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Two Weeks to Remember
A CRISIS JOURNAL, 1999
By TOM SOTER
Saturday, January 16, 1999. George has had the flu all week. He has stayed home. He calls Peter and me to say that he is concerned about Effie. She is sleeping all the time and won’t get out of bed. Peter feels her head and says, “She’s burning up.” She refuses to take any medicine or drink.
Sunday, January 17. George has grown more concerned about Effie. “She hasn’t had anything to eat or drink in two days,” he says. I call the doctor, who suggests taking Effie to the emergency room. George solves the problem by suggesting the family play a game of cards. Effie comes from her bed, money in hand. Peter crushes up four aspirin in a cup of water, which she drinks during the game. She plays the worst game ever: nearly 500 points (“a Carol Gardiner score,” someone says).
Sunday, January 17. Evening. George, looking pale, comes to the Sunday Night Improv show with Effie. “Here are the two corpses,” he announces as they arrive.
Monday, January 18. 4:00-5:00 A.M. George calls me, complaining of back pains. “I’ve been trying to sleep since 2:30,” he says. “I can’t.” I bring George to the Emergency Room at St. Luke’s in a cab. George seems dazed. We wait for a nurse to register them. I insist on not waiting, that we go straight to a doctor. “You should have told me it was urgent,” says the guard. “I’ve never done this before,” I reply.
Monday, January 18. 5:00-5:15 A.M. George is examined by a heavyset Jamaican doctor. She tells him his aorta is very large and that his blood circulation is slow. She leaves him. She comes back and tells him they’re going to do a CAT scan. She leaves him. George tells a nurse he feels nauseous. She looks him over, she calls another doctor over. They examine him. They confer. They wheel him off in a hurry, looking concerned. The Jamaican doctor comes to me with George’s ring, watch, and other belongings in a bag, saying, “This is very serious.” George has had an aneurysm and has been taken into emergency surgery.
Monday, January 18. 5:15-10 A.M. I call Peter and Nick. Peter and I meet later and go to hospital. George is still in surgery. We are told he could be there for hours. After 4 1/2 hours in surgery, George is out. The surgeon tells Peter and me that George has been very lucky. “Two out of three patients don’t survive the surgery. Half don’t even make it to the hospital.” What happened: 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, he was very lucky to survive.
Monday, January 18. Evening. Peter, Amelia, and I go visit Effie for dinner. During a card game, we tell her. “That was unexpected,” she says. “Poor George. When will he be coming back?” 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 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 qnd 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 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.
Monday, January 25. George seems better. More rational. Still in the ICU.
Tuesday, January 26. George is moved to a room with another man who coughs, wheezes, and watches a lot of game shows. George seems tired. Nick, Effie, and Peter have been with him much of the day. Dr. Barnard visits.
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.
Thursday, January 28. Nick shaves George.
Friday, January 29. Dora 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.