Read Part 1
Because most licensed doctors recognize a dead patient as a potential lawsuit, they initially performed a tracheotomy on me. I remember during my time in the ICU when I wore a string like a choker around my neck. (I’m sure there was more to it, but at the time it seemed just a string.) An either overzealous or incompetent nurse had tied the string too tightly and it mercilessly dug into the nape of my neck—I host the permanent furrows that prove I’m not whining like a drama queen. I literally couldn’t make a sound, much less complain.
The rehab hospital didn’t accept patients still frail enough that they required tubes sprouting from their bodies (though catheters attached to piss bags were par for the course). By the time I arrived, the trache tube had been removed but the clinical gash remained. My recollection of the particular circumstance is somewhat hazy; I remember that while I didn’t need the tube, the doctors felt it imperative to leave the tracheostomy and the surrounding dressings. This may or may not have concerned the nasty case of pneumonia I had recently overcome.
In the days after the rehab hospital admitted me, my doctors frequently ordered me to undergo one of various routine medical tests. The orderlies often parked my gurney in the hallway in front of the appropriate department 15 minutes or more before my scheduled appointment. Whenever I left my room en route to a test, the nurse on duty would wedge a manila folder between my lower right leg and the gurney rails. The folder held the documents on which secretaries had typed my objective stats, and my doctors had scribbled their prognoses, comments, and recommendations. I regularly heard doctors and nurses discuss the alleged causes of my stroke as if I wasn’t in the room. Rudimentary movement had returned to my body and I became curious to read the bullshit conclusions of my careless doctors.
Once after an orderly had parked the gurney and shuffled to perform another menial task, I awkwardly struggled to reach the folder. (In retrospect, the severity of my stroke-induced tremors and my then-dismal eyesight would have made even a brief survey impossible.) My effort was hindered by a passing CNA who theatrically secured the folder though I hadn’t touched it, and used staccato enunciation to slowly reprimand me as though I had been a naughty retard:
“It’s in’propriate that you see your own charts. They be only for your doctors and nurses.”
She seemed pleased that she’d managed to work a big word like “in’propriate” into her caregiver’s rhetoric. Likely she’d heard nurses on TV use big words.