"the deadliest bullshit is odorless and transparent" - William Gibson

Wednesday, May 05, 2004


Thursday night I got home and realized my knee had been leaking juice all day, and the pain I had was not from physical therapy the day before. I realized I had an infection. I tried to call the Orthopedic surgeon on call at Duke, but they said they couldn’t find one. I layed down on the floor and threw shoes and books at the wall as hard as I could. I hooked up my Polar Care 300 to my knee and listened to an audiobook (
The Devil in the White City
-It's amazing), eventually falling asleep right there on the floor. I woke up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat and shivering. I put on sweatpants and hoodie and watched some tv and read until 7 when I tried contacting the nurse at my knee doctor’s office, and left a messaging telling her about the pain, puss, and fever. She called me back a little after 9 and told me to come over to the clinic right away. I got there and the P.A. Jon, who is always very helpful and always answers my questions thoroughly but without BS, told me that it was def an infection and there was a good chance they would have to do a surgical procedure today because knee infections are not something you want to mess around with or let grow over a weekend.

I drove over to the Doc’s office on Duke Campus, I hadn’t been over there since my first knee surgery in 2000. When you see the doctor waiting for you in the lobby of the building, this is not a good sign. He checked me out right there in the posh lobby, leg stretched out on a leather ottoman, and told me that they’d have to go in and clean things out and get me on an IV with heavy duty antibiotics ASAP. He told me to head on over to the Abulatory surgery center right away and his nurse would call and figure out a way to squeeze me into the afternoon surgery schedule. The doc was real nervous about letting me drive with the fever and everything, and was offering to drive me over, but in the parking lot we realized that didn’t make much sense and I could drive the few miles to the ASC...I almost got lost on the way there (i’ve only been there 4 times or so), but I got some last minute directions from my pansophical buddy who works at Duke.

it's bout 1pm, I’m stretched out on a hospital bed in nothing but a cloth gown, IV in my arm, almost slap happy from the fever, and I realize that I feel like absolute ass, I’m having surgery for the 2nd time in two weeks, and i’m facing another shitty rehab full of complications (including the possibility that mutant hospital bacteria may not succumb to conventional antibiotics), and I hadn’t showered in days, (can they cancel the surgery because I smell bad?)...I was completely calm though. My stress levels are monumentally higher at a routine dental cleaning. I was cracking jokes with all the nurses, having deep political conversations with my mom, and grinning like an idiot. I wasn’t on any painkillers or anything. I’m not sure why I was like this. I don’t know if it was the fever or my familiarity with pre-surgical procedure or the liberating nerves of knowing that I had something that definitely killed people on occassion? whatever the case, I felt alive.

I awoke afte the procedure with much less of the nausea and pain I remember having the last time I got put under. I had never had to be put completely under for knee surgery and I don’t really like the idea of a machine breathing for me with a tube in my throat. As soon as I was somewhat with it, the doctors told me that the news was good, the infection hadn’t spread into the actual joint, and the inital lab results showed that the bacteria was most likely something treatible with mainstream antibiotics. They were still going to keep me overnight at least though, and would have to transport me to the “big House” the main hospital wing of rooms. I slept on and off in the recovery room and drank several ginger ales until they thought I was ready to be moved to my room.

I guess I thought they had a walkway or tunnel or something to the “big house”, so I was surprise when three people in navy blue jumpsuits showed up with a stretcher. They pushed a huge syringe of morphine into my IV before they moved me to their stretcher. I noticed the patches on their suit...”LIfeFlight”...are they taking me on a Helicopter? what’s going on?...oh. oh. here comes the morphine..weeee! I’m being rolled down the hallyway. these guys are going fast. oh, look there is the funny nurse who hoooked up my IV, Hi, I’m going to the Big house, come visit me. weee!
Outside now, they are setting up tents for something. it looks like it might rain later. Oh, they are taking me in ambulance. This is cool. “Mr. Martin, have you ever ridden in an ambulance before?” “oh yeah, i busted my head open outside the library where I was studying for my modern art history class and they put my shoes by my head on the stretcher and they smelled bad...” Are they laughing at me? Where are we going? Why do they have a microwave in the ambulance? Is it for some medical heated thing or for hot pockets? I have two seat belts on me. ohhhh, this must be the big house. look at all those nurses smoking. It smells like they are all somking menthols. cool elevator. “floor number 6. I am in room 6117. in the big house.” they have a lot of crap in these hallways. I feel better about the crap in my hallways at home. that’s my room. it looks small. the flightsuit guys are arguing with someone in the hall. the whiteboard says my nurse is named “kurt”. that’s not right. I hope the flightsuit people are trying to lobby for me getting a hot nurse. they are looking out for me.


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