-Sam HaiNe (@S_HaiNe82)
Misadventures of a Disillusioned Thief is a series of nonfiction stories for the Cult Classic Good News Blog - editor
“The promise of spring and warmer weather can at times be its own grift. Because just as the blue skies cleared, my mother was entering the hospital for a second time”
It all started a few weeks ago with a benign tumor on her optic nerve. The surgery was simply to cut a line behind the scalp from the left ear to the top of her head, push the skin back and cut a porthole into her skull where the tiny fingers of medical elves would maneuver under her brain with sterile pinchers and patiently cut away the tumor and put everything back to the way it was before the procedure. Dr. Benway wasn’t available. However, the surgeon in charge was even better.
The city was spawning a fake shade of green all over. It was the day before the St. Patrick's Day Parade; when amateur drinkers wear green outfits and go to bars to spill there drinks, hi-five each other and claim “It's all about Honoring Irish Culture”. Because playing Beer Pong is the National Sport in Ireland, right? And remember that famous Irish Folk song by House of Pain? It’s the one day out of the year when people who don't drink Guinness all of a sudden drink Guinness because they saw a movie; when everyone jumps on anything that has Irish in it. And the flat caps, the fucking flat caps... It’s the day of the year where you'll hear college students’ bash cops, while, unbeknownst to them, they're drinking in a cop bar. And don't even mention Yeager to these soft asses. How many of these light-weights are going to announce to the world, “Getting a buzz, man! I’m getting fucked up”? – That’s what you’re in a bar for! It is the same every year. Why can’t they just stay home and let the real alcoholics get drunk on weekdays. "People drink to get drunk. Drinkers drink to stay drunks"
We arrived at check-in around five in the morning and six hours later she was done. Total success and well on her way to a surprisingly quick recovery. The only obstacle was the impatience of a willful & independent woman, who refused to feel helpless. She wouldn’t stay down in bed. She dug trenches with her bare hands. She concocted methods of adjudication. She cut barbwire. She cooked meth… okay she didn’t cook meth but, she would have with the right kitchen. It looked like we were all out in the clear, until it happened.
[Drink a shot]
Monday morning – I was plummeting into a much deserved deep sleep on the couch. The sofa had become my Cryo Bed since my mother’s side of the family from PR was taking shifts visiting to check in on my her health. Something admirable but, the Santoni family is everything you could imagine from Puerto Ricans with some Italian ancestry; they’re a bunch of lunatics. My father’s family on the other hand is somewhat calm but, I’m only really close with a few of them: two half siblings, two uncles, a step-grandma and a handful of cousins. Good people, routinely imperfect, with great big hearts pumping Black and Native blood, the latter being something I revere... After falling deeper and deeper into the drool stained pillow, I heard my mother call out for me. “I heard a pop” she said twice. The look of panic shown threw her pours and shined on her frightened face. She took off her gauze cap so I could see if any of the stitching came loose – all were intact. She fanned herself erratically. She sat on the bed and tried catching her breathes. Then she reclined back and started to seizure momentarily. I called her “mother” and by her given name. I turned her on her side and dialed emergency. She heard the phone and snapped out of it quickly and let me know she was okay and stood up, but quickly fell back onto the bed and seized more. The blood was now seeping out of her head through the intact stitching; running down her face and some even spurting out onto the wall like a Jackson Pollock octopus. Her right side was immobilized and she was unable to speak. I gathered any useful information on her condition into my backpack.
The EMT’s wasted no time transporting us to the Emergency Room. The introductions were quick and brief. It was obvious: an artery had popped and blood was rapidly filling her skull, pushing down on the left side of her brain. And to make matters worse her air passage wasn’t allowing the breathing tube in. Then she vomited during the ordeal and inhaled all the fluid back into her lungs making the situation more problematic and life threatening. Twelve medical professionals rushed down to somehow get oxygen into her system and more importantly get her into the operating room, as quickly as possible.
I didn’t cry. I didn’t sweat it. I was like a frozen lake the entire time. I did my part and she was in the right hands. Maybe being a certain way actually did some good. After two hours. The head neurosurgeon with his team gave me and my family members the situation –Good News: The bleeding has been fixed and the artery repaired. Bad News: She now has a pulmonary edema in 90% of her lungs. That they were keeping her under heavy sedation and her blood was being oxygenated via a machine and an artificial lung was breathing for her. As well, they were lowering her temperature to maintain her in a stable condition. He informed us that because of the complications with the airway during surgery, she was only able to receive 30% oxygen, if that, for an hour. So if she makes it, there could be some brain damage. The doctor was direct and didn’t sugar coat anything. He laid it out on the table in detail about worst case scenarios. He said, “We are doing everything we can to keep her alive and help her body heal. The only other thing we can do is hope”.
My aunt responded, “And faith”.The Doctor replied, “Yes of course” which I translated as “Whatever bitch; hocus pocus”.
Still I didn’t sweat it, I did my part. [Drink a shot]
It was bad enough until the friends and the visitors arrived and out came the bibles and the prayers and the rosaries. I began to feel agitated. “Sam, don’t worry, god is going to fix things”. And I thought, “Yeah, cuz the omnipresent nowhere has given us all so much to be happy about, right”… This went on for days. Days of watching this passive aggressive pony show being perpetrated by a revolving door of people. Some I felt bad for cuz they actually cared. Others I just watched and knew they’d be somehow represented in this yarn.
Aside from all that nonsense, the doctors and nursing staff were all very professional and very good and did everything in their power to keep me up to date with the gradual progress that none of us anticipated.
“The past week and a half your mother has shown great improvement, beyond our expectations. She’s looking well” said a doctor, “We’ve even had to restrain her a few days so she couldn’t rip out her tracheostomy (trach) tube in her sleep. All her appendages are moving and she is following instructions which are all fantastic signs”.
“Hallelujah” said an acquaintance waving her hands in the air.
I was already drained by the time my mother started to wake up. My great aunt, god bless her, reaffirmed that god has given my mother two chances to live and I immediately wanted to send a letter of insanity on her behalf to the hospital in Puerto Rico where she worked as a senior nurse. Like the invisible man of the universe was responsible. Was he orchestrating the surgery? Was he/she driving the ambulance? Was Tim Tebow the resident nurse? I don’t recall seeing doves flying around the ER like a John Woo feature. In fact the only being that had any proprioception was me. I was at the right place at the right time, I cared enough to not give in to hysterics and get her ass back in the hospital and into the care of trained medical professionals. If there was any metaphysical work being done it was that Death did me a favor and passed over her until the appropriate time at a later date.
Fast forward to this week –She is awake and her brain is functioning very well. She can’t talk at the moment but she has a huge stack of paper and a pen. Yesterday she tried very hard to show the doctors that she is 100% and I said “Stop putting on a show and just take it step by step”. She gave me the finger and stuck her tongue out. She’s back to normal, still stubborn. It is what it is. I don’t sweat it. I didn’t cry. I did my part and my mother is recovering. She’s alive and I guess you can say I paid her back finally for a favor that I never asked for.