Disclaimer: This post describes a recent humiliating experience in the emergency room …. Not for the squeamish or prudish …. Just so you know. But, hey, we’re all friends here. And if we’re not, we will be once you’ve read this post.
So there I was:
The morning after Thanksgiving.
In the emergency room.
Face down on one of those cozy hospital beds.
Wearing one of those gowns that feels like you’re wearing shame.
Because you are.
Worst of all, my Lower Bum/Upper Thigh (LBUT) was exposed. How had I come to this?
Well, you see, I had a biblical problem. A Jobian problem.
I had avoided going to the doctor for a week. I thought it was just a bug bite. Since I was in unfamiliar territory, I had been dumb enough to believe it would go away. I certainly did not want some stranger looking at my LBUT.
(You see, actually, I’m quite modest. Yet, in a seeming contradiction, I can tell the story without hesitation. My only explanation here is my life-long, sick fondness for humiliating stories — even if it is my own.)
At one point, My Beloved leered, "I can lay hands on it and pray." To which I replied, "Get away from me, you!" At Thanksgiving, my brother commented on the "hitch" in my step. I yelped as my niece bear-hugged me from behind. I was the "butt" of all the wicked holiday banter by those people I USED to call my family. Yet still, I remained stubbornly unconvinced of my need for medical intervention.
But then MB said these words: "Yeah, one cheek is definitely bigger than the other." And suddenly, there was a Tracey-shaped hole in our front door.
After I was forced to yell my problem through the glass to the unhelpful, DEAF lady, I was escorted to one of those little rooms with the soundproof curtain "walls." The nurse muttered, "Put this on." I glanced at the threadbare gown, shuddered as I thought of its previous occupants, and wondered briefly if they could just cut a hole in my pants instead. I almost said that out loud, but stopped when I saw the nurse glaring at my hesitation. Meanwhile, MB was sipping coffee — sipping coffee — in this, my hour of darkest need. "Nice. All he needs is a lovely scone," I thought.
As I waited face down on the bed, I thought of many things: of how I’m afraid of doctors and nurses — of how hospital curtains are always made from those ghastly fabrics that no one else wants — of how I longed for some cute, designer paper bag to hide my face — then how, if said designer bags just had some eye holes added, it might actually be a viable product which could be called "Hippocrates’ Helmets" or "Sickroom Sombreros" or maybe just "Hats To Hide The Shame Of It All."
The curtain was yanked aside. My reverie was abruptly interrupted.
"Hello, there." Great. A low voice. A male doctor. Or else a female doctor undergoing sex-change procedures. Either way, I felt sick, but I was kind of wishing for the latter. I took one last breath of hospital sheets and turned my head towards my doom.
"I’m Dr. Chang. How are you?" Rats. Wish denied. Regular man.
("Well, I’m just bloody fantastic" is what I thought.)
But what I said to try to break the tension was, "Did you all draw straws to see who would get me?"
"No," he said, with a face that screamed "yes."
"Well, let’s take a look."
(Oh, please, do. Let’s.)
I felt the cold hospital air on my LBUT. I tried unsuccessfully to smother myself on the bed.
“Ohhhhh, yessss. THAT is an obli.”
(See how I’ve cleverly scrambled the letters? I just CANNOT say the word, so "obli" it is.)
He then launched into some rambling discourse about the history of oblies, which I found neither interesting or helpful. Finally, he said something that was more about meeeeee.
"We’ll have to make an incision." Then he said these non-calming words: "You need to try to remain calm."
What?! How bad was this going to be that it was likely to induce hysteria? I was instantly less calm. And kind of offended that he thought perhaps I was the hysterical type.
"I’ll be back," he said.
(Oh, great. Hooray for Everything.)
As I lay there waiting, listening to My Beloved having a Taster’s Choice moment, multiple paranoias came rushing in on the hospital breeze. Impossible to verbalize them all, this one came front and center and out of my mouth:
"How does my butt look in this light?"
I ACTUALLY said this. I’m really the most appalling moron.
My Beloved stopped sipping and stared at me as if I’d finally completely cracked. Watching him, I could see many thoughts struggling for dominance.
Apparently, this thought won:
"Well, hon, believe me. That thing is the star of this show."
