The day had begun with the mixed blessing from Dr. Roberts*. He’d done a spinal tap to check the progress my brain had been making on the medications. It proved a really painful encouragement, but the pressure decrease indicated the drugs produced the desired effect.
On the bad news side of things: the implication of the results led me to understand that the progress would be monitored by repeat spinal taps. At least, he agreed that I’d not need to endure another arteriogram.
Any improvement in my headache pain had been lost by the procedure, plummeting to new depths of agony. Talk about discouraging. On the good news side, the pain returned to pre-procedure levels by early-afternoon, so the pain became bearable once again.
Early in the evening, the nurse raised the head of my bed forty-five degrees. “If you feel any pressure building, please put your call light on. Dr. Roberts wants to see if you can maintain your current level in the sitting position, but he doesn’t want you up in a chair just yet.”
I’d opened my mouth for my rebuttal, but stopped mid-thought as I heard the laughter of young people outside my door. They giggled and another door opened and closed across from my room. Silence.
“Did you hear that?” the nurse said, turning towards the door.
“No, I didn’t hear a thing,” I said, realizing that Julie may be up to something that didn’t really have hospital approval. Kids weren’t allowed to visit people in the hospital back then.
I heard the creaking sound of the door as the nurse opened it wider. “Hmm? I don’t see anyone out here. Okay, well, remember to let me know if your head begins to feel more pressure. I’ll check on you later.”
“I think I’ll need a couple of hours--maybe even three—to really know if there’s any change, so don’t feel like you need to hurry back.”
“Is that so?” the nurse said, laughing as she left my room.
I waited, anticipating Julie’s entry at any moment. I didn’t wait long.
I heard the scurry of several pairs of sneakers and a quick closing of the door. Giggles surrounded my bed, as did the pungent aroma of pepperoni pizza.
“Hey, you’re sitting up!” Julie’s excitement made me laugh, too.
“Yeah, it feels great to sit up. Florence Nightingale will be back to check on me, but I told her to wait a couple of hours.”
I heard the paper plates and napkins being passed around. Oh, how marvelous that pizza smelled after such a long time on hospital fare. “Here, lift up your hands, so I can give you your plate.”
“Julie, who are these other voices I hear?”
“Oh, you don’t hear anyone but me; it’s against hospital rules, didn’t you know that?” I joined the crowd of giggles. “I couldn’t bring any of my friends here to party with you. I mean, I wanted to, but that would be breaking the rules.”
“Yes, I understand, but if you did bring anyone, who would you bring?”
One after another, the girls whispered their names. I felt the depression of my mattress around the bed, as each one sat.
“It’s a good thing your roommates were discharged yesterday; we need their visitors chairs,” Julie said.
“Julie, can I move this table on wheels over here? I need to get closer to the outlet; I forgot the extension cord.” Julie must have nodded, a bite of pizza giving her tongue another job just then. “I think this’ll be perfect,” the same girl said.
The little click preceded a burst of loud music. The sudden release of pressure at the foot of my bed, followed by a thud on the door to my room, let me know one of the kids had sprung to close the door tightly.
“Can’t have a party without music, can we?”
“It’ll be a short-lived party, if you don’t turn the volume down a little,” I said, laughing and chewing the savory treat. The volume diminished a bit. “Julie, how in the world did you get your friends up here? You never would’ve gotten by old Prune-face.”
“I found out when she takes her supper break. Then, I brought everyone up the stairway just across from this room.”
“Yeah, three flights of stairs!” said one of the party-girls.
“We burst through the door, only to hear someone already in your room,” said another. “We thought we’d get busted before we even got a bite of pizza.”
“I thought I heard you outside, but then, I heard the door slam and just silence,” I said.
“Yeah, we rushed back into the stairwell. Did whoever was with you hear us?”
“I think she did. The nurse had come in to raise the head of my bed; Dr. Roberts had just ordered it a few minutes earlier. Did you tell anyone up here about this party?”
“No, I didn’t. Maybe the dietician said something; I had to be sure you could eat the pizza,” Julie said.
“I can’t believe she told you I could!”
“Uh, well, she kinda said that a plain cheese pizza would be okay; but who wants to eat a plain pizza when we could eat pepperoni? I figured, if you can eat pizza at all, you can eat a little pepperoni,” Julie said before taking another bite.
The abrupt knocking on the wooden door brought total silence in my room; even the chewing stopped. “Is everything okay in there?” the nurse said.
“Just fine; I’m doing great sitting up. No need to take your time to check on me. I’ll call you if my head hurts more,” I said, trying hard to restrain my laughter.
“That’s good to know. Should I mark your intake for supper with two or three pieces of that pepperoni-scented cheese pizza?” The room exploded with laughter.
Julie walked over and opened the door. “Would you like a piece before these teenagers who aren’t really in this room polish it off?”
“No, I think Room 312 has broken enough rules for one night; the nurse eating the patient’s supper won’t be added to the list. Thanks anyway.”
After the nurse left, our party began to wind down. We dared not take advantage of the nurse’s kindness; I didn’t want to get her in any trouble on account of us. What a terrific way to end the day!
*Name changed, though I wish I could remember Julie’s real name, because I’d love for people to know the name of the teenage girl who went to all this trouble to make the hospital stay livable for me.