I wasn’t expecting to stay overnight at the hospital let alone two nights. All I had was a toothbrush and toothpaste I had asked Felicia to pick up for me while I was in the emergency examination room. At about midnight, I was wheeled up to the 14th floor of Toronto General Hospital and into a room of four. Nurse Susan, a small Philipino woman welcomed me into room 414 with a smile showing me where I would be sleeping.
My roommates were two elderly ladies who kept my night eventful, if not restful. Mrs. Reyes, also a Philipino woman, was waiting for a liver transplant. Nurse Susan was keeping a close eye on her because she kept on trying to pull her IV out. Mrs. Reyes was quiet while doing so because something about her liver disease affected her mind which kept her from speaking, even though they provided her with nurses who spoke her mother tongue,Tagalog. Across from her was Lillian an 82-year old who fell and bumped her head, with a touch of dementia or on some sort of nightly medication which made her racist to all Asians. The fourth bed was empty until the morning. After gently asking Mrs. Reyes to not pull out her IV’s for the seventh time in fifteen minutes, Nurse Susan came back to inform me she needed to swab my armpits and my behind. “MY BEHIND? WHY?” I asked while tightening my butt cheeks. It was procedure they did with all new patients. Susan assured me she swabs everyone who comes in, “You do?!! Wow, lucky you.” As I dropped my drawers, I made a mental note of furiously crossing off “nursing” as any possible career moves I may contemplate of in the near future.
Post swabbing, I quickly got ready for bed. Brushed my teeth and then sat on what looked like an elderly wheelchair thingy with the seat partially cut out for toilet use. It looked like more trouble to remove the chair than to sit on the actual toilet seat, so I just went for it not thinking twice about it. I tucked myself back in bed just in time to hear Lilian yell something about “All you crazy Asians!” at Susan. Susan asked Lilian to get back in her bed but she protested and I heard Susan from behind the curtain next to me speaking to Mrs. Reyes, about her not pulling the IV again. More arguing from Lilian before help came for Susan. An Asian man came to put Lilian back into her bed while Susan came over to take my temperature and administer more anti-biotics into my IV. I asked Susan if she had more blankets because I was feeling chilly again. She brought back two and laid them on me while I laid in fetal position trying to stay warm. All the while I listened to her repeatedly asking Mrs. Reyes not to touch her IV and having to deal with Lilian getting irate at all of us Asians. I counted in my head, me, Nurse Susan, Mrs. Reyes, Asian-hospital-guy-I-can’t-figure-out-if-he’s-a-nurse-doctor-or-orderly, four Asians to one lily-white-haired-old Lilian. Must have really sucked to be Lilian tonight if she hated Asians, so much. I was finally lulled to sleep by Lilian’s screaming that the nurse call button was her game which she paid for years ago and no one was to touch it. Well, she touched it once too much and Asian dude came back to restrain Lilian with straps while Susan had to reattach the IV back into Mrs. Reyes. Susan came back to me when my IV drip was done and asked how I was doing. I told her I was still freezing, maybe more blankets. She thought maybe just a towel on my head to keep the heat in my body and placed one on top of my bald head. She was right!
Nurse Jocette greeted me as I awoke in the morning and asked to check my temperature and to give me another bag of antibiotics. Lillian was still sleeping and Mrs. Reyes gained a caregiver all to herself just to make sure she didn’t rip out her IV. Poor Mrs. Reyes, every time I saw her assisted to the washroom, she seemed like a shell of a person. She did not speak once while I was there but I heard from her caregivers that she smiled once in a while. When Lillian awoke she just glared at me all pissed off. Meh, she probably thought I was one of the full-haired Asians involved with restraining her last night or maybe she had bad vision and couldn’t tell whether I was Asian or not without the trademark black hair we crazy Asians have. Whatever, I really wasn’t interested in what Lilian thought because breakfast arrived!
I had a slew of friends visiting me on Sunday. Dawn, Solange and Zoe came by bearing headgear gifts with a much needed Americano coffee from Ella’s Uncle cafe. Headgear was given to me. I wore my cashmere toque right away and saved my newly made nightcaps for a warmer sleep later on. I cannot express the importance of headgear during chemotherapy. The amount of heat loss without hair is unbearable to me and thank goodness I have friends with good taste to keep my head looking hip!
In between visits, Jocette returned to tell me she needed to inject me with a blood thinner. “WHY?” I asked. She told me it was because the doctor didn’t want me to develop a blood clot from lying about and not moving. “Tell the doctor I’ll walk around! Seriously!! I’ll walk. I don’t need another needle.” Jocette laughed but told me she needed to administer it because it was listed on the chart. Was this as incredulous as I thought? Why wouldn’t my doctor just ask me to walk around if I could?
