Are you on fire? No. Are you Bleeding? No. Then it can wait.

Are you on fire? No. Are you Bleeding? No. Then it can wait.

I know it will be a long recovery process physically, eating breakfast exhausts me. I suspect there will be some emotional recovery also. It’s inexplicably surreal to wonder one minute if you will survive the night and then only days later be staring at a dog that is begging you to take her out to pee, as though none of this happened or is happening. Do people go through post traumatic stress in these types of situations? I imagine some must. I can still hear my IV beeping while I sleep, even though I’ve been home for two nights.

I’ve noticed some strange quirky behaviors I brought home from the hospital with me, easy over-stimulation, unusual sensitivities and paranoia but mostly routine related preoccupations.

It is amazing to me how quickly we become institutionalized in controlled environments. Somehow, all the craziness that my regular day to day day life embraces, was reduced to a schedule of medications and meal times. I’m not kidding, the food at the hospital was so vile, I literally gagged some of it down on the verge of tears, but I still looked forward to it, because it meant that segment of the day was over. The highlight of my day was the morning hemoglobin count, but after that, all that was left was glucose tests, lunch time and 52 repeat episodes of Flip That House and Extreme Makeover Home Edition. Supper, supper meant the transfusions and immune (gamma?) globulin starts again in 2 hours. I imagine this is what life for many seniors in shitty retirement homes must be like. You’re just counting these mundane events because they are your only activities. They prove that time is in fact relevant and more importantly, they help keep your mind off whether or not you are going to live.

Of course, as far as distractions go, I had a great deal of help from Mrs. Wiseman.

“HELP!” she wailed from the room next door. My nurse didn’t even raise an eyebrow.

“HELP!!!! I’M DYING!!”

“That’s Mrs. Wiseman” he informs me, “She does that”.

And she did. Half the day and most of the night. Whether it was to ask how many days she had left to live, to ask for insulin, to go to the bathroom or even to ask a nurse to unwrap a candy for her, it was proceeded by blood curdling shrieking from her room. She refused to use her bell and refused to accept that the nurses couldn’t hear her crying out to them from the far far far end of the hall. She would scream and yell and holler and eventually, if nobody answered, she would call out from the phone in her room, dialing the direct phone number to the Hospital itself and asked to be transferred to the front desk of our floor. The receptionist would answer what she assumed was an outside call, only to hear:

“I’m constipated! Help me! I need Demerol!”


Mrs Wiseman: “HELLOOOOOOO! I’m dying in here!!!”

Nurse: “Hmmmm.. I was planning to come back in half an hour to take your blood pressure, are you still going to be here or should I skip your room?”

Mrs. Wiseman: “Do you think think you’re funny?”

Nurse: “Just asking…”

Considering she’s been there since August, I think she’s remarkably sane. I would have probably thrown myself out the window already.


“No, Mrs. Wiseman”


He enters my room.

“You think I’m a monster, I know it, but she just wants me to pass her the T.V. remote, it can wait.”

“I don’t think you’re a monster. When my kids badger me like that I ask them, Are you on Fire? Are you bleeding? No? Then it can wait. Of course, you’re her nurse, not her mother. It probably wouldn’t go over very well here.”

Paul smiles, checks my vitals and promises to be back in half an hour and I listen as his footsteps fade down the hallway.


“Mrs. Wiseman?”

“Help me!”

“Are you on fire?”


“Are you on fire Mrs. Wiseman?”

“Of course I’m not on fire!!”

“Are you bleeding?”


“Then it can wait.”

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