It’s a perfectly good frame, thought the old woman, and I can still see my reflection through it. Gently she lifted the frame. It’s too heavy to carry home.
Lucretia McDonald, age 79, sat by her window and watched the goings on at the trash can in front of her house. “It’s that Smith woman again,” she said to her cat. General Lee sat in Lucretia’s lap, a chubby white house cat with gray patches. General Lee seemed not to care, his eyes almost shut as she stroked behind his ears. Lucretia rocked in her chair and continued to watch. “Seems like she could leave folks’ trash alone, crazy old thing….Oh look she’s giving up maybe.”
But no, Tessie Smith didn’t give up, for within 10 minutes she returned, rusted out wheelbarrow bumping down the sidewalk in front of her. Once again, the woman lifted up her treasure, sitting it in the wheelbarrow with the carefulness one would show an infant being placed in a carriage. There. There now, it will do nicely on the wall somewhere. It only has a couple cracks and if I’m careful the glass won’t shatter.
“General Lee, will you look at that? She’s doing it again! That talking to nobody. Tsk. Back when I was a gal they locked you up in the sanitarium for such as that.” General Lee twitched his ear in his sleep in acknowledgement. “Wish I could hear what she was a’ saying.”
“You didn’t forget our anniversary, did you, Harry? I knew you wouldn’t! You wanted me to find this, didn’t you? My present…eh, sitting by a garbage pail, but romantic none the less and no less appreciated to be sure!” And with that, Tessie and her present set off for home.
Tessie Smith looked the part of a bag lady in her faded floral dress with small tears, oddly marched tube socks, and worn out shoes. Her gray hair was a mess of tangles and split ends, which cradled a careworn face in thick glasses that slipped down her nose at frequent intervals. Bag lady, however, she was not. Her husband left a sizeable fortune when he died two years ago. Tessie just saw no reason to spend it much.
“We aren’t in as good a shape as we used to be, are we, Harry?” Tessie puffed as she opened the iron gate and pushed the wheelbarrow through it. The yard was immaculately cut, a neighborhood boy being paid handsomely to keep it so lest she be given trouble by the historic association. The Victorian mansion, the biggest in the district. was also kept up outside. Not a chip of paint was off a shutter, but no one knew what the inside looked like since her husband died in his sleep and the ambulance came to collect his body
Tessie brought the wheelbarrow up to the porch steps. She eased herself down on the middle step and began to pull the mirror upward as she sat until she was able to place the yard long mirror on the porch. Resting a few minutes before attempting to reach the porch herself, she finally was able to get up and take the mirror inside. When Harry was alive, Tessie had kept her ‘collecting’ to a minimal, one spare room utilized for putting everything she collected. It had been enough in those days. But then Harry died and she tried to fill in the great chasm in her heart with things. Books, lots of them, stacked high as a man. Newspapers and magazines people had thrown out in case something important was inside for future reference. A doll with a missing leg because you wouldn’t throw a real baby away for only having one leg.
Tessie now lived downstairs exclusively, the upstairs preserved from Tessie’s collections. She made her way through the hall to a sitting room she made into her bedroom and laid the mirror on her bed. Looking through the cracked mirror , she saw her husband behind her, but as he was many years ago. She fancied she saw herself through the cracked mirror too as she was in the 1940s, a young wife.
She carries this image of herself in her mind and becomes her as she make the anniversary dinner. During dinner she looked up from her steak over at young Harry. Sometimes she believed Harry was really there, not just the elaborate fantasy she made herself after he died. If not physically, maybe in spirit. Tessie looked over at the place setting and said, “Harry, when we went to go get my present, I think I saw the curtain move at old Lucretia McDonald’s place. You know her, remember? Talks about her cat like its her child.? I think she’s a bit off.”
OK, for fear that people think I abandoned the task at hand, I submit another exciting episode of Kidney Wars. It takes me longer to write something than to live it! I decided to switch writing styles from Episode I, inspired by the last paragraph of Episode I. The story remains true as I recall it except for dramatic music and the like. As fond as I am of purple, I think I may go goth and do it all in black for ease of reading except for the intro. Thoughts?
