March 14th, 2013
Readers of this blog have, over the past five years, heard numerous stories about my hospitalizations. I’m sorry about that. It probably seems like anytime I don’t have a political ax to grind I toss a dart at a chart of my body, then talk about how that limb or organ failed me — and what your tax dollars are doing to make me better. This recent tale about my plunge onto a city street, has an unselfish point to it. But first the adventure:
Like some other amputees, I suffer from phantom pain. It’s the sense that a missing part is being stabbed, struck, pinched, raked over petrified corn dogs, slapped with cactus, or bitten by snakes. Last Wednesday night the pain was less definable, but I would say some sort of electrocution would be close. These pains can last for minutes, hours, or days. On this particular occasion, I would say ten to twelve hours. To the best of my knowledge, it ended because a non-phantom pain trumped it.
I was grunting and cursing when my roommate knocked on my door and asked if I was okay. I said I was, and I cut back the volume for awhile, but I imagine I must have continued the vocalizing because I remained in pain. I tried the specific pain-killer, neurontin, and I probably popped a few oxycodone too, but neither could touch it. At about six a.m. — it was just getting light — I decided hell with this: I’m putting myself down, but not in a fatal way. I took two ambien. I waited maybe a half hour. Then I took another one. I believe I took another after that one, then yet another after that one. Possibly another after that. It would be another day-and- a-half before I could make a more informed estimate.
The only thing I remember about the daylight hours of Thursday, March 7th, was standing at the bus stop at Union and Taylor. My usual stop. I watched the bus come up. Ron was driving. He lowered the lift for me. I stepped on. Then I did a dizzy twirl on my crutches and fell flat on my back into the bus zone. This pain I remember. Soon there were people all around me. I only remember hearing and feeling them. Time went away. Soon I was loaded onto a flat board and put in an ambulance. I remember nothing after that until late afternoon in SF General’s emergency ward. It was nighttime before I was sent up to a room on the 4th floor. From there I was sent for a couple electronic imagings and it was declared that I would survive. I have only a huge lump on my head and a large black and blue mark at the top of my back.
When I checked out at 4 pm Friday, I discovered all that I had with me was my bedroom slipper, a pair of levis, my crutches and a gray sweatshirt, in the back-pocket of which was my wallet. I had no keys, no phone, no cap (I always wear a cap), and I was not wearing my left leg brace. My son and his mom came and picked me up. I was clear-headed and enjoyed dinner with the family that night. My son lectured me on drug-taking, even though, at that time, I didn’t realize how much I must have taken. Cleaning up your drug use is something you do for yourself, but I have to admit I will invoke Max’s words in times of temptation.
At any rate, when I finally got home, I counted the ambien I had remaining and figure I must have taken 4, 5, or 6 that Thursday morning. My roommate had stayed with his girlfriend Friday night, so I had to wait until Saturday to discover that I had left food and drink all over the kitchen. And I had ripped and/or scissored a milk carton open. I am normally Mr. KleenKitchen. Well, I’d read that ambien does stuff like this. It does.
The most disappointing thing about this entire scenario were the words of an elderly man on the bus this Tuesday. As I took my seat, he said to me, from many seats away. “Hey, you were the fellow who fell out here last week. Right?” I assured him I was. He made a show of lowering his voice. “I was with my grandson. We climbed off the bus and helped out until the ambulance came. You were wearing a sweatshirt and jeans and a torn up slipper,” he said rather gratuitously… I thought. Then he continued, making another show of leaning in and lowering his voice more, “I realized you were not one of those.. I mean you are a regular guy… Uh you know how there are all these people who just mooch off the taxpayer…You weren’t one of those, I could see.”
I didn’t say anything. I wondered if his grandson would become so astute at sizing up the takers.
I hope not.