Chapter 49 — Greta’s Human Wears Down– Part III

From the patient comfort perspective, University of Maryland Medical Center  was getting better.  Yes, you could still stick a martini glass in the electrophysiology lab where the operations were performed and the glass would be chilled to perfection in 30 seconds.  And yes, the gowns they give you  still couldn’t be any uglier.  And yes, you could still ring for help,  be told that someone would come,  and sometimes,  someone would.   But this time, the default dinner of vegetable lasagna and steamed plain zucchini wasn’t quite as cold as it had been the first time. To get something better than lasagna and zucchini, you have to stay in the hospital long enough to be allowed to order from a menu.  Not worth it.

The electrophysiologists,  didn’t have to work much on improvement.  They were already good at what they do.

We had taken Greta to the kennel the afternoon before the scheduled surgery.  She was uncharacteristically nervous and agitated when we arrived at the kennel.

“Dogs know,” said the kennel owner.  “They don’t know exactly what’s going on, but they know something is wrong.”

There was no way to reach across the dog/human language barrier to explain, so we  scratched behind her ears and left her there.

On a cold, cloud-covered  Valentine’s Day morning in Baltimore, I took off my clothes and put on the grim gray and merlot gown, and they stuck IVs in both arms.  Then, we waited.  The resident came by to make sure I understood that I was there for a biventricular pacemaker and no, I don’t smoke, and yes, I drink a glass of wine with dinner on the weekends and am allergic to sulfa drugs.

My guy  Mike had pretty much run out of jokes after three hospitalizations in three months, although he was still able to come up with a few bad puns.  An hour crawled across the clock.  A nurse came by and said they were running late in the electrophysiology lab.   Another hour crawled by, marked by the infernal regular  beep of the heart monitor.

I remember kissing Mike good-bye and being trundled off to the windowless lab room with its computers and monitors above the narrow bed–what do they do for obese patients, whose bodies would hang over the sides?  Is it like the airlines, where you’re required to buy two seats if you can’t fit into one?

I woke up.  They rolled the stretcher to an elevator and then to a room with a view of a multi-story glass atrium.  There was no one in the other bed, which meant I could read my Kindle without a TV show blaring its way between my ears.  Why is it that hospitalized TV watchers have the right to inflict their preferences on readers, but readers don’t have the right to a turn-that-damned-thing-off period?

The next morning, I was set to escape the hospital.  But first, a near death experience brought to me by Boston Scientific,  The pacemaker technician sent to test the device decided to see how far she could slow it down and whether my heart would beat on its own.

First, I saw  the fuzzy grays that start at the periphery of your vision.  Then everything went black.  I must have slumped forward.

I heard, “Miss Engle, are you all right?”

Couldn’t answer.  She cranked the pacemaker back up, and the black receded from my vision.

“I won’t do that again,” she said.


By the time Mike came to pick me up, my heart was beating and I had been allowed to use the bathroom on my own and  put on my own clothes.  The sun was shining.   Life was looking better.

It’s a dog’s life

We retrieved Greta from the kennel and took her for a walk in the park.  She came home, ate some dog kibble and curled up for a nap.  I suppose it’s  hard to get a good night’s sleep at the kennel.  Someone is always barking.

©2012 by Donna Engle

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