The MRI had shown lesions on my spine the Neurologists had apologized and suddenly I was overcome with every type of doctor known to humanity. Even my cancer doctor had made his way to my door. But instead of his self-confident dry humor he was somber. I liked his other version better. Physical Therapists were now ever present. They even gave me playdough to play with. And now I even had my own Neurosurgeon. The lesions made the hospital allow my wife to visit me once a day now despite Covid-19 rules. The nurses became even more vigilant. One nurse refused to let me out of bed without assistance. I had been roaming freely throughout the room until her. I even had a nurse puncture me with a needle in the stomach once a day. Things were looking up.
The lesions were causing a problem for the doctors. They did not know what to do. Physical therapy was fast assisting me to regain the use of my hand. The stomach puncturing nurse had to be told to desist by me. I had been told by the doctor that I should not be receiving that medicine anymore. My nurse gave me one last shot justifying it to the other nurse by saying he would give me one more shot because it was the ‘Candler way’; whatever the hell that meant.
The doctors were arguing back and forth about my treatment. The Neurosurgeon did not want to operate because of the precarious positioning of the lesion on my spinal cord might cause another neurological issue if he took a biopsy. The cancer doctors said they would not treat until they knew if the lesions were malignant or not. I stood in the middle of this ‘debate’. Finally, if I agreed they would do a spinal tap on me to see if the fluid from my spinal cord would show them what was happening.
Then came the big debate of 2020: what hospital would perform the spinal tap and which would house me after the procedure. This great debate cost me another day in the hospital. I call it my expensive lost day. The next day was in my former life as an AIDS and Homeless advocate known as the day of dumping; Friday. Because hospitals are not as staffed during the weekend and doctors are only on call if possible the hospital will discharge patients to have less people to care for. They decided it was time for me to go home, after my spinal tap.
Now spinal taps are not my thing. In fact, I had never had one before. The doctors seemed confused when I asked them to explain this procedure to me. I thought needles in my spine was a good time to ask questions. They explained the procedure to me and let me explain simply what I gathered from their answer. It was a ‘routine’ procedure with little pain unless you moved the wrong way and then you might have an excruciating headache that might last for a while. I decided I would not even flinch.
The wheelchair came and they pushed me to the ‘spinal tap’ room. There were three women a technician, maybe a nurse, and the one who performed the procedure. All three were chatty and did that flirty thing that women do to make men feel comfortable and not stressed out. Then they told me to take off my shirt lay on my stomach on the cold steel slab and turn my head to the side. They gave me drugs to help me not feel anything. I was not feeling sexy but they continued the chatter. She stuck the needle in the back and told me if I felt any pain down my leg to let them know. Several times I expressed my discomfort being careful the whole time not to flinch. The fluid was not draining so they asked me to tighten my stomach muscles. Still nothing much came. I offered to flinch my stomach muscles again. They joked I was trying to showoff now. I laid on the steel slab with a needIe in my back, stating firmly on several occasions I was in pain. No, I have long lost any ability to think I had anything to show off.
The bad news came this puncture was not working and they would have to take this needle out and reinsert a needle lower in my spine to see if they could get enough fluid from there. This did not cause me to flinch a bit. I was determined not to have an excruciating headache. They had to pull my sweatpants down to access my lower spine. This was when the laughter started and the doctor made sure the other nurses got the joke. One of the medical professionals wondered if the nurses had seen it. Which they laughed and said I am sure they have. Now I did not know what was so funny about my butt crack. I was feeling totally humiliated but I did not flinch. After the second puncture they said they had enough fluid.
They told me they would roll me back to my room and I should wait at least an hour before I moved. I thought this is not the most comfortable position to be stuck at for the next hour but I was not going to flinch. So, humiliated by their laughter and unable to move for an hour which I stretched to two hours so as not to have the headache. The whole time laying on my stomach not knowing what the hell was so funny. Eventually, it was time to dress and ready myself to go home.
I started to dress. It was during my change of clothes that I caught what they were laughing at. It was a tradition on my birthday, Father’s Day, and Christmas that my lovely daughters gift me with humorous boxer shorts. I was currently wearing a pair of these. It was underpants covered with money. But the band of the underwear which would have been the only part they would have seen read in big black lettering the word Filthy. I too laughed and slowly my dignity returned.
Finally, I was dumped (I meant discharged). They rolled me downstairs to the car where my wife appeared as though she was glad to have me return home. I wondered what honey-dos she must have for me. No matter my inpatient medical trials were over.