Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Problem

The Problem
By: L. Paul Fobert

I didn’t want to go to bed, even though it was eleven o’clock in the evening. I just wasn’t tired. My eyes were wide open. I had been bouncing off the walls as if I had just eaten a dozen pop tarts and drank a two-liter bottle of Dr. Pepper. Apparently the rest of my family wasn’t tired either. My dad, who usually went to bed around nine or ten o’clock, was reading the paper in his recliner, my mom was sitting on the sofa to my left reading the Reader’s Digest; Emily, my thirteen year-old sister was sitting on the love seat to my right and Eliza, my nine year-old sister, was spending the night at a friends house.
I was sitting on the sofa trying to decided whether or not I was tired enough to go to bed when a tingling feeling shot through my right hand. I couldn’t move it. “Mom!” I said looking at her with eyes full of fear.
“Robert!” My mom called out to my dad.
They both jumped off their seats. My mom knelt in front of me and laid me out across the sofa.
“I…ca…can’t mo…move my…my…hand,” I stuttered as my body started shaking uncontrollably.
Before I blacked, I heard my dad say, “Oh no!”
I didn’t completely black out. I could still make out light through the back of my eyelids.
My whole body shook. The intensity of the spasms intensified so much that my muscles and joints were locked into place. Each breath was shallow and deep. My brain felt like it was on fire. It was worse than any headache I’d ever experienced.
After what seemed like hours, but I would later find out was really only about five to five and a half minutes the violent and uncontrollable shaking stopped, and I could see and hear again. A couple days later I learned that I couldn’t see because I had had my eyes closed and I couldn’t hear because I had been focusing my attention on the pain in my brain which is why I had my eyes closed.
I opened my eyes, but I was still too weak too keep them open, so I closed them and listened to the conversation around me.
“I called 911. It’s all I could think to do,” my mom was saying as she sobbed. At least I thought it was my mom.
“It’s all right, honey. Honey. Honey. Barbara, calm down,” my dad soothed.
After that, the voices started coming together, making the headache that had started to go away, worse.
I tried opening my eyes again. This time I had enough strength to do so, although I was still weak. The first person I saw was my next-door neighbor, Shelley Duran. What am I doing over at the neighbor’s house? I thought. Before I had a chance to ask, a man who was undoubtedly a paramedic or a doctor, at the time I couldn’t tell, shown a light into my eyes.
“Do you remember your name?”
“David Masters.”
“Do you know what day it is?”
I was about to reply when I realized I couldn’t. I didn’t remember. I closed my eyes in disbelief and concentrated. It wasn’t coming to me. How was that possible when there were only seven to choose from? I just couldn’t for the life of me remember, No matter how hard I tried it wasn’t even on the tip of my tongue.
The man continued examining me. A thought came to me and it seemed like it was better to say than nothing. “I remembered this morning.” As the words left my mouth, I realized how stupid it actually sounded, but the one thing I knew for sure was that morning I had remembered what day it was.
A few minutes later I found myself on a stretcher being rolled out of my house to an ambulance. Yes, I was at my house, I had figured that out while being questioned by the man who I could now identify as a paramedic instead of a doctor.
On the driveway, the wheels of the stretcher ran over a Whipper Snapper, the small firecrackers that give off small pops when thrown on the ground. I heard my mom give a yelp of surprise. I smiled for the first time since everything started. Now I remembered, today was Sunday July third. That’s why we had Whipper Snappers on the ground. Tomorrow was the Forth of July.
The ambulance ride was uneventful. Very little happened. My mom and I rode with the paramedics while my dad and Emily were in the car somewhere behind us, or maybe in front of us. I don’t really know because I didn’t see them until after all the test were over. And I’ll never understand how my mom got to sit shotgun in the ambulance, my guess was that there wasn’t enough room in the back with me and one of the two paramedics that were there. Since when were there two. I knew they always came in two but this was the first time I had noticed the second one. I lay there watching the green line on the heart monitor machine move up and down and left to right all the way to the hospital and not once did the driver bother to turn on the siren.
At the hospital, I learned that the paramedics had put an I.V. in my arm and a heart monitor on my finger. It left me wondering When it happened and why hadn’t I felt it? It explained the machine with the green line in the ambulance.
A female nurse with long black hair and loose fitting scrubs, allowed me to let my imagination run free just by entering the room. She transferred me from the stretcher to an uncomfortable hospital bed.
