Taken – Day Three / The Escape

I had no idea what time my test was, so I was surprised when a wheelchair arrived around 8:30AM. I woke up hungry. I had ordered scrambled eggs, turkey sausage, and sugar free syrup for the pancakes. Maybe they would hold it long enough for me to get back.

On the ride down to the lab I pumped the tech for information about the test. I described the PET Scan and said how much I hated that test. She said that a nuclear tracer would be injected and that they would “take pictures of my heart”. Just to be sure I asked about treadmills, “I can’t do treadmills any more”. “Oh No”, she says, “They don’t use a treadmill for this test. They just give you a chemical to stimulate your heart”.

Just then she wheeled me into the lab. There was a large machine with a small hole in the middle and a long very skinny pad sticking out. My panic level just went through the roof! Not only was this going to be one of the worst experiences of my life when they injected me with those chemicals – but I can’t DO large machines with small holes. I’ve been pulled out of “Open MRI machines” and those looked huge compared to this hole. Just let me say that we were pushing the limits of my “fight or flight response”.

I balked. “I don’t think I can do this”
“It will be okay”, she says, “Your head will be out”

Like THAT is going to make a difference. It’s not the chemicals or the confinement, I was just worried that my head wouldn’t be out – sheesh. It took me a minute to convince myself to give it a try. Without this test they wouldn’t release me. I had to at least try. But if I couldn’t take it, or didn’t like any part of it, I was done. I’d walk home if I had to I laid down on the pad. The Nurse went to put a pillow under my legs and a blanket over them. I stopped her, “Don’t pack me in. I don’t want anything touching me”. I put my arms over my head and took deep breaths as I slid into the machine.

As advertised, I stopped with my face a couple inches from the machine. I closed my eyes and thought relaxing thoughts as the machine made noises and turned around me. I could do this. I remained motionless, afraid that any contact would destroy the illusion of space around me. The scan finally finished and the pad slid back out of the machine. WooHoo! They had me sit back in the wheelchair for a bit.

They moved me to a small room connected to the lab. There they hooked me up to an EKG machine while I sat on an examining bed with the back raised half upright. The Cardiologist was in this room looking over something on a computer. Another tech brought in a metal box and removed a vial from it. The contents of that vial went into a syringe, and then into my IV. The vial went back into the box and the box was removed. I believe they even said that was the nuclear tracer.

Then she grabbed the other syringe. I heard, “And this is the chemical that will stimulate your heart”, as she pushed down on the plunger. What? Here? Now? THAT was my warning? Nothing can stop it now! There is no way to brace for what I know is coming.

First it was my breathing. I was quickly breathing through my mouth, faster, deeper. Soon I was gasping. I had begun to sweat and I could feel it working through my body. My heart began pounding, my legs began to twitch and flail. Then the nausea washed over me. I was grasping at the rails on the bed just wanting something to hold on to. The two techs seemed to take little notice of my discomfort. I could see the Cardiologist intently staring at the EKG display off to the side.

“There! All Done!”, Declared one tech in an all too cheery voice. “You should start feeling better in a few minutes”. And it was over – for them. They all went about their own business as I lay there still gasping for breath. The Cardiologist made some verbal notes, looked over the computer, and left. One tech began to clean up the room while the other went back into the lab. The tech from the lab came back in and said, “Can you drink 3 bottles of this water and eat these animal crackers for me?” I laughed at her.

It was everything I could do to NOT throw up. I even asked the tech for a barf bag because I wasn’t sure I could hang on. I lay there and watched the minutes tick by. After 10 minutes I could feel signs of improvement. I could breathe easier and finally lay still. After 20 minutes it was pretty much down to the nausea. At 30 minutes I just felt totally drained.

The lab tech came back in and helped me back into the lab. I headed for the wheelchair. She re-directed me to the machine. “We have to do the rest of the test now Sir. Have to take some more pictures and then you can go back to your room.” There were no relaxing thoughts as I slid into the machine this time. Only exhaustion and nausea. I only had to endure this last part and then I was done. They weren’t going to beat me.

Back in my room, the Nurse asked how I was doing. I told her the test had really torn me up and left me nauseous. She gave me an injection for the nausea. I inquired about meals because I hoped I could eat a little later. They said they would look into it. They came back with a “breakfast tray”. A banana, a fruit cup, yogurt, and orange juice. Even if I could muster an appetite, there was nothing there I would eat. I ain’t no Rabbit, I eat meat and potatoes. God only knows how much sugar was in all that crap.

I spent the rest of the morning resting and trying to shake off that test. There was one final struggle for control. The Nurse came in with one more round of meds ordered by the Doctor. This final batch included a dose of Potassium. The potassium horse pills they gave me yesterday just lay on my stomach and burned for hours. So I told her about that and added, “I’ll pass on the potassium”.

“Not a problem”, she says, “This potassium we mix with water and you drink it”. I recall my son telling me how nasty that kind potassium was. I repeated my statement, “I’ll pass on that”. She finished with my injections, went over to the sink, put some water in a cup, added something else, and mixed it up. She came over to the bed and said, “Here is your potassium!”

