Monday, January 30, 2012

Journal Excerpt / December 6th

Baton Rouge General Hospital
Monday December 6th, 1993

Part Two

  Dr. Stewart comes in early in some floppy hat and fuzzy jacket, shakes her head, says that Jen is really sick. She tells Dee that once she had a dog that died, that anytime something like that happens it's real hard. Dee stares at her, so nonplussed she can't even blink.
  Stewart drops by again in the afternoon, floppy hat, fuzzy jacket, checks the medicinal patch she ordered earlier, shakes her head, leaves. Dr. Meadors (Infectious Diseases) sees Jen ten minutes after Stewart leaves and asks if anyone has talked to us about doing a tracheostomy.
  No?
  Twenty minutes later, having found Stewart, Meadors returns and says the surgery is scheduled in two hours, Dr. Moreland is operating. Over and over, Jen is told she's going to surgery, that a tracheostomy is going to be done to help her breath, that everything is going to be okay. Finally, at one point, Jen rises close enough to the surface to open glazed and frightened eyes, lifts up slightly, locks eyes, says something firmly but in word salad.

  We push Jen to the patient elevators and descend to the operating rooms on the second floor, Dee and I standing like guards on each side of the bed, watching the mucus bubbling out of the nose trumpet, waiting with others along the corridor walls, talking to Jen, talking, talking, talking, talking, explaining the operation to her. 
  In the waiting room now, this place of whispered conversations and momentary lull, the jumble of the last two weeks is a hurricane still raging around us, spinning out confusion and stupefying fear. The weight of no control is astonishing. Two weeks, starting with fever and terrible headaches, Dr. Stewart telling Jen to make another appointment when she has some symptoms, deepening anxiousness and confusion, Jen not knowing what is real, what is dream. The emergency room, negative drug test, more and more out of touch. The Behavioral Unit, walking around barefooted, talking incoherently to imaginary people, coming back suddenly for a moment of clarity. Two weeks, no control. Thanksgiving morning, permission given to Dr. Campo for a spinal tap over the telephone, some nurse on an extension, witnessing, but nothing is done until the following Sunday.
  Encephalitis.
  In quick order: from BHU to NE Neuro, the critical care wing. Walk into room #307, expecting a calmer Jen, sedated perhaps, an IV in one arm. But seeing her, attempting to sit up, eyes closed, straining violently against the cloth restraints, instinctively fighting what is happening to her, my soul is house in my plunging stomach. Long night, descending. Dee now yanking Jennifer up to sitting positions, yelling at her, Breath, Jennifer!
  Like long ago, blowing into her face, a baby who can't catch her breath.                         



1 comment:

  1. This is some harrowing stuff. Was Dr Stewart ultimately hit by a car backing out of the hospital parking lot?

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