Karaoke Night: The Microphone Is Yours

I am sitting here this weekend and my mind is taking a great roam down memory lane. Sometimes, it is a pleasant stroll. Other times, it is a painful run that does me good in the long term but, in the moment, is nothing short of unpleasant. I think I will at least try to start in the former category.

In the fall of 1985, I was serving as a hospital corpsman in the US Navy in South Carolina. I lived in an apartment off base with two other corpsmen. I was not quite 20 years old and, occasionally, my roommates and I  had two primarily goals: have some laughs and have some fun. Sometimes, in the pursuit of such laughs and fun, I could be a bit of an immature troll but I never truly meant any offense or harm.

One night, we had a party and invited a few friends from the hospital. One of my roommates was soon accompanied by his girlfriend. I had seen her a few times before. She had big, permed hair (it WAS the 80’s) and a noticeable “Yankee” accent. She was a few years older, divorced, and had three kids (Jennifer, Melinda, and Stephen) who were occasionally seen running around the complex (especially when the ice cream man showed up).

Everything was going nicely this evening. Not a lot of people showed up for the party. The moment came when I started to introduce my roommate’s girlfriend to my date. I then realized that I didn’t actually know her name. You see, among her other features, she had a somewhat prominent nose. It wasn’t freakish, just prominent. So how did I address her prior to this awkward introduction?  I normally called her “Pinocchio”. Like I said, I was a bit of an immature troll. She enjoyed me squirming in the awkwardness and then introduced herself to my date: “I’m JoAnn.”

I would also come to find out quickly enough that JoAnn had something else very significant in her life – Type I diabetes. This meant that, several times a day, she was poking her finger with a small needle (to check her blood sugar levels), then using a syringe with another small needle to inject insulin into her body (to keep the “balance scale” of sugar and insulin as even as possible). Many times her sugar levels would become very unstable which would result in a several day stay in the hospital.

Life, as they say, goes on. Within the next year, I was out of the Navy. JoAnn and I had kept in touch and eventually become a couple. Well, let’s be honest, I stole my roommate’s girlfriend (another immaturely trollish decision). I had relocated to Atlanta after my discharge but would occasionally drive to South Carolina and visit with JoAnn and her three kids (with whom I had also bonded). It was quite an adjustment sometimes being barely 20 years old, barely into adulthood, and being in a relationship with an older woman with three kids. I would still make jokes about her nose and comments about “generation gap”.  JoAnn, on the other hand, loved the occasional discomfort I would feel about clearly being the youngest adult in the room.

By early 1987, JoAnn accepted a civil service job in the Atlanta area. 5 months later, we were married. I was still adjusting somewhat to post military life. Things would get rocky over the next year. We relocated to Western New York (where JoAnn grew up) partly as a means of giving our life together a fresh start. I was a Southern fish out of water. Over the next two years, we would have two more children in our lives and a house of our own.

Unfortunately, as it happens to many, we would divorce a few years later. I have since re-married and our kids have grown.  Things would get tense over the years but in the end, we learned to adapt. JoAnn would occasionally babysit my two younger kids (Brianna and Caleb) while my wife, Renee, and I were at work. We would share in the joy of seeing several of the seven children (in total) grow up, graduate, get married, and have children. I served as pallbearer for both of Joann’s parents at the times of their passing.. When my mother passed away, JoAnn was one of the first people to call me and extend her condolences. Whenever Joann and I had occasion to share each other’s company, she would be very quick to tell me (and everyone present) how much she enjoyed my writing and tell me I should have my own column.

Of course, nature of the beast that is diabetes, the hospital stays would get more frequent and more severe with every passing year. Joann had many close calls. Most recently, I was notified by my older son that JoAnn had a severe heart attack. My wife and I visited Joann several times at the hospital over the following weeks. Early on a Thursday morning, my older daughter called me. Her voice began to crack as she said: “I don’t have great news, Dad.” Joann’s heart grew tired and she passed away. I stood there in the hospital as the kids I had watched grow into adulthood said goodbye to their mother. I know that feeling all too well and would not wish upon anyone. The last thing I said to her before I left was: No more hospitals! No more injections!

