Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘memory’

Memory

I’m in the hospital. The air is dry and I’m thirsty. On the small, rolling table beside my bed is a plastic cup filled with ice water. The table is within arm’s reach, but I cannot reach it. My arms are not strong enough to lift that far up and out. I cannot pull the table closer. I cannot lift a cup of water. It might as well be a mile away.

I tell myself that the ICU nurses have better things to do than give me water, and close my eyes and try to sleep. It doesn’t work. My throat is so dry it hurts to swallow. I decide to buzz the nurse. I have a call button clipped to the bed.

But when I look for it, I see that it has slid down beside me, and is now resting at my right bicep. When I bend my right arm at the elbow, the clip is too low and too close, right up against my arm. I try to reach across my body with my left arm, but I am too weak to stretch it far enough. My left hand lies on my right arm, too heavy to go further, the bell tantalizing inches away. Right up against me, it might as well be a mile away with the water.

Okay, no nurse. I turn my attention back to the water. I can press the buttons on the side of the bed to raise myself up more. I do so, and it brings me closer to the table. I lift my left arm at the elbow and hook my hand onto the underside of the table, bringing it close enough for me to actually reach the cup.

That’s when I realize it doesn’t matter how close the cup is. It is full of ice water, far too heavy for me to pick up myself. I contemplate trying it anyway, but visions of a lap full of ice water and no way to get a nurse stop me from making the attempt.

I still cannot get a drink. Frustrated beyond measure, I try to call out to a nurse. I hear voices outside my room. Can I make them hear me? My voice is weak from weeks of intubation, pneumonia and a collapsed lung. I call out, “Hello? Is anyone there?” They don’t hear. The voices recede.

I look at the clock. There is at least an hour before J is supposed to visit. I love his visits not only for the familiar company, but because I have a dedicated pair of functioning hands. He has nothing else to do when he is with me, and has endless patience with feeding me, giving me water, fixing my pillow.

I can lift my head, but can’t lift my hands up high enough to adjust a pillow. I can’t hold a book or magazine. I can’t scratch my own nose. I can’t feed myself. I can’t sit up on my own or roll over. I can’t get my own drink.

A machine behind my head starts to beep. I have two central lines – IVs going into large veins in my chest – and several bags of medications dripping through them. If a bag empties or something goes wrong, such as an air bubble in the line, the machine beeps. The frequency is normally annoying, but this time I am delighted. This means a nurse has to come to see what is wrong.

A few minutes pass, but finally a nurse bustles in to check on the alarm. She greets me and announces that she needs to change an IV bag. I ask if she can give me a drink and fix my call button, and she says she will after she finishes with the IV. I’m almost there.

She finishes with the bag and casually moves the table aside, picking up the cup and holding it so I can drink from the straw. In my eagerness, I suck up water too fast, and start to choke. As I splutter, she moves to the other side of the bed and easily unclips and re-clips the call button, asking me to check if it is now in reach. It is. My lifeline to the rest of the world is back.

She gives me one more drink before she leaves, and I envy her ability to pick up a cup full of water with such ease. I watch her walk out of the room and wonder if she is aware of how lucky she is, to be able to just walk where she wants. I swear that if I regain that ability I will never, ever, take it for granted.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »