To my wife’s great credit, she took my demands seriously. Her eyes opened to the incompetence, the deficiencies, the indifference. We rang the Call button at one point and waited 20 minutes without a visit from an attendant. My wife stormed off to the desk and found one of the attendants there, who had set down a clipboard in such a way as to cover the Call light panel.
Before long, we had the administrator in my room, apologizing. I demanded to know what plan, if any, existed for my physical therapy. I had been there for 16 hours and nobody had thought to discuss it with me. Her response was, “The physical therapist comes in at 3. You can talk to him then.”
“Four more hours?” I sputtered. “I have to spend almost a full day here before someone is available to discuss my treatment program? Once again I have to ask if anyone in this place knew I was coming.”
The administrator again began a series of useless apologies, and suggested that we might be more satisfied with Home Health Care. I suspect that she would be thrilled to see us leave, since all I had done since my arrival was point out the gaping holes in her carefully-wrought treatment facility.
At that very moment, I became aware of a change in my body – a movement, a gurgle, a pressure – and realized that my long-awaited bowel movement was about to arrive. For six days, this reluctant slug of feces had resisted daily doses of stool softener and laxatives, hindered by anesthesia and pain medication. And now, during the discussions of my release from the nursing home hellhole, it had broken free of its bonds and was cruising towards freedom, a metaphor in transit.
I had to interrupt the discussion and request privacy. The curtain was drawn around my bed, and I painfully slid myself over and onto the commode – a maneuver I had not yet tried. Once enthroned, I had to conduct my business while listening to the discussions continuing on the other side of the curtain.
Within minutes, a great wave of relief washed over me, and I was able to return to the itchy, uncomfortable nursing home bed with a sense of accomplishment. The discussions between my wife and the administrator had resulted in an agreement, and the paperwork for my release was being prepared. The bowel movement was merely the icing on the cake (sorry, that was irresistible).
During the wait for the paperwork, the physical therapist arrived. He was a nice guy, intelligent, committed and probably good at his work. Had our paths crossed the previous day, it might have changed the outcome of this story.
Almost exactly 24 hours after I had been admitted to the nursing home, I was released. A male attendant helped me into a wheelchair, and I literally burned rubber on that thing heading for the exit.
I cannot adequately describe the feeling of returning home. I was able to use the walker to get from the car to our bed, and I lay there in ecstatic gratitude. I told my wife that if the day ever came where she had to decide whether or not to put me in a nursing home, she should just give me list of things to pick up at Costco, and then cut the brake lines on the car.