Silly Me


Monday mornings in a hospital are sort of like the day after a 5-year-old’s birthday party:  there’s a lot of stuff to be cleaned up, explanations are needed, insurance claims have to be filed, and so forth.

My day started at 6:30 a.m. with a nurse standing in the doorway calling my name while I was asleep.  Clearly, I was asleep—in bed, eyes closed, blankets pulled up to my nose, wearing mask of auto BiPAP—if this isn’t “asleep,” what is?

Then she starts to talk to me about how pretty my roses are (or, for purists, how pretty are my roses).  Please note:  I did not rise up and smack her, nor did I swear at her.  What I did was say, “What do you want?”

The nurse wants nothing; is not there to administer medications; has no need for me to be awake.  She says, “The aide will be coming soon to check your vitals.”  So the nurse is pulling a John the Baptist, wearing a hair shirt, eating honey and locusts, and coming to prepare the way?  For Jesus, you send an advance man; for a nurse’s aide, you keep your mouth shut.

So the nurse’s aide, also known at Crouse as an “assistant,” comes in, checks my blood sugar, finds it to be 431, and runs out of the room as fast as if her mother had just found her stash.  Then the nurse comes in and asks me if I want insulin.

I thought we had this taken care of.  I freakin’ can’t take insulin!  Now leave me the hell alone, will you?  Yes, I want to take insulin.  I want to get my blood sugar down.  I want to live!  But it’s not going to happen and could you please stop rubbing my nose in it?  I thought the good doctor had discontinued the insulin, so I’m going to have to deal with him about this.

So I’m lying in bed thinking about re-confirming with the doctor that the insulin has been discontinued, and then how to word a single sentence—preferably written in large block letters—explaining to the nurses that insulin makes me sick and there will be no more insulin ever and we’re just into providing comfort care and getting me into a nursing home where I will die of, um, high blood sugar and/or its complications and could the nurse please get with the program?  But I fall asleep without configuring the sentence.

When I wake up a couple hours later I am feeling totally silly.  Ask Dr. Ronald Fish, psychotherapist to the mighty and miserable, what my problem is and he will answer:  “Despair.”  To which I add, “Irritability,” both of these things being the consequence of the blood sugar running up to 431.  Today.

But I am being totally silly.  It must be the clonidine.  We had been using Xanax for comfort but over the weekend it backed up on me and I started having shortness of breath—this was not inconvenient shortness of breath; this was frightening shortness of breath so, one thing and another, we come to clonidine, which is primarily a medication to lower blood pressure, but Dr. Ghaly is a wonderfully clever fellow, and there you go . . .

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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