I put on my “stern voice”. “I’ve already told you twice. This will make the third time. What part of ‘I’ll pass on that’ did you not understand? I am not going to take the potassium.” Somehow medical people just assume you will do whatever the tell you to do. Sometimes it’s a real shock when someone says No.

Lunch came around and it was the hamburger and mashed potatoes I ordered! I was picking at the dry toasted top bun of the hamburger when the Doctor came in. Surprise of surprises, the stress test didn’t reveal any problems. So, after two days of testing they confirmed that there was nothing wrong with me! He said that they would like to make sure I was able to eat before releasing me, but that they would be filling out all the paperwork for the airline and releasing me.

The news helped my appetite. I had managed to eat almost half of the top bun and most of the mashed potatoes, one forkful at a time, when the nurse came sweeping back in with the Discharge paperwork. Then she commenced to pulling my IV line right there where I was trying to eat my lunch. Now she didn’t actually put anything ON my lunch tray, but she did have to move the tray to make room to put stuff down she was taking off my body. I don’t know about you, but I was done eating at that point.

When she finished, she said, “You want us to call you a cab?” I said I’d let her know. She left and I retreated to the bed. I laid down to take it all in. I was released! I could go now! If only I didn’t feel so much like throwing up.

I called the airline and they arranged a seat on the next flight to my destination (the same flight I should have taken 2 days earlier) They also confirmed that I had to find my own way back to the Airport. The airline took no financial responsibility for the disruption of my life. The Ambulance, the Hospital, and even the Cab ride back to the Airport were all MY responsibility – as if it was MY choice.

As I was packing my bags it occurred to me that the Hospital was still holding my “valuables”. I went out into the hall and snagged the Nurse. “If you guys are so anxious to kick me out of here, how about giving me back my valuables?” In the hour and ten minutes it took to retrieve my valuables I managed to take a shower, get dressed, and pack my bags. I had about 2 hours to make the flight, so I had them call a cab for me.

Not only was this the first Hospital I have ever left on my own two legs, but I had to ask directions twice to find my way out! The gap between the Hospital doors and the Cab was 104 degrees. It took my breath away and flopped my stomach over a couple times. I hovered over the air conditioning vents during the cab ride. I hadn’t gotten out my sunglasses and it was incredibly bright, especially considering I hadn’t seen sunlight since Saturday. The cab ride was just over $20.

I made it into the main counter and waited for a wheelchair. It arrived and whisked me away to Security. Fortunately, it wasn’t as crowded because today I was taking it slow and deliberate. We made it to the gate with an hour to spare. I had him drop me off and let him go. Here I was, back where I was 3 days ago. And my stomach twisted and turned. The bathrooms were two gates down and I was getting pretty shaky by now.

I left my bags and made my way down the terminal, step by slow agonizing step. I finally made it to the bathrooms and to a back stall. I left that half a bun and mashed potatoes there. But at least no flight crew saw me. I cleaned up and worked my way back to my gate. We boarded without incident and I felt I was going to make it home at last.

I can’t explain the momentary terror I felt when the Pilot said we were going to have to return to the airport. I wasn’t worried about the plane, I was worried that something else was going to happen, that I would get stuck there again! When the air conditioner went out I didn’t think I was going to make it. Heat is one of my worst enemies. Combined with the turbulence and the stress, it just accentuated the nausea. I had a barf bag at the ready.

By the time we had landed, been sprayed by the fire department, and returned to the gate the heat was unbearable. I didn’t know whether I would pass out or throw up first. As soon as we stopped the aisle filled with people. You know the ones. They stand there waiting for the door to open. The lady across the aisle asked me if I was going to be okay. I assured her I was trying my hardest. She asked me if I would like to get out. I pointed to the aisle full of passengers and said, “Where would I go?”

She stood up and shouted, “Hey people! Make room! This man needs to get out! He’s not feeling well!” And like Moses parting the Red Sea, the aisle emptied all the way to the front of the plane. I abandoned my bags in the overhead, as it took all my strength jus to make it off the plane and into a waiting wheelchair. I collapsed into the chair and gasped, “I need to get out of this heat!” An attendant immediately started rolling me up the jet way. He found a spot just out of traffic where he parked me. Once again, several passengers asked me if I was going to be all right or if needed anything. “I just need to cool down”, I assured them. The passengers made sure the attendants retrieved my bags for me.

Another plane was secured and I boarded yet another flight home. I managed to hold it together until the plane got into the air. THEN I went to the bathroom and threw up. I’ll just say that airplane bathrooms are not well suited for this activity. I spent as long in the bathroom wiping my face with a cold rag as I thought I could – proper manners and all. I kept a wet rag with me when I returned to my seat. It was dry by the time we landed.

The trip down from altitude was like a bumpy roller coaster ride and once again it was all I could do to hold it together. When the wheelchair dropped me off in front of the airport I was barely able to make the transition from the chair to a bench. My brother picked me up (he’d been waiting for over 3 hours – since the first arrival time) and we drove the 90 miles back to the house. I went straight to bed – only getting up once less than an hour later – to throw up one last time.

Day Three ended with me sleeping in my own bed – finally home.

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