In Part 2, I told you what I (barely) awakened to. Warning: Things get pretty indelicate in this installment.
I immediately noticed the smell of urine and feces all over the ward. The wastepaper basket was already filled with refuse from the previous occupant.
A CNA (Certified Nurse's Assistant) finally checked on me told me I had a "very high" fever. I was sweating profusely from head to toe; my bed linen was so wet I thought that I had urinated on myself. I was awakened several times between midnight for "blood screens." I asked if they could change my sheets and open the windows, do something about the smell of sweat and feces that permeated the room. One of the CNAs replied that those tasks would have to be "performed by a nurse." It would be a full 24 hours before I'd see an actual nurse, or a proper meal. I was incapable of getting to the bathroom, and paging for help brought no answer or assistance, so my urine would soon blend with the foul orders present when I checked in.
Because the botched intubation had severely damaged my throat, I was on a special diet of soft foods, including ice cream. On Sunday breakfast never arrived, and my complaints via the paging system didn't change anything. Lunch showed up cold and anything but soft. I mentioned this to the CNA, who said she'd "let the nurse on duty know." No food arrived, so I called a friend to bring me food. "No food for you" was the order of my stay, even after friends and family members spoke with staff members.
A word of advice: Never go to the hospital alone. Have a trusted associate accompany you; literally have them move in with you for your hospital stay. Make certain you have your attorney programmed into your cell phone's speed dial, and take a digital camera. I'll go into more detail about hospital stay survival in the last part of this series.
But I digress. Meanwhile, back at the Turkish prison, uh, Swedish Covenant Hospital . . .
Three days with no food, my skin literally loosening from the bottom of my feet and hands, laying in my own sweat and urine, a fever I could bake brisket on my forehead with, the smell of feces and the non-stop moaning and unrequited begging for a nurse's attention from my neighbor across the hallway. I began to wonder why God had forsaken me. This had to be the worse experience of my life. Yep, I check in, someone in recovery screws up, I die for a minute or two, in a coma for a couple of days, stuck in cutting room footage of Saw IV. It can't get worse, I remember thinking and weeping, gasping to swallow. And then I started to scratch.
A glance at my window--flying things landing in my room, biting me wherever they could land on me. Looking back, I must have smelled like Chanel #5 to those insects - urine, sweat, old feces. Maybe I hadn't helped matters a few hours earlier when I stripped my bedsheets and threw them into a corner in the desperate hope that the cleaning crew, nurses or CNAs, would take the hint and clean me and my room.
I really needed to see my doctor. No chance, as the nursing supervisor refused to let me off the floor for any reason. "We'll let him know you'll reschedule your follow-up," promised Nurse Ratched. I didn't believe her. I thought it odd that my doctor hadn't dropped by or checked in.
My next-to-last day became my next-to-last day when I found myself holding my bowels for over an hour until my friend Andrew arrived to unhook me from my I.V. drip. As he did this, the nurse's station remained unresponsive, and my neighbor's moans continued. After Andrew tended to me, he tended to the nurses, demanding why no one had come to assist me. "The only person to unhook her was at lunch", insisted the CNA. I confirmed Andrew's fears--that this had been the procedure since I arrived in the ward--if I couldn't make it to the bathroom, I used my bedding.
The last night in captivity, I realized if I didn't leave the hospital as soon as I could, I'd die there. Still fighting the flying vermin, I opened the window, desperately needing fresh air. That morning I called Nurse Ratched, and informed her I needed to speak with my doctors--I'd be leaving.
She refused to contact either of them. I then asked to speak with a Patient's Advocate--the person every hospital claims you have a right to see as soon as you request one. Nope; Nurse Ratched was my concierge, I'd have to go through her for "any and all of my concerns."
When she left, I called the switchboard and requested the Patient Advocate. I got voicemail--twice. I called the switchboard again--this time I requested the CEO's office. The operator told me that since I was "calling from a patient's room, (I) couldn't speak with the CEO" and hung up. Nurse Ratched returned to my room, and reminded me that I could only speak with her.
She slammed my window shut, stepped over my soiled linen, held her head high to avoid the foul smell in the room and shut the door tightly behind her.
I had a little girl to live for, and I was getting out of Gitmo on California, domestic agents of Blackwater be damned.
In Part 4 -- Let's Go to Jail!