De-Coding “Code Blue” Blues

koerner_tunnel_bio
I used to feel persistent pangs of guileless guilt if I allowed myself a smile at the wrong time, wrong moment, or in plain view of the worst of witnesses. True, such dark humor might even evoke a hearty, albeit inappropriate howl. But propriety and sensitivity hold all the trump cards in polite company, whether strangers or intimates.

That credo certainly is true in several hospital situations. Now that I am an insider with 57 days accrued on this tour alone, i can reveal in confidence and without corroboration:

Mere mention of Code Blues is usually discouraged. One doesn’t ask details about this morning’s PA cries of “Code Blue, Outpatient MRI Imaging” or this afternoon’s drama-ridden curiosity, “Code Blue, Dental Clinic”!

I was just dying to ask, but I didn’t. In a dentist’s chair? While getting a semi-annual cleaning? A blog post was circling my iPad, unsure if it was perhaps too soon to land.

Dammit. It’s a tragic waste of good material. Of course, it’s even sicker when one’s writer’s block hovers far from therapeutic on a lonely third floor Cell block.

The Big Warden keeps throwing me bones, apparently those rife with Arthritic Osteoporosis and beyond examination.

Oy.

And then there was Tuesday, March 15 at approximately 2:13pm. I was listening to my Hospital A-Go-Go playlist. Between tracks 3 and 4, doctors and nurses and bears (“Oh, my!”) starting rushing the Bastille that is my room.

Dazed, a young resident (from a different unit) asked one of those verboten questions. “You’re okay, aren’t you?” He turn to tell the others in relief: “He’s not coding!”

At that point, I heard it. “Code Blue, Anderson 37##. All available personnel, Code Blue, Anderson 37##.”

Holy Heparin! That was my room. If I was indeed “coding”, it was news to me.
The same announcement was repeated twice before it was corrected, but not before the news had traveled across my unit and back.

At that point I had been an impatient patient for over six weeks, and 84 shift changes. The nurses on this floor, for the most part, all know me now by name, med-chart trivia, and specific peccadilloes.

“Mr Sieber! That’s Mr Sieber’s room!” They were caught off guard and startled.

I, of course, was dying to ask.

Perhaps, there’s a better, more genteel phrase that I could use.

I didn’t find one. I never asked about details. At least not until the following day.

Yet another code, but of the mannerly ilk, suggests that I first ascertain the other patient’s condition, assuming his/her survival.

Wednesday afternoon, I could no longer suppress a smile.

The little smile became a guffaw, and at no one’s expense … not even Medicare’s.

Thank God.

I was simply too weak to genuflect.

(Image: “Tunnel of Love” by Henry Koerner, 1947.)

Advertisements

A Holiday That Evolves With Time (and Hormones)

image
Easter has always been a complex and inconsistent holiday for me. When I was a relatively wee lad, the day was filled with baskets of fine chocolates, books, and ensembles perhaps better befitting a young dandy. We would attend church service and return home to a celebratory meal and a day of family bonding.

The imagery and explanations confounded me, however, as I struggled to link the Resurrection with a rabbit in a dinner jacket. Upon over-ponderance, I’d face the weary truths of kickball, grass-stains, and parental over-compensation.

As I approached the twitch of pubescent hormones, the treats were offered, naturally, far less frequently. We did, however, still go to Easter service which was always joyous and offered triumphant music. I realized at a young age that this day was the only one that, being Catholic, the hymns would be upbeat and melodic.

We’d return home to again share a special lunch and to reminisce about relatives I had never met. I would soon-after rush outside to join-up with my neighborhood cronies. I could always frolic until dark, since North Carolina was yet the only state that honored Easter Monday. The next day was another holiday!

As I became a young man, Easter became less of a special day, except that stores were closed. Many folks either went to the beach or spent the day with visiting relatives. Or savored moody independence, like I did.

I usually slept late, stayed in my robe, and spent the day either fervently reading or watching some Easter classic film that was hopefully neither “The Ten Commandments” nor some cloying Jeff Chandler chestnut!

Then as I started my journey of drifting toward and away from serious romantic relationships, the day always meant some spectacular meal: a festive brunch or elegant dinner party with perhaps a dozen guests. Certainly it was a festive day but no one really thought of Easter, its history, or its intent.

We made merry and indulged, and nursed a wretched aftermath.

Of course now I am in my reflective dotage and the day has further evolved. Like all my peers, I am prone to embrace nostalgia and share tales. Jon and I usually fix a special meal, nothing extravagant, but something out of the ordinary. 


