Here’s a sneak peek of a part of Dr. Chuck’s book Go By Boat that features Peaks Island’s favorite curmudgeon, Bud Perry, and his hospitalization at Maine Medical Center. Legally blind and on dialysis, Bud shows the staff who’s in charge.
This time another toe turned black. A vascular surgeon consulted but decided that Bud wasn’t a candidate for surgery. The major arteries were clogged and narrowed. The smaller arteries were clogged and narrowed. There was nothing healthy enough to bypass too. Bud figured they’d take the whole damn foot and be done with it, but no, the doctors wanted to “save” the foot. Now this, another waiting game. Jerks.
The foot ached. He pushed the red call button.
The intercom above his bed crackled, “May I help you?”
“It’s time for my pain pill.”
“Your nurse will be right down.”
His back ached. On Peaks Island, he slept in a recliner. He wondered if Lisa could ship it across on the ferry, haul it through the lobby, and bring it up on the elevator. Maybe she could sneak him a bottle of whiskey. That would be nice. He felt for the phone and hesitated; a dim form walked into the room.
“Do you have my pain pill?”
“No, I’m Tom, the orderly. You’ve got a big day ahead of you. I’m here to take you to dialysis. With any luck, you should be back here in your room before lunch. Are you able to slide out of bed and into the wheelchair?”
“I’m waiting for a pain pill. My foot is aching.”
“They may need to take care of that in dialysis. Tight schedule today; if we don’t get down and hook you up soon, everyone will be backed up.”
“Well, I’m not everyone. I’m diabetic. I haven’t eaten breakfast yet and I need a pain pill.” The orderly positioned the wheelchair next to the bed and set the brakes. Bud stiffened when he felt the firm hands behind his back but allowed himself to be brought to a seated position and held still as the orderly grasped his legs and swung them over the edge of the bed.
“Get your paws off me. I can stand. Where’s the wheelchair?” Bud could feel the blood rush to his feet and felt a tight, queasy sensation in the pit of his stomach. The foot-like felt the end of the bed was resting on it. He eased himself down without a word. The orderly silently pushed the wheelchair down the hallway, inside the elevator and delivered him to the dialysis unit.
The dialysis nurse, Peggy, recognized him and took the wheelchair from the attendant, whispering in a sweet low voice, “What will it be today, Mr. Perry, the bed or the recliner? Off to his right, he could make out the dim outline of the cream-colored recliner and smiled inwardly; not so long ago, the offer would have triggered a double entendre—anywhere, anytime you’re comfortable. But today, he was relieved to ease into the recliner and pull his hat down before settling into a deep, dreamless sleep.
“Mr. Perry, it’s time, the attendant is here.” It was Peggy. Bud cracked open an eye. The deep, boring pain in the foot flowed over him like hot ice. “We let you sleep; sometimes it’s better that way.” Bud nodded and shrugged. His tongue felt thick and his lips were cracked and dry. Peggy pulled his hat off and ran a thick brush through his yellowed, matted hair before placing the hat back on. “They need to redress your foot. The blood soaked through the dressings. We held off on giving you your pain meds; the dialysis dropped your blood pressure down too low and Dr. Himmelfarb worried you might bottom out with more meds. Oh, and be sure to tell your nurse, she needs to give you an early lunch. For some reason, they didn’t record any intake today and your blood sugars are running low.”
Bud sipped eagerly on the orange juice Peggy offered him and felt the fog recede. He knew by afternoon, he’d feel better, not great, but better, and that was enough. He’d manage till then.
Back upstairs, the orderly jostled Bud’s foot as he settled him into his bed. Bud wrapped his hand around the attendant’s wrist. The attendant tried to pull his arm away, and Bud sensed the pain and doubt in the man’s eyes. “Be gentle,” Bud said slowly. “I’ve got a bad foot.”
The orderly propped Bud’s foot on a pillow and raised the head of the bed. Stepping back, he rubbed his wrist where Bud had grasped it and muttered, old bastard. And then he was gone—but not before knocking the call button onto the floor. Fresh blood flowed out from the edge of the dressing onto the bed sheet. Bud reached for the call button. Where’s the damn call button? He reached over to the nightstand and groped around the phone, under a stack of magazines, behind the pillow, but there was no call button.
“Hey!” His voice cracked. He located the water pitcher and drank from it, spilling half down his gown. “Down here! I need some help!” he shouted. He’d asked, no, insisted, on a private room, as far away from the chaos of the nursing station as possible. If it wasn’t the endless chatter, it was some stiff going into cardiac arrest in the middle of the night, or a new admission, or the clang of oxygen tanks or some poor fool spewing gibberish over and over and over. No, he preferred it here, down at the end of the hallway. Alone.
“Hey!! Anybody!! Nurse!! Nurse!!” He slumped against the pillow, then suddenly reached over and slammed the bed stand against the wall, tipping the bedpan onto the linoleum. Urine flowed across the floor. “I need a nurse! Hey, anybody!! HELP!!” His eyes narrowed and he reached for the phone. He hesitated, and slowly counted to ten, then placed the phone back in its cradle.
Cupping his hands around his mouth, he bellowed once more, “I NEED A NURSE! NOW!!”
Then, he dialed 911.
“Hello, Portland 911.”
“This is Bud Perry. I’m stuck in bed. I can’t get up and I have a foot that’s bleeding out. I feel like I’m going to pass out. No food since last night. Urine everywhere.”
“Calm down Mr. Perry. You’ll be okay. Just calm down. If you can, reach down and apply some pressure on the wound. That will stop the bleeding. Don’t panic. We’re on our way.”
“Well make it quick.”
“Now what’s your address?”
Bud smiled wickedly at the receiver. “I’m in room 393 at Maine Medical Center. That’s 393. NOW CALL MY NURSE!!!”
Slamming the phone down, Budd puffed up his pillow and adjusted his cap. He clasped his fingers and cracked each knuckle and began to count. When he reached twenty-two, he heard the clamor of feet coming down the hallway. Angry feet.
Two nurses, an intern, a medical student, and a security guard burst into the room, all talking and yelling at once. Do you realize what you’ve done? Haven’t you heard of a call button? Mr. Perry, 911 is for emergencies. You should be ashamed of yourself! Bud let them carry on for a few seconds before silencing them with a growl he reserved for special idiots.
“Now back off!” He hissed. Their heads shot back like he’d thrown a glass of ice water in their faces. “First,” he brought up a single finger and glared in their direction. First, no food today. Nada. Nothing. Zero. Second, no pain meds. Not even a Tylenol. Third, none of you clowns has been down since four this morning except when you woke me up to take my temperature. Anybody notice I’m soaking the bed in blood. Anybody?” Against the far wall, the hospital staff stood, transfixed. “Fourth, the orderly dumped me back in bed without a call button. Fifth, nobody came when I yelled.”
He paused, and the security guard started to break in. Bud ignored him. “Now, you know how loud I yelled? I yelled THIS LOUD. DOES EVERYONE HEAR ME NOW? If I had a penknife I’d take off this god-damn toe and be done with it. Now, you either pick-up this mess, give me some grub, redress my foot, and treat my pain or I’m calling 911 again and transfer back to Peaks Island where I can at least get a drink. Now get moving!”
The senior nurse whispered to her assistant, “I suggest we all get moving,” and winked in Bud’s direction.
If you liked this check out Chapter 1 of “Go By Boat” by Dr. Chuck: Here