More friends came to visit me throughout the afternoon and well into the evening. Gillian and Jen entertained me with stories of older executives who don’t realize the difference between Lavalife and LinkedIn when asking colleagues out on a date. Felicia showed up with sandwiches for lunch and stayed with me while we eavesdropped into Lillian’s meeting with social workers to determine whether she suffered from mild dementia. Every question they asked Lillian started to grate on me as it only proved she was sharp as a whip. I texted Felicia across from me, something to the lines of “She’s a racist bitch if she answers all the questions correctly!” Felicia looked up from her iPhone and whispered if Lillian was racist to Black people, pointing to the nurses, who were on duty during the day. I shook my head no and waved my fingers pointing towards her and me frantically, indicating Lillian had it in for only us Asians. Serena finally showed up with a slice of pizza as I was still hungry. The three of us decided to have a stroll to Starbucks on the main floor of the hospital. On our way there, I made sure to find a public bathroom because I really didn’t want to share the same toilet seat that Lillian used in our room anymore. Call me crazy, but if I was Rosa Parks I would have demanded we ride in a separate bus because I would not want to catch any racists cooties from idiots like Lillian.
Darrin came by with dinner, at nightfall- Chinese take-out seafood noodles with “extra crispy noodles”, and by that time, Nurse Susan was back on duty for the night shift. And like clockwork, Lillian was her usual vile self, challenging the hospital staff and being uncooperative, just in time, for Felicia to witness when she came back to the hospital. We heard Lillian screaming how all Asians were crazy again. Felicia quipped back, “Better than being a crazy white woman!” Which Nurse Susan and the Asian-hospital-guy-I-can’t-figure-out-if-he’s-a-nurse-doctor-or-orderly (who had to strap her in again) appreciated. Lillian didn’t like the comment and mocked us laughing. We mocked her back and then I told Felicia we had to stop engaging her.
Within minutes after Felicia left my fever broke. I told Nurse Susan I was really sweaty and hot. My hospital gown was getting soaked and Susan told me to take the overcoat off. Jennifer texted, just at that moment, to let her know if I needed anything. I NEED UNDERWEAR! I texted and she actually accommodated by driving out to Walmart at 10:30 pm grabbed me 5 pairs of fresh new underwear and dropped it off on my hospital bed. I was so thankful to Jen, and all my friends really, at that moment. I thought I could last 48 hours without having to change my underwear but they were soaked in sweat and it wasn’t helping that I was sleeping on a plasticized mattress.
Monday morning I waited patiently until 9am to call up Dr. A’s office. Kathy, his assistant answered.
Kathy: “Oh yes, we received a couple of notes on you from this weekend. We are trying to find you a bed at PMH.
Me (speaking quietly, so no one could hear me but my bed is divided by a curtain, so everyone probably heard me anyhow):”Oh, I don’t think that would be necessary anymore, my fever broke last night. I’m just calling to see if Dr. A. has any pull to bust me outta here?”
Kathy: “Oh, you’ve had enough have you?”
Me: “Oh yes! I am waiting for a catscan to come back at the moment but my headache cleared last night, so I’m pretty sure the scan will come back with nothing. Fever is gone, body temperature is normal this morning. I should go home today, I feel all better.”
Kathy: “Right, okay. So, your message to Dr. A is that you are feeling better.”
Me: “Yeah, no. My exact words to are, ‘he needs to bust me outta here TODAY!'”
Kathy: “Okay, we’ll see what we can do.”
For the life of me, I cannot remember the only Caucasian nurse I had while staying in the hospital. Is that terrible? I really liked her too. It must be chemo affecting my memory. She gave me a two new hospital gowns. Lillian, once again, glared at me in the morning and we had a new patient in the bed across from me. Another elder white lady who would make pleasant eye contact and smiled at me every time I came back into the room from making brief bathroom visits elsewhere on the floor. I suspected she was listening, behind her curtain, to Lillian’s conversations with various social workers and Lillian’s son and daughter-in-law, who came in from somewhere and made no eye contact with me whatsoever. I was trying not to read too much into it but couldn’t help but get a sense that the lady across from me was trying to prove she wasn’t like Lillian at all!
Nickolas who works in the University Health Network came by to visit and we went out to Starbucks once again. While we were having coffee I thought it must be a little crazy for Nickolas who just came back from Greece having to deal with his father’s death to cancer and then coming right back home to visit his friend who was dealing with Breast Cancer and chemo to prevent anymore cancers. I wonder how many other people have these simultaneous connections with cancer as we had. Thinking about it makes me a little loopy sometimes.
I got back to my hospital floor and my nurse was checking the log out sheet at the front desk to see where I went. She saw me coming down the hall and gestured an eye roll to me while shouting out “STARBUCKS?” I let out a laugh and shrugged my shoulders and told her I was waiting for someone to discharge me from the hospital. Dr. A was stepping off the elevator as I returned to my room.
Dr. A came around my room 30 minutes after sighting him in the hallway. He summarized my blood tests showed my neutrophil count was still low but was climbing and they suspected I would be fine by the next morning. He also alerted me I was approved to receive Neuprogen shots to help my body produce more white blood cells while I am doing chemotherapy. I reminded him I had an appointment with him in the morning to check my blood count before my chemo session. He told me he postponed my chemo treatment for the following week to let my body recover a bit. They were trying to decide whether to keep me another night. I whispered loudly to Dr. A I didn’t want to stay another night. He seemed hesitant but went to speak with the doctor in charge again.
It took another 4 hours for paperwork and a prescription for two types of anti-biotics before they released me at 5pm from TGH.