Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Hospital

I didn't want to leave the hospital.

It was early November, 1999.

I'd arrived in the Emergency Room, my system under attack by bacterial meningitis. I was in Intensive Care for a couple of days, and then transferred to a regular room.

Meningitis messed with my mind. Early on, as I lay unconscious, I was dimly aware of occupying a surreal, but enjoyable world. It was more a feeling than a memory with details, but within myself I had the pleasant sensation of floating, of being removed from the demands of my waking life. When I had conscious moments in the ICU, the world around me seemed wrapped in a vivid cheesecloth and people moved in slow motion. They were dreamy and I felt deep trust in their benevolence.

By the time I was conscious again, I felt deeply emotional. Small gestures, the visits of friends, the sounds of the Buena Vista Social Club or of Jerry Douglas with Peter Rowan, the Ducks winning a close game with Cal all made me want to weep, and I kept thinking that I wanted to hang on to this close contact with my emotions.

One morning I awoke early and out my room window I gazed at a hill just east of the University of Oregon as the sun rose and thin mist shimmered in the sunrise and I felt a rumbling all through me, as if I were seeing the world at the very beginning, as if the creation were happening before my very eyes.

The meningitis had damaged my body, unquestionably. It also left me unguarded and in my defenseless state everything was sublime. The nursing staff seemed angelic. I could hardly wait for another one to check in on me so I could hear his or her kind voice and watch the nurse glide effortlessly to my side and minister to my needs.

The most blessed experience I had was drinking 7-Up. Its crisp, icy, lemon-lime sweetness made me think that the gods had blessed my life with a magical blend of refreshment and
curative. I asked every nurse for more 7-Up. Soon, when a nurse visited, she glided in with a iced 7-Up before I could ask. I nearly wept, I was so touched by the nurses' kindness and by the anticipation of drinking more.

I didn't protest, but when it came time to leave the hospital, I didn't want to go. I wanted to remain ill enough to be able to live longer in this altered state and to feel this mysterious benevolence.

Sure enough, as I recovered, I not only lost this bacterial nirvana I had experienced, I fell into a terrible depression.

All I had felt and seen was lost, and not even when I fell into the deep sleeps engendered by the terrible fatigue I suffered, did I ever again love another sunrise so fully, nor did 7-Up ever again taste so good.


Robin said...

What a powerful experience, thank you for sharing it.

There is so much to the mind that we have not yet learned.

Jo said...

This is a great write, Raymond. I'm sorry for your experience, though I'm glad for the positive elements!

Christy Woolum said...

I think of all those funny conversations we had in the hospital that you don't remember! Do you remember Patrick's obsession with the little toiletries on the cart and what you did? Someday we will all have to relieve the parts you missed! lol

Anonymous said...

Good that you got out it to write about it for us!

MGM said...

Great description of a bittersweet memory. I couldn't help thinking that you must have been at Sacred Heart hospital and that I might have even visited you in person at that time in history as I was employed just down the street at the time. I think I'll remember this post whenever I drink 7-Up now. It will be a nourishing memory as I only drink 7-Up when I'm ill with a stomach bug.

Tumblewords: said...

Hardly anything can beat sunrise, 7-up, the feeling of being cared for and living in a partially surreal world...Glad you made it out!

Desert Diva said...

I'm so glad you were well taken care of in the hospital. It's good that you remember and reflect about that time - many would want to erase the memory. However, I'm glad you recovered so you could be part of the "world of blogging" - your candor and honesty are refreshing (like 7-Up).

Kendra said...

I felt the hairs stand up on the back of my neck as I read your post, as I had experienced very similar emotions, observations, and questionings during one particular hospital stay of my own... it never occurred to me that someone else may have experienced anything remotely similar, as the whole thing felt so surreal and strange to me I assumed it was just my own weirdness which enhanced what should have been a mundane convalescence.
Thanks for sharing this! Now I'm feeling inspired to perhaps write about my own bizarre yet wonderful journey back to the land of the living. Hope I can convey my thoughts and feelings as well as you did here~ like I said, I got chills.

dkd58 said...

This is one of your best posts ever. I really identified with the altered sensory, Zen-like appreciation of living you described.

Katrina said...

What an amazing reflection on a unique experience. Thank you.