There I was, lying on a stretcher in a brightly lit emergency room in New York City. Most of the staff were out at the time, so a single medic in some sort of dark blue military uniform took care of me. His personality definitely struck me as a New Yorker, though he was patient and helpful enough as he watched over me and checked the IVs in my arms.
What was I doing here? I wondered. How had I gotten here? I must have had some kind of accident.
Or so I thought.
In reality, I wasn’t in New York at all, nor did the man helping me have any affiliation with the military.
This past Christmas Eve, I was alone at home, minding my own business when I suffered a major brain hemorrhage. Although I don’t remember the incident, I apparently managed to call 911 before I lost consciousness. The paramedics broke down the door of my house and took me to the local hospital where the doctors stabilized me and the parish priest gave me the last rites before I was airlifted to St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester.
As you can probably guess, it wasn’t the most relaxing Christmas my family has ever had.
I spent a total of thirty-six days in the hospital, though I only remember the last week or so. The time I don’t clearly remember is like a series of bad dreams from which I couldn’t awake. And it certainly wasn’t from lack of trying.
Indeed, I believe I may even have gained some notoriety while in the hospital for my middle-of-the-night escape attempts. Those I do remember.
I’d open my eyes and lift up my head to glance about my darkened hospital room. Then, satisfied that no one was watching me, I’d swing my legs over the side of my bed, step down to the floor, and make a break for the door. I hoped that if I could get out of the room and make it home, I’d be able to wake up from this bizarre nightmare.
Every time I thought I’d almost escaped, my obnoxious bed alarm would go off. At the first sound of it, my mom would jump up from where she was sleeping across the room and grab hold of me, and the nurses would rush in and put me back into bed.
It was hopeless. There was no way out.
Eventually, my head started to clear enough that I understood where I was and what was going on. The nurses were very happy when I finally figured out that all I needed to do when asked if I knew where I was was look at the dry-erase board on my wall and read aloud, “St. Mary’s Hospital, Rochester.” It seems simple enough now, but until that point, my most common answer to that question was the name of the nursing home in my home town.
I was improving in other ways too. I had lost nearly thirty pounds during my stay, so the hospital staff insisted that I eat mountains of surprisingly delicious food. Meal times were definitely some of the high points of my days.
My headaches were also starting to get better. They had been quite excruciating until the doctors realized that spinal fluid was building up inside my head. Once they placed a shunt to drain the fluid, I began to improve dramatically.
Today, several months after my hospitalization, I feel even healthier and stronger than I did before my accident. Better yet, the neurologist in Rochester explained what caused the hemorrhage and told me he’s pretty confident it won’t happen again. This is welcome news, because the next time I find myself in New York City, I want to be there for real.