One of the things that all of us who gathered at the hospital remember and cherished about JoAnn was that she loved to sing. One of the kids even joked that there was surely a karaoke machine in Heaven just for her. I would ask this of anyone who reads this and can relate to someone they know who struggles with diabetes. Please consider a donation to the American Diabetes Association (https://donations.diabetes.org/) to fund research efforts to find a cure. If you do make that donation, please also consider singing your favorite song out loud. After all, karaoke is for all to enjoy.

Joann, Thanks for the memories, your support of my education (and my writing), and your willingness to co-parent with Renee and me. Most of all, thanks for putting up with an immature troll with a warped mind. The microphone is yours. You pick the song.

Remembering Momma: Simply A Shift Of Tense.

10 years ago today, my Dad called me to tell me that he was purchasing an airline ticket for my wife and me for the worst reason. Our bags were already packed. Less than an hour later, my Dad called me again. It had happened. My mother, Norma Jean McAfee, had passed away at 65. It’s hard to believe it has been 10 years. Some years are harder than others. These past couple of days have been a punch in the gut.

Momma, I miss you terribly. Having said that, I often look in the mirror, at my wife, at my kids, and at my grandson and YOU ARE THERE. When I had my TIA, as I lied inside an MRI machine, you were there. When Taelor took his first steps and said his first words, you were there. When Shayna got married and I walked her down the aisle, you were there (likely amused with my kilt). When Tom got married and I was introduced as Father of the Groom, you were there (likely shaking your head and giggle about my clown makeup). When my wife and I walked across the commencement stage together, you were there (I even said “Hi, Mom!” on the stage). I would not have obtained that degree without your inspiration and influence.

As easy as it is to recognize all the moments you WERE there in the last 10 years, I must remember that in many moments where you ARE STILL THERE. Every time Brianna sees a butterfly, you are there. She even bought a solar powered one that flaps its wings on the dashboard of my car. As Caleb becomes more and more independent, you are there. Every time I write one of these essays, you are SO THERE (to the point where I can almost feel your presence sometimes). I hate that I cannot share my writing with you face to face but you are still very much…THERE.

Most importantly, I need to remember that, in so many ways, you will STILL BE THERE. As Renee’s education and mine lead to new endeavors, you will be there with each of us finding out where our respective roads will lead. You will be there as each of the kids move on with their adult lives (watching in wonder alongside me). You will be there as your great-grandson, Taelor-James, continues to grow into the young mighty warrior that he has been since birth. Every time, I walk the boardwalk along the Genesee River, the harbor off of Lake Ontario, or the trails along the Erie Canal, you will be there. With every day that I wake up and pledge to do something about my weight, you will be there (as you understand that struggle better than anyone I know).

Yes, Momma. I miss you terribly. But I know, as you would poignantly point out to me, this is all just a matter of shift the tense: you were there, you are there, and you will be there. You have never truly left me. I know you will be there again…soon. I may not realize it until after the fact or even expect it (in spite of all the aforementioned examples). All the same, I can’t thank you enough for teaching when to shift the tense. I look forward to seeing the next shift.

[Note: Before I had a chance to post this, you were there. Once again, you came in the form of a butterfly in our backyard while Brianna played with Taelor. Thanks for visiting, Momma.]

From Henrietta Town Hall to the Commencement Stage: Part Two (What’s Stopping You?)

 

Hello, Folks! Well, I once again have another college semester behind me. I promised myself that I would do more blog writing once the semester was over. Admittedly, I got caught up in some other stuff over the last few weeks. Nevertheless, here I am again. I have truly missed sharing my life with you all.

