Tag Archives: hospitals

Road Trip: My Intensive Care.

Me and the Shenandoah Valley.

On August 1st, 2012 I walked out of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit for the last time. It was my home for the past three years. I was sure the outside world had changed drastically since entering the insidious institution of sorrow, that mammoth structure filled with sporadic acts of selfless bravery I have never encountered before. I have seen the sick be made well, watched families unite and grudges forgotten. I look forward to exploring the brave world of the half living.

It’s very serious up there in the I.C.U. When I walked the circular corridors I looked into the eyes of the dying and wondered which dimension beckoned their souls, I pondered the state of their hearts. Nursing staff ran to and fro delivering medications or cleaning any of the three major fluid groups; urine, blood or stool. I am not a morbid person I can assure you. I just try to give you the facts.

You can see death you know. It starts by taking the color from your skin, leaving it grey and pasty. It slithers into the whites of your eyeballs and casts a sickly yellow film over your pupils. Mouths open slightly, breaths come out slower. You can hear death too. The Reaper takes its smoky hand and grabs hold of your esophagus, allowing only whispers to escape your lips, until you slowly fade into the light. In some dimension far beyond the sight of men, your spirit exits and enters some sort of Twilight Zone even Rod Serling would be proud to call his own.

I was tired of it all.

So, I left the madness, the alarms, the codes, the elevators. Have I mentioned the blood and the stool? One cannot stress this point enough. Give a patient a bottle of Jevity and just watch the gastrointestinal system do its job. For those of you not in the know, it’s basically chocolate milk pumped into your stomach by a machine to keep you from starving to death while you are in a medically induced coma.

This past Wednesday morning, I woke up to the sounds of an electronic rooster screaming in my ear and I walked out on my past life. Months of worry, weeks of preparation and hours of anxiety, all came to a head when I started my Grand Van and pulled out of the gravel driveway.

It’s a funny feeling to just get up and leave everything behind. Luckily for me I never procreated or bought land to tend to, so I am able to throw caution to the wind and try something new. Yes, I had a good job for several years. I will eventually find new employment and get back to the grind and all that balderdash, but for now I need to be inspired. I need to dream. I want to explore paths less traveled. Walk where only a few brave men and women have dared. See what this beautiful country has to offer before I go stark raving mad just trying to survive.

After twenty bucks and a pinky finger later, I crossed the threshold into Jersey and headed south on Interstate 95. I screamed and pounded the roof of my van and sang along to whatever song was playing. Freedom is such a beautiful concept and I guess I never really knew what the term meant. I have no home. My money is tight (what else is new). Everything I own in this world I crammed into the van, and to be honest with you, I feel it’s too much. Stuff, stuff, stuff. We accumulate all this crap and for what?

Driving south on I-95 I was filled with both excitement and sorrow. Excitement in knowing I am living out my destiny. This is what I was supposed to do. This is why I was created. Oh, I don’t know, I just have this grandiose idea about writing a novel and inspiring others, and in order for me to accomplish this I have to walk out on life and go across country like Jeremiah Johnson or something. I am sorrowful because I leave a wonderful family behind. I am skipping out on time with good friends, leaving loved ones is a hard thing to do.

Have you ever had a burning in your heart to do something? Ever feel the Spirit leading you into an unknown direction? What did you do with it? Did you let the dream simmer and spoil or did you take hold of the reigns and put courage before your fears? I believe the key to a successful life is not in your wallet, nor your head, but in your heart. Set out to do something wonderful today even if it is terrifying. The harder resistance, the more important it is.

I feel this way about my own journey. I have a destination, Colorado, what will I do when I get there? I couldn’t even begin to tell you. I am walking by faith because I haven’t a leg to stand on.

Anyway, back to my road trip. My first major stop was our beloved capitol Washington D.C, where I spent most of my time worrying about feeding the meters so no one towed my mobile home. I was a bit disappointed for not staying longer, but I had a chance to catch a few sights before tucking tail and heading further away from home.  I stood outside the White House and waited patiently for my invite, when the president came out to greet us he noticed me and graciously invited me in for tea and strumpets. I asked him about gas prices and how we were doing on the whole economy thing. The Secret Service kicked me out once I started a fight over who had a better chance of winning the Super Bowl this year. I still say Jets. He is obligated to say the Ravens. Whatever, come playoffs, he’s going to owe me a lot of money. I think he cursed at me as I was being shoved out of the Oval Office. I let it go.

Virginia is a beautiful state filled with rolling green hills and sporadic homesteads. The Shenandoah Valley opens up before you like a fairytale. When you drive through Shenandoah National Park, you are greeted with numerous overlooks and friendly faces. I wish you can all see it once before you leave this earth. As you climb in altitude, the scenery intensifies and brings you closer to heaven.

