Sunday, January 6, 2008

Hospital Time

About eight this morning, my parents pushed me out of bed. Bad news: Grandma slipped on her icy steps, and with her osteoporosis — she grew up in the days before calcium was invented — almost certainly broke her other hip. Nice thing about hips is you can only break them once... each. She went out to get the newspaper, slipped, and dragged herself back inside to her phone and called us. Mom flipped, cursed Grandma off, "I told her a million times not to go on those steps!" Mom has to parent her mother, except Grandma is geriatric and not a toddler, so she can't put up childproofing gates and keep her in the kitchen at all times. "I don't understand why you do these things!" I do. We treat her like a pet; we were asking my mom stuff like, "Is it okay if Grandma goes into the garage?" Which is where she broke her first hip, but it's her garage. Don't let her climb on the bookshelves either, cause she'll fall and pull them down on top of her.

I guess there was a point in this whole mess where somebody called an ambulance, and I met Grandma down in the emergency room. I had to spend an hour or so before I left contemplating her mortality, and what a horrible grandson I've been, taking her for granted.

I hate, hate, hate contemplating her mortality. I can't be detached and sardonic — the fall aside, she probably will die pretty soon, and I'll miss her, even though I can't look at myself and extrapolate a reason why. It's easy to imagine missing her food, or her little Christmas scene, but we have a rapport as individuals, which I don't see but I don't want to lose, right? Right? Or do I just record all of her Old Country stories, copy down her recipes, learn who's who in all the photo albums and then we're done? At least we're not done quite yet.

The emergency room is behind heavy doors, "Authorized Personnel Only," and it took some time to determine if I was authorized personnel or not. Not sick, and not a doctor, so pretty much useless. Maybe some people are happier in the dark, but I feel even more helpless when I'm out of the loop, watching her in her morphine slur for hours and hours, assuming everything's okay cause she's in the hospital, where there's gauze strips on the floor, syringes left on a table where any old opiate fiend could snatch them, MRSA passing its little drug-resistant self around. I produce carbon dioxide and anxiety. It's a relief when the ER doctor tells us, for sure, that Grandma fractured her hip — but aren't they supposed to show you the x-ray, stick it up in that lightbox and point to the broken bone? — and there will be surgery, as if it's nothing. They've performed this procedure, hemiarthroplasty, a million times, nothing to worry about.

I'm bothered by the lack of curiosity, or perhaps it's faith, that everybody else has around Grandma. Lab tech comes in, friendly seeming guy, to take blood. This is not normal. It is, in the hospital, but I'm talking in general. The lab — if they're not expecting to find massive issues — at least has a reason to think something might not be right. There's a tacit agreement to keep the medicine away from lay people, and that'll make my hypochondriac imagination go orgasmically wild. Grandma could die on the operating table! She could have osteomyelitis, bone-eating germs escaping into her bloodstream, and put her out before she even gets to the operating table! She could have spinal stenosis or fibromyalgia or the hantavirus.... What the fuck do I know?! Would appreciate some help here, since I'm kind of relying on someone else's thoughts for a bit of understanding.