I am sure that many of you who have read my pieces previously, you noticed the words “commencement stage” in the title. Yup, it’s another graduation piece. I know some of you are taking some pause at this. Yes, I have written commencement pieces for two kids who have graduated high school, a daughter who has graduated college, and a wife who graduated with a Bachelor’s in 2013. After all of those graduations, I know you are wondering who it is that’s graduating this time. Well, folks…I AM! To add icing to this proverbial cake, MY WIFE IS GRADUATING TOO (IN THE SAME CEREMONY)!!!! That’s right!. My college studies have been completed. My wife and I are having our commencement on 12 June 2016. We are both graduating from Empire State College. I have completed my Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communications. My wife has earned her Master’s degree in Social  and Public Policy.

I should clarify that my wife and I didn’t exactly plan to attend college at the same time. I began pursing my bachelor’s in 2010. In 2012, as my wife was nearing the end of her Bachelor studies, we moved to our current home. I was dealing with the logistics of the move, part time college, and full time work. Juggling it all was a bit much to say the least. After some personal reflection, I decided, with my wife’s support to drop the classes I was taking and take the rest of the semester to settle in from the move.

Fast forward nearly 18 months later. My wife had graduated with her Bachelor’s degree. Things were settling in our new place which included our adult son and daughter plus a grandson who was born in 2012. I figured this was an opportune time to discuss with my wife my return to finishing my Bachelor’s degree. After all, I had stopped in 2012. 2014 was around the corner. Then, my wife dropped a bomb.

Try to picture this. I am sitting in our living room. I am talking with my wife and was literally within seconds of uttering my next words to discuss the subject. Before, I even got a breath out, my wife said: “I’ve been thinking. I should go back to school and get my Master’s degree.” I was floored. I sat there, like a deer in the headlights, not knowing how to respond. When my wife asked what was wrong, I explained that I wanted to talk to her about returning to school myself. Without hesitation, she asked: “What’s stopping you?”

I expressed concerns about us both studying at the same time and the toll that could take on our quality time together. She reminded me that we were already doing that when I halted my studies in the first place. What can I say? My wife had once again shown herself to be someone with amazing insight.

We did encounter a few bumps in the road during the course of our academic journey (as life is known to provide). We were blessed to see, not just one, but two of our kids get married. We have welcomed a grandson into the world. We have watched our daughter battle the onset of rheumatoid arthritis.  We have endured the heartbreak of several funerals. In November 2015, I had a mild stroke. Less than a month later, my wife had spinal fusion surgery which brings a slow but worthwhile recovery.

A couple of these bumps hit so hard that it delayed my wife’s graduation. Like I said, it never occurred to us that we would be in the same commencement ceremony. It just happened that way. We dealt with life’s proverbial lemons and made the lemonade as potable as possible. I can say, with no undue modesty, that I don’t think my wife and I are particularly any more special than another other married couple. Some couples just go to the movies together. We went to college.

In closing, I want to first address my lovely queen, Renee. Baby, you and I got married 22 years ago. We have reared kids to adulthood. We are blessed with a grandson. This commencement you and I are sharing together is one of the most amazing bonding experiences I can ever hope to share with you. I am so proud of what you have accomplished. Even more, I am blessed to have you by my side as I pursue my accomplishments.

Lastly, I want to ask my readers. Do you have a venture you are considering? Are you looking to pursue a higher education for yourself? Are you looking to make a career change? What are the obstacles that you see? In other words, as my wife so insightfully asked: “What’s stopping you?” Bumps in the road WILL come. Detours will happens. The thing to remember is…it’s a detour…NOT a stop sign.

 

 

Houston, We Have Contacts

Throughout my childhood, I remember some very distinguishing features about my mother. She struggled with her weight most of her adult life. She was a master of diplomacy. She had a laugh that was from one extreme or the other: the silent shaking giggle or the sound of a hyper-caffeinated  kookaburra (both were simply infectious). She regularly tinted her hair due to getting her first grey streak at 12 years old.  The most distinctive feature of Momma was her glasses. Momma first started wearing glasses when she was 8 years old. Almost every picture of Momma from early childhood well into her adult years showed her wearing her glasses. When she took them off, she truly looked like a different person. They were almost as much of an identifying feature as the green eyes they corrected.