I will end this article now because I don’t want to overload you with too much information. I have driven almost eight hundred and fifty miles in the last two days, so I am about tapped in the energy department.  As I sit here in this small, rundown hotel (one where they don’t give you free toiletries mind you) just outside of Knoxville, I bid you all a goodnight. Tomorrow will bring more mystery and exploration and I can’t wait to share the journey with you. Set out to do something noble today. You may be surprised who you inspire.

P.S- If you are in Knoxville, do yourself a favor and stop by Marlin & Rays seafood joint for some good food and wonderful hospitality. Southern girls make you feel right at home.

All ye who enter here…

In my mind’s eye I was taken in the spirit down a marble hallway aligned with brass plated elevators. From east to west they stretched for miles, like war horses preparing to march into battle. Only these machines were not for war. How I knew this remained a terrible mystery to me because after all, this was my first time traveling without a body so I had no idea what to expect. I drifted slowly, observing each monstrosity with terror hoping to find some sort of rhyme because reason eluded me. I noticed how there were no buttons to push or numbers illuminated above the brass frames. They stood silent and waiting, ready to open up at the whim of some hidden master engineer. I am sure this person was behind a computer screen watching my every move with laughter etched in an evil grin.

I continued down the corridor made of marble and stopped abruptly as the walls began to come alive. Ivy shoots split through them, sending out long fingers of green talons like asp’s out of nightmarish holes. They crawled upwards and overtook the ceiling with record speed. If it weren’t for the gong I never would have noticed doors opening towards the west. The sound emanating from the invisible instrument echoed down the hallway and rushed past me faster than light and shook whatever innards resided in this hollow thing I called a body. The ivy drifted down from above and struck out at me as if I offended it. Without hesitation I sprinted towards the opening of this great mystery, some black hole I had never imagined, or perhaps, one I never wanted to. Before I reached the cavity in the marble a long hand came forth from its’ empty darkness and beckoned me to take hold. I retracted mine once I touched the icy flesh. Death waited in this pit. Without a word the thing took its’ smoky finger and pressed a button only it could see. When I dared to, I stepped forward and asked this horror what harm it meant to cause me. What vendetta had it meant to fulfill?

I learned quickly this being had no talent for small talk so I remained hushed as we began to ascend. Several moments passed before the number eighteen lit up high above my head. I inquired of this kind spirit if this was the men’s department. Once the doors re-opened he roughly took me by the cloak and flung me out. I landed with a thud in front of two, massive white doors and looked about only to see people running to and fro in hospital scrubs. I came to the conclusion these were busy people. Important people. I remembered the proverbial cat that ventured too close to curiosity but decided to see what was on the other side regardless. I wanted to be with these people. I pulled the silver handle and swung the door wide and entered. A part o has never left.

Naturally all this ranting is nothing more than nonsensical balderdash. Truth based fiction trumped-up several degrees so you can get an idea of what was going through my mind the other day as I watched a family mourn the loss of a loved one. As I watched this sorrow unfold I thought back to the first day I started working in an I.C.U as a nurse assistant. The trepidation I felt on my way up the elevator was palpable because I had never dealt with sick people. I waited like a dope in my green scrubs like I had any inkling as to what the next four years of my life would bring. When I started out I was the man described above; confused, lost, curious, brave, and ready to take on the world.

But now I am tired. I have aged to the point where I don’t recognize the man in the bathroom mirror. I am full of vain answers to those with painful questions. You never realize how absolutely powerless you are until you witness someone dying in front of you. These finite hands of ours can only care so much, our words of comfort can only heal on the surface, our prayers are left in the winds, hoping the Lord leans over and maybe snatches a few out of the air. When you work in an atmosphere filled with suffering, a piece of you dies. When we go home for the night, a part of us stays behind and I don’t know if we ever get it back. But even if we don’t, I believe something else moves in to the vacant spot in our hearts making it whole again. Kindness. Goodness. Mercy. These come back ten-fold when we reach out to the broken. We earn the satisfaction in knowing we helped a fellow human through hard times.  For me, I have learned to perceiver. I am beginning to understand the meaning of not giving up when the going gets tough. This place will break you, yet mold you at the same time into the people we are meant to be. When you stand above someone ready to walk towards the light always remember you are in a privileged position. When they look in your eyes they are counting on seeing someone who cares for them. For many, we are the last people they will see on this earth. As hard as it can be, it is not without honor.

All ye who enter here know this; sorrow will be found behind these doors. But take comfort, we are waiting here to help lift some of the burden. This is what we were made for. This is our testament to life.