Al Batt: The only thing I felt up to doing was to not feel up to doing anything

Published 8:21 am Wednesday, May 24, 2017

You know who they are.

They are the people who when you ask them how they are doing, they tell you. They are often labeled as people who share too much. TMI, meaning “too much information,” was created to describe them.

I’m going to play the part of one of those good people today. At least, I’m interning for the position. I’ll try to limit my sharing.

I’d been hospitalized for some time. I was a post turtle. What is a post turtle? If you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on the top, that’s a post turtle. You know it didn’t get up there by itself, it doesn’t belong up there and it doesn’t know what to do while it’s up there.

I’d be willing to guess that most people who find themselves hospitalized, feel that way. They feel that they don’t belong there and they don’t know what to do. It’s the battle of the ages. When humans get to a certain age (somewhere between 0 and 120), the battle begins.

I was a postoperative post turtle. I didn’t want to be there, but cancer had made it the place to be.

The surgery had gone into extra innings. I’d had a 4-hour surgery. Many have had longer operations, but it was a record for me. While my surgery was nothing compared to those who have had their sternums cut, I found that a sneeze still made it possible for me to count my stitches without having to actually count them. I sneezed so hard, I sprained my mustache and I was clean shaven.

Someone had turned on the TV in my room. I wasn’t ready to be assaulted by certain videos so soon after surgery. I watched a burger made from too much beef, buttered bacon and cheddar cheese on a glazed doughnut bun. I weighed 98.6 kilograms and my temperature was 98.6 degrees, but I still threw up.

“Are you feeling nauseous?” became a common question asked of me by medical professionals. I’d been taught that nauseous meant “causing nausea” and nauseated meant “feeling or suffering from nausea.”

I wondered if they were asking me if I felt like a hamburger with buns of glazed doughnuts.

I’m sure they weren’t. Our language is constantly changing.

The hospital had covered all possibilities in my case. Among the staff that tended to my miseries was a gynecologist.

I went for a number of walks each day as part of the recuperative process. I shuffled along while dressed in a stained robe and weary socks as I pulled or pushed a wheeled IV pole containing two kinds of tubes running to and from various orifices of my body. One kind was too long to make for easy walking and the other was too short for easy striding. A small part of my brain thought it would be a good idea to carry a blue slop bucket featuring signage while on these walks. Apparently, no part of my brain is anything but a small part. The sign on my mini-vomitorium read, “I have a high deductible on health insurance. Donations accepted.”

A nurse suggested that I get a pedometer. I declined. The device would undoubtedly show less than I thought. The lack of a pedometer allowed me to think I was walking farther than I was.

The surgery proved to be the easy part for me. Getting out of the hospital was the hardest part. I was tired. A hospital is no place to catch up on sleep. All the beeping and blinking devices provided far too many alarm clocks. My bed wasn’t very big. That’s because the manufacturer hadn’t included any of the comfortable parts.

I had been put on a no-diet diet. I used water to wash down six potassium tablets; each pill the size of a Buick’s hubcap. I hadn’t eaten for over four days in the hospital when a doctor put in an order for half a popsicle every eight hours. I requested a red one. I didn’t care what flavor it was, as long as it was red. I remembered making Kool-Aid popsicles during my boyhood years. I’d whip up a batch of red Kool-Aid and pour it slowly into our ancient, metal ice cube tray. Then I’d place a toothpick into each red ice cube.

I hadn’t had a Popsicle for years until they gave me that one in the big hospital. I took a bite. Choirs of angels sang. It was delicious.

It is the little things that matter.