This year, perhaps the hospital kitchen staff will make good on their vow to prepare something indeed special. If not, we can enjoy the richly and serene imaginary from equally imaginary open windows. And dine separately together.

We both have such fickle appetites and limitations, that “n’er the twain doth meet!”

Jon will play his sacred music most of the day as he swoons with the swell of the chords and the organ. We will savor a few treats. And we will reminisce about friends and lovers who have passed away and relatives that the other has never met or probably even heard mention.

It’s just the two of us, the cats, and of course the Easter bunny. I doubt I ever stopped believing in her. Yes, I learned long ago that the bearer of such sweet sentiment, gentle nostalgia, and special delicacies had to be a woman: a gentle, patient, and motherly type.

But alas and alack. I will sadly not be playing kickball this year, although it is not for lack of want.

Happy Easter, my friends. 
The Easter bunny is an angel; it’s an unwritten law of nature and divine order, at least at Marklewood and in #3702.

A Fine Day for a Good Friday

imageWere tomorrow Friday, my thoughts might be somewhat more relevant and my posting, timely. I apologize for my internal clock which has newly changed batteries and yet seems to be skipping beats to make a point.

The best of Friday felicitations from the sandbox, my friends. For some of you, tomorrow is a reflective holy day, a solemn step toward pending joy.

For others, the day becomes a euphemism as the start of a process, an ultimate new beginning, a resurrection if you will. For most of us, it will be a Good Friday indeed … regardless of its definition or intent.

And for an unlucky few, the day becomes unfortunate and simply a day of thus-pegged and rather pixilated irony.

However you may interpret, plan, or simply allow your day to unfold, may it be what you want it to be. And, more importantly, what ever you NEED it to be.

One lone Friday is but one day. 
I will spend my day in my own manner. I shall pay silent homage to Easters past and those folk who anxiously laid my foundation, and its many subsequent refurbishes.

Henry and I will revel in the brilliant relationships that grace my life today.
 It is those connections that fuel my soul, give me hope, and define my humanity. They also keep me stocked in sweet iced tea, okra pickles, and fresh pineapple.

My soul, my hope, and my humanity (as I humbly understand them) are going to make the most of the day and I shall call it a good Friday.

There is no such measure of time that is “JUST” a day. All days have measure and worth. Believe that!

What ya think, Lillian? Dark chocolate “peanut butter” truffles? Fruit-shaped marzipan? Jelly Bellies?

Doctor’s orders!

(Image: “The Last Supper” by Adam Lister, 2014.)

Personified Personas

image
Historically, my alter-egos have always teetered on a mucky brink. That 60’s “Sybil” of 70’s Sally fame had no idea just how simple her life was. True, her ratings were always better.

Add to the mix a few moody ids and restless egos.
Hmmm. That sounds like a psychiatric country tune, eh Lillian?

Not to fear, these potential, but perhaps dismissed profile pictures all result from too vivid episodes of wishful thinking and subconscious projection.

Okay. Okay. I’ll admit it now. While in Sr Edward Patricia’s class at St Thomas More Elementary School in Chapel Hill (1964-65, “She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah”), my self image was derived from Saturday morning images of Mighty Mouse, Johnny Quest, and Natasha Fatale (Boris Badenov’s paramour).

That was countered with an equal part 2nd grade dysfunction in Mrs Greene’s decidedly UN-Catholic class at Glenwood Elementary. When asked to raise our hands if any characteristics or circumstances apply to “us”, I once too often scanned the room to find I was the only 7-year old with a raised hand. (“Who here isn’t Protestant?” “Who has heard Foreign languages at home?” ETC. ETC. ETC.)

Hal and Margy found no resistance when they presented me with the notion of transferring. They surely underestimated my relief.

Neighborhood buddies (Damian, Mark, Carol) helped assuage my blossoming neuroses and need for control.

I also met who would become my first girlfriend while seated in the third row. For two years she encouraged my primary school bravado. We alternated spending weekday afternoons at each other’s house. She complimented my first pair of glasses, round tortoise shell.

And I learned firsthand the joys of distraction that schoolyard drama can have.

I cried when we moved away during the summer before fifth grade. My pen is raised to “J”, whom I never saw again until a chance moment in an elevator in DC fifteen years later. We recognized each other immediately.

(Image: “Caricature No. 61, Albert Clev” by Benjamin Roubaud, Panthéon Charivarique.)

Long Ago and Beyond the Blarney Stone


Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations have never come without mixed feelings or odd associations.

