Reflections from a Hospital Window
Streetlights blinking, winking and twinkling on the inky black stripe on the horizon, eyes of the city, waiting to greet the new day like a child in sleepy wakefulness. The first shades of bright above black ribbon, shot full of colors yet to grow into crimson, blues and purples, highlight the long thin clouds above in a sky just starting to lighten and asking the stars to please go to sleep, your time complete, now let the sun command.
Steam from a pipe on the roof below, a phantom, twisting and rolling into nothingness in the ice cold on the other side of the pane, makes me think of a dream, a fragile dream, escaping into unknown realms between here and there.
Shadow shapes now taking form, show their hidden likeness against the backdrop of night turned light, darkness no more. Black tree branches, devoid of leaf in this winter slumber, stretch gnarly fingers to the heavens in silent prayer.
A church spire, standing tall and pointed, protruding into the reds, competes with the reflection in the window of a walker and wheelchair, left abandoned in the hallway behind me, a reminder of the illusion in glass that seems so real, I need but just turn around to know where I am.
A little while longer will allow me to sit here and reflect on this day’s beauty, for I seldom watch a sunrise anymore. Instant coffee, not so bitter is at least hot, whisked away from the hospital floor pantry and secluded in this little nook of mine, it’s warm breath on my face will surely feel just like the sun soon.
The sound of retching two doors down breaks the magic into shards of sharp reality, and reminds me of where I am. Not everyone here can watch this glorious day. No dear, you did not spoil it for me. Here, let me share my visions and perhaps you too will find some peace.
After spending what seemed like an endless journey of night followed by day followed by fever warped night, I was finally healed enough to leave my temporary home. My first sunrise was amazing. For fifty days and more the doctors and nurses worked to heal my compromised immune system. They say home is where the heart is, but my heart was not really into this place as a home, even though the kindness and patience of the staff was as near to kinship as one might get.
My fairly rare bone marrow disorder had prevented my body’s defense system, the fighting white cells in my blood, from doing their job. The call came in.
“There is an infection brewing in the southern regions, sir. I suggest we mobilize the troops, and smash it into nonexistence.” My imagination pictured the captain of the guards, ramrod stiff, in his shining helmet, pointed spear at the ready, making his hurried report.
My damaged DNA had turned a once proud fighting machine into a few brave souls, willing to battle, but with no numbers to back them up. The army was deformed, drunk and hung-over, struggling to find lost weapons after the wild party, heavy heads wanting nothing more than to sleep, and not to fight.
Liquid lifesavers hung on the IV pole, an odd Christmas tree of lonely silver with curlicue hooks, medicine by the drop full entering my veins. Concern on strange faces confusing me, for I felt fine, just a small dash in the line, tired all the time but I’ll be just fine. You are all so kind.
Myelodysplastic Syndrome. Now there is a mouthful. Also known by the abbreviation MDS, it is referred to by the specialists as a ‘form of cancer’ and oh, by the way, it’s not actually a disease, but rather a syndrome. This cancer that is not a cancer, this specialized and somewhat rare disorder is brought to you by some jumbled DNA. Did you really think you could dance with that cigarette for more than thirty years, play with the toxic glues and solvents so necessary for your trade, and emerge on the other side unscathed? Did you think the little guy, sitting there on the end of your chromosomes would stay asleep, dormant forever? Of course you did. Everyone does.
One day, when life was once again getting underway, our forgotten sleepy friend woke up. He stretched his chemical arms high, and flipped the switch to on, perhaps by mistake, but full on nonetheless. The blueprint arrived at Bone Marrow headquarters, fresh from this little deviant architect, this jester of all things not so funny. With third floor where fifth should be, with second floor slightly backwards, deformed you see, the construction of blood had begun just the same. The making of monsters, this was the way of scrambled DNA.
Such a fright to see cells so gone awry.
No apple pie
For this guy.
Perhaps just a chance to die?
Oh no, not me. I am a fighter. You won’t see me asleep at the switch, but rather with balled up fists, swinging all the way. I’ll do my part in this dance, dear doctor, just you wait and see. Can’t stop me, but maybe they can unscramble the tree.
Because my white cell count was so low, I was in danger of getting a cold or flu or infection I simply could not fight on my own. I was sequestered in a single room all by myself. They called this reverse isolation. In reverse isolation the patient is protected from all visitors, and everyone you saw entering the room had a mask covering their face. When I was well enough to have the isolation lifted, it was like meeting all the nurses and doctors again, for the first time. The eyes were familiar, but it was nice to get the complete picture of my caretakers, without the protection afforded by this simple paper barrier to facial recognition, which we all take for granted.
Before I was able to access the internet or even get on my computer, I was writing when I could. I wrote the following whimsical poem, about the boredom, I suppose. Did I mention there wasn’t even a clock in my room? It had been a former staff room assembled and claimed as one of several isolation rooms on the floor, and the clock was an oversight yet requisitioned at the time of the writing of this poem. It was written in long hand cursive, with a red pen borrowed from a nurse, on some simple unlined paper. ~L.F.Young
Dancing With MDS
Time passes slow
Like molasses on snow
As I try to heal
Is the label they choose
In this home away
The healers arrive
With their tricks to survive
They all come
But then they go.
At the end of the day
Keeping negative at bay
Is the best way
To end this show.
I’ll dance with you
In your world of glue
Tricks of time
Running through my mind
Turning my colors
I hope my ramblings have brought you up to speed with me and my personal journey, which I want to share with all my friends, family and supporters.
To say the last three years have been interesting would be an understatement of a serious nature. I am proud of myself for fighting and conquering a wacky and rare blood disorder that caused my fluids to sludge up like paste, a below knee amputation to save my life yet again, by the brilliant surgeons and I am especially proud of adapting to a new life as an amputee and getting used to an artificial leg.
Now I will deal with another dash in the line, because that is what we should do. I’ve come closer to death than anyone should, and several times, apparently.
It is now nearly the middle of August, and because of the technology of this day and age, I am preparing for a stem cell replacement, sometimes called bone marrow transplant. This miracle cure for the disease I have was not available years ago. On September 20th 2016 the transplant team will introduce my donor’s stem cells into my body, and my system will reboot with a new immune system.
I can’t stress enough the importance of donating blood and blood products. These donations have saved my life, and the generous donations of stem cells will give me a chance to live for many years to come. Thanks again for reading and visiting my blog.
My plan was and always will be a simple three word mantra.
Never give up. ~ L.F.Young 2016