Hospital Jewels

I woke up in an ambulance just outside of McCarren Park. Or I regained consciousness. I didn’t know how long I’d been out. I didn’t know what had happened.

Then I felt the familiar dullness inside of my own head. The bland pain that ensconced my joints and my muscles all over my body. My body was the place for tonic-clonic spasms and amnesias that seems to heal sufferers of severe depression when purposefully induced in modern electroshock therapy. But doesn’t do the same for those who aren’t expecting a jolt of electricity in their brains.

An EMT said, “You had a seizure.”

This time I heard him. I am told that post-seizure, I have to be reminded of this fact a lot. It’s a thing that I don’t want to hear. But I have to hear it over and over while I am still in the grips of the amnesia.

If I am with someone who doesn’t know or remember what to do when I seize, they will inevitably call 911. Though, I have been slapped in the face on occasion.

Every time, I have to take an ambulance ride for which I will never, ever pay. A ride that, to my mind, takes away from someone who might actually need it. One that I am compelled to take over my protestations of being an epileptic who needs sleep. I never needed a fluorescent, hellhole, emergency room overstuffed with poor people screaming for painkillers or screaming against the K2-induced hellhole in their own minds.

They aren’t imagining it.

This is hell and the drugs are not coming.

I am never given so much as a Motrin after I’ve told the fifth scrub-donned person that I am in pain because I had a seizure. There is no spring in the step to get you out of there either. You just lie there and you die really slowly in a dress that no one will tie up in the back for you.

The protestors I understand. One of them is shouting, “I want to kill myself!” in a bid for opiates or benzos. One is asking every nurse for their nurse and then asking that nurse to become their new nurse because, “that bitch left and won’t come back.” Our suicidal friend is also announcing that he is “here of my own volition!”

Next to me a kid is getting water for his grandmother. He is a man in every sense of the word except for in this place where his worry and his eyes render him childlike. Talking to nurses quietly and reasonably on her behalf and she starts moaning.

Then the lady on my other side starts to moan too. Moans that sound as though they crawled from the bottom of the ocean to break on a shore in uncontrollable waves.

I look around and see sleeping people. I want to sleep. I want to leave. I want to sleep. I want to leave.

I tell my nurse, “Look, I have epilepsy. I deal with this all the time. I just need to sleep. I want to leave.”

And he says he’ll get me out of there, and then he disappears for a while. A while so long that I begin to consider shouting. But he appears and he’s flirting with a white girl who also wants to get out of there. She eventually leaves before me and I watched her arrive from my bed.

So I shout to a nurse who makes eye contact, “I don’t know where my nurse keeps going but every time I see him he’s working awful hard on getting that white chick out of here.”

And my bedmates start to notice. This one is roosting in every cuckoo’s nest on the floor. And before it becomes awful for everyone, they get me out of there.

I walk out of the emergency entrance and see a fucked up man in a gown who has been seeking out painkillers. The nurses and doctors have been looking for him.

I slip out the exit onto the street. No metrocard to get home. Weak. I will have to jump a turnstile somewhere. Fortunately, it’s Flushing and Broadway at midnight. It’s too hot to sleep in August anyway.

This was a month ago and I am still wearing my hospital bracelet so that when people ask me what festival I was at, I can respond: “The ‘Don’t call 911’ festival.”

Actually I say, “Thank you for asking. I have epilepsy so if I have a seizure around you please don’t call 911 unless it literally lasts for more than five minutes. Otherwise, just try to keep me from hitting my head on things and talk to me when it’s over.”

Just talk to me when it’s over.


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