Monday, October 27, 2014

A Bloody Good Halloween Story: Part One

CHAPTER I:  Waking the Dead
“Your Aunt G could certainly use a few days off from the Mortuary” my Mom fretted long-distance over the phone as my fever continued to spike.  “She’s only a couple of hours away, and I’m sure she’d be happy to come take care of you”.  (EEK!)

Granted I was a wee bit hazy from the elevated temperature, but as the phrase “take care of you” may imply a cold compress and a comforting cup of broth to most clans, in my Addams Family, more than likely I was looking at a full-on road trip with my Aunt G in the Hearse, casket with my measurements already on board, a lovely selection of satin pillows awaiting my final consent to descend.

“I’ll be fine!” I conjectured, cranking on the air conditioner until I was a proper blend of cold and clammy; an unnatural shade of gray washing over my face like a pall just in time for my High Holy Holiday of Halloween.  (Hmm...  Did I thereby qualify for the roles of both ‘The Decedent’ AND ‘Pall Bearer’?  But I digress!)
To be quite honest, I wasn’t entirely convinced that I’d truly walk amongst the living ever again.  Would the postal carrier become frustrated by the overflow in my snail mail box and eventually dial 911?  Would ever-so-handsome EMTs break down my door to strap me into a gurney as I sucked my last earthly breath?  And if so, would I have the strength to daub on a bit of makeup before being rushed to Cedars-Sinai Hospital where all of the A-list celebrities seem to go to die? 

*knock knock knock*

“You look like Hell” my Midwest friend Tina stood on my doorstep, hamburger bag in hand (acutely aware of the healing powers of Cow).  “I’m taking you to the clinic” she asserted, passing me the beef as if its presence might at least provide an modicum of comfort as I clutched Cow like a teddy bear.
“Can’t tie shoes” I whimpered, staring down at my skull and crossbones pajama pants (with the festive green palm trees!), refusing to budge without my verdant matching sneakers.  (Don’t know why, but in my feverish state, Cow and I determined that this particular fashion choice was non-negotiable.)

With my weight, blood pressure and temperature taken (all a tad elevated that day), a lovely Phlebologist dressed like a Supermodel clippety-clopped in her stiletto heels for a few vials of my vital fluids.  “Do you always dress like that for work?” my friend Tina asked skeptically (Cow and I merely assuming we were suffering from delusions).
“Oh, this?  No, I have an audition in a couple of hours!” the practitioner beamed, temporarily blinding us with her Chiclet-white teeth. “Now you may want to look away” she suggested helpfully (yeah, like I could see anything after the ‘bleach party blingo’ in her mouth), under the guise that perchance I might be faint of heart at the sight of blood.  Unfortunately however, apparently SHE was the one infinitely most uncomfortable as she mercilessly poked and prodded me like a toddler playing her first ever game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. 

“I hope you get the part!” I offered sincerely as the worst Phlebologist whatever lived clopped out the door, leaving me wincing at the disturbingly monster-sized bruise developing in the crook of my elbow.  (“And call me if they need to cast the role of ‘Heroine Junkie in Skull and Crossbones Pajamas’, FFS”, I thought.)
Now despite my friend Tina’s angelic attempts to help keep my spirits up, the longer I sat in that God-Forsaken room, the higher my anxiety levels became.  And picking mindlessly at a patch of dry skin my chapped lip, I suddenly found my face spurting blood like a hemophiliac.  “Here’s a tissue” lovely-but-useless Chiclet-teeth gagged as the paper membranes stuck unpleasantly to my mouth like mummy wrappings.

“A wet towel is best” another woman jostled her way past, urging me to apply pressure to the wound.
“I take care of this” a Doctor suddenly appeared with gauze and a styptic pencil, dabbing at my face until a large black coagulated lump appeared; an ugly blob which left me looking like I’d barely made it through one boxing round with Mike Tyson.  “I speak to you when test results are back” he informed me smugly lest I sat unaware of his brilliance, his intuitiveness and overall generosity for not performing a labial amputation.

“We’ll just get a urine sample from you now before you leave, and you can bring the rest of these items back tomorrow” Ms. Wet Towel informed me, politely handing me a to-go goodie bag.  (Oh boy!  Trick or treat!” I thought happily.  “I hope it’s the good candy like Snickers and not the cheap crap!”)

While I’d not in fact been given any Snickers, clearly The Universe was having a hearty chuckle at my expense; as for the life of me (if you will), I stood stupidly in my kitchen, unable to mentally process the utility of the items before me.
Now granted there’s not much of a formal dress code on the streets of West Hollywood (particularly around Halloween and Carnival), but how on Earth was wearing a plastic cowboy hat with only half a brim going to cure me of that which ailed me?

Regrettably, examining the accompanying vile vials with the “TOXIC” labels and the enclosed instruction manual, I learned far too quickly that whilst the Stetson may be one man’s fashion choice in Texas, my “hat” was clearly designated for a, shall we say, more southern destination – the mere thought of which immediately trussed up my giblets like an uncooperative turkey on Thanksgiving Day.
However, assuming that the worst of my woes were over, and texting my friend Tina for a ride the next day (my fever had broken, but I had no business driving just yet), I simply typed “the eagle has landed”.  And scuttling back to the clinic with my “goodie bag” (joke’s on me!) and the same God-Forsaken room, we waited ‘patiently’ (if you will) for the benevolent Doctor to grace us with his presence.

Unfortunately, “malevolent” would’ve been a significantly more appropriate adjective, as I sat in a stupor whilst Dr. “Ish-Kabish-I-AM-speaking-English” trampled all over my native tongue in an attempt to explain my blood work, my mortally critical condition and my perilously on-the-verge-of-death diagnosis.  Had he his way, apparently I needed to be shipped IMMEDIATELY to a facility in The Valley for weeks of observation, followed by extensive visits to his colleague Internist Dr. “Tabouleh-Salad”, wherein I could theoretically live out the rest of my pathetic life in Western Civilization under the thumbs of a team of Middle Eastern “shah-men” intent on dressing me in draperies and pelting me into submission with rocks until I subserviently agreed to whatever the f**k else they could think of to hemorrhage my insurance carrier.
Whoa, whoa, whoa.

Did he say “The Valley?”  (Insert blood-curdling scream!)

CHAPTER II:  Dawning of the Dead
Blissfully back under the care of my Chicago-born primary Physician (now that’s an accent I can understand!), he admitted to being baffled by the interpretation from Evil Dr. Ish-Kabish.  “Your cholesterol’s good, thyroid’s good, you’re not anemic; frankly there’s nothing here to suggest anything other than you probably had the flu and maybe some wicked menopausal hot flashes that kept you from eating right and getting well” he handed me my clean bill of health.  “In fact the only number which strikes me as kind of low is your platelet count.” 

“Meaning?” I inquired.
“Eat more leafy greens and take a B-complex vitamin with Folic Acid” he suggested.  “Platelets help to make your blood clot.”

And just like that, my world made sense!  No WONDER my lip had bled so profusely!  Why, I hadn’t eaten anything green in probably three years weeks!  And as if The Universe wished me to be in on the joke, I couldn’t help but laugh that with all of my vampirific tendencies of lurking about on unemployed late nights, my monster bed lovingly named Vladimir and the fact that for decades I’ve had a coffin as the centerpiece of my bat-cave’s d├ęcor, OF COURSE my body had selected an appropriate albeit unusual malady!  (I was about to insert a blood-curdling scream of delight here, but until I ingested some leafy greens, I didn’t wish to waste valuable platelets on “curdling” lest I needed to clot later.)

CHAPTER III:  Twilight of the Dead
With an early morning appointment set up for a couple of routine ultrasounds as a baseline for Dr. Chicago, I polished off my daily salad (no Cow, but plenty of cheese!) and chilled out for the evening.  As I had been forbidden any food or water 8 hours prior to the testing, I’d barricaded the refrigerator so as to remind me should I sleepwalk for some refreshing H2O in the middle of the night, and as I slurped my last sip at 1:29am, I curled up in Vladimir for a relaxing, rejuvenating respite.

*sniffle, sniffle, sniffle*
And nonchalantly reaching for a tissue, I innocently blew my nose as a warm stream of something very, VERY wrong poured down my elbows.  “Well, that can’t be good” I surmised, stumbling into the bathroom for a look-see as oceans of blood drained from my nostrils like a faucet without a stopper.

Oh, but I’d had nose bleeds before, so how bad could it be?  More than likely, one hearty blow and the irritant would be dislodged, right? 
WARNING:  Those of you who are TRULY faint of heart at the sight of blood, need IMMEDIATELY scroll down past the photo below.)

Forcefully pinching my nostrils shut with fistfuls of tissues and toilet paper, I managed to scrounge under the sink for some old tampons – a nifty little trick I’d learned from an episode of “Sex and the City” – and cramming a couple of Tampax up my nares, I was certain that I’d fixed the problem. 
Unfortunately, saturating useless tampon after useless tampon, each with its own gruesome dangling globule, I was beginning to panic as the Tampax box was nearly empty, and the clock evinced that I’d been hemorrhaging for a full 45 minutes.  EEK!

“911, what is the address you’re calling from?” the lady on my landline inquired as shared my location and asked if she might send over a Paramedic to assist me.  “You just sit tight Penny, and try not to move too much” she spoke comfortingly.
Try not to move too much?  But I had a million tasks to tackle before I could POSSIBLY allow strangers into my Sanctuary!

Remarkably, I had the presence of mind to kick a rock under the security gate to prop it open (as well as slide an area rug over a carpet stain); I too managed to remember to leave my door ajar with the living room lights on (brushing away a cobweb); I’d already pulled on my skull and crossbones pajama pants, but as matching verdant sneakers were un-tie-able with only one hand, the laces needed to be tucked into the shoes themselves.  Additionally, I’d moved my purse with ID, cash, credit cards, proof of health insurance and cell phone onto my coffin-table (and recycled an Amazon box so as not to be deemed a ‘hoarder’), confirmed that my house keys were within reach, and finally settling down in the bathroom to switch out my blood-soaked paper towels (yeah, “twice as absorbent” my ass), I waved in the Firemen and Paramedics who wished me to meet them halfway.  “OK” I replied with a muffle.  “But you’re going to need to see this” I pointed to the carnage splattered all over my restroom like a scene straight out of Hitchcock’s “Psycho”.
“Just sit down here” a female voice guided me by the elbow to a chair as I couldn’t quite see through all of the red streaks on my glasses.  “I’m sure it’s not that bad” she assured me as I twice challenged her choice to have me lower my paper towels.  “Okay, WOW, it IS that bad!” she grimaced, immediately placing my hands back over my sanguine streaming face.  “We’re going to have to take you to the hospital” she announced, waving over two EMTs (I couldn’t even see if they were handsome, darnit!) to strap me onto the gurney.

“Where are we going?” I asked as the rest of the life-saving team thoughtfully collected my purse and keys.
“Cedars-Sinai” someone replied.

Of course.
To be continued...

A Bloody Good Halloween Story: Part Two

CHAPTER IV:  Night of the Living Dead

Still clutching a stack of paper towels over my prolifically bloody nose, I continued to exsanguinate all over my hands, arms and clothing as the EMT in the ambulance checked my vitals.  “Here’s a biohazard bag for anything that you need to cough up, as we don’t want you to swallow any blood if possible” she offered helpfully.  (Frankly, I didn’t have the heart (or strength) to tell her that having already gushed like a geyser for forty-five minutes before calling 911, I’d kinda already figured that one out for myself.)
What I also didn’t wish to share, was that whilst ‘coughing up’ seemed to imply a conscious and willful act or choice, I was helplessly at the mercy of the crimson globules which would form at any given moment somewhere in my cranium, slither unpleasantly down toward my throat and then discharge themselves out of my mouth without so much as a warning ala God-fearing “Felicia Alden” (Veronica Cartwright) in “The Witches of Eastwick”.


But gently guiding me into a private cubicle, helping me change out of my blood-soaked t-shirt, and rinsing off my glasses so I could see her face, I was comforted by the smiling lady who informed me that whilst there were three patients ahead of me, there were also three Doctors on the floor.  “It shouldn’t be too long now!” she reassured me, replacing my brimming biohazard baggie of viscous chunks with a clean one, and setting the first aside on a table for what I could only assume was to be analyzed, weighed and shipped to Ripley’s Believe it or Not! 
“Can I ask you a quick question?” I wanted to know before she disappeared to assist what sounded like a screaming gun-shot victim in the lobby.  “Is all of this gunk ‘normal’?” I wondered, as whilst I’d been cursed with the crimson ‘cherries’ for over two hours, my sinus cavities now seemed to be sculpting slightly more elegant and elongated maroon vesicles.

“Why yes!” she responded encouragingly.  “That’s your body’s normal, healthy response.  You’re simply clotting.”  (Oh, the IRONY!)

With various nurses and orderlies traipsing in and out of my room to replace my towel or washcloth as they became saturated (yes I was pinching my nostrils the entire time, but my hands were getting shaky and I occasionally lost my grip), I had just finished filling up Ripley’s biohazard bag #4 when the Doctor finally arrived at 5:44am.  And having a nurse squirt something medicinal up my nose, I marveled that all of a sudden the gushing had completely ceased!  (For those of you working the math regarding the duration of my deluge, I bled from exactly 1:29am to 5:44am – almost the exact equivalent of the time it took my friend Rose to run a 26.2 mile marathon.)

“We’ll need to keep you under observation for a while of course, and if you start bleeding again, we can put some packing in there and see how you do” the Doc nodded, making a notation in my chart.  “Try to get some rest and we’ll check on you in a bit” she smiled as my eyes were already closing from sheer adrenaline and exhaustion.

“Well, that can’t be comfortable!” I heard a nurse laugh, as since my adjustable bed had been left in an upright “L” shape, I’d managed to cat-nap in a fetal position on the flat half of the mattress.  Would you like me to level that out for you?” she grinned as I stared bleary-eyed at the clock.  (Nearly 7:30am.)
“Actually, I was hoping to be discharged (yes, poor choice of word) as soon as possible, since I’d still like to make my appointment at 9:30 for a couple of ultrasounds completely unrelated to THIS” (I ‘wax-on, waxed-off’ my hands in front of my face for dramatic effect). 

After all, I’d arrived in an ambulance, I had no transportation, I had zero clue as to my whereabouts in the massive facility (I might as well have been at a random terminal in Chicago O’Hare International Airport, FFS), my clothes were covered in blood, and quite frankly I wanted to poop in my own toilet!

“I’ll get your paperwork started, but you definitely need to follow up with an ENT” the Emergency Doc recommended.  “I have a great rapport with a colleague across the street, so let me make a call” she smiled, breezing out of the cubicle.
Meanwhile, as 8:30am rolled around, a nurse reappeared to check my vitals as I sat anxiously on the edge of the bed, purse already in hand.  “Oh dear, your pulse is racing” she fretted, trotting off to inform the Doctor who demanded that I lay down flat and be hooked up to an IV for another forty-five minutes, as apparently I’d “lost a lot of blood”.  (Ya THINK?)

