Is This It?
It was bright and blurry.
There’s lights, a ceiling, or maybe that’s a wall.
I’d just regained consciousness.
A few of my coworkers gathered around looking at me.
I’d been laying on the ground, bleeding.
I remembered feeling dizzy, fading and fell.
A young paramedic’s face appeared and explained what was going on.
Do you remember what happened?
I could sense a hint of worry in his voice when he told me I hit my head on to something.
But it was his face’s reaction that gave away when he said ”Don’t move your head, we’ll get you out of here” that I immediately realized I was in serious trouble.
I was placed on a stretcher, carried to the ambulance and then rushed to the ER.
I felt something moved on my leg and looked down. One of the paramedic was holding a pair of scissors getting ready to cut my clothes off. It was standard procedure for head trauma injuries, he explained.
He cut the ankle bracelet I’d worn since I left the Philippines over 14 years ago and then proceeded to cut the rest of my clothes until completely naked.
I remembered I had been wearing the same underwear for weeks and unwashed clothes.
I apologized to the young man as he took off my socks, “Sorry, those stink”, I told him. But he just smiled back and said “It’s alright”, as if he’d done this many times, like it was just another day on the job.
Another paramedic strapped a belt over my body on to the stretcher after attaching the IV and sensor. He then placed a small blanket over when he saw I was shivering.
It had only been minutes since I woke up from from the fall.
I heard the cold wind whispered my name as it brushed my bare and naked body while being carried out of the ambulance to the ER.
Laid on a stretcher was my helpless body in a mind clouded in shock and confusion.
And for a moment a great amount of uncertainty enveloped my senses as I anticipated for my journey’s ending.
Is this it? I asked.
I Care Unit
Ako’y bahala nimo.
The woman said assuringly as she placed extra blankets over me.
The atmosphere of the room had a warm familiar and comforting feel.
IVs and wires were still attached to my body but I didn’t feel trapped or helpless.
The room was quiet and orderly.
My nurse that day was Joy. A warm and thoughtful veteran Filipina nurse in her late 40’s.
She took notes while I recalled the incident when I told her I was cold. She immediately got out to fetch me new warm blankets.
We found out we both came from the same island in the Philippines, Cebu. But what surprised us both was that she knew my sister in law and brother’s family there. She got so excited she told one of the Drs about it.
Joy and I talked about other matters from the virus, life back home, living far from family and so on. Little by little, my thoughts eased to the more familiar and predictable as if somehow nothing had happened. For a moment it directed my thoughts away from worries and panned towards community, family and relationships.
As if all slate had been wiped out and I was starting anew. And in a way I was, for this was a totally new world compared to what it had been like moments ago.
The Sober State
When the Dr came in to check I was in a more sober state.
My fight or flight response had mellowed down as he explained the situation and how round the clock monitoring was crucial at that point.
So far, all tests returned normal, he added, and hoped the internal bleeding subsided without complications.
In the meantime, I was advised to rest.
A huge load off my chest had just been released and I could breathe.
I passed time opening and closing my eyes trying to find a way to see better without the double vision.
I tried to rest but kept glancing at the sprinkler on the ceiling.
It was the object I could see using both eyes without tilting my head down.
I thought about what my life had been and what it would look like but I couldn’t imagine what I’d be or do after.
But somehow a slow eerie realization was dawning and there was no way of stopping it.
The Poor Unlucky Guy
When I found out I’d hit my head with something, went unconscious & bleeding, I knew it was serious enough that they had to send me out with an ambulance to the ER.
but it never occurred to me to ask what I had hit my head with?
No one had told me what the metal surface my head fell into but since the Dr recovered an object that looked like a screw cap it was what everyone assumed I landed on – a screw – including me.
A staff whispered to another when I passed on the hallway on the way to another floor.
I was being transferred from the ER to my room in the ICU and carried out on a wheel chair in a hospital robe, eyes shut, IVs and wires dangled and a head wrapped in bandage.
One staff on the elevator exclaimed after finding out what happened.
It hadn’t occurred to me that to the outside world I was an exclamation point or a question mark.
It was only after a while of observing their reactions I gathered that my accident and situation brought a mixed reaction of pity and shock.
To many I was the poor unlucky guy at work, who suddenly felt dizzy, fell and hit the head, among many things, on a screw – now on a wheelchair, head wrapped in bandage, IV wires dangling and gawd-knows-what-else.
Rest Hobo Rest
For the first time in what seemed like days, I was finally able to rest.
I looked at the watch and positioned my head until I could read the time without the double vision.
It had now become official that my vision was impaired.
The Dr told me that it was possibly due to the swelling inside the head but hopefully heals back to normal after a while.
By now I was beginning to think with a little more clarity about what had transpired and what was left of me.
On one hand, I was glad to be alive, meanwhile the other was a looming concern. It’s always the uncertainty that looms hurt.
I thought of the time when the paramedics took me out of the ambulance on the way to the ER.
Cold wind brushing over my body as I laid on the stretcher.
Is this the end of my journey? I asked.
But unlike what happened before in the Alps where I refused to find out, this time, I wanted to see it.
Somehow I was curious to know if it was the trip of all trip towards that one final destination.
But it wasn’t it.
At least, not for now.
Staff came in and out for a round the clock check. Joy had left and another nurse took over.
Though I was up every few hours the whole night I felt well rested that morning.
It was my second day in the hospital and was told therapists were coming to test me.
Still a little groggy and weak, I was eager to follow orders from both therapists on separate tests.
They checked to see how bad the injury had affected my physical abilities and motor skills.
The occupational therapist observed as I got up to the restroom to brush my teeth, while the physical therapist followed me around the nurse station as I walked slowly.
I was pleased to know when both therapists gave me an okay sign.
Lucky or a tragedy?
So far, my ICU experience had been quiet and uneventful which was good since I was able to rest.
But more so, I regained a little clarity.
What could be worse than fracturing your skull to a screw, an internal hemorrhage, or a finger scooping between the scalp and skull looking for an object left inside?
Someone had told me the day prior that I could be released that day and had been anticipating since. It had been a long 24 hours and I was excited to tell everyone when I get home what had just happened.
I had won the war, I told myself.
But my excitement was cut short when I found out I was being transferred to a regular room.
I was informed that the Dr ordered more tests and wanted me observed for another day.
I thought my tests all came back normal, but now they wanted me observed? What for? I wondered.
What it was I couldn’t know yet.
All I knew was that I was safe and uncertain.
To be continued…