Saturday, August 15, 2009

Kessler Diaries 4--"Full Body Inspection"

I took pictures with my digital camera as I was wheeled down the halls toward my room. The EMTs pushing the gurney weren't pleased when I pointed the lens in their direction. The automatic doors opened to a circular lobby with various wings jutting out in several directions. Near the lobby stood a fish tank with blue fish in swimming in it that I soon learned was a good landmark for when visitors got lost..."the gift shop is to the left of the fish tank...." At Kessler, the hallways were wider, cleaner and less cluttered than the hospital I'd just come from. The nurses look relaxed too or maybe that was my happy drug induced perception.

My room was enormous and flooded with light from the wall of windows opposite the entrance, space enough for a clutter of wheelchairs in the corner the usual institutional furniture, a television hooked the ceiling and a roommate. Her name was Jeanne, she arrived a day after me: 84 years old she'd had broken her pelvis from toppling backward down her basement stairs. Like me she lived in Montclair.

"What's your name?" She asked for the second time.

"Katinka." She blinked at me and looked confused. She had large sky blue eyes, a hawk nose, and long grey hair braided down her back. Her stare was direct and sometimes flashed the face she must've lived in when she was young."Think of it as a fancy way to say Katherine," I said hoping to help her along. She attempted to say my name and more often than naught after that, called me Susan. When she asked what had brought me to Kessler I told her about the accident.

And your son, he wasn't hurt?" She asked over a plateful of better than average spaghetti and meatballs that we both ate in our beds.I assured her that he was fine, not even a scratch."People drive like maniacs!" She declared and then wondered outloud about when she was scheduled for her next dose of percocet.

Soon after my arrival, an entertaining mix of medical professionals came to my bedside to introduce themselves and ask me endless of quesions about my disability, the accident, my insurance, my family and the regularity of my bowel movements. Early in the evening my PT and OT team showed up.

"Three hours a day," Tara, the PT said when I asked how much exercise I was going to get. "An hour and a half of PT in the morning and an hour and a half of OT after lunch." This sounded like a lot considering that I hadn't really stood up yet.

"When does it start?"

"How about right now?" Lorrie the OT, a rounder version of the babe PT lowered the rail on the bed. They had me sit on the edge of the bed with both legs hanging down. Tara, checked the strength in my arms, she looked at my feet and like everyone else who visited that day, asked if I could wiggle my toes in the cast. Cast or no cast I've never been able to move my toes.

"Okay, " Tara arranged a pillow under my legs when I was lying on my back again. "Tonight you're going to stay in bed and rest. Tomorrow morning, nine o'clock you start."

The last visitors of the evening were two nurses--there to perform what they called, "A full body inspection"--protocol for every new patient at Kessler. They checked my skin, all of it for bumps, bruises, any possibility of infection. The found something on of my right foot. A red mark from a blister that had already healed. "Let's keep this off the mattress the senior nurse decided, 'to make sure it doesn't get irrated" She left the room and came back a minute later with a camera to take a picure of the offending spot.

A couple of weeks later when I was about to be discharched from Kessler, another nurse pulled my chart from a cabinet and opened the binder in front of me. "Have you seen this?" She said, sounding gleeful.

It was a huge photograph of my face, me with this big sloppy, vaguely grotesque smile on my face.

"Where did this come from?" My eyes were tiny in the picture, my teeth were. well, toothy.

"The nurses took it on the night you arrived, during the Inspection. Don't you remember?"

Only I, SuperCompliant Crip, would smile like my life depended on it after breaking my leg in three places.

I didn't remember a thing.

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