Okay, I’m being a bit dramatic. But, I had a serious accident the other day that resulted in significant blood loss and a 48-hour hospital stay. You’ve heard of those freak accidents that get you either on “America’s Funniest Home Videos” or into a medical text book? Well, that’s what happened to me. I was carrying a gallon glass jug of iced tea to a refrigerator when I slipped on the linoleum floor, turned 180° and fell face down. The jug shattered instantly, and a shard pierced the inner side of my upper right arm. I thought it had impacted an artery, but it cut a vein. I also thought I’d broken my right forearm, or wrist, but the glass nicked the ulnar nerve. Blood flowed everywhere. Mixing with the herbal blackberry tea, I’m sure even some ardent UFC participants would have panicked. The jug had originally contained white wine. I was pissed at the thought of losing all that tea. But, if it had been wine, I would have never forgiven myself. In this economy, you can’t afford to lose such pleasures.
The refrigerator is in the atrium of parents’ home. They had remodeled their kitchen seven years ago and had all new appliances installed. But, they decided to keep that old refrigerator as a backup. It’s a good thing, since the new refrigerator turned out to be a piece of crap. I mean, the old refrigerator is now some 30 years old and still makes ice. The icemaker on the new one just went out a couple of weeks ago.
I felt myself getting light-headed immediately; an obvious effect from the excruciating pain and sudden blood loss. I ordered my mother to grab some old towels from the garage and told my father to call 911. I know it’s not nice to yell at your aging parents, but the accident was already starting to piss me off. I consider myself very coordinated; having done gymnastics and Tae Kwon Do in the past. This wouldn’t look good, if I aspired to be, say, a UFC fighter. I lost consciousness a few times between the house and the hospital.
The paramedics drove me to Parkland Hospital, just north of downtown Dallas. It’s a designated Level 4 trauma center, which means it can handle the worst of the worst that humanity has to offer. It’s also a county hospital, so the uninsured often make their way there for treatment. It’s a great place if you’ve been in a major car wreck, or if you’re a dumb ass who doesn’t watch where he’s walking while carrying a large glass object. But, for basic care, it’s actually the worst place to be. Back in 1992, I drove a sick friend to Parkland on a Saturday morning – and waited the entire day. They had one doctor for some 200 patients. Parkland is the hospital where President John F. Kennedy was taken after being shot. But, in the ensuing years, it developed a dubious reputation as a lackluster and mismanaged facility. Not surprisingly, illegal immigrants in Dallas County make good use of Parkland’s generosity. It got so bad that, in 2006, Parkland sent México a multi-million dollar bill for services rendered. I don’t know if México ever paid; if they did, they’d probably have to get a loan from a drug cartel.
All of that rumbled through my mind as I was wheeled into the E.R. There must have been about 50 people waiting for me; all of whom descended upon me like I was a virgin starring in a porn film. I would prefer that much attention for the publication of my first novel, but damned if things turn out as planned. When a doctor asked if I was allergic to anything, I said, “Stupid people.” He and his colleagues laughed, but I was serious – and still am. Pollen aggravates my nasal cavities, but stupid people send me into epileptic fits.
I had just finished eating about 10 minutes before the accident, so despite my blood loss and constant regurgitations, it was a while until I went into surgery. They had to stitch up two places on my right arm. My father had driven to the hospital and spent about 4 hours in the waiting room; nervously anticipating my recovery and putting his bilingual skills to good use by helping as many monolingual Mexicans read the information board as possible. He wanted to stay with me overnight. But, I wouldn’t have it. I ordered him out of there by 7 P.M., since he can’t drive at night, and my mother was home with no one except my cantankerous canine. I called the house around 9:30 that night to make certain he’d made it back safely. Funny how parent / child roles sort of reverse as the years go by. A close family friend – a lady who used to work with my mother and who also lives nearby – brought them down to visit me Wednesday afternoon. In part, they had to bring me a change of clothes, but I also wanted them to see me in that chic turquoise hospital gown.
Parkland finally released me Thursday afternoon. I have tentative exploratory surgery scheduled for next Wednesday. They’re certain they can repair this nerve. I have no feeling in the small finger, and about half of my right arm and hand are numb. But, while I can’t write too well, eating, typing and other activities are still manageable. Aside from my unwillingness to be kept in such a vulnerable state, I wanted to make it home by today because it’s my dog’s 11th birthday. I composed a piece last year for his 10th birthday. I guess that’s more important to me than to him, but only animal lovers will understand.
I have to concede I now have a different opinion of Parkland. It’s obviously changed. The staff was great, even if at first, people repeatedly asked me if I ‘Habla Inglés.’ (I almost told a nurse, ‘Would you please put a sign on the door that says the patient in bed 1 speaks English?’) And, amazingly, the food was pretty good. More importantly, I consider myself fortunate. The man who shared the room with me faces a much greater challenge. He had to have his lower right leg amputated last week; an emergency that could have been avoided if his regular doctor had realized that his sciatic nerve pain was causing his leg to die. By the time he made it to Parkland, it was too late to save anything below his knee. But, listening to him interact with his family and the staff, you’d think he was just there for a really bad paper cut.
I’m an incredibly impatient person at times, but I’ll just have to see how things go the next few weeks.