So Deb was out of the hospital, and now she’s back in the hospital. But today they decided that she was doing well enough that they could take her breathing tube out, if her family agreed. Deb is sick of having the tube out, so James agreed, provided that someone in the family was there. Since I got off work at noon, I volunteered to go to the hospital.
I showed up around 3:00, and they removed the tube at 3:10. It went swimmingly. At least I assume it went swimmingly. Once the respiratory specialists showed up to take the tube out, I was ushered out of the room. I chatted with a nurse about a new movie theater in town, but mostly I just stood in the lobby of the ICU, trying not to look casual. The room next to Deb’s has way comfier-looking chairs than the ones in Deb’s room. I plotted.
Anyway, the tube removal went swimmingly. I took out my book of word puzzles and a pencil and began working on a puzzle.
After a few minutes, Deb began murmuring. I went to her. Because of the damage from the breathing tube, her voice was really shallow and hushed; I could only pick out a few words. I finally managed to get “forgot the handle” out of her. It sounded medicalish, so I went and found a nurse.
“She’s saying something about a handle?”
The nurse went to investigate. She listened carefully, then finally:
“Ma’am, where do you think you are?”
Deb whispered an answer.
“Well you’re at the hospital. You’re in your hospital bed.” The nurse produced her staff badges as proof. Deb studied them, and reluctantly agreed that she was, indeed, in the hospital, and not at her friend’s house. The nurse smiled and said that James would arrive soon. The nurse told me that, as Deb was getting off of the sedatives, she was going to be a bit loopy. Whenever she got like this, we just had to explain nicely that she was in the hospital and that everything was okay.
So Deb coughed and moved her hands from her lap to her mouth, and I did word puzzles. I checked on her toes to make sure they were covered up (they were), and I brought her tissues and a washcloth when she asked. I also had to keep pulling the sleeves of her gown up, to keep her modesty.
I looked up from my word puzzles one time to see her gesturing at the remote on her lap. It was a TV remote, but it also had the giant red button asking for a nurse. It’s plugged into the room.
I struggled my aching body up and went to her.
“They can take the plate away now,” she said.
There was no plate. Deb hasn’t had solid food for days. Surely I had misheard. I leaned in closer and asked her to repeat what she had said.
“The waited can take the plate away, I’m done with it.”
“Uh, Deb,” I said, “You’re in the hospital. You don’t have a plate.”
Deb gestured at the remote and said, “I don’t care if it’s a paper plate. They need to take the plate away, I’m done with it.”
“That’s the remote.”
Deb stared at me.
“James will be here soon,” I said, as much to myself as to her.
I had difficulty looking at her for a while, I was so embarrassed over how I handled her hallucinations. When I looked up, she was carrying on a conversation with the wall. She didn’t seem to need anything, and indeed seemed quite happy, so I buckled down and focused on my work puzzle.
When I looked up again, Deb was staring at me. She was wide-eyed. She looked…concerned? Panicked?
I hopped up as quickly as my stupid body would let me, and hobbled over to her. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Who’s giving you a ride home?” Deb asked. “Are you riding home with me or James?”
I sucked in my breath. I was supposed to remind her that she was hallucinating, but I really couldn’t do it. “Don’t worry about it,” I said. “James and I came in separate cars. I drove myself here, so I’ll drive myself home. James isn’t even here, but he’ll be here soon. You just get some rest.”
Deb nodded and went back to coughing and dabbing at her mouth. She started drifting in and out of sleep.
I texted Lacey and asked if it was okay that I found Deb’s hallucinations funny. I wasn’t laughing, but I thought it was pretty funny anyway. But they shouldn’t be funny, right? She was hallucinating. Lacey replied that it was okay to use humor to deal with stress. Deb would probably find it funny, too, once she was all better.
Finally James did show up. He checked up on Deb, talked with the nurse, helped Deb get comfy, then helped me finish my word puzzle. We chatted about how she had been for the past few hours. I took off the ace bandage on my ankle, and we reapplied it while we explained to Deb that I had sprained it. And somehow I started talking about how my sisters are doing and how Katie and I are going to take our children to art museums.
Deb murmured something. James immediately went to check on her. He leaned in and listened.
“Who’s Kevin?” he asked.
“Kelsey’s wife,” said Deb.
“Uh,” said James.
Eventually Deb’s sister, Lynette, showed up, and James and I went to dinner. When we returned, I left, as I had been at the hospital for five hours, it was 8:00, and I had been up since 3:30AM.
I said goodbye to Deb.
“Don’t hurt yourself at work,” she said.
“No more wild parties,” I told her.
I stepped out of the room.
“So Deb says you’re three months pregnant,” said Lynette.