My friend, Myra, wound up in a Lexington, Kentucky hospital emergency room yesterday. I don’t know just what led her there, aside from intense pain. I spoke with her last night from her hospital bed (the hospital admitted her) after learning of her mishap from her daughter’s Facebook posting; her daughter gave me a phone number where I could reach her. Myra assured me she was doing much better, having adapted nicely to pain medications; friends were on the way to drive her and her car home, presumably today.
Finding oneself hospitalized in a strange place with no friends or family close by can be terrifying; I can attest to that from experience. My first such experience was in Toledo, Ohio, where I was attending a business meeting. I experienced intense intestinal pain, courtesy of Crohn’s disease; it was so intense that I asked to be taken to the hospital. The doctors were confident acute appendicitis caused the pain, so they took me to the operating room to remove my appendix; instead, they found and removed several feet of badly damaged intestines. They removed the appendix, as well. When I awoke, my wife was at my bedside; she had flown to Toledo from Chicago to be there for me. Had I awoken to only nurses and doctors, I am sure the experience would have been even more terrifying. Other people who attended the meeting visited me, but it wasn’t like having friends or family; I appreciated their presence, of course, but having someone at one’s side, someone with whom one has an emotional attachment, is healing.
A similar situation arose several years later when I flew to Vienna to attend a meeting for another organization. Again, the intense pain caused by Crohn’s disease prompted me to ask the hotel to have a taxi take me to a hospital. I did call for a taxi, though, until I had first called my wife to tell her that I was ill and asked her to call my gastroenterologist to ask him what to do; naturally, he told her I should immediately go a hospital emergency room. That experience was a bit odd, in that the taxi driver first took me to a hospital that turned me away because it accepted only people who were injured, not people who were ill; the second hospital took me in. Fortunately, I did not have to undergo surgery, but I was kept in the hospital for a few days before being allowed to leave. I did not return to the meeting but, instead, went to the airport. My seat on the plane home was not assured until I spoke to the pilot; he would not allow me to take a seat until he spoke to me and felt confident I was well enough to travel. During my hospital stay, the frequent presence of a representative of the Vienna convention bureau, who was hosting the meeting I was to attend, comforted me. He also kept in close contact with my wife.
There was at least one other time when I fell ill while traveling (possibly more, but memory begins to blur at my advanced age). I believe I was in Las Vegas, but it might have been Palm Springs, when late one evening I again experienced the intense pain of Crohn’s. I was able to call a taxi myself and asked the driver to take me to the hospital. I spent several hours in the emergency room, during which time the pain eased dramatically. Just before dawn, I was allowed to leave. As the taxi dropped me off at the front of the hotel, the chief volunteer leader of the association I managed at the time walked out the front door on his way to take a walk; we had an interesting conversation as I explained that, no, I had not been out on a “night on the town.”
I suspect I could, if I challenged myself to do it, write a longer, more intriguing story of my experiences traveling ill and alone. But for now, I hope Myra will take time to write of her experiences while they are fresh and clear. I wish I had written about mine while they were new and I could recall more of the detail that surrounded my experiences. Wishes. More wishes. Damn it. Stop with the wishing.