When I was about 9 years old, my mother made an investment. She got contact lenses. Bear in mind, this was around 1975. Contacts were probably much more an expensive investment when you compare them to the relative costs in 2016. They were hard lenses. This fact alone brought other considerations. If you looked at her from the side, you could actually see the edge of the contact lens resting upon her eyes. Sometimes, that was neat. Sometimes, it was weird. Since I found weirdness neat, that was cool to me. Also, because they were hard lenses, that meant that an unfortunate bump or a well intentioned pat on the back would result in everyone in the room assuming a freeze frame position while my mother searched on her hands and knees for the missing lens. Offers to help were  politely declined. You see, the more people that moved, the greater risk of hearing an awful crunch. It was worse than the sound of stepping on a cockroach. Why? Cockroaches are free (gross but free). A crunching lens sent Momma back to horn-rimmed purgatory until she could replace the lens. 

The upside of all of this is that Momma was no longer tethered to her glasses. Contact lenses don’t clash with a dress, or shoes or a haircut. Contact lenses offer much greater freedom of mobility. Cooking with contact lenses is much easier as there is little risk of the lenses fogging up. Cook burgers or fried chicken with eyeglasses and they get messy in a hurry. Rainy days down South present the same fogging problem but not with contact lenses. That’s a lot of freedom.

Over the years, heredity took its toll. I have always said that I inherited my father’s looks but my mother’s medical issues. I struggle with my weight (though not as much as my scale does). I starting getting grey hair in my early 30’s. Like Momma, I also have struggled with high blood pressure for years. Then, it happened. In 1999, at the age of 33, I wound up getting my first pair of glasses. By the time I was 45, I began wearing bifocals. When I invested in my glasses, I tended to invest big. I always bought glasses that reacted to light when I was out in the sun and changed again when I went back indoors. I bought progressive, high definition, bifocal lenses. It was expensive but it greatly improved my quality of life.

17 years went by and, all that time, I was totally resistant to wearing contacts. This was in spite of the fact that many of my friends and two of my kids wore contacts. Why? I’m a grown man but I just did not like the idea of sticking my finger in my eye on a daily basis.

I reached the age of 50 and decided to make some changes. Among other ventures, I decided to get contacts. It was time to man up for the sake of vanity and freedom. Plus, the technology behind contact lenses had changed dramatically since my mother started wearing them. Lenses are now soft, and flexible, and more form fitting. People with bifocal vision have  much greater options for contacts. It was time to make the move.

This venture required an eye exam and a training class. The training class shows new contact lens wearer how to properly clean and store the lenses. The training also shows how to insert and remove the contact lenses. The trainer demonstrated but putting her left hand over the top eye and pulling it upward. Meanwhile, the lens is rested on the index finger of the right hand while the rest of the right hand fingers hold the bottom eyelid open. It took me nearly 30 minutes of using this Clockwork Orange technique to get the lens onto my eyeball (and have it stay there). Time and time again, I would drop the lens (or it would fall out of my eye). I then had to clean the lens and start this process all over again. My trainer told me this happens with all new wearers and not to be discouraged.  Plus, these were trial lenses. They were my visual training wheels.

For the first week, I would wear my glasses to work then wear my lenses until bedtime. The time it took to get the lenses in and out was shorter. Eye drops became a quick necessity as putting the lenses in and out can irritate the eyes. I know why the medical abbreviation for drops is gtt. That’s the sound you make when the drops hit your eyeball. OK. LOOKING UP! HERE WE GO! HERE WE GO! GTT!

Then one day, I had the worst contact lens experience. I wore my contacts to work that day. I had to leave early and report for jury duty. I was excused after several hours and went home. Apparently, at some point, my right lens fell out without me realizing it. There was a bigger problem than a missing lens. The fact that I didn’t realize it was gone meant that I was rubbing my index finger against my eyeball, over and over again, trying to remove a lens that was not actually there. So this meant I had a lost lens and the feeling of being totally absent minded. On top of all of this, people in public were pulling their kids away from me because they thought I had pink eye. I got a lot of stares in that restaurant. I DID think it was kind of rude for them to insist that I get a take out order.

