Chicken Priorities

Hours before he called me to take him to the emergency room, Fred suffered with severe stomach pain. The call woke me around mid-night. When I arrived at his apartment, he debated whether to go or not. It was Saturday night and the weekend drinkers, and shooters might have found their way to the E.R. too. His pain might have had a long wait. They would need to be sure he wasn’t just a Saturday night drug seeker. Tests would be taken before pain relief measures were even considered.

He and I both knew it wasn’t a heart attack. He had no pain in his chest, just in his stomach. His appendices had been taken out years ago. He wasn’t sick to his stomach so no food poisoning; he was just in severe pain. It wasn’t until I suggested he might be having a gall bladder attach that he decided to let me take him in. The pain started a half-hour after he had eaten  an avocado. That high fat, avocado probably did him in.

The wait was non-existent. There were only two others in the waiting room. We filled out a form and the triage nurse took his vitals right away. I could hear her 15 feet away, telling him that his blood pressure was extremely high. He was soon taken back into the E.R. while I stayed behind. A cop had walked by with a man in handcuffs. The guy probably had been stopped for drinking and was there for a blood test. After the shooting incident at another hospital that resulted in an officer’s death, cops don’t take chances and neither did I. I moved to a seat at the end of the row. Soon after, the nurse asked me to come back and see their reluctant patient.

There hadn’t been a determination yet, but he had an EKG and an oxygen tube planted in his nose. He would be going over to radiology next. Just before they rolled him out of there though, they blessed him with a shot of Dilaudid. There’s no fooling these folks, the initial blood pressure was telling them the real pain story. By the time he returned from x-ray his pain was less, but he still held on to some. On a scale of one to ten, they asked “how is your pain?”… he was a five.

He waited for his blood pressure to drop while I was trying to find comfort in the only chair in the room. I shifted around, and slouched down trying to stretch my legs out onto the floor and we waited some more. I looked up at the clock. It was 2 AM and we still hadn’t been told anything. I was trying to stay awake but was falling off the chair and now they were waiting for him to pee. He wasn’t feeling the need and it seemed it would take awhile. I decided to go home. If they were admitting him, then he was in good hands. If they were sending him home, I’d come back. I asked them to call me. I needed some sleep.

At 2:20 and fully dressed, I crawled into bed, wondering whether I was a bad friend for leaving him there. I tried to sleep and kept the phone next to me. It rang at 3:30. Fred was released and I was back there in 10 minutes. Freddie boy was waiting outside with a smoke when I pulled in. I never will understand cigarette smokers.

On the way home, he remarked about how much hospitals had changed. He came away with a Percoset prescription for filling and had also received a narcotic while in the E.R. I told him that pain creates spikes in blood pressure and was why his blood pressure dropped back to an acceptable level after the drug was administered. They had decided he wasn’t looking for drugs and was also awarded a scrip for later discomfort. After all the tests and poking and prodding, they hadn’t really found what was causing the problem. They suspected gallstones and issued him a do-not-eat list with his prescription.

As I dropped him off at his place, I asked him to call me later with an update on his condition. I watched him get inside the door and drove home. I hugged my pillow at 4:00. The cats woke me at 6:30.

I hadn’t been to Sunday Services in four weeks. I promised myself I’d go that week and had written a check for the collection. I was back in bed after feeding cats and woke on my own around 9:30. Services started an hour later. My sister called when I was only partially dressed. I had rushed though my shower, but I was already late and wasn’t going to make it so we talked for a time. Another call rang in.

The caller ID showed Fred’s name and number. This is where my techno know-how stops. I don’t know how to drop one call and catch another without loosing both. I hung up with Kathy and returned Fred’s call, only to get his voice mail. Many calls later, I still hadn’t reached him. Some time passed when I received an email notice with a translated voice-to-text phone message. It seems Fred was back at the hospital and was going to have an operation on his aorta. He was asking me to bring his cell phone, computer and toiletries. The craziness was just getting started and I was wondering why he needed his computer.

I hot-footed it over to his apartment and tried to find his stuff. I was packing a bag when I heard the door open. There he was, back from the hospital because he didn’t think I had gotten his message. Apparently, the hospital had initially, released him too soon and wanted him back. Fred told the doctors he had only come down for a few tests that they requested. He complied but wasn’t going to check in. Mr. overly tired, hadn’t expected to stay and needed to go home and finish up a few things. Against their objections, the crazy man left the hospital, telling them he’d be back that night or the next day. Holy shit! This wasn’t like ordering take-out. What was he thinking and what was so important at home? Turns out… one of the things was the chicken thawing in the refrigerator. He had to come home to cook the chicken so it wouldn’t go bad.

Fred had an aneurysm on his aorta and they wanted to put in a stent. I was thinking that was a pretty important thing to get done but he was betting it could be put off another 12 hours or so. After all, he hadn’t dropped dead yet. After a long discussion he was finally convinced to go back later that night. I showed up at seven that evening and cooled my heels while he e-mailed his on-line honey and a few other friends. He was delivered to the E. R. and the process began, all over again. Fred got into a room around ten that night and I went home and crashed.

Nutso was right though. The aneurysm didn’t blow and he made it to Wednesday’s surgery and he got to cook that Goddamned chicken.