Anybody else in the disability community irritated by those anti-smoking commercials that feature gasping, wheezing, dried-out old folks as examples of what smoking can do to you--a fate worse than death?
I know they're for a good cause and all, so I hesitate to object. But to me the frightful images are offensive!
I mean, some of us look like that without having ever smoked … right? Well, without inhaling, anyway. *Wink*
Maybe not me personally, but you get the idea.
At any rate, that's the germ of a new idea for an NPR commentary. We'll keep you posted.
Meanwhile, here's more of MIRACLE BOY.
That's okay. I'm comfortable.
After a week I'm still on an I.V., though. And a large, noisy ventilator, which I hadn't noticed before. Tubes everywhere.
God knows what all!
Machines beeping and buzzing … It's amazing I can sleep at all, and on my back yet! They're not all my machines, I gradually perceive. Some belong to my neighbors in the I.C.U. We don't interact. Maybe the families do, but not me. Mom and Dad might say a word to my roommates' visitors, but I pretend I'm in my own world.
One night the lights go off and on again. Nurses are suddenly swarming all around me. The head nurse is called in, though she's supposed to be off-duty. It's a blackout, they say. Indeed, the nursing staff is jabbering about it. I vaguely remember the blackout of '65. I was not yet three. It seemed Dad would never come home from the office. But he did and all was well.
So I'm not worried now. But my nurses are. Very. They pump a sort of football-shaped manual respirator into my trach. They check my pulse repeatedly. They check blood gases, which involves a painful needle into the muscles of my groin. They're relieved to discover my oxygen level is fine. The hospital has its own power generator, and soon my respirator is on again. It breathes for me and I become lazy. But I insist I'm fine. I'm not lightheaded. I'm not short of breath. At least I think I'm insisting. Mostly I'm smiling.
Soon the ventilator is removed completely, and I breathe on my own. I'm fine. Yes, fine. Always fine.
At times I'm even allowed to roll onto my belly, propped on a special wedge-shaped pillow. As long as my spine is kept in alignment, it's okay. With the pillow wedge, I can place my notebook down on the mattress and do a little writing.
One of my biggest concerns remains: Can I still touch my dick now that my back's straightened? (With my hand, that is—"reach myself," as Dad might put it.)
Eureka! I can! I can!
When the nurses remove the surgical catheter and wrap a soft, loose cloth diaper around my crotch, it enhances the experience!
After two months at Special Surgery, I'm transferred to a convalescent facility in Westchester County. I've been so cloistered, the glimpses of New York in August passing through the ambulance windows blow my mind. The city looks beautiful … absolutely mesmerizing and inspiring. I feel like a tourist in my own town!
A tourist who's strapped to a gurney, that is.
Sadly, the euphoria is temporary. Soon we're in the suburbs. By and by we arrive at Happydale, the institution I'll call home for the next three months. The very name conjures a shadow-gray sanitarium from an old horror movie.
I'm rolled inside and eventually parked in a large room with pale-blue walls and seven other kids. It's a downgrade from the I.C.U. Only one TV, for starters.
One of my new roommates, a young Black boy in pressed blue jeans and a tucked-in button shirt with yellow stripes, greets Dad, who is accompanying me on the trip, with a stagy formal bow. "Hello, my good man!" the boy says.
This kid is so animated and not post-op-like and, well, on his feet … the nettling question for me is, why am I in the same place he is?
In time, I learn the bitter truth. But for now, something else seems evident:
I am in the nuthouse!