My trainer gave me new lenses but also went with a different brand. This was a night and day experience. The lenses went on far more easily than the previous pair. I got better vision results. The lenses were also less expensive over the course of a year than the previous pair. Talk about your WIN-WIN.

I’m really looking forward to the freedoms these lenses will offer. I can ride my bike without worrying if the wind or the wrong lean will send them flying. I can tap dance. I can slam dance. I can work the parallel bars. I have never done any of those three things before but, BY GOLLY, if I want to I WILL. It’s a small step for me. It’s one giant leap for my eyeballs. HOLD ON, WORLD! I’M COMING! (and I can see you).

Transient? I Don’t Think So! Part V: Moving On

The next day in the hospital would test me a great deal. I’m not just being figurative here. There were more blood tests. An occupational therapist got me up and walking. She was nice enough. She walked me around the ward. She even had me walk up and down one flight of stairs. Toward the end of my walk, my legs started to feel a little rubbery. That was not a feeling I was expecting. Fortunately, it was not a far walk back to my room. By the time I got back to bed, I had an awful headache.

My wife, Renee, showed up and was waiting for me when I got back from my walk. The nurse got me something for my headache. Renee, however, brought something from the house that I REALLY needed: my clown nose. I had become obsessed with clowning recently. I had even dressed as a clown for my son’s Halloween wedding.  I was REALLY happy to see that nose.

Later that day, a technician came in to perform an echocardiogram. In short, they use sound waves to take pictures of the chambers of my heart. They were ruling out cardiac damage that could have contributed to the symptoms I had the morning before. I turned my head to my right so the technician could get a better position for the test. When she wasn’t looking, I out on my clown nose. I turned my head as she was wrapping up the test. When the technician saw my nose, she started giggling.Man, I really needed that nose.

The next day, a doctor came in to review all my findings and prepare me for discharge. All of the tests came up negative for any damage to my heart or my brain. Once again, I put my clown nose on while the doctor was talking to me. It really helped to break the tension. In short, the doctor told me that there was no “smoking gun” to explain why I experienced the symptoms I had that morning. He also told me that just because there was no smoking gun did not mean that a bullet didn’t come flying through my house that morning. That actually made me feel better. It assured me that what happened that morning was real and no one (including myself) was over-reacting to what happened. Actually, my wife and daughter probably prevented a much worse situation by reacting so quickly.

I left the hospital on that day.The doctor gave me orders to wait a week before returning to work. Physical issues aside, I was relieved to have that time to try and process what happened to me. As it turns out, there were other things that required adjustment. My diagnosis – I had a TIA. That stands for transient ischemic attack. In short, I had a brief, mild intermittent stroke. Those were two words right there that would pop into my head every single day: TIA and stroke. When I had my first follow up at the stroke clinic (there’s that word again), the doctor threw another one at me. He said I had a “left hemispheric event”. George Carlin was right. The more syllables you use, the less serious it seems.

The week I spent at home was also an adjustment in other ways. On the third day, I thought I would try to run a personal errand at a  nearby store. Somewhere around aisle six, my legs got that rubbery feeling again. I decided not to push my luck and go home. When I got home, my wife and daughter both told me I was not happy for “sneaking out” by myself. They were right. I had snuck out and I was taking a foolish risk.

Over time, I would return to work. I would have follow up visits. I basically assimilated into my normal routine prior to my “left hemispheric event” (that just sounds funny when I say that). My follow up visits show that I am clean as a whistle (minus the need to drop some pounds). I still get the headaches. The doctor said those are quite normal given the experience. I have an implant in my chest that tracks my heart rhythm. I just received a report form my cardiologist that my heart rhythm is normal. I still hear the words TIA and stroke every single day. I have to be OK with that.