(And since I’ve sat a bit too long writing in a drug-induced stupor, I’ve gotta pick this up later. Dr. Chang wants to see me again first thing in the morning. My heart’s all aflutter. Stay tuned …. for the rest of the story.)
the end times (aside):
Hmmmm …. Stood up by Dr. Chang for early morning date. Must not have been as captivating as thought myself to be. LBUT peered at by yet another random stranger posing as doctor. Had My Beloved draw smiley face on LBUT bandages to spread holiday cheer. Doctor was not cheered, just patronizingly amused. (Didn’t like doctor.) Thought of saying I did it myself to increase chance of cheer occurring. Situation: still humiliating, slightly less amusing. Infection not responding to meds …. gaining some ground. Feeling a tad worse. Beastly obli. However, this bonus: MB speedily supplying videos and DVDs for plague girl’s entertainment. Have repeatedly watched The Cowardly Lion sing “If I Were King of the F-o-r-r-e-e-e-s-t.” Never seen the classic “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” so MB popped that in. Apparently, still haven’t seen it. Fell asleep. Seems the postman always rings twice, but the sandman only rings once. Having “Retro Bedtime Night” and going to bed now. It’s 7:45.
Sigh …. well, I DID love 3rd grade.
the end times, part 2:
Well, last weekend officially became "The Lost Weekend." In that movie classic, Ray Milland goes on a rather unproductive 4-day drunk. I wasn’t drunk, but kind of wish I drank, so I could have been drunk. Make sense?
Anyway …. Back to our story. Part 1 had ended with my query of shining stupidity and paranoia, followed by MB’s even shinier, clever rejoinder. I did laugh, then cringed as I heard the low rumble of laughter from "The Lady with the Elbow Problem" in the next curtain. (What?! These curtains aren’t soundproof?) As she chuckled, I pictured my hand slyly slipping through the crack in the curtains and just giving her, you know, a little slappy slap. Hmmm. Could these thoughts of mild violence have anything at all to do with the fact that my dignity and privacy were being robbed by The Man?!
Sorry, that’s a tad unseemly of me.
Seconds later, a nurse entered our personal paradise, pushing The Cart. The Cart, as most of you know, is the subtle showcase for the tools of torture that will be featured in your all-too-near future. Swept up by the sadomasochistic glee of it all, I craned my head around for a peep, but saw only various potions that looked both stinky and sting-y. Turning away, I redoubled my efforts to "remain calm," as per Dr. Chang’s extra helpful advice. The curtains parted and the doctor entered again.
"Guess what?" I asked.
"What?" he said, with good, doctorly concern.
"Well" — I replied, in an "I-see-dead-people" whisper — "it’s still there."
(I don’t know WHY I do stuff like this. To break the tension, I guess, but I need to STOP, because I ALWAYS shoot for clever and end up with STUPID. I guess I was lucky that the doctor responded with any sound, even if it was a braying-like sound, which could have been a laugh. Or sinuses. I don’t know.)
He began to busy himself with The Cart. The obli was doused with the aforementioned stinky and sting-y potions. As I lay there, chewing pillow, Dr. Chang said, "Okay. Don’t look."
Now, please. What is the absolute, categorical rule whenever someone says, "Don’t look"? You look. What else IS "don’t look" except an invitation TO look? So naturally, I succumbed to irresistible impulse and …. I looked.
SWEET MOTHER OF MOSES.
In his hand was what doctor types call a syringe. I call it a GIANT, BUTT-KEBOB SKEWER.
"You looked!" he wailed. Yeah. And I was still looking. Bug-eyed. Coffee-sipping husband, bug-eyed. The doctor began to talk very fast.
"Okay. First, we need to numb the area, then make the incision, then …."
Blah, blah, blahdie BLAH …. all right, already. JUST. DO. IT.
His nervousness was sending mine over the edge.
"…. and I want you to know there’s going to be water involved."
Right. Because that IS the concern here, that water might be involved. I love a doctor who can sense my innermost fears.
Finally, the moment had come. He looked at me and said, "Are you ready? There’s going to be some pain." (Let’s not forget water.)
"You might want to take a deep breath and go to a happy place." I thought he was kidding with that, but he was quite in earnest.
Okay, playing along. A deep breath …. a "happy place" …. A Land Without Oblies …. help me, Jesus ….
"Heaven?" I croaked out.
"Suuure, whatever," Dr. Chang laughed. "Okay. Deep breath. Here we go."
(Heaven, heaven, heaven, hea-vennn)
The offending obli was skewered dead center. All visions of heaven exploded as I descended into a fiery, butt-kebobbing HELL.
Now, during the approximately 30 seconds of skewering, several things happened:
First, and fleetingly, I thought maybe this was payback for calling my husband "Burl Hives" a few years ago when his skin turned reddish and blotchy and he did, indeed, have hives. I felt quite sorrowful about this now.
