A Night at the Hospital – 1 & 2

icu_bed_space20130618110113[Weekly Writ is an entertainment project where we take story suggestions from our Your Ad-Vantage Facebook page and turn those ideas into a silly flash-fiction or commercial-style vignette every week. This week was written by Your Ad-Vantage’s Lee Rugen! This story has two versions to show how drastically mood can affect the same plot.]

Version 1 – Humorous

“Unless something comes up on the last test, I think you’ll be able to go home tomorrow.” I was clinging to those words that the doctor had uttered when he stopped in the room before dinner.

This hospital room has become a jail of sorts. Don’t get me wrong. The nurses, the doctors, even the orderlies that clean up the ghastly messes that I can’t even imagine – they’ve all been wonderful – but this sterile environment crowded with sick people…it’s taking it’s toll. I’m not sure I enjoy being the center of attention as I pass one room after another during my walks every two hours. But I do it anyway to get my strength back. I want out. Three weeks is a long time.

I should know in the morning. It’s late and the family’s gone home for some much needed rest. All I need to do is sleep through one more night here. Just a few more hours. I shudder from a chill. How many hospital blankets does it take to keep a patient warm? I’m too tired to come up with a punchline, but I still smile as I close my eyes.
It’s 12:42.

Something icy cold grabs my wrist. I jerk my hand away. “Oh, did I startle you?” The lab technician looks about as tired as I am. “I thought you were asleep.”

“Well, I was.”

“Sorry, you’re my last stop tonight. We need one more sample, Hey, I heard that if all goes well you get to go home tomorrow.” Reassuring words…but now, I just want to sleep.

“That’s what they tell me,” I mutter. One more prick to the human pincushion couldn’t hurt, right? Ouch! Nevermind.

As he leaves I fidget with the mane of the stuffed giraffe my wife left to keep me company. The fibers tickle my oversensitive skin, but that’s okay, because It smells like her. It’s 1:17.

The steady beeps of my own monitor are making me drowsy. It’s reassuring. That wasn’t always the case. At first, it would keep me up all night. I would stay up to make sure no irregular beats broke the steady rhythm, dreading the moment when those beats would eventually succumb to a steady drone. But now, (yawn) I feel –

I jerk from the unexpected hacking of my roommate. No offense, I mumble silently, but you remind me of the goats at the petting zoo. He shifts in his bed and the wheezing subsides a little. It’s 2:04.

The sheet that separates us offers little privacy, but I reach out to hide him so I don’t have to see those odd faces he makes in his sleep. Are his eyes open? At least he isn’t subconsciously picking his nose anymore. I need to focus! I’ve got to get some rest.

My attention turns to the conversations going on at the nurses station. I don’t hear words, but a mix of laughter and reassuring tones. They calm me; their kind voices helping to dispel the unrealistic nightmares of late-night hospital dramas worthy of Grey’s Anatomy.

I turn the pillow and settle in again. It’s 2:57. Finally, my eyes start to droop.

“And how are we doing tonight?” My eyes pop open. The nurses smile is disarming as she checks my stats…but I’m still irritated.

“Not bad,” I say.

“Maybe you should get some sleep.”

“Good idea.” It’s dark enough, so I feel safe rolling my eyes. She leaves but I’m wide awake again.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Something is causing the shades to methodically caress the window pane. The AC? My neighbor’s fan? Once again, I shift uneasily so my ears point in a different direction. It’s 3:22.

Whine-swish. Whine-swish. Whine-swish.

The old copier by the nurse’s station must be printing a book. I gently swing my feet over the side of the bed and slip on my sandals and stumble to the entrance of the room. I slide the door shut. What little light that was available diminished futher. Somehow I manage to get back to bed without stubbing a toe. It’s 3:38.

Drip drip drip.

You’ve got to be kidding me. Every noise seems to be magnified in this darkness. I get up again and try not to get tangled in the wires that monitor my every breath. Every heartbeat. The birds are starting their morning chats. I plop back into bed and drop the pillow over my head. I peek from under the corner. It’s 4:37.

I start to think about what’s happened over the last few weeks. I’ve got to pray. I start to tell God how grateful I am for my family. Skilled doctors who performed a miraculous procedure that still amazes me. A clean hospital. A loving, supportive wife who’s always there for me. And…not…….to………..mention – I catch myself falling asleep. Good grief. Of all things, how could I doze off when I’m talking to God?

I glance at the old alarm clock that my dad gave me for camping trips. It can’t be. It’s 5:34.

Two hours to go, if he’s on time. Finally, my eyes are getting heavy. I hope he’s got good news. My selective hearing blesses me with one final sound for the evening.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Version 2 – Serious

Except for the steady wheezing of my roommate, it’s quiet. But with every strained breath he draws in, my chest seems to ache.

“A one day visit”…they said. “Simple tests”…they claimed. Well-even though they were only doing what was best, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that they broke a promise. Or at least that they weren’t completely honest. They must have suspected something.

I slowly reach out and carefully pull the sheet that provided the appearance of privacy. A joke, really. I still hear the labored breathing of my neighbor, but at least it didn’t sound as painful as before. It’s 1:17.

I lay still as I relive the recent events of my life. My wife and I had been to doctor’s offices on 3 separate occasions in the last 6 weeks. The symptoms didn’t seem that serious, but were still unsettling at the very least. In my condition, it could be something quite routine or rather serious.

Tap tap tap.

The AC ensured that everything was well chilled, or preserved, depending on whether it reminded you of a fridge or a tomb. At the moment it was an annoyance because it was causing the blinds to tap the wall. Once again, I shift uneasily to distract myself from the noise and find a warmer position for my feet. It’s 2:29.

Why am I still here? Every time they came back to the room with more test results they were concerned. They tried to hide it, but I knew. They were uneasy. Not a good sign when you’re supposed to be in the presence of experts.

Whine-swish. Whine-swish. Whine-swish.

Not even the repetition of the copy machine was enough to soothe me. I gently swing my feet over the side of the bed, intending to shut the door, when I realize the movement has jostled one of the many tubes on my person, and it starts to bleed. Somehow I manage to stub a toe as I climb back into bed and reach for the call button. It’s 3:09.

Through all of this, she’s been by my side. She’s my rock, calm as I could have ever hoped and needed her to be. Always ready to talk, but willing to stay silent. Taking everything in stride, and makes a point to make me smile. A constant support who could reassure me – when I so desperately wanted to be the one to comfort her. I love her. I’m not ready to leave her yet.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

No more! No more! Every noise seems to be magnified in this darkness. I sit up again and try not to get tangled in the web of wires that monitor my every breath. Every heartbeat. So much struggle—just for a pillow. The birds are starting their morning chats. It’s 4:37.

They tried to reassure me. “This is only a precaution”…they said, then a feeble attempt of a smile. You could see it in the eyes of the specialist that this was serious. They didn’t have a clue how I was still alive did they? But I can’t blame them. They’re doing their best. And I’m still alive.

I glance at the old alarm clock that my dad gave me for camping trips. It can’t be. It’s 5:34.

Finally, my eyes are getting heavy. The doctor should be here in just 2 hours.

I hope it’s good news. I need some good news. Well, I suppose any news will do. Any news at all. Every day not knowing anything is another day in purgatory…

Tick tick tick.

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