Suffice it to say, “discharged” at 9:30am (of course) and looking  very much like one of the globules that had slithered out of my mouth all morning, I oozed out the exit to the Registration desk where the sunniest receptionist whatever lived attempted to chat me up with all manner of “good mornings” and “how’s your day?” before bilking me out of $100 co-pay for using the Emergency Room.  (How’s my DAY?  Look up from the computer, lady!)  And as an official-looking gentleman pointed me to a free telephone with two cab companies on speed dial, I sat outside the famous Hospital waiting for my ride, never more grateful in my life to NOT be an A-list celebrity.

CHAPTER V:  The Day of the Dead
Rolling directly from hospital to cab to clinic for my ultrasounds, still clad head to toe in my Jackson Pollack masterpiece splatter-wardrobe with fashionable matching Emergency Room plastic ID bracelets and taped-up cotton ball in the crook of my elbow, I was greeted most unpleasantly by the antithesis of the world’s sunniest receptionist whatever lived, who merely scowled at me for missing my first appointment.  “I’ll let them know you’re finally here” she said judgmentally as though I’d intentionally run late due to a fabulous morning at the spa.

But welcomed by the kind Radiologist who made me feel at ease by laughing at what must have already been a “very busy day” for me, I laid down quietly as she lubed me up with jelly for my pictures.  “We’re all done here with both ultrasounds” she smiled fifteen minutes later as she handed me a towel to mop up with.   
“That’s it?” I questioned the simplicity of the procedure, taking one swipe with the cloth in utter disbelief.  “I can really go home?”  I confirmed, a small tear welling up in my eye at the thought that my nightmare had finally ended.

“Go home, Penny.  Get some sleep!” she pleasantly ushered me out the door as the warm LA weather wrapped its rejuvenating rays of sunshine around me. 
“Home... home...home...” I whispered the word over and over, reaching for my keys to hop in my car and drive back to the comfort of my... CRAP! 

Now, having come this far on my hellish journey, I’d be damned if I’d give up on myself at that point.  And eyeballing a bus bench across the street at the corner, I lit up a cigarette and heroically strode tall to the pedestrian crossing. 
I was brave!  I was fearless!  I could achieve anything I set my mind to!

Unfortunately, I was also walking braless in a medicinal ointment clingy dried-blood soaked t-shirt directly towards a group of Orthodox Jewish gentlemen in black coats and hats who were gathered together in front of their local Synagogue.
Aww, C’MON!!!

Whilst I appreciated the immediately averted eyes and intoning ‘mitzvahs’ of the sons of the Tribes of Israel looking out for my uncleansed immortal soul, I chose to proceed a bit further up the street to a Bank of America ATM wherein I could grab some extra cash for my final cab ride home.  “What’s the exact address?” the taxi service wished to know as I lowered my cell phone and approached an already occupied teller.

“I need the precise location of this branch” I whispered urgently, not wishing to bother the patron, but quite eager to be on my way.
“Right here, right here, right here!” the man behind the bullet-proof glass squealed, eying my clothing and flinging a business card into the drop slot cooperatively, surmising that clearly my previous bank heist of the day had not ended on such agreeable terms.    

Returning at last to the sanctuary of my bat-cave, I noticed for the first time that the Fire Dept. had secured my location by turning on every single light in the house, presumably to confirm that I hadn’t been secretly concealing the presence of an abusive boyfriend.  I too noted the exquisite horror in the light of day at the massive amounts of spattered blood on the bathroom mirror, as well as the embryotic-looking globules clinging to my sink like a Jell-O mold.  What I hadn’t noticed until after I cleaned up however, was the innocent blink of a voice message on my cell phone...

“Hi Penny, this is Renee at Dr. ‘Ears Nose and Throat’.  Your emergency room Doctor gave us a call, and we’d be happy to squeeze you in today at 4:15.  See you then!”
(Say it with me:  “Aww, C’MON!!!)

But hey, what’s a bloody good Halloween story for, if it doesn’t end with a couple of red hot cauterizing pokers up the nose?!
Wishing you buckets of happy Halloween treats and proper blood-curdling screams,