Sometimes I feel like I'm still in school, even though I'm in my 70's. Hmmm, is this Junior year? Usually it's a lot of fun, but what will I do when I graduate? Metaphors aside, I recently had a little run-in with the monitor, not of the hall-variety, but of the heart-monitor type. Next thing I know the doc wants to give me a day off with a fieldtrip to the hospital.
But I've always had good rhythm, I say, thinking Otis Redding or Bruce Springsteen instead of AFib. And I can really dance. The monitor, however, has ratted me out. And doc antes up the stakes -- no, not detention, it's just that no one wants a stroke at my age. Messes with the dance steps. OK, OK, cardiac ablation -- whatever that is -- here I come.
The day arrives. I remind myself of a Sir John Mortimer quote: "No one should grow old without preparing to be ridiculous." Nothing like the hospital to reiterate this to you, and to strip away any dignity and self-respect you had prior to admission. I mean the craggy, wrinkly old butt-canyon alone, strobing behind the open and flapping hospital gown they make you wear ... hmmm, this experience does not energize one's ego. Dancing I am not. But my experience goes one step beyond physical humiliation.
So there I am, a stage or two past the admitting desk, giving my health, surgical, prescription, etc., history to a tech. "Any allergies," she asks.
"None," say I, the patient.
But the patient is accompanied by his rather literal-minded wife, Jane, who corrects, "Yes, he's allergic to bees."
I might have said a thing or two, trying to out-correct her, like "Well, it's actually bee stings," and "I think I'm allergic to rattlesnake bites, especially those pesky Mojaves," and "Oh, I really swell up from scorpion stings." But the tech, ever the professional, and clearly trained to quell spousal skirmishes, suggests epipens and then, without further hesitation or discussion, prepares an orange "ALLERGY" wrist bracelet for me. The bracelet goes on. I am doomed.
Now, Jane is just about never wrong. I will not stand for turning this last statement into a positive, making one of those obverse, inverse, reverse or whatever- flattering statements, but it's true -- she's almost never wrong. She is this time, though, and, yes, I am doomed. Dead man walking ... into the catheter prep wing.
After my procedure -- which, I guess because of its success -- and also because I am now well clear of the after-effects of anesthesia, I am targeted by a few of the more emboldened nurses or aides. "Looks like you're healing quite well, Mr. Borger, and I think you'll be safe ... the last hive, in OR7, was removed last week." "Careful, Mr. Borger, we just spotted a swarm out in the hallway!" Aw shit.
These people are real professionals, but they are human, and they love healthy departures from dulling routines. I now see them huddling, whispering to one another. Am I paranoid when a group of doctors making their rounds smile at me as they move past? What are they thinking? I know, I just know they know -- I'm the bee guy.
When I am asked if a dermatologist could help with my hives, I reach for the call button, but it will be of no use.
I swear they're calling me "Honey" more and more, but when an aide asks me -- cue-ball-bald me -- if I need a "comb," I begin to develop a new allergy: smart-ass healthcare providers. Not really. Actually it's pretty funny, and it keeps my mind off the achy discomfort of having to remain still as my groin catheter-entrance wounds heal.
Finally, I am about to be paroled out of this joint, after serving a 28 hour sentence. A doctor who is now called a "hospitalist," aka "deputy warden" in my mind, says I'm ready to go home. I am left with one fear which motivates me to hurriedly sign all these papers, get dressed, and actually run were I able to the exit. Yet now, my attempted, speedy escape thwarted by my lack of speedy, I acquiesce to the inevitable, dreaded PA announcement: "Maintenance, we need a bee keeper in room 518, stat!"
I buzz outa there. No, no, not what you think. Don't go there. I mean "buzz" as in "Buzz-Lightyear"-Outa-There, off to, you know, infinity, beyond, and back to "school."
We head home from the Old Pueblo, a small city in more recent centuries known as Tucson. Home, where the heart is, ablated or not. Home, where there actually is a local "bee guy." And home, where a young boy down the street greets me, "Hey, Mr. B," innocently addressing me with the first letter of my last name. But my highly sensitized nervous system is scratched by the homophone, alerted to defend itself, and my heart skips the beat which the whole trip was designed to correct. Fortunately, I catch myself in time before I say something I'll later regret.
"Hi, Jimmy, how's it going?"