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Friday, March 20, 2015

Hazel’s Crisis

When I downed the bedtime load of medication in one swallow, I failed to notice the additional tablet in the little cupful of assorted colors and shapes. My brain registered the change shortly after the REM sleep began.

The swishing tails of dozens of black cats tormented my dream, so much so that I actually sat up in bed, wildly swinging my arms to get those tails away from me. I struggled to wake up, believing if I could leave this dream, the cat tails would vanish.

“Myrtle*, Myrtle!” the voice came in a loud whisper, then a shout. “Myrtle, wake up. The girl’s fighting something over there. Psssst! Myrtle!”

“Uh, wha-a-a--” registered as a sound in the opposite corner, but I continued my battle. “Shut up can’t ya, Hazel*; it’s the middle of the night. Go back to sleep!”

“I can’t while she’s doing that. Myrtle, what if she comes for us? Go get the nurse, quick!”

“I’m not gonna get outta this bed and go get no nurse. I want to sleep; I don’t need a nurse. You put your call light on, if you want a nurse. Now, be quiet and let me sleep.”

I must have fallen back on the pillow by the time a nurse came, because the only memory I have of that night, is the cat tails just out of my reach and the loud whisperings of my elderly roommates. Nothing was said the following day; but Hazel had prepared herself for the late-evening visit of the nurse.

After I’d taken the bedtime doses of medication, and the nurse had clicked my guardrail into place, Hazel called the nurse over to her bed. “What is it, dear? Did you need something more tonight?”

“Come here. I want to tell you something about her,” Hazel said in her typical Super-sized whisper.

The nurse squeezed my forearm, making her way over to Hazel’s bedside. Listening to eighty-year-old Hazel recounting the frightening events of the previous night, brought back the memory of the cats. Oops! I must’ve talked in my sleep, or maybe I really did swing my arms as frantically as I had dreamed I did?

I heard my guardrail being shook a tiny bit. “You see, dear, it’s quite secure. Now, lie down and get some sleep. Everything’s just fine.”

I would’ve explained my nightmare to the nurse, but she’d already begun her way out of the room. No need to take more of her time. I should have.

Once I’d again reached the dream-state, the drama moved into Act II. This time, I relived an event that actually had happened several weeks earlier.

My dear friends had purchased a small, used cabin cruiser to enjoy the lazy days of summer on the man-made lake not far from town. It needed a lot of elbow grease; I delighted in having a part in the cleanup.

One of those jobs had been tackling the deck inside the only stateroom (cabin). It had taken a lot of scrubbing with a stiff brush just to reach the stage where I could use a normal scrub brush on the wooden planks. At last, it was ready for the soap and water.

Having re-lived this moment while lying flat on my back, the time had come to finish the job. I flipped over, drew myself up on all fours, and began scrubbing the deck with that soapy scrub brush in my right hand. I had no awareness that the hospital linens didn’t feel at all like old wooden boards as I moved my arm vigorously in the circular pattern.

As soon as I began moving backwards to continue my scrubbing, Hazel launched her verbal flares of alarm. “Myrtle! Oh, Myrtle, wake up! Wake up, right now!”

“Stop it, Hazel! It’s none of my business and none of yours either. Just go to sleep and leave me alone.”

I had no trouble hearing the two squabbling octogenarians, but it didn’t stop my cleaning. I just kept backing up, scrubbing away. I clearly saw the deck on which I labored for my friends.

The metal clattering of a guardrail alerted me that one of the ladies wanted out of her bed; I’d help her as soon as I finished this last little bit of deck. I heard Hazel’s screams leave the room, before the space fell silent.

My hallucination ended as my bare leg rested on the top of the cold footboard. I’d stretched it out, expecting to continue my backward scrub, but the chilly steel abruptly returned me to a conscious state.

“What in the world--” I said out loud. “I must be dreaming again, but it doesn’t feel like I’ve been asleep.”

Hearing the sheets rustling near me, brought an end to my oral argument. There were others in the room; I needed to get back under the sheets and go to sleep. Moments later, however, Hazel and the nurse returned. I lay silently, listening to the nurse.

“Hazel, you cannot get out of bed. I’ve told you that before, and I mean it. You put that call light on and I’ll come to you.” The sound of a bedrail being raised accompanied the irritated words of the night nurse.

“But, I told you. She. That one over there. She was crawling out of bed.”

I supposed the nurse, at least, glanced in my direction. I was about to speak, but hearing the nurse’s next words brought such a graphic picture into my mind, that I struggled to keep from exploding with laughter.

“Hazel, don’t you think that you could hurt yourself climbing over the back of your own bed, dragging a half-full catheter bag behind you like a tail? It’s attached to your insides, Honey.” The change in direction of the nurse’s voice let me know she spoke, while squatting to re-attach the bag to the bed frame in order to keep it off the floor. A few seconds later, she said, “There you go, Hazel. Everything’s fine now. See, the girl over there is sleeping; she’s not trying to get out of her bed.”

I tried to decide if I should explain at that moment or just wait until morning. I didn’t think Hazel would be comforted either way, but I did want the record to reflect Hazel hadn’t lost a few of her remaining marbles on account of me. I fell asleep before making a conscious decision.

The following morning, I told the nurse about the two previous nights, explaining that I’d scared poor Hazel half to death. “Is this something that’s related to whatever it is that’s going on in my brain right now? I’ve never been a sleep walker or had scary things like those cat tails. It’s hard enough to just see long strings of colored pyramids obscuring all of my vision and the pain is awful, but am I about to lose my mind, too?”

The nurse explained that the hallucinations I’d experienced the previous two nights had been caused by the addition of a sleeping pill. The staff had urged the neurologist to give me something for the pain so I could sleep; his compromise had been to order a sleeping pill.

“What a relief!” I said. “Please, tell the doctor—and the evening nurse who should be giving me one of those little jewels tonight—that I, officially, refuse the sleeping pill. It does nothing for the pain, and it’s scaring my little roommate out of her own sleep.”

From that moment on, nighttime in our room returned to the peaceful sounds of elderly ladies snoring through their own dreams. However, my daytime routine shifted into second gear.

*Names changed.


  1. What scary things can occur when medicines are too strong or out of balance! I My dad had hallucinations when he needed changes in his medications...

    Wing His Words,

  2. Indeed it is a scary situation--for all involved! Thanks for sharing about your father's experience.