3 days ago
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Concussed in Centretown
Its been quite a week.
During a brief return to the ancestral Glen, over the hills and far away, amidst the excitement of demonstrating the technological marvels of my newly purchased set of wheels, I managed to sustain a concussion. I suppose things were going a little too well, and The Universe felt the need to redress the delicate balance between my sense of well-being and abject misery. Irregardless, work had to carry on. Now that I have the official diagnosis, however, I have a mandated reprieve.
The diagnosis was only acquired, as per usual, after a character-building ordeal had been exhaustingly endured. After suffering headaches for several days, I made the ill-advised decision to "do something about it." I knew what this entailed, a completely wasted and unavoidably uncomfortable exercise of Stoic self-command and exquisite ennui. I already had a regular diagnostic MRI that was scheduled before the Unknown Violent Event, so I got the brilliant idea that I would go down to the General Hospital early and try to get my 10 pm brain scan expanded to include a check for any further head trauma. Little did I know that the General Hospital would be a scene not only of soap opera melodramatics, but melancholic madness and protracted patience.
Having not yet consummated my Faustian bargain for a downtown parking spot, I took a cab to General Hospital around four pm. There were early portents that this little trip wasn't going to go well. My cabbie was an affable Pole, and he took a shine to me after I correctly recognized his Polish/Slovak accent. While driving down O'Connor, some ditz in a silver Mustang scraped along the rear passenger door where I was sitting. I then rode along with the cabbie as he chased down the Mustang like he was William Peterson in To Live and Die in L.A. She seemed to be an entitled, well-fed public servant who claimed she had the radio on full blast and never felt a thing. Her Mustang bore the battle scars of many other such skillful lane changes. For a time it looked like I would be subpoenaed as a witness, which is something my life is dearly lacking.
Anyway, on to the General Hospital we go. After our bonding experience, the cabbie felt compelled to give me his life story and a quite detailed exposition of his son's recent head troubles and the necessity of positivity. I appreciated the sentiments, but quite frankly, like so many other cancer victims, I've grown weary of the general prescription to be relentlessly positive, that the "bad thoughts" will make the cancer grow again, and that you're a "new" and "better" person if you've "beaten" cancer. I realize that people mean well, obviously, but the downside of this is the Oprahfied snake-oil business that profits from this religion of eternal gratitude and its fraudulent "science of happiness". Sometimes shit just happens, and you have to adjust and get over it. I've rarely complained -- its just been a massive interruption in my life and I'm delighted that it didn't kill me, thanks to contemporary medical science. Everything else is just a psychological and epistemological prop, and I do find them extraordinarily helpful quite often, but that doesn't mean that I can't consider them for what I believe they are. And I don't think it necessarily diminishes them to do so.
I finally extricated myself from the cab and entered the General Hospital. Everything started out well. I got past the vanguard within an hour, all registered up and ready to go. I managed to infiltrate more and more checkpoints, and I was quickly directed to "Urgent Care". I was sitting in my little examination room by 5:15. I had two complete issues of the TLS to keep me occupied, lots of time to get checked out and link up the regular MRI with the Unknown Violent Event that happened over the weekend.
They never pulled the curtain around my tiny examination room, as I was apparently lucid and physically intact, despite the internal throbbing of my head. I was reminded of the Hull jail, as I could hear wailing and moaning emanating out of distant examination cubicles. I knew an incident must have occurred, as there were cops everywhere, and a security guard parked in a seat outside one of the exam cubicles. At the entrance to Emergency they were circling a homeless guy who was prone and semi-conscious before the registration bunker.
But I was now behind the lines. As my curtain was left open, I was able to inspect most of the other cells with a panoptic gaze. Except for the room beside mine. From what I could hear, it seemed to be a very agitated Francophone oldtimer, and he was continuously yelling loudly in French that he needed attention and wanted to make a phone call. No amount of soothing could calm him down, and finally he was led to a telephone. He was wearing some kind of navy blue Hawaiian shirt with identically matching blue shorts with Hawaiian or Floridian motif. Even when instructed in French by the janitor and the rather unimposing security guard, he was unable to figure out the dial 9 and number procedure. It also took some time for him to retrieve his son's phone number from his agitated memory. All of this was accompanied by a high decibel commentary to oblivious medical staff. After about a half hour of continuous dialing and shouts of "occupe"! he gave up and started to wander around the rooms, including mine, until the security guard led him back to his cubicle. After he was attended to, a mother and her brat moved in next door. He was one of those demanding brats who demanded gratification by the minute. The mother seemed to know all the nurses, and a little hen party was staged while I fumed and fevered in the next cubicle.
Meanwhile, after I had burned though all of my reading material, the clock on the wall showed 7:15. I sat dumbfounded for another hour until 8:30. Finally, what appeared to be a 12 yr-old girl holding a clipboard entered my cubicle. There had been a few false dawns over the previous 3 hours in the little examination room, but they all turned out to be nurses. I think I described what was wrong with me about 4 times. By that point, I had almost forgotten why I was there in the first place.
The 12 yr-old girl told me she was a medical student, and she began to ask me again what was wrong with me. I had many questions for her, but all of her responses were prefaced with something like "I'm new here" and "I can't confirm that". It wasn't very encouraging, or reassuring. By then it was almost time to run over to radiology for my 9:30 check-in for the already scheduled MRI. I got my concussion diagnosis and bolted out, hoping to get something to eat before going in the tube. I asked around. "No, the cafeteria and the Tim Horton's closed at 9. But there are vending machines." I grabbed a nutritious meal of Doritos and chocolate milk.
When I got to Radiology, after what seemed like a race from terminal to terminal at the O'Hare airport, they told me rather bluntly that they were "about an hour" behind, and 2 people are ahead of me. With nothing left to read, I wandered around the hospital. This time of night, nothing was going on. I felt like Cillian Murphy when he wakes up in the deserted hospital in 28 Days Later.
I returned to the MRI department. Some kind of power failure that only appeared to affect their machines. Funny thing, eh? You better wait and get it done though, given your state. I did another few laps of the Deserted Village, then I returned around midnight. We'll have to reschedule you for 8:30 Saturday morning, sir.
I took another cab home, dazed and confused. From 4 to 12:30, and 2 cab rides, and nothing really accomplished. But I had the concussion diagnosis in my hand.
Many is a word that only leaves you guessin',
Guessin' 'bout a thing that you really ought to know.
You really ought to know.
I really ought to know.