Hanging Out In Rockford: Heart of Rockford—conclusion

My oxygen level is being maintained by a machine that supplies 100 percent oxygen. To avoid drying out the lung tissue, it is equipped with a misting system that passes down a tube surrounding the oxygen tube, combining at the nosepiece. Unfortunately, there is no way to adjust the amount of water being provided by the mister, and it collects in the tube until it becomes a rivulet and runs into your lungs or drips off your nose and mouth. The combination prevents any notion of sleep. The next day, I remark to the doctors that the idea should be to humidify and not to drown and that I personally could design a better machine. I could—I had all night to think about it.

The next day I get a really good nurse. It is remarkable how much effect a caregiver can have on your recovery. (In fact, I had two really good nurses in a row.) She takes care of my constipation like a trooper. She totally rearranges my room so that I can sit on the real toilet with my tubes attached. I am so enamored of being upright that I sit in a chair for hours meditating. Through the relief afforded by moving my bowels and the meditation, I get my oxygen supply down to the absolute minimum in a few hours. After I leave the hospital, I send this woman flowers.

That night, I send out (to the Irish Rose) and buy the floor staff dinner. My own dinner (organic salmon) is unfortunately dried out and inedible. Ah, the danger of plastic carryout boxes. That is why we don’t like to prepare food to go. Still no food in sight. A second wonderful nurse comes on duty. She says she heard I like to meditate and wonders if I would like her to lead me in a guided meditation. I, of course, agree. Later that night, she comes to my room, gives me a back rub, puts lotion on my backside and leads me in the meditation. “Remember a time when you were very happy and felt very safe.”

The next morning, I awake to the now familiar smells of the ICU. Basically, the whole place smells of Lasix, sort of like an old baby diaper. Even the oxygen supply tube in my nose is noxious. I take it out and ask one of the nurses to wash it for me, and that helps a little, but I am in a great deal of unrest. I realize that if I do not see some change in my situation soon, I am dangerously close to having some kind of nervous breakdown. Remember, I am not taking the drugs. I need a change of environment, and I need it soon. It comes that afternoon; they move me to a regular ward. Thank heaven, not a moment too soon.

The regular part of the hospital is like a breath of fresh air. It seems as though everyone in the world has sent me flowers. The room smells like a greenhouse. There is another person staying in the adjacent bed. He is the patient who will not leave. It is like a hospital show on television. He has entered the hospital, and they have diagnosed his condition, but he is unwilling to accept the treatment. He, however, will not leave. He seems very content to sit in the hospital bed and eat his lunch. A nurse mouths the words to me, “He just won’t leave.” Finally, his son shows up to collect him. I have the room to myself.

The standard of care in the regular part of the hospital is excellent. I have one very enjoyable nurse after another. The men who have entered this profession are among the best nurses. That evening late, I get another roommate. He is a nice man who is diabetic. He quit taking his medicine and had some kind of minor stroke. We get along pretty well and make jokes about our conditions.

That evening, I start to see guests. Actually, while I was in the ICU, Larry Morrissey and Jim Thacker visited me. So did Frank Schier (while I still had the breathing tube in) he just walked up to me and held my hand. It really meant a lot. My friend Jon and his girlfriend Amy came the night of the low oxygen, and I had to send them away. And, of course, my ex-wife Robin showed up to support me. But now it is different, and I am more capable of receiving guests.

Russ and Kerry. Elisha and Violetta. Chrissy (yes, Chrissy, I will always call you that) Rittenhouse. And my dear friend Kelly, who gave me a full body massage and then told the nurse on duty that she probably wouldn’t have any trouble with me that night. And some surprise guests also. It’s amazing how many friends you really have that you don’t know or appreciate until something like this happens. I felt like the luckiest man in the world.

The following morning, my doctor awakes me to say that I can go home that day. I call my friend Sandi at MedicineMan to help me get hold of Elisha. All my numbers are in the cell phone I do not have. Sandi says that she will come and get me. She does, and it takes us 10 minutes each way to load and unload all the flowers. Then I climb the stairs to my little apartment above the Irish Rose. Home at last.

Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. These columns are available on his Web site, IrishRoseRockford.com, and featured on WNTA talk radio AM 1330. Leifheit is owner of the Irish Rose restaurant in the downtown River District.

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