“Failure to thrive,” was the EMTs’ initial assessment.
It was two days after the collapse, late afternoon, and I was standing in my father’s hospital room, after having taken a five-hour flight from Lima to Orlando, then a two hours’ ride by car to Gainesville. The bright florescent lights shone on the newly polished linoleum floor, some kind of heart monitor beeped in the background. My dad was propped up in bed, his face gaunt, an IV tube stuck in his arm.
His face brightened when he saw me. “Barb….”
“Oh, Dad, god.” I bent down to hug him. He felt bony – much thinner than when I had visited him at Christmas time a month earlier. How could someone change so much in so short a time?
“What happened?” I asked.
“I don’t know.” He blinked his watery blue eyes. “I think I was in my house.”
I walked over to the chart pinned on his wall. My dad was being given intravenous with glucose, vitamins and antibiotics. What were those for?
“Your daddy’s got an infection,” said the nurse who’d entered the room. “Excuse me, I have to change him now.” She lifted the sheet and I saw a bit of the diaper peeking from under the hospital gown.
I turned around. “What kind of infection?” I was looking at his brown tweed suit jacket, which he’d worn to the hospital. It was hanging on a hook.
“I don’t know. Juss infection. You can ask his doctor.”
“An infection in his blood? In his...butt?” I was inspecting the jacket. There was his 10-gallon pin from the Red Cross. He loved to give blood. In his right pocket, an old folded up tissue.
“Ask the doctor, miss.”
“Okay.” In his left pocket: I pulled the items out. His three insurance cards: Medicare, the American Postal Workers’ Union, another one. And a wrapped condom. Trojan brand.
I hurriedly put it all back.
What the fuck was an 86-year-old doing going to the E.R. with a condom in his pocket?
Click here for the previous post in this series, The Medics Weigh In: Real Life Adventure #2