone call I make is Doris Rose. She's a retired nurse, so I figure she'll know if this is, indeed, a cause for the ER. I tell her SB seems to have weird memory problems. "I should take him in, right?"
"Uh, yeah!" is her professional reply. And then she suggests that maybe now is also a good time to "remind" SB that's he's agreed to send me on a spa vacation to the Caribbean. "And, you know, with me and another few friends in tow."
But first, she reiterates, take him to the emergency room.
But he won't budge. Not only because he has a stubborn streak that makes the Rock of Gibralter look like Silly Putty, but also because he's incapable of retaining information for longer than about a minute. Every time I get him to the car, he turns around and heads back in the house. To sit down in front of his computer to read the same Fed Ex email another fifty bazillion times.
Maybe he'll listen to his doctor? Nope. But, the doc assures me, it's just a concussion, the memory loss is normal, and he should snap out of it soon. Don't bother going to the emergency room – "You'll be there forever," he dead pans – just bring him in tomorrow for a check up.
But when, over the course of the next four hours, SB keeps "waking up" to ask me the same questions over and over again . . . when, in response, I type out a "cheat sheet" of explanations that he clings to as if the info on the sheet were life itself . . . when, during the course of feeding him a big bowl of chicken soup, he asks me fifty bazillion times if the chunks of chicken are tofu, prompting me to put a sticky note in front of him saying, "No, SB, it's chicken." which in turn prompts his freakish, "No way, dude, how did you know I was going to ask that?" . . . when I give him the "dog, ball, tree" test four more times and each time he fails miserably . . . it finally dawns on me that SB is STILL incapable of retaining new information longer than one minute and I am therefore facing the very real possibility of spending the rest of my life with "50 First Dates" man.
Of living in a perpetual Fight Club moment where each week I haul my weary ass to a dank basement room in some abandoned building downtown to commiserate support group-style with a handful of other Gorked Loved One caretakers bearing similarly stained track suits and limp, scrunchied pony tales, puffing away on Camel Lights (I've taken up the habit again) and trading stories about how, this week, the Gorked Loved One suddenly, miraculously, remembered the dog's name. But then completely forgot how to put on socks. 'Cause the massive brain injured? They're a barrel-full of fun like that.
So again with the frantic phone calls. This time to a friend of E!s, a psychiatrist who specializes in patients with brain injuries. He asks me a series of questions and after I answer them all, says very slowly and calmly, in that elementary school teacher way medical professionals have when they're trying to make sure important information sticks: "This is not good. He should have regained all his memory by now. Go to the emergency room. Immediately."
Fast forward to the emergency room (let's just say Moi's super powers finally trumped SB's.)
It is of course overflowing with the typical drunk/gun shot wounded/fell down and went boomed effluence of your average urban ER, but I make a big enough stink about SB's "massive head injury" that he's triaged within minutes and CAT scanned within another fifteen.
We are told the doctor will call us within fifteen minutes to discuss the results.
Of course, Moi's best friend, E!, has insisted on meeting us there and on waiting to the bitter end, because that's what friends do and, besides, I hadn't yet heard the full story of her latest dating adventure and if there's anything that can keep Moi from fully breaking down in times of tragedy, it's a good bit of dating adventure gossip. So in between snippets of, "he didn't!", we check in on SB with the "dog, ball, tree", "where did we go during Christmas?" and "what day is today?" tests. Which he continues to fail.
Four full freakin' hours later, with no CAT scan results on the horizon, the dating adventure all tapped out, and our last drops of patience nearly evaporated, I look over at SB and notice something on his face I haven't seen in, oh, the past ten hours. An expression not of happy idiocy, but of good, old fashioned SB annoyance.
"Jesus. How long does it take to get the results of a CAT scan?" he barks to no one in particular.
Wuh, wait? SB remembers there was a CAT scan? He's managed to retain information for longer than a minute? But before I can probe further, we hear it: the voice of the doctor asking us to meet him in a room for the CAT scan results.
The doctor's $250,000-a-year diagnosis? "All's clear. No hematoma. He just hit his head really, really, really hard." We are told to follow up with SB's primary care physician in the morning and take it easy for a few days.
Relief comes flooding in like a hot bath. With scented bubbles and a stack of crap magazines.
Then, as we step back out into the lobby, something else floods in as well. The realization that I have just spent the past four hours among not only a potentially brain dead husband, but dozens of sneezing, hacking, aching people for whom a head cold is indeed a perfectly viable reason to visit the emergency room.
Sure enough. I feel it coming on during the ride back home. The scratchy throat, the aching joints, the woozy head.
Then I feel something else. A tug on my coat sleeve. I turn to find the face of Moi's beloved SB beaming at her like it was Christmas all over again.
"What?" I ask.
SB's grin widens and he answers: "Dog. Ball. Tree."