Simply put, I have to learn from my history, work to improve my health (lose the weight), and otherwise…just move on. I couldn’t control when it happened before. I can (and will) work to improve my health and reduce my chances of letting it happen again. Still, I can’t obsess over it too much. I will have some days where moving on will be easier than others. Still, moving slow is still moving forward.

Transient? I Don’t Think So! Part IV: Murmurs, Mists, and Apologies.

I had slept through my first night on the neurology floor. I should stipulate that I am using the term “sleep” rather loosely. I was awakened at least every two hours. It seemed that a good way to ensure that I would be awakened soon was to say to myself: Self, put on your CPAP mask and get some sleep. Every time I would put my mask on, it was a pretty safe bet something would happen that would disturb my futile attempts to sleep…perchance to dream (perhaps Hamlet was just being an idealist).

The most frequent source of interruption was due to the patient who shared the room with me. I didn’t know much about what brought him to our floor aside from hearing family members relay the news to other family members. Over and over again, I could hear his daughter call someone on the phone: “Daddy had another seizure.” I knew enough to surmise that his neurological state was far worse than mine. He could only communicate by speaking very softly and using facial gestures. He could not move on his own. This meant that the nursing staff had to come in every two hours and shift his body in bed to prevent bed sores. This meant, every two hours, I would hear the nursing staff come in and talk to my roommate (and each other). They would also change the sheets as they were typically soiled. Every time the nurses came in, they would apologize for the interruption (and the smell). Every time the nurses left, I prayed for my roommate’s recovery and knew it could have been me in his condition. My mind would wander. What if I had stayed upstairs longer? What if my wife and daughter had not reacted so quickly? What if I had not gone into my daughter’s room that morning and my episode got worse on my way to work (or after I had punched in)? I knew it really did little good to think this way. I couldn’t change what happened. Still, every two hours of each night in the hospital, my mind would ultimately go down this road.

Another nightly interruption came from routine blood work. I used to work as a phlebotomist in my 20’s. The phlebotomist is the person who comes in to draw your blood. I knew what it was like to be called a “vampire” or “leech”. The point being that I understood their side of our relationship. They had a job to do that was part of my care. Still, I must say two things. First, for every patient whose sleep I interrupted in the course of my duties: I will go to my grave pleading your forgiveness even though I have not been in that line of work for some 20 years now.Secondly, I urge phlebotomists everywhere. When you apply alcohol to cleanse the site, PLEASE…IN THE NAME OF EVERYTHING HOLY TO EVEN THE MOST DEITY DENYING ATHEIST…WIPE THE ALCOHOL OFF BEFORE YOU PUNCTURE YOUR PATIENT! The lab results will still be accurate and your patient will be grateful.

I wound myself down again only to find another two hours had elapsed which meant my roommate’s routine was starting again. It was another round of ambient conversation, another mist of deodorizer, and another apology from the nurses. I put my CPAP mask on again and made another attempt. Two hours passed and the roommate’s routine began again. However, there was a different element in the room: sunlight. It was morning and my breakfast tray was being brought in. I resigned myself to staying up for a while a sipped on my hot cop of a black coffee that resembled coffee in roughly the same fashion that Justin Bieber resembles a musician (except the coffee was more fit for human consumption.

I could only sit and wait to find what the day had in store for me…it would be a day that tested me (literally and figuratively).

Transient? I Don’t Think So! Part III: Arrival at the Neurology Unit.

So, at this point, I had ridden to a hospital in an ambulance, endured several tests of my brain (Yes, I DO have one), eaten food that an anemic, starving tapeworm would have turned down, and was transferred from the emergency room to a hospital room on the neurology unit. I had been in the hospital for nearly 8 hours so I was looking forward to a final destination (well, not TOO final) and instead of swirling in the proverbial holding pattern that is the emergency department.

Almost as soon as we got there, problems began to show up. My wife had spoken to the ER staff several times about the fact that a) I have sleep apnea and require a special machine to sleep and b) I had to take special medicine to help me get down to sleep. I heard them tell my wife several times that they would pass that information onto the neurology staff and that the hospital would provide me with a machine for my sleep apnea and my own unit would not have to be brought in from home.

