Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Cinco de Mayo Clinic!

There's no way I'm the first person to make that joke, but it's making me smile and I'm in the hospital, so for now I'm permitting myself to claim and bask in its authorship.

Well, I did it again. I eloped last night. This time with a lady. And another lady. My flights from the hospital now have me married to one man and two women. I wonder how Mormons feel about bisexual polygamy?
Joseph Smith has his first vision. Of two hunky "roommates" who play water polo and own a Jack Russell Terrier.

Ironically, my two lady liberators are both doctors. One, a friend of my girlfriend Katy's, is a plastic surgery resident (more reconstructive than cosmetic surgery), the other an ER resident. Worse still, perhaps, they're at crosstown rival USC.
The USC-UCLA feud is so intense that, during rivalry week, USC students duct tape their beloved Tommy Trojan statue to prevent vandalism.

And UCLA students duct tape their iconic Royce Hall to thwart biochemical attacks. Tragically, every year a freshman or two inevitably get stuck inside and suffocate. "We are the mighty Bruins, triumphant evermore..."

They had been celebrating Cinco de Mayo at el Cholo in Santa Monica and, remarkably, managed to sneak a margarita out of the bar and into the hospital for me. The margarita was just in a plastic Bud Lite cup; so Katy's friend's holding it upright in her purse the whole time was certainly quite a gesture. Now, before condemning the medical wisdom of a midnight margarita, it's important to note that Hippocrates believed wine was the best medicine.
Peter Paul Rubens, "Hippocrates, Doctor of Debauchery. And of Medicine." Oil on canvas, 1638-40. While riding around in tiger-drawn chariots, Hippocrates, the father of medicine, was often heard saying, "Come on, Baby, drink this. It'll make you feel fan-fucking-tastic! Trust me, I'm a doctor." Hippocrates was also famous for his bumper stickers that read, "Doctors Do It for 30 Hours!" and "My Other Chariot Is in the Zoo."

Controversial though it may be, I was drinking a medical margarita. The two doctors brought their white coats with them in case they had to sneak past security, but evidently security is lax enough at UCLA that they didn't need the officious ruse. I went downstairs with them, where they retrieved their car from the valet (yes, the Ronald Reagan Medical Center has valet parking), and we sped off into Westwood, whose streets were lined with drunken college kids. We cruised for a while.
This is what freedom looks like: Wilshire and Westwood Boulevards, just before midnight on May fifth. It looks dark, but I assure you it shone with the light of a thousand suns.

We parked and asked a few students if there was any place open late where we could hang out. They directed us to Jerry's Famous Deli, right across the street--an oasis of non-hospital normality and deli meats. Sadly, however, Jerry's was closing for the night. My escorts pleaded with the busboy mopping the floor, but to no avail.
Apparently the people at Jerry's Famous Deli didn't care that I was in the hospital, desperate for any taste of freedom. They're famous for their pastrami, and for their staggering indifference to the suffering of others.

So we left, and wound up following the roving herds of college kids drifting northwest towards Gayley Avenue. The pilgrimage was brief and easy, but the destined holy land well worth the journey.
The Church of In-N-Out Burger. While multidenominational, the Church's essential dialectic of in and out gives it an Eastern flair. "Are you in or out?" "Yes." Like a zen koan, but with an answer.

Unruly college students formed a line that extended out the door and onto the patio. As if I didn't have enough old-people problems (see "Old-People Problems," below), these youngsters appeared so alien to me. And so distant. Temporally, at least: the young woman on line behind me had her back to me as she talked to a group of her friends, and she kept slamming her butt against mine. No awareness of personal space whatsoever.
Aggressively young and stupid people queue up to press their butts against other people's butts. Thus is life in the twenty-first century, everybody.

It was awful, the constant co-ed butt-rubbing. "Take me back to the hospital!," I thought.

Katy's doctor friend proved herself to be some sort of sorceress, as she knew everything about In-N-Out's "secret menu." I got a cheeseburger, animal style, and a half-vanilla, half-chocolate shake. We dipped our fries into our shakes, and ate our animal-style burgers in the style of animals.
Dogs typically eat pasta separately from its sauce. That may be why their mouths are cleaner than humans'.

Momentarily, all was right in the world. But because of the stern talking-to I'd gotten after my last elopement, I soon worried about getting in trouble again. Strange to have curfew at a hospital.
None of these people is thinking, "Can I sneak back into my hospital room without waking up my surly care partner?" Wait, the chick on the far right is probably thinking that.

The residents asked me lots of questions about my condition, treatment, and hospitalization. And they dished on the intricate professional and personal politics inside a hospital. Though interesting, all of this reinforced just how weird it was to escape from my captors at UCLA only to hang out with other doctors. Crazily enough, they confirmed that junkies who don't have good veins really can capitalize on having a direct line with the hospital IV. Maybe my nurse was right to accuse me of shooting up (see "AWOL" below). And now I wish I actually had, since it's a real phenomenon and UCLA was practically expecting it.
The doctors inform me about all the routine hospital procedures, like IVs, that can be used to achieve a better high. The doctors were nice enough to bring me a margarita, but not nice enough to bring me any heroin. So I shot some milk shake into my IV. Dude, you think your brain freezes if you eat it too fast?!

Posing with one of my kidnappers, it's evident that Stockholm Syndrome can set in after even just a few hours.

Shortly before 2:00 am, In-N-Out's diminutive but in-your-face security guard started kicking people out, and my escape drew to a close. The doctors drove me back to UCLA, and as I walked by the nurses' station--well over two hours after I told them I was merely going down to the lobby--I passed my surly care partner, who didn't acknowledge that she even knew me, much less that I had just committed a serious transgression.

I was wired, tipsy, and covered in sauteed onions and fried mustard, so I didn't fall asleep until well after 3:00. Fortunately, the phlebotomists came at 4:00 to draw blood. And then, someone else came every 20 minutes thereafter to needlessly wake me up. By 7:00 it was time for a CT scan, before which I promptly got a migraine. They tried to prep a new IV for the iodine dye--this was loads of fun, because the nurse couldn't find the vein, but, showing her persisent spirit, spent several minutes with the needle in my arm, aimlessly poking around.
This was my view going into the CT scan.

And this was my view (of UCLA's famed ceiling) lying on the CT scan table.

I'd write more about this boring scan and my subsequent Vicodin, but I just found out today that they're shuffling things around once again, and adding a new procedure tomorrow: they're going to put the temporary pacemaker in; then Friday they'll extract the current infected one.

I will try to pound out another post soon, but the next two days bring two serious procedures, and possibly emergency surgery. Hopefully all will go well and I can at least retrospectively post about it early next week.

My surly care partner just lazily lumbered in and told me how she wanted the night to end quickly, because she'd been here four days (she meant four straight night shifts).

"I've been here two weeks." I said.

Another stellar moment for UCLA's medical support staff.


  1. I should probably stop reading your blogs at work...I'm gonna get in trouble for laughing out loud. (Not LOLing, but literally laughing out loud).

  2. Awesome, thank you! I don't want you to get in trouble, but thank you nonetheless.