Welcome to my guest appearance on ER. It is a sunny, hot day, the sort of day you expect nothing bad could happen…
Cue dramatic music…
But even on the best of days, the absolute worst can and does happen. The Patient is ambulatory when she arrives in her ghetto/trailer park style van. The van makes a noise, the loud death throes of a wild animal. No doubt even patients in a coma hear and is as effective as the blare of a siren. As the van stops, the brave patient says to the subject with her (The Patient’s mother, a smoker), “Isn’t it stupid they won’t even let someone smoke in their own car?” They both agree, yes, very stupid, Cigarette Nazis and all that…
Which brings us to a commercial break: Insert public service announcement about not smoking, one with the woman without a voice box, because those are particularly freaky. Then an antidepressant commercial that warns as a woman smiles in complete bliss, “Tell your doctor what medicines you’re on and contact your doctor if swelling and nausea appear as this may be a sign of a serious medical condition and can be fatal. Tell your doctor if you contemplate, attempt, or commit suicide.”
And now back to our show! The ambulatory patient and her mother walk in the sliding glass doors, leaving the beautiful sunshine outside, maybe forever. To the reception desk STAT!
The woman at the reception desk is a friendly woman around 60 and she asks The Patient what makes her think she has a kidney infection. “Blood in urine, fever, ache in stomach and back, and I’m weak,” says The Patient.
“Have you ever been a patient here before?”
In the background, more dramatic music, this time starting low and building to a crescendo as the receptionist mournfully says, “Sorry, then you have to fill out this form.”
The Patient says to her mother, “I thought it would be much longer, but it’s only half a page. Will you look it over to see if I did it right.” It seems the patient doesn’t trust her own judgement. Our narrator must stop and shake her head at the 32-year-old patient, but since that isn’t in the script, we must proceed.
Now the patient must find a seat to await her time in the back where all the real dramatic stuff happens on this show. They sit down, but directly behind them hidden by a grey curtain is a heavy drilling sound that puts a patient in mind of having dental work done. One can hear the Spanish-speaking workers yelling over the racket (additions to sets can’t wait until filming is over, plus we at the network wish to show ethnic diversity in our shows anyway, so it all works out in the end). The talking didn’t offend the patient, but the drilling appears to be a bit too taxing for the ailing Patient, so she decides to move.
“We can sit over there,” says The Mother, pointing to a space recently vacated by a mother and her little boy. The Patient looks and immediately rejects the idea, seeing a Diet Coke can and clear plastic cup on the side table. Everyone knows children in emergency rooms are walking Petrie dishes, and The Patient with great wisdom decides not to get near these left over articles from the child, lest his germs jump ship and hop onto the Patient. Finally, The Patient and her mother decide on a seat next to the window.
The Patient and The Subject now may make a survey of the humanity around them. Surprisingly few are here; perhaps it’s too early to cut one’s finger off or drill a hole into one’s hand at work. Perhaps later, but as it stood now, only one young man has somehow injured himself. With surprising adeptness, he jumps about with only one foot, the other injured. A woman in her fifties is rolled into the waiting room by a nurse. She has a rolling suitcase, which she makes certain the nurse puts exactly where she wants it. Eye view, right next to her, but out-of-the-way. A man in his seventies is wheeled in, speaking with a hint of curtness in his replies to his wife. They take the old man back and the wife waits behind. She strikes up a conversation with the woman in the wheelchair and the patient listens to them speak. The older woman introduces herself and the younger woman does in kind. She notices the wheelchair bound woman is cold even though it’s comfortable to The patient. The older woman puts the sweater around the younger and tells her to keep it, she has plenty in the car and at home.Then they proceed to tell each other why they are here.
“I’m trying to get into Hospice,” says the younger woman, as though knowing you have six months to live is only inconvenient and annoying. “My cancer is all over now.”
The patient listens and steals glimpses at the woman. She neither looks healthy or all that unhealthy, she just is there with her long, stringy gray hair and thin frame. Before she admits she has no family around it’s obvious.
Now the older woman tells why she’s here. “They don’t know what’s wrong with my husband. They keep running tests.”
And then the older woman is giving her phone number to the younger.
Curiouser and curiouser. The Patient wishes she was as open as the older woman, as good. Every thought worthy of being told to the audience is done by a voice-over of The Patient in a slightly echoing tone popular in these dramas. The patient has the inclination for being all good and kind and junk, but she finds her voice unequal to the task of constant open magnanimity. If she survives this ordeal, hopefully she will be of better use to others one day.
