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Lucky George (2) Pt. II
I left the hospital and called Peter, my younger brother who lived nearby, and Nick, my older brother, who was in San Francisco. “It’s not good,” I told them. "George was feeling bad and I took him to the hospital. It's something to do with his heart. He's in surgery."
I then went home and tried to rest, but all I could think about was George and what had happened. Finally, the morning came and Peter and I met and went to the hospital. George was still in surgery. We were told he could be there for hours.
After four-and-a-half hours in surgery, George was out. The surgeon talked to us on the phone and confirmed the general consensus about George: he was a very lucky man. “Two out of three patients don’t survive surgery of this type,” the doctor said. “Half don’t even make it to the hospital.” What happened? we asked. “His aorta ruptured in the rear but was supported by his back. If it had ruptured any other way, he would have bled to death. As it was," repeated the doctor, "he was very lucky to survive.”
The events of the next few days are a blur in my memory, but are recalled in a journal I kept at the time:
Monday, January 18. Evening.I have been to the hospital and seen an unconscious George. The doctors say his prognosis is good.
Tuesday, January 19. George is hooked up to tubes in the intensive care unit (ICU). Peter and Phillipe Cheng [a friend] go to see him. Both are concerned. Peter calls Nick and suggests he fly in.
Wednesday, January 20.George is up and alert, and aware. Effie and I come by. Effie jokes, “Where’s my camera? We should take a picture.” George vigorously shakes his head and rolls his eyes. He cannot talk because feeding tubes are in his throat. He writes a message. “Get her address,” he says about the nurse. “Maybe he wants a date!” smiles the nurse. Nick says he will be coming in on Sunday morning.
Thursday, January 21.The doctors had hoped to have George out of the ICU by today, but because of [his history of heavy] smoking, he is having trouble with his breathing. “His lung capacity is not great,” explains Dr. Chu. Jimmy Davis, Effie's cousin, arrives today. He and Effie go see George. He writes a cryptic message to Peter about the president of Iraq, Nick, and “Zeon.”
Friday, January 22. George seems much better and is able to talk, at last. He seems very tired. He is still in the ICU. The Soter family holds a quiet birthday party for Peter. Effie and Jimmy play cards constantly.
Saturday, January 23. There are plans to move George out of the ICU today. He is very animated, almost agitated, talking to nephew Tom Hart and his wife Regina and me about the clocks, which he claims were all made in Turkey or Iraq. In the evening, he is moved out of the ICU.
Sunday, January 24. Jimmy leaves early in the morning. Nick arrives. George is back in the ICU. He was having problems breathing and also became violently delusional so they brought him back. A number of doctors say he is exhibiting normal signs of “ICU Psychosis” after being cooped up for too long in the windowless space. Nick thinks that George is also having an adverse reaction to the drugs (this theory is also offered by another doctor). George says odd things: “Get me some fruitcake when the fruitcake tray comes around” and when he wants the straps holding him down removed: “Take these off! I order you. This is your commanding officer speaking!” He is also very suspicious of the doctors. Nick stays with him most of the day.
Wednesday, January 27. George is moved to a private room, at Nick’s instigation. It is much more relaxed; like a hotel. George plays cards with Effie and Nick.
Friday, January 29. Dora [Nick’s wife] arrives. George gets a little testy. But his doctors say this is a good sign. It means he is getting better.
Saturday, January 30.The doctors say George may leave on Sunday. Nick and Dora get George a new mattress. Effie and I stay with George, playing cards and watching home movies.
Sunday, January 31.Nick, Dora, Peter, and I replace the old mattress in George and Effie’s bed. It crumbles in their hands because it is nearly 50 years old. George comes home. “Good to see you, fella,” says Effie.
March 6, 2013