If you’re new to this series, start here.
by Jenny Blaser
“Jenny! You are upright and in your chair!” The nurse at my family doctor’s office is excited to greet me and see me functioning a bit letter than the last time we saw one another – when I was twitching about on the floor of this office.
“Yup, still not back to 100% … I can’t really use my left arm – I named it Scottie – but I am feeling a bit better these days!” I do my best to present Scottie to the nurse and two secretaries who have formed a semi-circle around me to say hello.
“Scottie! Ha! I’m glad you are doing better. Go into exam room 3 - Dr. Ronan will be there in a second. She knows you have to get back to the hospital,” the nurse instructs, while stifling continued giggles.
“Yup, back by 6pm or I turn into a pumpkin.” I am deadpan. I turn and head to exam room 3. I can hear some sounds behind me and I cannot tell if it is giggles or confused chatter. This has become an overused joke since being admitted, since I have such tight constraints on my time outside of the hospital.
Exam room 3 is a bit of a safe haven for me at this point. I have spent many hours in this room getting bad news, getting good news, crying, laughing – you name it and it has probably happened in this room. It’s a normal-looking doctor’s office with an exam table along one wall, a sink in the corner, and a desk with a computer across from the exam table. The walls are a greyish shade of beige and there are posters on the wall that detail the different kinds of back injuries one can have.
“What is this about you finding a new place to live?” In bounces Dr. Ronan, and she assumes her seat on her stool at the desk.
“It’s the only way I am going to get out of the hospital. I finally got permission for a day pass and I am going to look at places on Friday.”
“I am looking out of downtown. I just prefer that and I can get more space for less money. It’s next to impossible to get a truly accessible unit in Toronto, too, so I am just looking for the best I can get it and hopefully I will find something. I have 4 viewings set up and then time to wander around and see if we can find something else if those don’t pan out. I have a friend coming to help me.” Dr. Ronan seems to approve, nodding along as I explain.
“I think it is so strange that this has played out this way. What about health? How is the new pain medication?” Dr. Ronan finally turns to face me.
“I am still spasming, as you can see.” I gesture at Scottie. “Not much has changed, and they still have no interest in evaluating or treating me. I’m just there. Hanging out in a hospital room. It’s totally what I wanted to do with my month of May.” I roll my eyes. “Pain-wise I am doing better. The switch has helped a lot and I am glad we did it. At least something positive has come from this.”
“Okay, that’s all good. I’m really sorry this has happened. You really do have the worst luck and this just sucks! You said in your email that you wanted me to give your B12? Do you still want that? You just have to tell the hospital I gave it to you.” Dr. Ronan gives me her “I’m really serious” face, and I nod in agreement.
Normal B12 procedure involves me standing up and holding onto the desk and exam table while Dr. Ronan pulls down my pants so she can access my thigh. From there, I sit back down in my chair and get the needle in my left leg. No one is keen on that happening today, though, and I am halted as I start to undo my seat belt.
“You are wearing loose sweat pants!” Dr. Ronan near yells as she leans forward and starts to roll them up. “I am not about to let you stand up when you are still like this! Do you stand at the hospital?” We get my pant leg up farther than we need and are both pleased with this.
“No. I only stand with a high-wheeled walker and two people on either side of me to catch me if I fall.” Dr. Ronan rolls her eyes at me, clearly judging me for even trying to do it here, while she reaches into a drawer to pull out a syringe, needle, and some alcohol swabs.
You can sense that we are a bit nervous. The last time I was here, we injected something into my leg and I have been in the hospital as a result ever since. We have successfully done this with B12 many times in the past, and there is no reason to think it won’t go well this time, too, but the anxiety exists nonetheless. I watch as Dr. Ronan draws up the bright red translucent B12 solution into the small syringe. I feel my heart start to race a bit and I start to pet Penny for comfort. This is normal anxiety for me every time I get an injection, but it is definitely slightly heightened tonight. I used to have a significant needle phobia, and while I am over it for the most part, I cannot help but get a bit nervous as I watch her prepare and anticipate the solution being pushed into my leg.
“Ready? I am going to swab with alcohol first, okay?” I nod and watch as she swabs a small area on my leg. “Okay, I am going to pinch the skin now” She glances up and I nod again. I continue to look at my leg while she grips a chunk of tissue on my left thigh. “Ready?” I nod and quietly say yes, not taking my eyes off the leg. She darts the needle into my skin and slowly pushes down on the plunger. I watch the red solution disappear from the syringe, imagining what it may look like as it spreads out into my muscle and fat below the skin.
The needle comes out, I apply pressure for a few seconds to make sure that I am not going to bleed, and then we roll down my pant leg again.
“I know you need to get back. Keep sending us the updates and let me know about discharge plans and everything and I will see you soon. I’m really proud of you for being so brave and doing so well in the hospital. I know it isn’t easy for you.” Her smile reassures me, as do her kind words. We both recall past admissions that have not gone smoothly and she knows how much I hate hospitals. It’s a bit easier on me knowing that I have Dr. Ronan and a huge support system external to the hospital to help me through it.
As I ride the elevator down to the lobby and make my way out into the warm spring evening, I am just thankful that this time I am making the journey to the hospital by myself in my power wheelchair and I am secured in with a seat belt, rather than duct tape.
Jenny Blaser is a young, Deaf and Disabled Queer who loves all things pink and butterflies. She is a chronic story teller who uses narrative as an act of resistance and reclamation of identity and experience. To learn more or to reach Jenny, check out http://fiestydeafanddisabled.wordpress.com/