It seems there are a few maladies unable to be conquered by waiting for them to go away, that there are some things that will make the most reluctant patient go to the doctor. My abject horror of disease-finding doctors kept me away from them in cases most people would go to a physician. Like that time I thought I had Swimmer’s Ear, or the time I had that giant pus-filled boil and could barely lift my arm (sorry to be graphic). The only time in around five years or so that I had to get a medicine, not referring to my antidepressants, was the time I got oral thrush and ended up at my dentist’s. Genius here thought it would be fabulous for my gums if I kept Listerine in my mouth slightly over the minute directed on the bottle….. like 19 minutes over the time on the bottle. Cleanliness may very well be next to godliness, but this doesn’t pertain to the bacteria of the mouth. Of course I thought I had oral cancer, then, after my mother explained what thrush was, that I was sure I had a compromised immune system and had ‘caught’ AIDS in a nontraditional way. …Ever the optimist if not the deep thinker. But anyway…
One morning I woke up and went to the bathroom to receive an unpleasant surprise of almost red urine, to which I immediately told my mother. She at first wanted to say it was still my Aunt Flo, but I told her that good lady of red blessings packed up and left at least two days ago. This had happened to me a couple of times months ago, but it went away and my bladder kept its peace until now. This time would not be the same. From almost red urine, I began to void red clumps and spots (again, sorry to be graphic). I just chalked it all up to bladder cancer or kidney failure.
For the first day or two my mother remained optimistic that I just had a long period, but my stomach and back now began to hurt and I seemed to pee less. To strain gave me a bit of a burning sensation. Then, joy of joys, I had my once every 3 months pill pusher’s psychiatrist’s appointment to go to while I barely could stand up for the pain and dizziness. It was today I planned to ask her to switch me to a medicine I only tried for a while because I am desperate to end the need to be perfect and the overwhelming anger at not being able to live to my standards. If you feel like you have to restart all the time you might be pretty pissed off and on edge too. Though I was half dead, I still asked. Recall, gentle reader, I’ve mentioned this sort of thing before, my medicine not working well (I sort of cringe when I read one sentence in it, embarrassing! But you can have a look if you didn’t have the fortune of following my fascinating, deep chronicles of my life in April:
My psychiatrist heard me out and this time she decided it would be better that she increase my dose rather than change my medicine. I take 300 mg of Luvox, which is the maximum dose recommended, so she upped it to 350 and would have me back in a month to see whether I was still alive.
“We’ll have to watch out for Serotonin Syndrome,” she pronounced as she scratched my new prescription on the pad.
“But I’d have symptoms before I fall dead of it, right?”
“Usually.” Ain’t life grand?
Before giving the prescription, she asked me if I was having any health problems.
“No!” You can go to hell for lying, you know, Nelly?
I decided I wouldn’t start the brave new dosage until I was over whatever settled on my kidneys. Let one thing kill me before another thing decided to give it a go.
I got progressively worse. I didn’t make it to the toilet twice, thinking I only had to slightly go when my bladder played a dirty trick on me. Freaking out, I told my mother, “That can’t be a kidney infection can it? That isn’t a symptom is it?” I was convinced I had kidney failure/diabetes/cancer/AIDS.
“Yes it can. You have a kidney infection and you need to go to the doctor.”
“No!” Look, I knew I had kidney failure/diabetes/cancer/AIDS and I had no desire to hear a doctor tell me I was as good as dead.
“If you don’t get better really soon, you’re going to the doctor .”
But I wasn’t about to go without a fight with my immune system if not my mother.
I began a war of feverish, almost sleepless nights where I felt like I was freezing. My temperature at its highest was 103 and if I coughed my brain felt like it was exploding. So I told my mother if I wasn’t better by the time I finished an entire jug of cranberry juice I would go to the doctor. So I drank my juice, took Tylenol for my fever, and Azo for urinary pain. I had no appetite.
Curiously enough, as I was dying, I began to worry about a blogger thinking she might have caused my malady and I knew it wasn’t, but I was much afraid she thought so. So I says to my Mom, “If I die, please let her know it wasn’t her, that I knew the frozen tampon thing was a joke to begin with anyway.” Well sometime or another I felt better enough to let her know myself. Strange what the mind thinks about when sporting a fever. I said something along the lines that my vagina was just fine and all, but if it had been my vagina ending me, perhaps my death would have warranted a Darwin Award and I could say I had not died in vain.
