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Friday, February 6, 2015

Crisis Revisited

As I concentrated on the work before me, the flash of tiny, brilliantly colored pyramids undulating in a connected line suddenly appeared in my field of vision. Startled, I dropped my pen. “Good grief! What was that?”I said, automatically lifting my fingers to rub both eyes. “I’ve never seen such a thing.”

“Did you call me?” The bookkeeper stood at my door, staring at me.

“Uh, no. I, er, there’s something funny happening in my field of vision. I guess I just spoke my thoughts, not realizing the sound would carry. Sorry.”

 “Do you have a headache? I’ve heard people who get migraines sometimes have visual stuff happen to them.”

“Not at all; I feel fine. Or at least, I did feel fine until a moment ago.” I said, offering a nervous laugh.

“You can always stretch out on the couch in the conference room. I’m not sure the lightweight curtains will block out this bright morning sun much, but just lying down may help a little.”

“I’d feel really funny lying down over there when I’m not ill.” I shook my head; pressed my fingertips into my closed eyes again, rubbing gently. I think I’ll just ‘work it off,’ so to speak.” I lifted up the first layer of stapled papers on the stack near me.

“Okay, well, I’ll be here until Noon. Just let me know if I can do anything for you.”

The opening of Susan’s office door registered, but my attention remained on my vision. At least, there’d be help close by, if anything else happened. I breathed a sigh of relief, remembering the event two weeks ago.

At that time, some unspecified neurological episode occurred as I reached for a bottle of cream rinse while showering. I’d been all alone then. I reminded myself that I’d also had symptoms, none of which I had right now.

“Never mind thinking about that,” I said in a whisper. “That was then, and this is now. Just get to work. It’ll go away.”

The shiny string of dancing pyramids lasted a few hours that day. I felt just fine other than the growing curiosity to identify the phenomenon. The brilliantly colored little chain returned, without accompanying symptoms, for part of each day of that week.

Over the weekend, I didn’t notice the pyramids, but I felt my neck tightening, almost like a spasm that started but never finished. Working my neck muscles through the range of motion exercises, lessened the tension; but the sensation never completely disappeared.

I awoke with a slight headache Monday morning, but I saw nothing extra in my field of vision; my neck seemed fine. I tossed back a couple of Excedrin, and left for the hospital.

“I wonder if you shouldn’t take a trip to Miles to see one of the doctors there. Remember, Doc said you should see Dr. Williams* if you didn’t get better?” Maxine said, following my little recitation of symptoms from the past several days.

“But, I did get better; that’s what’s puzzling me. Is what I’m experiencing now related to what happened to me that Saturday or something else? I mean, I don’t have a headache and both of my arms and legs are fine. So, am I better or not?” Without realizing it, I’d been moving my arms and legs to demonstrate their fitness as I spoke.

Laughing, Maxine said, “Yeah, I can see your limbs are back to normal; but it’s not normal to have colored lights bobbing around your vision. I know you’re thinking it’s a long drive to Miles, but you should think seriously about calling for an appointment. At least, talk to Dr. Williams over the phone.”

Making that exploratory phone call had landed me with a sentence involving eight days of medicated, hospitalized cervical traction. The diagnosis had something to do with alignment and stress to my cervical vertebrae, i.e. my messed up neck somehow produced pyramidal chains of colorful lights. No, I couldn’t just do my time in my own hospital; I needed to be stretched out in the hospital eighty-six miles away.

“This is my bed? You’ve got to be kidding!” I said to the nurse at my side, clutching the open-back gown with the two little cotton ties at the top, tenaciously keeping it from just dropping to the ground. “Why have they made the bed like that; it’s upside-down, isn’t it?”

The nurse burst into streams of giggles, but I hadn’t been joking. Indeed, she had already begun to pull back the stiff, white cotton bedcovers—from the bottom of the ancient, tubular-steel hospital bed. No pillow waited for a weary head on either end of the fresh linens.

I reckon she noticed my glance to the modern, electric bed in the slot next to mine, because she turned to respond to my silent query. “Yours is a special case; Dr. Williams made the maintenance man get this bed from the basement. I had no idea we’d kept beds from that long-ago era; but here it is, and it’s all yours for the next eight days.”

At that point, the smiling nurse explained the traction apparatus hooked to the footboard of the bed. The newer models couldn’t accommodate the gear.

The compassionate nursing staff soon had the maintenance man scouring the hidden-reaches of the basement for yet another relic. What joy I experienced as the little evening team assembled the special bookstand over my up-turned face; my neck strung out by iron weights, dangling on the other side of the footboard’s bars.

The bookstand had been found next to the iron lung used to treat Polio patients many decades earlier. Now, it served me well; I could turn pages in a book, without moving my neck at all. When not too drowsy from sedation, I read away the days and nights.

At last, totally symptom-free for eight days, I left the hospital. I had been ordered to keep the soft cervical collar snuggly wrapped around my neck at all times, removing it only at bedtime.

Since it was hot during the summer months, wearing the thick collar proved a challenge of discipline. Soon, I would discover that the collar protected more than the alignment of my neck. What a shock!

*Name changed.

****Identity Crisis, Coming tomorrow****

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