Every day I go visit my brother Mike in the hospital. And every day has its ups and downs, but the overall effect is of idling in place. All the peripheral junk, like bill paying and insurance faxes and disposing of the remains of his motorcycle and cleaning up his house and yard - all that stuff has been taken care of, is being taken care of.
But he can't talk worth a durn. Only the simplest communication is possible. "Are you hurting?" A nod of the head. "Where are you hurting?" "Gurgle, gurgle, wha doan yah keh, gurgle, gurgle." "Okay, okay, just try to relax." A miserable tired smile, if only from the eyes.
I go for the nurse.
He can see okay out of his left eye. When asked what he saw out of his right, he said "Chalk". Of course he has a neck collar on, so mostly all he gets to look at is the ceiling. They are afraid that eye got dried out in the days after the wreck, when he was sedated and his eyes didn't close fully. Plus the right eye was more swollen. They now have a patch over it, to keep the lid closed. They are applying artificial tears, and some sort of ointment.
He has hallucinations. It may be due to what they call "hospital psychosis", an effect brought on by being drugged, naked, and helpless, not being able to move, never knowing what time it is, being awakened at all hours and never getting any rest, etc. It may be due to small bruises on both frontal lobes, where his helmet met the pavement. They seem to be getting better. There was also some bleeding at the back of his brain, but again it was not severe and is not getting worse, according to the latest cat scan. The area is beginning to be reabsorbed.
He spent some time the other day picking invisible things out of the air with his good hand. When I asked what he was doing, he said "Hairs". Then he started pulling at his tubes and poking at his good eye, so they tied down his hand. He fights the restraint occasionally, but not violently. Sometimes he can wiggle his toes on command, and sometimes he doesn't. He moves around quite a lot, by increments working his way down to the foot of the bed, or getting a leg over the guard rail on the left side.
They come in and reposition him. "Damn" he says. I think he would get up and run out the door if he could. I have the advantage of him there.
He has so much bloody stuff coming up from his lungs and down into his throat from his mouth and nose they can't keep up with it. And I'm not much good at suctioning, though I suppose I'm better than nothing. My principal talent is to run get a nurse when he seems to be in unusual distress.
I get lots of practice.
He's not getting worse. But he doesn't seem to be getting much better in a hurry, either. Supposedly he is scheduled for an operation on his facial fractures next Friday. But I don't see how they can suction out his throat with his jaws wired shut for weeks afterward. All that stuff is settled right on his vocal cords, and right above his windpipe. He could choke at any time, and suck it down into his lungs.
The surgeon and I are going to have a talk about this.
The nurses are better at cleaning him out than I am. They are not afraid to bring tears to his eyes. After they get through, he can occasionally make himself well understood. Yesterday as I was leaving I took his good hand and said "I'll be back tomorrow, Mike." And clear as a bell he replied:
"Don't have a wreck!"
I had to laugh. Still do, considering the source. Whatever else might be injured, his sense of humor is intact.