I guess it’s OK to explain, because if any of you read the comments on a blog, you might have seen what I did just because I was curious a little. I knew the post was a great joke, but I hadn’t dared myself to do something ignorant since my teens when I ate an ornamental pepper and ate a whole packet of mustard down with nothing else. The good old days, you know? (Such an attention whore to be so shy). So I decided to try freezing my tampon just because I could. I left this comment on her blog:
So I left it in the freezer about 4 hours, hidden behind a half-used box of spaghetti. It was one of those new “U” tampons, a blue one, which is really apropos for freezing. Somehow they think if tampons come in bright colors that you’ll buy them…well it worked for me (though I believe I prefer others….neither here nor there)
Anywho 4 hours later I remove the package from the freezer, and I’d be a liar if I wasnt thinking about those tasty ice cream on a stick things as I hurriedly stuck it iin my pocket.
The package was cold but yay! no freezer burn! I open the package and yes the applicator was cold, So I ….
The applicator was cold, not like Ice Man taking advantage cold. More like jumping in a pool in May cold, but God bless America, the actual tampon was only slightly cool.
It was a chilling experience and makes me wonder if there actually are people who do this junk.
But I climbed Mt. Everest and I conquered.
When I started vomiting, I knew Game Over on Save Myself with Cranberry Juice. If indeed I had a kidney infection instead of or along with kidney failure/diabetes/cancer/AIDS, I was getting in the stage before it gets in your blood and damages your kidneys, which = FUCKED. Little did I know how difficult it actually would be to see a doctor.
My mother called the local Medac urgent care, which takes Medicaid if you’re first approved. Sort of takes the point away from ‘urgent’ doesn’t it?
My mother called Social Services and I could be approved for a certain doctor’s office, so we called there, and they could pencil me in on November 15. Great. I might literally be dead by then! They suggested I go to the emergency room if I couldn’t wait that long. Perhaps it’s unfair of me to be cross since they had never seen me before, but cross I was and am. Here I am trying to die here and all, dang.
I hope y’all won’t be cross, but gonna stop here and continue later. I can’t believe I’ve written this much and only now get to my guest appearance on ER. Anyway, in Part 2 expect our heroine to go to the damn emergency room, return to her version of ‘normal,’ and get freaked out at the therapist. Important junk like that!
Is there anything I could do to improve my blog? What are your dislikes with my writing style? Should I be more serious or deep? You’re always very nice, but I really and truly want your criticism.
I finally got up the nerve to ask why a certain gentleman unsubscribed from my blog for fear I had offended him in some awful way, which to my great relief wasn’t the case. I was so relieved that I hadn’t made him upset, then I went into a nice kidney infection and had no need to evaluate his criticism of my writing in’ my feverish mind. Then, when I was fairly certain the Grim Reaper wasn’t going to reap me, I got to thinking about it and re-read the gentleman’s email. Apparently, though I’m not on his list of nasty people, he couldn’t ‘cope’ with my writing style or the format of my blog. I suppose it’s my rapid subject changing à la ADHD, which a therapist and a neurologist said I had as a little girl, but it’s in contention since the whole OCD thing years later. Who knows? Now what was I saying?
Hopefully you’ll criticize me this way, ” It’s really a great blog and all, but in the end you suck, and I’m better than you.”
As opposed to, “Boy, you suckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk! I could write better in 3rd grade. Your writing spews chunks!
Great, Lisa. You thought everyone needed a background history of your fear of doctors. Thought it would be a paragraph or two didn’t you? Then you could tell the ever so fascinating, graphic story of your kidney infection. But no, before you were done there were over 1000 words of something that could be daintily told in one sentence: I’m scared doctors will tell me I’m about to kick the can, so I don’t go to doctors. Amen.
So dearest readers, please enjoy if possible, and soon enough I will talk about blood in urine and other pleasantries.
When I was a little girl, my mother took me to the doctor for every sniffle and I had a cold at least once a month. This didn’t bother me much because I hadn’t yet come up with the idea of croaking from several different diseases. This isn’t to say I didn’t think I was weaker than other children, because I did, and actually was in a way. I think the hyper-reflexia wore me out easier since my muscles never completely relaxed, and maybe in those days I hung on to a cold longer than other children (but then, I also was eager to stay out of school as long as possible). Also, it isn’t to say I thought I’d live to see adulthood. In fact, by the time I was 8, I convinced myself I would die by my 10th birthday. It was 1987 and the war on drugs was in full swing. I became obsessed with it, convinced by all those public service ads that I would soon die. It was almost like a catching disease, and I began to imagine that years ago someone gave me drugs, which I couldn’t remember, and by delayed reaction I would die years later. Ten seemed like an evil age because it was double digits and by all those drug ads, I thought that once you got that old an almost irresistible force came and you got strung out on coke.
