Long Nights Journey…
Saturday night was a strange and long night. I have often written, spoken and sang about times quick pace. Although there are 24 hours in a day which are very precisely documented; when looking back on months and years we could swear against all evidence that the clocks had been accelerated. My first stay in a hospital since I was born some 46 years ago (Ironically it had been this same hospital) has been anything but fleeting. The 24 hours had in fact felt like 24 hours. Each hour felt like 60 long minutes.
The visits from my family were welcomed respites but the pressure I felt of having to look better than I felt was just as taxing. The looks on their faces of concern, fears and pity for what I was going through irritated me. I wanted to comfort them and tell them I would be OK but I wasn’t convinced myself. So I smiled and I just gave in to my weakness and whatever else I was feeling. I closed my eyes and fell asleep – if I got overwhelmed I would look at my son Saul or Jessica and they knew what to do.
I had so many things connected to me that I basically decided to dumb-down myself and just float. I closed my eyes.
I have to add something here which I believe is very important. The concern, the love and the sincerity from friends and family alike was vital to my recovery process. The good Doctors had done their job with the hands of God to fix what was broken. Although the love from my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews etc were vital – the heart of my recovery is tied to my wife and children. Watching them walk towards me, or watching Jessica sitting on the chair next to me as I slept – my love and their love for me was and always has been the impetus for every heartbeat. Enough of that – I just wanted to get that out of the way.
After everyone had left (or maybe were still there) I woke and fell asleep countless times. Ice chips and water quenched my parched mouth and the painkillers helped me sleep. I woke up at what seemed like the next morning but was only around nine o’clock. I think.
My wife was there, sitting in the chair one moment and then before I knew it I was alone.
I fell asleep and had been driven into a tunnel full of trials and tribulations. All around me as I floated across the water apparently in some sort of row boat – I heard sounds of cries and sounds of closing doors. Across from me as I floated ahead I could see flashes of lights – on and off. Posters on the walls of memories – screaming memories of strangers and a past that I had never experienced. An ocean, a storm and birds scattering up above – a flash of light.
“Sorry to bother you Mr. Zalta, but I need to adjust some things…” Nurse tells me in a soft voice. “I am sorry to bother you.”
The nurses in the Cardiac ICU at Maimonides are amazing. I know its their job to be extra caring and attentive – but I have to say they helped me through the most difficult experience and somehow made me smile. Until my hallucinations, apparently brought on by the anesthesia took over.
As I tried to sleep that night I was locked in my room – left alone by the partying nurses, interns and whomever else was working there. Someones ex-boyfriend showed up and was joined by the ex-girlfriend who kept commenting on how much she was in love with him still while he flirted with the other nurses. The music was turned up loud and someone brought some booze and drugs. I kept waking up and falling asleep until my favorite nurse came in and said it was time to take out the tube that was in my mouth. She pulled it out and then and I drank several gallons of water. I asked her what the time was and she said, “Ten o’clock.” She then took off the some tubes from around my body and told me to rest.
“The clock on the wall is broken.” I said. She looked at the other nurse, the pretty Asian one and lifted her eyebrow.
“OK I will have it fixed.” She gave me some medicines and I fell asleep.
I woke up when I heard what sounded like a lady in pleasure – don’t ask. What I saw though was a very tall man walking in and saying, “Excuse me Mr. Zalta, I am changing the garbage for you.” He then clanged and banged his way through changing the garbage bag or whatever. I thought to myself – you could have been quieter – but I was too tired and jaded. I looked at the clock and saw that the arms were no longer there – what time was it?
The party was still raging outside my room and then silence. I pressed the red call button and my nurse came in as if she had sprinted to me.
“What time is it?” I asked.
“Its midnight – what do you need Mr. Zalta.”
“Call me Freddy, please. Can I get some more water?”
“There is a full bottle,” she lifts the yellow water pitcher, “wow that was fast. OK i am bringing it for you now.” What felt like an hour was a little over 90 seconds or so and she came back with a cup full of ice and a new pitcher of water.
I closed my eyes and before I knew it I heard a banging noise outside my room. I stood up, gathered the intravenous or whatever it was they had me hooked up to and walked towards the door. I opened it up slowly and saw my nurse on a desk with a bottle of champagne and dancing to some music – although there was no sound. I turned and saw the other nurses sitting in a circle on the floor and sharing secrets. They pointed at me and began to whisper among themselves – breaking into a group laugh. I walked past them towards the elevators and saw bars blocking the entrances. Elevators came and then left – the bars stayed in place and I turned to look for stairs. The walls were painted yellow, pictures of baseball players on the walls, a humming sound and cold air was blowing. Doctors were walking past me smoking cigars and racing as if to some emergency. A beeping sound started and I felt someone tapping on my shoulder.
“Mr. Zalta, sorry to bother you but I need to take your temperature and check your sugar.”
“What time is it?”
“Its One o’clock.” He said leaving the room.
There was a restless feeling inside of me – as if suspended in cement and watching the world without being able to move at all. I felt a fly on my nose and I couldn’t move to shoo it away. My head was irritable to each sound, my body was aching and I was thirsty. There was music, a slow song and I could hear the whispers between the dancers.
“Mr. Zal-Freddy, we need you to sit up, we will help you move higher on the bed.”
“What time is it?” I asked.
“Its around 4 O’clock or so.” She answered patiently.
I looked at the clock and noticed no hands.
I closed my eyes for a second and was woken up by a slamming garbage – followed by a voice.
“Excuse me Mr. Zalta, need to check your sugar and temperature.”
I closed my eyes again I was on Kings Highway, sitting in Whiz Travel. My brothers Maurice and Carlos were there along with my father and mother. It was late January, the night before intersession and we were all finishing our work; closing our books to a successful month. We were exhausted and I began to cry. We were all so much younger – my father was laughing with my mother and my brothers were speaking in the back room, behind the curtain. I was crying uncontrollably and I did not know why. The two big windows in the front of the store were dark and the gate was pulled down. I heard some knocking on the glass and felt a shake.
“We need to bathe you Freddy; this way when your wife comes to see you – you will be nice and clean.”
“What time is it?”
“It’s five-thirty – almost time for me to go home.”
The night had ended – my wife walked in around seven and brought me some Oatmeal for breakfast.
The day nurse came in and introduced herself. “Today you are going to walk around, its time to recover Mr. Zalta.”
I looked at the clock on the wall and it said seven thirty. “Now you tell me.” I said to myself.
To be Continued