Six Months On (Episode 14) — The Move

Back in the ICU it was a waiting game. Having come through the long treatment period, I was now off medication and on the road to recovery. I was still on supplemental oxygen but was being weaned off of that. It seemed painstakingly slow (though I’m told it was actually going pretty quickly) but to be honest, I felt better than I had felt in years. It was as though a reset button had been pushed on my body and all the aches and pains I had dealt with for a long time were just gone. While the extra oxygen I was getting was necessary, I could already tell a difference in the way I was breathing. I was starting over and I couldn’t wait to keep moving.

The next step was to get out ICU and into a regular (less expensive) room. That would take a day or so as they wanted to make sure I was well out of the danger zone. Having spent 99.999% of my life not in the ICU, (trust me, I did the math) I never knew what a big deal it was to get out of ICU. I was still going to be in the hospital just a different part of it. But to everyone else it was a big deal because it meant that the care team felt that the danger had passed and restored health was on its way. Whether I realized it or not getting out of ICU was a major hurdle in the race to go home. When the word came that I could be moved, everyone that came in reacted like I had won the lottery.

Not many people know this but I have an excellent sense of direction. Part of this comes from understanding the lay of the land. Once I get my bearings in a place I’m good to go. If I’ve been to a place once there’s a good chance I’ll remember how to get back to it. I’ll admit that Google Maps and my willingness to trust it have made this less of a necessity in the last few years but it’s actually made it easier for me to get my bearings well ahead of time. But the last couple of weeks not only ruined my sense of time, it obliterated my sense of direction. I knew that I was in a large room (and sometimes a boat) at the end of a long hallway. Beyond that I could have been in Winslow, Arizona for all I knew. There was a window in my room that looked out the roof of another building but it was behind me and to the right so I couldn’t really see it without great effort. Having freshly woken up and in a bit of a fog for a couple of days I really wasn’t interested in what was out the window…or what windows were for that matter.

So when the doctor told me that I was moving out of the ICU he might just as well have told me he was switching to a different brand of dish detergent. “Whatever.” As long as the pretty redhead over there was going to be there, I was golden. Susan, on the other hand reacted to the news in the same way she does when she gets to hold a baby or finds out there’s a Trader Joe’s nearby.

So she began packing up the stuff she had brought into our temporary home of the last couple of weeks. I use the word home very intentionally there. Home is more than just a building that you live in. It’s the place where you make memories with the ones you love. We had certainly done that. And, yes, you can say that those memories are days and nights of worry, fear and dread. Of a sad Christmas and birthdays. This was a place where I almost died, after all. Who wants to remember that? But it was also the place where I didn’t die. More importantly, it’s the place where I opened my eyes and saw the world as I had never seen it before. It was a place where things started fresh. It was a place where the most optimistic guy you’ve ever met found even more hope than he ever thought possible. So, yes, for those days I will call it a home and like the other homes that I have lived in. I hope the next residents find in it what I found. Healing and a fresh start.

The exact time of my move wasn’t revealed to us. It all depended on the availability of a room. It was like being told to sit tight but be ready to move quickly as though we were doing something covert. When the time came we half expected a man in a trench coat carrying a briefcase to come in and say, “OK. Let’s go. Quickly!” Instead it was a nurse that we had never seen before who said the best thing you can ever wish to hear in the ICU. “Nice to meet you. Hope I never see you again.”

And so we were whisked away down the hall and into the large elevator that they use to move patients and their entire beds. I was still on supplemental oxygen so in addition to the normal monitors and IV equipment there was also a large oxygen tank that clanked like a H-bomb as it rolled around on one of the carts that carried the rest of our stuff. But the skilled pros in charge of getting me safely to my room had it all under control.

To get to our destination we had to go down to the ground floor and go to another elevator to get up to the floor where my room was. I remember passing a couple of windows on the ground level that look out on a grassy area. There were Christmas trees made of multi-colored lighted blocks standing still in the grass. I remember thinking how nice they looked and they reminded me that Christmas had only been a little over a week before.

The room I was assigned to was what is called a “Step Down Unit.” It’s similar to a regular hospital room but there is a bit of extra care available. I vaguely recall being told that I was there due to a lack of availability of regular rooms rather than for the extra care. We arrived, stuff was unpacked, I was plugged in and we settled in to our new digs for the night. One more major hurdle behind us. On to the next one.

That is the true story of how I got out of ICU but that’s not how it was suppose to happen. In my dreams there was a plan to spring me from that place that would come from the most unlikely source and it would have been the most ingenious escape plan ever attempted…

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