That was true when I was wrestling with my staunch German heritage as I grew up in the Post-Camelot sixties. Holiday celebrations involved very little that was either festive or libationary.

That was true when I questioned my maternal grandmother Dorothy about her supposed Irish ancestry. Even in grade school, I was certain that one doesn’t inherit one’s spouse’s nationality, even with Rights of Survivorship benefits.

She was born in Michigan in 1904 to a couple who was decidedly Anglican. By the fifties, however, she had taken Cavanaugh as both her maiden and married names … at least by my deduction.

That was of course true during my years spent with the anti-Christ who was indeed unabashedly Irish. One year, we spent the evening of the 17th enjoying the West End production of “Chess”. Afterwards, we embarked on a tour of good ole “Ugly American” bar-hopping.

As we later rounded the corner to our hotel, we were drawn into and argued at what turned out to be a drag bar. I should’ve never commented that extra dry Martinis didn’t seem particularly appropriate.

I best forego the seedier details that followed. Leave it with this veiled note: I was awake and stirring by 7am while the A.C. slept into noon and then dressed a little too leisurely and haphazardly.

Lastly, there was the benchmark trip to Ireland that followed five years later. George (Ooops. I broke confidentiality.) and I had bid on a two week all-inclusive holiday at a charity event. We scheduled it for mid-March not knowing that, as of the week before we’d be uncoupling.

He ended up spending the trip with an until-then neutral third party. I immersed myself in the NCAA tourney from home. I was guilt-free when I charged his credit card with a lavish dinner for six to L’Auberge Chez Francois. The night of his return, we each confessed disdain for the other.

I immediately planned my move back to Greensboro via an extended and healing vacation to Fort Lauderdale. (My employer had dissolved my division. At age 37, I was left with a severance package and a meager retirement match.)

And now we come to today. Although awake by six, the realization that it was St Patrick’s Day wasn’t fully realized until after lunch.

Since then, I have pondered: Spatzele, that oh-so green Windy City river, the anti-Christ’s damned Green Book obsession, my grandmother’s unanswered sighs, and all things “Magically Delicious!”

Erin Go Bra-less!

Yes, Sr Edward Patricia, I said it. Just please don’t tell Sr Mary Fitzpatrick.

(These are a few of my miscellaneous “green man” images from my iPod archives.)

Quick. Pour Another Before the Denial Kicks In!

image
It’s Super Tuesday and I am savoring the ever-sweet hospital treat: a “big gulp” iced coffee. As a Southerner, “big gulp” seems always used to describe any cold beverage that is poured to fill a 24-oz container to capacity. “Sippy cup” is too cloyingly juvenile. “To Go” is misleading if one is ultimately headed to the next room to watch The Walking Dead.

Methinks the term peaked and piqued in the ’80’s. Many folks were collectively realizing the folly, arrogance, and irresponsibility of preparing a “Big Gulp Sippy Cup To Go” filled with the gustiest of Sea Breezes.

But back to today, one of the most celebrated days of Catholic feasts. The day  (and more adequately night) to honor Our Lady of the Perpetual Partisanship, the Queen Mother of Quadrennial Primaries. Now where is my Big Gulp?

Election days of any ilk have always thrilled me. As a young child, I watched my parents obsess as they discussed the “what ifs” and “surely wills” of the post voting commentaries, predictions, and analyses. I avoid using the term Post Mortem, as it carries an evangelical connotation. Well, I AM a Southerner: born, bred, but not conceived.

As a man of near certain dotage, I find the CNN and MSNBC poll-crunching “unfold” to be emotional and riveting. In 2000, I stayed up all night glued to the Gore/Bush projection volleys. Leads changed whenever I refilled my Big Gulp  or let Hamilton and Cabot out to pee.

No, silly! They were my King Charles Spaniels, the ones that never had the regal, prissy genes. They loved watching television and thought the Smurfs looked delicious.

So as I reminisce and digress as I frequently do, I turn to my second iced coffee du jour. Bless the flexibilty of the menu here as well as the availability of K-cups. By 7:30 est, I shall be in a rather formidable caffeine frenzy.

The “munchies” of sociopolitics will be a-growl and stirring. Demographic trivia! Those two words alone kick my political junkie’s palpitations into high gear.

Where, oh where are the US Statistical Abstracts of my youth? Certainly I have them in a dusty box in the storage shed at home. I received many of them as birthday presents when I was in Sr Edward Patricia’s 4th grade class.

I was an obsessive child with politics, coffee, and trivia rushing through my veins.

