Grow a Pair
There he lies, six-foot-five inches of corn-fed American manhood, a horizontal slab of sinew and muscle with a chiseled chin, tousled hair, and perfect teeth whining like a little girl because the nurse is late with his pain medications.
For God’s sake buddy, didn’t you get the memo? Of manhood, stoicism is the better part and nothing makes your fellow unreconstructed white boys cringe quite like the sight of you, otherwise unhurt, sniveling like a teenage drama queen. It’s humiliating- maybe not for you but certainly for me because you’re supposed to be storming the beaches of Iowa Jima, not alternately crying and yelling for the dilaudid that someone was fool enough to give you the first time. We expected the wide-shouldered, aggressive dialogue of a 1940s war picture but you’re giving us Cage Aux Folles instead.
The Monkey’s Other Paw
What have you done with Mr. Jones? Where has he gone? Surely this drooling, demented husk staring disinterestedly at us from his ICU bed is not our husband, our father, or our brother. Come on now, they said we were lucky, lucky to get him back at all because very few people ever come back after ten minutes of cardiac arrest. That’s why we called you people. He was just laying there twitching and then he stopped so we figured maybe he needed to be at the hospital.
But that’s not him. It doesn’t even look like him. It’s like someone else is in his skin, some shambling seedy-looking stranger who just took a swing at me. And now he just sits there and gapes malevolently. It’s creepy. Like he was on the other side of the grave long enough for something to take his place. And all he can say is “next week.”
“How do you feel?”
“Can we get you anything?”
Don’t you recognize us?”
Seriously. Where’s the joy? The elation has pretty much evaporated, especially since you’re now telling us that he’s not going to get better. What do you mean by that? You fixed his heart, why can’t you fix his brain? Do you seriously expect us to believe that he will be crapping into adult diapers for the rest of his life and eating mushy food shovelled into his mouth by some minimum wage orderly in a fly-blown nursing home? We’re not buying it. He was mowing his own lawn last week for Christ’s sake. Sure, he smoked a little and maybe he did drink too much but he was a great guy. You should have seen how he and Uncle Frank used to cut up. It was all you could do to keep from blowing beer out of your nose.
Man. The old-fashioned kind of death was better than this.
Too Big to Live
The seat of the wheelchair is about the size of the back seat of a typical compact car. Small for a car, you understand, but big for a wheelchair and some patients barely fit. I don’t know what we’re going to do in a few years because, like old groupers living umolested in the cool deep under the pier, once you top a quarter of a ton you have no natural predators. As we’re doing our part to hold diseases at bay, there seems to be no upper limit to the size of patients.
Which would explain the in-room cranes that are now standard equipment at the best hospitals. Like gelatinous cargo, the patient is suspended from a hoist on a sturdy frame while the bed is wheeled out from underneath. An obvious solution but one I had only previously seen at sawmills where the mighty portal crane lifts massive loads of timber from the backs of trucks.
It has to be humiliating to not fit into the CT scanner and to listen to the earnest doctors and nurses, without trying to be rude, plotting a strategy to deal with your immensity. And there is reproof enough for a thousand other petty sins written in the faces of the six strong people it takes to transfer you to the bariatric hospital bed. Even the cop lends a hand.