Well, guess what? The neurology floor did not get one iota of that aforementioned information. This meant that they had to contact the attending physician for my sleep medication and possibly my sleep machine. This not only upset me because such an ordeal could have been prevented. It upset me further that my daughter, Brianna, had just returned to the hospital from our house and could have brought my sleep machine with her had she been aware that it was needed.

There was SOME relief to be had. The nurse I got on the neurology floor saw the fact that I had an IV line in the crook of both my elbows. She explained that while she was currently a bit tied up, she would return to remove one IV line and relocate the other to the lower part of my non-dominant (left) hand. I was happy to hear this promise. The IV line that had fluid going into it was very positional. Anytime, I moved my right arm the slightest way, it made the alarm on the IV pump go off. After 8 hours, this was beyond irritating. I had no idea just HOW irritated I was until about 10 minutes after the nurse left when I moved my arm and the IV pump alarm went off again. I said: BEEP! BEEP! YOURSELF! and then I blindly reached over and punched the IV pump. This made Brianna’s eyes get as big as saucers as she tried to stifle her laughter.

The nurse returned to change my IV’s as she promised. She noticed that at my bedside was: a partially full bottle of soda; a Kit Kat bar, and a hot fudge sundae that Brianna had brought me. The nurse said: “I will just say this ONE TIME. You are on a diabetic diet.” Brianna and my wife, Renee, began to offer explanations such as they were trying to lift my spirits and the papier mache chicken sandwich I had earlier. I told them both to relax and explained that the nurse wasn’t going to throw them into hospital jail for violating my diet. This made the nurse crack a smile. It was a minute crack but I saw it.

As promised, she removed one IV and moved the other to my left hand. This gave me MUCH more freedom of movement without provoking the infernal pump alarm. After the last episode with the pump, I could have sworn I saw it flinch whenever I looked at it. The nurse also informed me that my sleep medication had been ordered but they were still working on the sleep machine. At this point, my wife intervened and reminded the nurse that it was nearly 9 PM and I had been up since 5 AM that morning with no sleep at all in between. We all agreed that it would just be easier to bring in my own machine and have the respiratory department “inspect it” before I used it.

I’ll be honest, I began to get rather irritated (again) as this meant my daughter had to drive back to the house, pack my machine, and transport it to the hospital. I felt that my family and I had been through quite enough and that such an inconvenience was beyond avoidable.

The nurse asked that I page her as soon as my daughter arrived with the machine. She would then page respiratory and give me my sleep medication. After she left, I took a deep breath. I then began to eat the Kit Kat bar (two bars at a time because this is America, for crying out loud). I then began to help Renee compile a list of things she could bring for me in the morning. I already had my tablet. Items basically include changes of clothing, and, OH YEAH!, my clown nose. I really needed that thing.

Brianna returned with my machine and helped me set it up. I paged the nurse who, in turn, paged respiratory and gave me my sleep medication. My wife and daughter kissed me goodnight and left to go home. Respiratory came up to “inspect” my machine. This basically meant that they looked at the power cord and saw that it was not frayed and was intact. I was almost irritated (again) by the fact that I waited all that time for them to spend two minutes with my machine.

After respiratory left, I sat there in that bed. For the first time in more than 13 hours, it was quiet. I mean if you heard a pin drop, a librarian would go: “SHHHHH!” It was in this quiet that my brain started to process everything that happened that day up to that point: nearly falling on my grandson, slurred speech, frightened looks on the faces of my wife and daughter. It all began to sink in. Right then the nurse walked into the room to check up on me one final time. At this point, I was starting to shake and was holding back tears. The nurse asked me: “What’s wrong, Shane?” I looked at her and stated what was very obvious: I’ve had a VERY ROUGH day. She looked at me, gently held my arm, and said: “Well, get some rest now.”  I would come to find out that the only place I was going to find a place of rest if I happened to be reading a piece of sheet music. Resting in a hospital, well, I would come to find out that that was just plain silly.