By the time I was 12, however, I had for the most part given up my “catch-a- drug- addiction-obsession” and focused it more on “the-police-and everyone-will-think-I’m-on-drugs-and-arrest-me-obsession.” (Are you thinking what I’m thinking? I either A) was an insane kid not in touch with reality, or B) I was just really, really dumb to believe such things as old as I was). It was about this time I stopped going to doctors. By my teens, I seldom had colds and Mom figured out that if I did have one, it wasn’t necessary to put me on antibiotics for a viral infection. As I grew older a blanket of uncertainty regarding my health seemed to be thrown over me. I saw signs in everything of impending doom, of thinking the normal discharge from my you-know-and-if-you-don’t-i-ain’t-telling-you-what was a sign of cancer or something nice and fatal.
Fast forward some more and at age 19 I went for my first prodding. I only went because my shrink at that time refused to believe me that Paxil, the antidepressant I was on, was stopping my monthly curse, which it was (apparently I’m that 1 in 10,000 whose period stops on certain SSRI antidepressants. Who can beat those odds?). We’ll just say it wasn’t smooth sailing and I screamed. Not gasped. Screamed. The good doctor told me she’d done the procedure on a 4 year-old once, which was fine, but you hadn’t done it on me. Give my fat, yet surprisingly tight ass a break considering I had not even used a tampon in those days. When I got a notice for another exam a year later, my mother was like, “Eh, you’re fine.”
Down the road a little more and I’m around 21. I got off my medicine for about a year then and I began to bleed again like a normal person and that delightful fat which helped in vouchsafing my purity started melting away. It was crazy. I went from 250 lb. to 180 in a year, and probably would have lost much more if The Cold didn’t happen. The year I stopped taking my medicine was manageable, though about every 15 minutes or so I’d feel small surges of anxiety that came and went, plus at various times a terrible guilt plagued me so that I had to figure what I had done to cause it. That was the year I kept thinking I contracted HIV everyday by unique, creative ways. All that I could sort of manage, but then The Cold sent me haywire.
Anyway. one afternoon at school I felt so sick I might faint and was ever so grateful when my mother picked me up. At the time I had no idea that faintness would set off something and I got better. That part of my brain that hides and waits to pounce on something suddenly exploded to the worst sort of panic I ever felt, and it was a panic that would not subside. My mind felt tightly wound, my skin felt as though it was crawling, and all I could do was remain terrified. Out of my mother’s presence, I felt sure I’d fall down dead or that I had diabetes and ready to slip into a coma. What I ate tasted different, like I imagine death tastes, and I had no appetite. Worst anxiety I ever had I think and I almost dropped out of college before I got back on medicine. Still no doctors except my psychiatrist though I was certain I was in my death throes. It subsided eventually when I returned to my fat, medicated self, but dropping dead still likes to hang out in the back of my head on the rare occasions I go far from home alone. “Enjoy that stroke, Fatso,” etc.
Fast forward once more, age 27, my second and last prodding. I just got Medicaid and the doctor’s office my social worker suggested thought it proper I be prodded and I acquiesced. May I say something here on doctor’s clinics who depend almost solely on Medicaid for their bread? In a word, they SUCK. My first inclination this was a sub-par place was the fact they wanted me to update my records twice, once without ever seeing me. The second was the nurse couldn’t find my vein to save her life. “Do your veins roll?” she asked. To which my reply was, “What?” I was a docile cow as the young woman stuck me at least 3 times without finding a mark, but my mother, a retired nurse, got cross. She asked for another nurse who got my blood the first try. Mama said later that people my age don’t have rolling veins and that after the second try on someone she always got another nurse to try. It didn’t particularly hurt, but I was feeling a bit annoyed.
The nurse practitioner was nice and I gladly report I didn’t scream, though I had to ask her for a breast exam. Um third inclination. Fourth inclination was when I returned to be told I was fine except my good cholesterol was too low, I had to wait 2 hours in the waiting room and I thought for certain that meant I had bad results. Fifth inclination was that if I didn’t make another appointment by phone, I could lose my Medicaid, which I knew was a lie. I never returned again, but no big loss because shortly after the clinic shut down for fraud. Big surprise there.
I am going to make my way in this blog on a metaphorical bridge of thoughts and perceptions from day to day to try to connect the known with the yet unknown. My bridge is like a single plank which will require the supplement of others.