All Photographs + Text Copyright 2012 Christopher Keeley

The Surgery - Acute care - Lumbar Hemi-Laminestomy

The hospital is a dangerous place for me.

A freak out of nowhere phone call plops down unexpectedly, ruining my serenity. I was praying and preparing myself for some major surgery. Ex-girlfriend V. calls me out of the blue. She is demanding that I remove her name from a nude photograph of her I took in 1983 and posted in 1994 on my Vintage Art page, and later on my Coincidences Three page on the ever on-going Paradise Life series.

V. stated that her kids could now surf the Internet and Google her name. She demanded that I immediately remove her full name from any association with the nude photograph or she would seek legal action. I said: Wow, let me think about it. She was so quick, but I said, V. you own an art gallery, how can you ask me to remove my artwork? She says that she didn't sign a release to use the image on the Internet with her name. Now I have thousands of photographs and pages on the web, but all I had to do was Google her name to find out what's coming up first (she was right) so I removed her full name, but left the photograph. However, in 1989 V. had signed a consent for a photograph of her that I took and used in an exhibition with her quotation: “Shame, every time I'd shoot up, I would puke.” This was a part of the Alienated Youth series that I exhibited in 1989. At that time V. didn't own an art gallery, but she worked in one.

I didn't tell V. that I was going in for surgery the next morning, when she asked my quickly, Chris, how are you? and in the next breath, I will seek legal action. I immediately made amends after she hung up the phone and thought a while about this situation of my pages coming up first on a Google search, even before a link to her art gallery. So I removed her full name from the First Date story in the ever ongoing Paradise Life series.

My memories of love and romance immediately diminished from my decades long fantasy of her. This from a two-minute phone conversation. It was like a paper-thin void of anything meaningful. She just uses people. Complete phoniness. Distance of nothingness.

Any hospital is a dangerous place for me. I had major surgery yesterday. When I checked in for the surgery, they had the wrong surgeon’s name on my hospital bracelet and paperwork. I complained, and it took an hour for the admissions people to get it right.

A very friendly Korean nurse made five attempts at getting an IV line in for my anesthesia, without any success. The anesthesiologist made nine attempts without registering any good veins. Even after I told him a particular dead blown-out vein was useless in my hand, he went for it against my objections, only to leave me black and blue in nine places on my body. He managed to get four calls on his cell phone while trying to get a line in on my body. I wanted to say something to him about professionalism. The Korean nurse was getting distraught about the wrong doctor’s name on my paperwork for surgery that was to take place in an hour or less time.

I told the Korean nurse that I was allergic to all Narcotics. I break out in spots like DC General Hospital, St. Elizabeth's Psychiatric Hospital, DC Jail, Fifth District Metropolitan Police Station, and the DC Morgue if I take any Narcotics, of any kind. She began to smile and gave me a red Allergy band with a handwritten NO “Narcotics” on it. This probably saved me big-time, as now all the Anesthesiologists, Nurses, Surgeons, Doctors realized that if any drug were given to me it might set me back to misery, near death, and hopelessness.

The anesthetist had tons of confidence. I told him that I didn't want any drugs. He said that was good to know. He would keep that in mind and give me the minimal possible medication to anesthetize me, while putting me to sleep. He asked me my weight.

The anesthetist's supervisor in the operating room made two more attempts at finding a usable vein, without any great success, bruising me in two more places before going into my femoral vein in my groin area. The Charge Nurse wrote Recovering Narcotics Addict No Narcotics on my chart and across the page of my surgery documents.

After the surgery I check my messages at work like any good work addict would do. I then forward them to my supervisor, because I am also covering for another unit. Several angry judges have phoned in requesting Late Court reports to be filed. My first nurse reminded me of Nurse Ratchet. She checked in on me, but only after three hours had gone by, and after I had pressed the nurse button asking for more cranberry juice. I had to ask for Cranberry Juice three times before it was eventually delivered. A man brought by a brand new phone that I wanted to take home with me, that I learned later cost $6 a day.

My principles went out the window, because I was scheming and plotting on how to take the phone home with me after my hospital stay. Immediately after the operation in my daze and haze I requested a Fentanyl patch to ease the pain from surgery, which of course was never provided to me because of my brilliant joke/remark about breaking out in spots from my allergic reaction to any Narcotic in my bloodstream. If I take any mind altering or mood changing drug I am in big trouble. The vicious cycle of addiction would resume at a monstrous rate. I would have to walk out with the doctor's prescription pad in hand. This is important, because later on I couldn't sleep. I could ask the nurse jokingly if there was any Valium in my saline drip. Luckily there was only an Antibiotic in the drip. I told the nurse that the last time I was addicted to Valium it took me six weeks to detoxify in an in-patient hospital. With Managed Care you can't find any hospitals these days that do that sort of thing.

I am offered some Darvocet-N. I tell the nurse that it's like bubblegum for an addict like me. I decline the offer. My first compulsion in the hospital room was for some chocolate. After dinner, double portion, I wanted to order a Gyro Pizza from Romeo's. The Lebanese pizza shop in Georgetown. It's 3:20 a.m. and I still can't sleep. At 2:30 the nurse who was supposed to give me Antibiotic doesn't offer any sleep medication because of my severe advocacy at Intake, telling everyone I was clean 21 years and that it would be a complete disaster if I took anything. Look, I was such a successful drug addict that the surgery medical team had to go in to my femoral vein to get a line in to dispense medicine, to put me to sleep for my major surgery.

It was amazing how the medical team focuses on my past drug use from 21 years ago, asking which specific drugs did I use, while giving me a diagnosis of Depression and Suicidal Ideation. I told them that all that didn't matter, my problem was addiction and now my symptoms are Happiness, Joy, and total Freedom. I have no desire for any drugs. I really do have a high tolerance for pain. However, even the word Valium still to this day gives me a warm feeling of bliss, when I think of the drug. Valium is a Hypnotic sedative, powdered Alcohol for those of us who are Alcoholics. Mixing both drugs together creates a synergistic effect tenfold; I could never keep up with the Jones. I can now say for the past 21 years I have suffered from mania exuberated by Happiness, Joy, and Freedom, because of surviving such a hellacious life on drugs 24/7. My coping mechanism right now is prayer, meditation, and good humor.

In the middle of the night a man in a white coat delivers a box-like thing to my hospital room. It was a machine to stimulate my legs by vibrating. However, with work still on my mind, I thought he was hooking up a fax machine. When Nurse Ratchet showed up two hours later with breakfast, I asked her if it was a fax machine. She said no, and strapped my ankles and legs into the machine. It had an incredible soothing effect so that I lost the feeling in my legs. It was as if I was floating in bed. Even with this machine I wasn't able to completely fall asleep.

The next morning the doctor on duty wanted to discharge me. I said I needed another day to recover and I wanted to talk with my doctor. The surgeon whose name was originally on my paperwork showed up with six other people crowded into my hospital room. I argued my case and we were going in circles. He finally says ok, you can stay and leave tomorrow, but you won't be receiving any more medical treatment. He actually said there are more germs in this hospital that can cause infections, so we think you should be discharged today. I was glad I stayed. I recovered nicely and slept from 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. I managed to advocate for myself another day in spite of the Managed Care medical machine. It was all because my mother wanted me to stay another day and I promised her I would.

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