It was a little disconcerting looking at blank and empty, white walls and waiting for a doctor, I was actually starting to wish I was an emergency case, a gunshot victim or a car crash survivor, at least then I’d be attended to. Being attended to by my nurse couldn’t be bad, she was hot. But even looking at hot girls can get boring, especially if they catch you doing so. I found myself again wondering why the walls in this place were so bare. Was it just the ER or was it the whole hospital. I hoped it was just the ER, I can at least understand why they wouldn’t decorate, but why wouldn’t the rest of the building. And why didn’t ER’s decorate. Even television show emergency rooms decorated. ER, House, Scrubs all did. Why not actual ER’s.
I started to get antsy. Waiting when you’re not in a waiting room was the worst. I looked up at the green on the hear monitor and started tapping my chest with the finger that was attached to it. The line started moving up and down in longer strokes faster across the screen. I had done this a few times on the drive over.
But what would happen if…
When the line reached the right side of the screen, the machine started beeping like crazy. The doctors and nurses came running. Now I knew how to get their attention.
One of the doctors was wearing a white lab coat and seemed to have come from nowhere. When I first saw him, I started wondering where my dad and sister were. I hadn’t seen them since the ambulance pulled me out of the house. Would they really be in the waiting room? The man in the lab coat looked like he was in his early thirties, even though he was balding.
“Hello David. My name is Doctor Stephens and I’m going to take you to get a CAT Scan. So we can see why you had that seizure.”
I’d had a seizure.
“Is that all right?”
Without waiting for an answer, they pushed the bed down a hallway to the CAT Scan room. The doctor and nurse transferred me from the bed to the machine. Irritably I wondered if they didn’t think I could walk. In a panic I started imagining scenarios if that were the case. While I was being transferred, I worked myself into a frenzy and just as quickly calmed myself down.
“You need to stay still for half an hour. The machine is going to make a lot of noises. Try to ignore them. And don’t move.” My mom, the doctor and the nurse all left the room. I could, however, see them through the window separating the rooms. Every time the machine made a whirring noise I would jump slightly. Forcing myself to stay still for that long was very hard work.
When the CAT Scan was over, the doctor told us he would be back with the test results later. I got to walk around for the first time in what seemed like hours. I didn’t know how long it had really been and didn’t think to ask. I stretched my muscles for the first time in half an hour.
I got my first glimpse at what the CAT Scan machine looked like. It was a huge circular machine with a hole in the middle. From the hole came a holding tray of some sort that a person could lay on which feeds into the machine.
On the wall by the door there were actually two comic strips. They matched the walls perfectly. They were black and white comic strips. Both of them were making fun of CAT Scans. The first one pictured a man holding a cat, holding binoculars over a man who was lying on a table. The second had a man standing in the middle of a room full of bookshelves which were lined full of cats staring at him. Both of the comic strips had the words CAT Scans printed in bold letters at the bottom.
After about ten minutes, I started to once again get bored, but the heart monitor on my finger was taken off when the doctor and nurse transferred me from the bed to the CAT Scan machine, so I had to figure out another method of amusement. I started walking back towards the bed, which was still parked next to the CAT Scan machine. As I walked, I put my left foot where my right foot would go and my right foot where my left foot would go, making it look, to my mom, like I was still woozy. Mixed with the way my body was handling this seizure and whatever drugs the doctors might’ve given me, it made me look as if I was about to fall down. I learned a short time later that it was a possible seizure symptom.
Mom jumped out of her chair. “David!” she yelled, rushing to me.
Just before she reached me, I stood up straight, said, “Gotcha!” and started laughing.
She didn’t think the joke was very funny. Later I wouldn’t either.
“David Masters. Mrs. Masters.” A voice whispered, although with the way it was spoken, so calmly and in that ‘I have something to say and you’re not going to like it way, it seemed to just boom and echo in my ears.
We both turned to see doctor Stephens looking at us solemnly. A small folder was in his hands. The test results.
“I’m afraid I have some bad news.”
“What is it?” I asked.
My mom stood by me with her hand on my shoulder.
“You have a brain tumor which is causing serious grand mal seizures. It’s grown to such a great size and is placed in a part of the brain that it is too dangerous to operate on. At this point radiotherapy and chemotherapy are the only options available.”
My mother and I stared at the doctor in horror.
“I’m sorry.”

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