Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Fingers 3: I Hate Hospitals

I can't think of anyone who likes them, except for those who actually think of them as places that help people. Me, I can't help but think of them as places where massive numbers of people who are hurt get taken. Places where people die. Sad places.

There's no denying my sadness waking up on July 4th. I had the day off work, but spent most of it sitting with The Kid, talking to his "family" and Rojo's family, and noticed a weird kind of dynamic.

The Kid's adopted uncle, whom I'll call "Uncledad," was a real weirdo. His aunt, who was nominally his guardian until he turned 18, I'll call "Auntmom." Uncledad was convinced that my company was going to screw this kid over at some point in the proceedings, which is just patently not the case. Auntmom did her best, in my presence, to keep him calm and presented this bright, shiny, completely plastic smile to me whenever I came around. I was recieving intelligence to the contrary, though, from Rojo.

Turns out, the reason Auntmom and Uncledad were keen on keeping The Kid under their wing was a) he was obviously due for a big insurance settlement, and b) he was their freaking dope mule. More specifically, they had fronted him a pound of pot to sell, and they couldn't find it, nor was he really cognizant enough to tell them. The dude was taking full advantage of his morphine drip, and I don't know that I blame him. The whole situation was really weird, and made weirder by the fact that I wasn't really trusted by anyone in the room, which was odd, since I was the only one who didn't have some sort of agenda to work. I mean, really: if he came to work and said he hurt his back, there might be a few minutes of doubt as to how he really hurt it--but there's no question about this awful injury, so hey, it's a perfect case of "let the insurance company handle it." It's out of my hands, really. I didn't have to be there AT ALL, especially on a holiday, but I felt bad, and wanted to make sure he was as comfortable as possible.

The night before, they had attempted to reattach his thumb, which, if you sort of feel around on your hands, you can tell is a hell of a lot longer than it appears. This digit had been hacked nearly off, and was held on by a few bits of tendon and tissue--the bone was pulverized. I was amazed at how well it looked once they put him back together, but he was in a tremendous amount of pain, and doing a lot of crying all the while. It was hard, very hard, even being in the room, even though I hadn't done a damn thing wrong.

I made myself stay in that room for the entire day, not eating, and drinking hospital water. I felt it was a penance, I guess, to sit and watch the bright cheery Auntmom say things like "Jesus has a plan for everyone," while Uncledad sat in the corner and burned holes in The Kid's head, as if he could divine the secret of the missing dope by willpower alone. And then the horrible moaning and thrashing of The Kid himself, and his girlfriend's heartrending attempts to make him more comfortable.

And the smell. Hospital smells are awful, but towards late afternoon there came another one stealing about the room like whiffs of death. It was like a fart, only not a funny fart--it was one of those where you could tell when each invididual in the room noticed it first, as they casually began to look around to see what could be manufacturing that odor. And, of course, pretty well everyone but me and the girlfriend got up to go smoke a lot more often.

At length, a doctor came in and did some examining of the hand. Then he calmly asked me and the girl out into the hall, and asked us if we'd noticed the smell. We both nodded. He nodded back, and said "I wasn't sure if we could get enough bloodflow back into his thumb, and I think I was right. The tissues of his thumb are going necrotic, and tomorrow we'll have to take him back in to remedy the situation." Before I could grasp what he was saying, he looked at the girl and said "by necrotic, I mean his thumb is dying. We'll have to cut it off, after all." She began to cry. The doctor left me alone with her. Thanks, doc.

I couldn't leave. I couldn't leave her alone with him, and Those People. I stayed for a while, trying to console her while avoiding saying stupid shit like "it's not as bad as it sounds." Things were going to be tough BEFORE, but the prognosis was a lot more grim after the doctor's visit. Those People came back, which made things worse, even though the smell of cigarettes helped to cut what was now an unmistakeable smell of decomposition.

The Kid woke up, sometime around dark. I had been staring at his hand, to the point of ignoring everything else. It was near dark, and no one had turned a light on. When he stirred, everyone kind of jerked awake, and it was Auntmom, I think, who turned on the light.

I had to leave then, because of what The Kid said. In a voice that sounded like it came from the lips of some 13 year old boy, just waking from a dream, he said "what's that smell in here? does anyone else smell it?"

I thought I was going to cry, or scream, although at what I don't know. The thing that jumped into my head was "dude, that's YOU you're smelling," but of course you can't say something like that. I left.

It was possibly the most draining day I've ever had, emotionally. Not a good thing came out of it, and I didn't leave until well after dark. I just couldn't take it any more, frankly, and I had the feeling they were going to run us all out shortly. The girlfriend had a pallet made up beside the bed, where she could have reached his right hand in the night, if he'd still had one.

I had parked on the parking deck, which faces generally towards downtown, and as I walked out to my car, I wasn't really paying attention to what was going on. I was watching my feet, hands in my pockets, and thinking about how terrible and short our lives could be. How no matter how early this kid started fucking up in his life, he didn't deserve to be lying in that bed upstairs, smelling that awful smell, knowing how sick and vulnerable he was with what amounted to a pack of coyotes sitting around his bed, waiting for the check to come in.

As I approached my car, I heard shots off in the distance, towards Nichols Hills. I looked up, and saw fireworks going off above the parks where a day before, a kid had nearly died to make their parade pretty.


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