The Winter of My Discontent – Part 3

My roommate the first few nights was a gentleman in his early fifties who suffered from anxiety attacks.  Therefore, he was unable to sleep unless all of the lights were on and his television was tuned to “Nick at Nite”.  Thankfully, I had an abundance of pillows with which to cover my eyes from the light and my ears from the noise.  However, this did not help the fevers to come down that I was still experiencing due to the infection that had weakened my body.  After spending two or three nights in quiet desperation I was ready for a new roommate.  Luckily, one was on the way. 

My next roommate was an 88-year-old man who was having severe back pain and was unable to walk because of it.  I thought he would be a welcome change to my previous bunkmate and he was for the most part.  He was rather quiet and was heavily medicated most of the time and best of all he had no issues with anxiety. 

The nurses that took care of me during my time at “Club Dread” were generally very efficient and very caring.  However, there were a few people on the medical staff that I began to fear during my recovery.  One of these people was a nurse who I began referring to as “The Bruiser,” as she was not the most gentle person.  After a few days she began to refer to me as “Guy” so I thought the least I could do was reciprocate and give her a nickname as well.  After having endured several sponge baths by this woman I felt as if I was in a prison camp.  I was ready to pack my bags and return to the home front. 

I was eventually allowed to leave the “Stalag” and was sent home with yet more antibiotics and enough battle scars to last me a lifetime.  The wound on my backside had been left open so sitting down upon my return home was not much of an option.  This also necessitated that a home healthcare nurse come to my house three times a week and change the bandaging on my wound.                                  

A few days after Christmas I went back into the hospital to have yet more surgery.  During this procedure my wound was stitched in a few places and then a device called a Wound Vac (which stands for Vacuum Assisted Closure), was placed inside my wound. It was composed of a sophisticated pump, hoses, and a monitoring system held within a portable compact case that weighed about 15 pounds.  Its job was to suck infectious materials out of the wound while promoting the growth of healthy tissues.  It proved to be a rather cumbersome device at times.

The tubing on the Wound Vac was all suctioned down airtight to the skin by means of a very sticky adhesive tape.  This enabled the machine to create the vacuum, which in turn created all of the suction needed to promote healing at the wound site.  If this adhesive was punctured or ruptured the Wound Vac would begin to make some very strange sounds. 

Many nights I went to bed with the Wound Vac making noises quite similar to the sound a warthog makes when chasing down some prey.  This was an indication that I had sprung a leak and that a patch job was in order. 

Trying to find the leak was often times very difficult, yet other times it was very apparent where the leak was because the area would make a whistling noise. During this period I added a new talent to my repertoire.  Being able to whistle with my butt was something that I thought I’d never be able to achieve.

Living with the Wound Vac was not something that I enjoyed. However, my cat at this time started to make a new friend.  Most of the time the device would make a sound quite similar to that of a cat purring so it is easy to see why the cat would have developed feelings for the Wound Vac.  One of his favorite activities was to sit and stare at the machine while it was sucking away.  I truly think once the device was removed, he went into a period or mourning.

Another thing that was quite difficult to manage was all of the tubing that was involved.  Many times I woke up during the night to discover that I was tangled and twisted up in the tubing.  I wonder how I kept from strangling myself with all of it. 

Walking with the device can also pose a bit of a problem.  Having been born with spina bifida, a birth defect that has left me unable to walk without the aid of crutches presented all sorts of complications during this time.  As I mentioned above the Wound Vac itself was about 15 pounds.  It came in a “convenient” carrying case, which was a misnomer for someone who has to walk holding on to two crutches. 

I found that strapping the case around my neck and wrapping the tubing around my neck like a snake worked well.  That is unless the tubing got caught on something then I would almost asphyxiate myself.  I felt like a member of a chain gang, shackled to a machine that only my cat loved.

Perhaps the great English author Alexander Pope said it best when he wrote:

Hope springs eternal in the human breast:

Man never is, but always to be blest:

The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,

Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

Those months that I was recovering, I tried to stay hopeful that all things would turn out for the good.  I believed that they would.  However, my soul was uneasy at times and I certainly felt confined.  However, I was able to rest on thoughts of being well again and of better things to come.

I learned some important lessons through all of this. First, don’t ever be so arrogant as to think that you have everything under control.  Life can often produce challenges that you never anticipated.  Second, due to the lack of sensation that I have in the lower part of my body, I always need to be on guard for any cuts or scrapes that might become infected.

My problems started with one little pressure sore.  I should have been more cautious in caring for it. However, I felt I was invincible.  My ignorance caused me a great deal of pain. Sometimes we have to learn things the hard way.  I have the scars to prove it!    

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