Gotham Diary:

I spent five hours at the Hospital for Special Surgery this afternoon — that’s why I didn’t schedule a Daily Office. That, and my not feeling very well. Owing to nobody’s fault in particular, I was discovering that I can’t quite make it for fourteen weeks between Remicade infusions. Thirteen, yes; but no more. Days into the inadvertent fourteenth week, I was having to think twice before leaving the apartment, because my colon had reverted to its natural, irritable state. I’d run out of Remicade molecules! The last thing I wanted to do was languish in hospital waiting rooms, but I would only feel worse if I gave into that declension. I wanted to stay home because I needed what I’d have to go to the hospital to get.

It’s a very nice hospital, Special Surgery. I’ve certainly never been in a nicer one. That has something to do with the parts of the body that are treated there, bones and their integuments. The limbs that stretch away from the brain and the thoracic organs. No heart disease, no cancer, no emphysema. There may be unimaginable pain and crippling, but it isn’t, for the most part, potentially fatal. There is a sense in which every HSS patient is an athlete on the mend. We’re all getting better — and that’s obviously great for staff morale.

But the hospital also takes advantage of its location. The waiting room for Radiology and the visiting areas for inpatients all overlook the East River. That’s an understatement; they’re on the East River. Which regular readers know is a strait that flows in both directions, depending upon the tide, bearing ships and barges and police cruisers and sailboats and even (idiotic) jet-skis. No matter how bad you may feel, the misery of being shut away in a fluorescent hell isn’t making things worse.

So I felt better the moment I arrived at the hospital, an hour early for my appointment with the rheumatologist (a Facebook friend, by the way) who always looks me over before infusions. When I last saw him, in September, he ordered some X-rays of my cervical vertebrae, just to be sure that carrying my growing grandson around isn’t the reason why I’m suddenly capable of slight nodding: my neck really isn’t supposed to move at all at this point. It was inevitable that I would put off actually having the X-ray until my next visit to the hospital, i.e. today. What wasn’t inevitable was that I’d go to the hospital an hour early because I felt so lousy that I’d just as soon be in a hospital. It was even less foreseeable that I would start feeling better, as I say, as soon as I got there.

From 2:15 until 3, I waited for an X-ray slot. At 3, I put that wait on hold and went upstairs to see the rheumatologist. I was back downstairs by 3:25, and by 3:35 I was sitting in an X-ray room in my undershirt. (It’s cold in New York!) It took a long time to get all the X-rays, because, you see, my neck doesn’t move, and this confounds a lot of everyday technician wisdom. The guy who took my pictures was smart enough to know what he didn’t know, and a whizbang colleague was brought in at one point to kibitz. Radiologists were consulted, as well as the rheumatologist. I was feeling so much better by this point in the afternoon that, frankly, there wasn’t much to distinguish me from Norma Desmond; of course I was difficult. Or, rather, my body was. I myself couldn’t have been more obliging. I held odd positions for long stretches without a whisper of complaint. At one point, my butt was hiked up on a huge triangular ridge of foam, while my mouth roared wide open in silence. “Don’t breathe!” When it was all over, the technician thanked me for being a “good patient.” But of course, Mr De Mille! It was 4:30, time for Remicade.

The nurses at the Infusion Therapy Unit — only one of whom, Sara, was there when I paid my first visit, seven years ago next April — were Doodad’s best friend when it came to cooing over Facebook pictures of Will. Sara herself pronounced Will “one happy little boy.” Earlier, the rheumatologist, who seemed to have all the time in the world to hear about Will’s eager appetite for asparagus and mushroom soup, beamed at me and said, “I don’t know you know you, but I know you well enough not to be surprised that you’re a big softie about your grandson.” I took that as a compliment. Also as a suggestion to lose weight.

At 7:10 — I was so eager to be up and going that I wanted to offer to drink the last few milliliters of Remicade — I dashed out into the night, eager to catch Kathleen on her cell phone; she had just landed in St Louis for an overnight business trip. I got a taxi right away — and why not? New York was going my way. Every hospital stay should be as restorative as mine was today. I could swear that the Remicade is already working.

One Response to “Gotham Diary:

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