Saturday, August 7, 2021

INTO ART 11: ER/PERTUSSIS

 







“Please don’t go, Pinkie,” I sobbed.  “Please… please… please don’t die.  I love you.  Please don’t go, Pinkie…”

And then blackness, like death itself.

Twirling and swirling—swirling and twirling. 

I twirled and swirled from stark black to shades of gray, dark to light, and cream to white.

“Please don’t go, Pinkie… I love you…”


“He’s awakening doctor.”

I opened my eyes and morphed from whiteout in my brain to a sterile whiteness around me.  I felt hot.  “Where’s Pinkie?”

“Who?” A male figure wearing a surgical facemask cloaked in white loomed over me.

“Pinkie!  Where’s Pinkie!”

I barely heard the white-cloaked figure issue an instruction to another figure before I felt a needle in my arm, and then my mind softened.

It could have been five minutes or five hours later when the same white-cloaked figure stood over me again, gently shaking my arm.  “Can you hear me?”

“Yes.”

“Tell me your name.”

I did.

“Tell me your date of birth.”

I did.

“What year is it?” he asked.

“1794.”

“Excuse me?”

I studied him, darted my eyes around.  I’m back.  

The white-cloaked figure nodded.  “Who is Pinkie?”

I hesitated for only a second, shaking my head as I strove to fully comprehend my predicament, which included a drip connected to my arm.  “I don’t know.  Where am I?”

“Monmouth Memorial Hospital.”

“Where’s that?”

“Long Branch, New Jersey.”

“How did I get here?”

“By ambulance.”

“From where?”

“A bar in Asbury Park.”

“Wonder Bar?”

“Yes.  You remember that?”

“I should of known,” I muttered under my breath.  “Why am I here?”

“You were delirious,” said the figure.  “Someone called an ambulance.  My name is Doctor Gurliacci.”

“Am I okay?”  Right after I said this I began coughing—and couldn’t stop, even when I needed breath.  And when I finally managed to draw some, I produced a strange sound, like a whoop.

I barely heard the doctor snap instructions; moments later, a nurse placed an oxygen mask over my mouth.

I breathed deeply.  Never before had I so appreciated the luxury and simple necessity of breathing.  

Once I regained a steady rhythm, Dr. Gurliacci leaned over me.  “We think you may be suffering from pneumonia.  We’re going to run some tests.”

I felt tired and depressed.  And I missed Pinkie, more than I’d ever missed anyone my whole life.  

As I lay still, a nurse drew blood.  Another asked me to sit up and blow my nose for a mucous test.

And then I lay on my own, grateful for pure oxygen.


Many hours later the doctor returned.  “We have to move you to the contagion unit,” he said.

“Why?”

“We diagnosed pertussis.”

“What’s that?”

“An upper respiratory infection.  Better known as whooping cough.  The bacterium that causes pertussis is highly contagious and can spread easily to other people through the air, which is why we need to isolate you.”

“Can I die from this?”

Dr. Gurliacci shook his head.  “We’ve already started you on an antibiotic called erythromycin through the drip. It should do the trick.” He paused.  “Where else have you been aside from Wonder Bar in Asbury Park?”

I looked up at the ceiling.  How best to answer this and be helpful without risking commitment to the psych ward?

Dr. Gurliacci filled the void as I considered his question.  “It is important we know so that we can warn and vaccinate others.  Otherwise we could end up with an epidemic.”

“I was in Pasadena.”

“California?”

I nodded.

“How did you get from California to New Jersey?”

I hesitated a moment.  “That’s what I’d like to know.”

“You don’t know?”

“My psychiatrist says I suffer from blackouts.”

“From Pasadena to Asbury Park?” This puzzled him.

“That’s what he says.”  I considered this.  “And I’m supposed to be taking Zyprexa and Abilify.  But they’re in my hotel room.”

“What hotel?”

“In Pasadena.  Oh, shoot—I missed my appointment in Pasadena.  What day is it?”

“Saturday.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“What day do you think it is?”

“Monday.”

“What is your psychiatrist’s name?”

I provided Dr. Stendahl’s details and felt too tired to say anything more.  I could think only of Pinkie. And how I wished I'd returned her to Jamaica where she'd wanted to be so she would not have gotten sick and died.