I came by them honestly. As I also did the Big Gulp Sea Breezes.

Oy ve, Lillian. Fingers and I-Vs crossed!

Hats off to my beloved for thoughtfully coordinating my absentee ballot.

(Image: “Pesta Tiga” by Roby Dwi Antono, 2014.)

Notes From 3702: A Problematic Paradox to Feeling Better

In two days, My current hospital stay will pass the six weeks mark. The day will go unnoticed except for the Cardiology panel’s likely reassessment of my options. There are always at least two schools of thought and a rogue opinion that weigh in.

While I appreciate the time and consideration of so many dedicated professionals, I am nonetheless a tad hesitant and uncomfortable that many pertinent decisions are reached by contentious consensus. Mortality is never an easy issue.

That all dressed up and now said, I am more energetic, stable, alert, and (Hark, I sense that wretched snare-drum roll, Lillian!) nauseous. That suggests an oft overlooked perk to deliria, fever, and being just South of “out of it”. One is too groggy to either care or remember.

Spank me silly, Mr DeeJay. If I take an Adavan, put on my earphones, and listen to Mott the Hoople or Sir Bolan, will I …?

Will I stop analyzing, start distracting those inner voices, and simply embrace a transcendental approach to time management?

Oy ve. There is so much to forget, especially with one less hour in my late night.

“One less egg to fry!” Methinks this new approach is working, MAYBE.

Check back in one more month.

(Images: “Suite Basque” by Ignacio Goitia, 2016.)

The Enclosed Card

image
Henry. Henry. Henry.

That silly puss! I awakened from my early afternoon nap and, in a jolt of jubilation, discovered that a virtual bouquet was resting on my hospital table.

Today is a gusty and balmy 78 °F. Yet my skepticism, if not reason, sought proof that Spring was indeed in the Green Room waiting for its fifteen minutes.
Our host suggested otherwise but it was alas time for good tidings of gardens.

Tightly bound buds. Easing effulgent blooms. Proud firm stems. Oh. Those floral town criers!

Henry sent me flowers. I can now see for myself.

You, gentle reader and Ye of Green Thumbs, may scoff at a puss’s folly of such a curated image.

But Henry curls up in a cock of feline righteousness. Whiskers permitting, he’d surely feign a grin.

Correspondence and greetings of all types are now all but fully replaced by the phenomenon that offers E-cards.

I’d share other tidbits of this new web-world, but I am late and need to redirect.

Forgive me. It’s time for Henry and me to Skype. He’ll soon settle in for another viewing of Sunday’s Downton Abbey.

Courtesies of the Ladies Crawley, Doodle is now painfully aware of etiquette.

(Images: “Lilies” by Irma Stern, 1944.)

Up, Up, and Away: The Menu’s Small Print

image
It’s 6:45 am. I’m running on empty, yet raring to go.

The nurses are no longer urging me to at least try to get some sleep. Perhaps later.

Right now I might just indulge myself and order a mid-century, farmer’s breakfast: two fried eggs, sausage, grits, rye toast with cream cheese, and an iced coffee. Yes, the hospital permits such decadent items, on the rare “pre-transplant” occasion.

Then, for the rest of the day, I’ll just feel as though I’m living within the context of a Fifth Dimension songbook.

Of course, I may struggle to stay awake for tonight’s Downton Abbey finale.

Prodigal Soon Seeks Passage on That Midnight Train, Georgia

Full title: The Story of Griselda, Part III: Reunion Artist: Master of the Story of Griselda Date made: about 1494 Source: http://www.nationalgalleryimages.co.uk/ Contact: picture.library@nationalgallery.co.uk Copyright © The National Gallery, London

master-story-griselda-story-patient-griselda-part-NG912-fmspalliera_panels_the_story_of_griselda_part_ii_exile

I am loathe to admit that, after a month in the hospital, I am cranky. Worse yet, my gratitude is shaky.

Cabin fever? I should only have that much room.

I am dizzied and speechless that I face another six weeks on IV antibiotics, backless hospital gowns, lack of privacy, and using a portable urinal.

My beloved and Henry are home refeathering the nest without me. Now that each hour has become so precious, I’d rather spend them in “my” world, “his” world, our humble Marklewood.

Please, don’t misjudge my tone to be depressed, desperate, or, at the very least, a bad sign of something a-brewing.

At 1:00am in 3702, my rant is now passing, at least for a few more weeks.

If you stop by, please try the Black Bean Soup, London Broil, or the Shrimp/Grits.

Fondly,
Raleighwood’s Reverse Prodigal Son