Second, a voice came to me from behind the doctor’s back: "How ya doin’, hon?" Are you kidding me?! It was that dratted Burl Hives. Daring to speak to me. At this precise moment. In That Voice. You know. That fakey, lovey voice that husbands whip out at ill-timed moments to assure us of their undying support and adoration. (Hmmm …. I’m touched, Burl…. that you took the time to care between your sips of coffee!) You KNOW. That Voice that gives normal women the murderous thoughts of a mafioso: "Oh, yeah? You tawkin’ to me, Slappy? Yeah? You goin’ down. I don’t cayeh how big you ahh. When I’m done heeya, I’m stawtin’ wichyoo."
Then, third, Elbow Lady’s cell phone started ringing …. and ringing …. and ringing. And not a normal ring, either. Oh, no. It was that tinny, cell-phony version of Beethoven’s "Fur Elise": Nee-nee-nee-nee-nee-nee-REE-REE-REE. The tune that is the bane of many a young, pudgy-fingered pianist. Instantly, I flashed back many years to my own wildly unsuccessful 8-year-old piano recital — the one where I sat there, pudgy-fingered and crimson-faced, as my unruly digits sabotaged me by playing the opening strains of "Fur Elise" over and over and over again. Ah, yes. The recital where, mid-performance, I heard my dad’s tape recorder ominously click OFF. Well, let’s face it, two minutes of the same five seconds over and over? There was only so much I could bless people with my repetitive gift.
Now thus far, I had not screamed. But, oh, mommy, I wanted to. However, I think screaming in hospitals is no good for anyone — no good for me, no good for the doctor skewering me, and no good for anyone still waiting their turn to be skewered. But Elbow Lady and her "Fur Elise" cell phone were driving me to the brink. I felt seconds away from bellowing one of those self-serving "words from the Lord" that everyone’s so gaga for these days: "Elbow Lady, I FEEL the Lord is telling ME to tell YOU to answer your freaking cell phone! It’s driving Him crazy!! " (And you know …. the ringing did stop. Maybe it really did drive Him crazy.)
So where are we? Ringing: Stopped. Butt Kebobbing: Stopped. LBUT: Numb. Incision: Imminent. It was then I discovered the one — and I mean only one — advantage of the LBUT obli: I couldn’t see what happened next. Dratted Burl Hives described the gruesome entertainment factor for me as “pure CSI.” Wow. Really? I felt strangely proud of my obli then. Later on, though, he mused, suddenly all-knowing, "I really thought the incision was too big."
Hmmm. Didn’t really want to know that, so I drily replied, "In your expert opinion because your mom’s a nurse?" He scowled at me. I deserved it.
"Procedure" over, the bandaging began. It seemed alarmingly poofy. My Beloved, pleased with himself, remarked, "Your ass looks like it’s packed for international shipping."
I thought momentarily how I’d miss him after I killed him.
It couldn’t be that bad, could it? Doctor gone, I reached back and gingerly felt the area. Was this a joke? My husband’s comment was actually an understatement. It seemed as if that maniac Dr. Chang had just gone to the nursery, grabbed a stack of folded Huggies, and slapped them to my butt cheek. I was aghast.
With MB’s help, I wobbled up and put on my baggy pants. Baggy, that is, except across my beleaguered, be-Huggied butt cheek, where the pants’ worn fibers strained to hold me in. Dressed, I looked like some poor woman who forgot the dryer sheets and now had her husband’s entire sock drawer statically clinging inside her pants’ arse. My bum was lumpen, distorted, misshapen — a walking nightmare. I wanted to cry. Once again, I longed for A Hat To Hide The Shame Of It All. I glanced at My Beloved and wondered if he did, too.
Moments later, I was waddling out to the car. My Beloved shortened his long stride, grabbed my hand, and waddled with me. I stared glumly down at the large plastic bag the nurse had given me. Ah, my lovely parting gifts: a year’s supply of bandaging and tape, voluminous care instructions, including a tutorial on weatherstripping the area for showering, and lots of painkillers. I rummaged in the bag a bit, certain there’d be some Rice-a-Roni or at least a lousy lollipop. Nope. I sighed.
Then My Beloved said in his real voice, "Well, baby. You were a brave little soldier." I smiled and stopped next to the car. My swaddled keister stopped a couple seconds later.
Just then, I felt a lovely, warming glow. And it wasn’t just from the burning of my LBUT. But as My Beloved opened the car door, he said it:
"Let me help you in …. Olive Boil."
(Cue "Psycho" shower music)
All right, Burl Hives. GAME ON.