Part 2: Optimism
When I finally broke out of funk, it was because I had hit a realization: I was 72 years old, I had a clear path in front of me, and I had support.
My sister had been upbeat since day one, but it was on Thanksgiving that I found that a pale imitation of a thanksgiving meal and one dinner guest could bring me joy. Somehow, it connected me to all the other inmates in hospitals who were trying to extend their lives through this unique treatment.
During that day, I found reasons to try harder. My son. My ex-wife. My sister, brother, and my family. My friends.
Despite being hospitalized for 83 days, I grew to know and like the staff. I can be a pretty cool customer, toughing it through pill regimens, shots, various tests, ultrasounds, chemo, bloating, infection, and more. As my mind cleared, I tried just to be more like my regular self. A quip here, a joke there, a willingness to do what was asked of me. My sister and I listened to their stories, and we got to know them well. This enhanced my reputation with the staff. I was no longer “a problem”.
And the staff: my doctors were the best, the nurses caring and efficient, and the aids had your back no matter what the need. And often that need involves the bathroom. It’s amazing how humble you can get in a hospital.
I had constant encouragement from friends on FB and via email. I started talking to my ex-wife nightly (she was 1000 miles away) and strengthened a good relationship.
People I hardly knew were pulling for me. One aide shared his own stash of coffee he made for coworkers in the breakroom. It was a dark roast, and so much better than the lightweight stuff that came with the meals. This helped me through the on-again, off-again waiting period for discharge.
One young intern was able to help me with my own areas of expertise, computers and video equipment, in my final days there. I just couldn’t get my phone to work properly. He figured it out. Then, he volunteered to accompany me on walks. We talked about video production, what he had worked on in the recent past, and what I had done over 50 years. I took his number and hope someday to employ him on a project when I’m physically able to pull that off.
Late in December, one of the primary team doctors warned me that there was a possibility I could be released but I needed to up my leg strength. Those walks made a difference. I also borrowed an under desk rotary exerciser so I could sit in the chair and still burn calories and build muscle, especially my calves, which had disappeared. A few days later, the tri-state area had a “Code Red” for an uptick in Covid cases. Finally, I was given a date for discharge — January 2nd.
But that date would change because they wanted to make sure I was leaving under as much strength as possible, and that meant checking blood and platelet percentages every morning and correcting them by transfusion. Finally, the day came — January 5th.
As I left the hospital, I surprised a few people by walking out under my own 2-legged power.