This is not a fiction story. It is an actual account of an experience which I had a year ago. It is just more comfortable for me to write it from a detached point of view. I chose to keep my own name in the story, thought, to validate it as non-fiction.
The stillness of the morning was matched only by the beauty of her surroundings. With the sun now peeking through its awning, the newness of the day was devoid of the usual clatter of birds singing or leaves beginning to rustle in the wind. No! At six am, not a rooster crowed, nor a dog barked. Not even a person stirred in Fentanville.
Ruth walked quietly along its pristine streets, savoring each moment’s serenity pulling the fresh, crisp air through her wide, flattened nostrils.
“This truly is an unspoiled beauty!” she exhaled softly, amazed at the sound of her own voice. “Even my whispers sound like noise in here” she smiled.
It was not her first visit to Fentanville. She had passed by and observed its uniqueness before but had never dared to enter in.
A “For Sale” sign on an empty piece of land caught her attention as she walked by. The big red letters against a white background were the only source of color that she had seen since entering the tiny town.
There were no houses yet in sight but the street below her feet was whitewashed and the mountains up yonder seemed snow-capped despite the sun.
“I wish I had the money to buy this!” she said, fingering the wooden sign planted in the beautiful plot of earth. Suddenly, she approached by two young men barely in their twenties, she noticed.
“Can we help you?” they enquired.
In such a quiet town where every dweller was known, Ruth imagined that no stranger went unnoticed and visitors were questioned about their reason for being there.
It was no gated community. Just about anyone can enter but “loitering must be forbidden here”, Ruth thought, judging from the emptiness of the streets.
“I am looking for The Chatelle Manors”, Ruth managed in a barely audible voice as she quickly pulled her hand away from the sign. The thought of somehow transgressing against the sanctity of this “undiscovered piece of paradise” filled her with dread.
Pointing in the direction of the mountains, one of the young men told her how to get to her destination. A few steps later with a left turn on Crystal Stream Road, she was immediately enticed by the immaculate, two-story white building bounding the far end of the road.
“Wow! I think I can get used to this!” she said, glimpsing at her watch. She had a six- thirty appointment and made certain that she was on time.
Ruth walked toward the building and stood beneath its eaves. “How do I contact them?” she wondered as she looked up at the tightly shut edifice, scanning the walls for a call button.
“I’m certainly not going to break the morning’s silence by bellowing" she said.
At six-thirty sharp, a middle aged woman pushed her head through a window on the second floor, and motioned her in. Ruth was excited. She had finally found the house of her dreams.
As she slowly ascended the staircase, however, her excitement progressively gave way to disgust. The outer perfection of the lily white stone walls belied the inner shabbiness of broken mahogany stained cupboards and rotting floorboards.
"Good morning and how are you today?" the real estate agent greeted her cordially. "Did you..."
Without waiting to recover from her initial shock, Ruth stopped the agent in mid-sentence. “I’m sorry Maam but I cannot take this room” she blurted out and turned to leave.
"Maybe the urgency of my need wasconveyed in my voice when I enquired about the apartment, she thought “but, that is no reason to offer someone a place as uninhabitable as this one” she screamed inwardly as she hastened her way out of the town.
“Ruth, are you okay now?” Nurse Nazra hovered over her patient, trying to conceal the worry on her face. It had been her first day with this patient and already it was turning out to be a challenging one. Ruth looked at her through glazed eyes.
“Are you okay now?” She continued her mechanical recital hoping to convince herself as well as her patient that everything was alright. “Are you okay now?” Nazra wanted to run as far away as she could from the challenges before her but she had to stay calm- at least for now!
In her little time as an Intensive Care nurse, Nazra had seen many deaths and many miracles but this one had topped them all. She had watched this patient being admitted on the verge of death about ten days earlier. She had caused quite a stir even before she arrived on the ward.
A nurse, herself, Ruth had allowed her brother to discharge her from the hospital against medical advise to be taken to a private nursing home. A move that had apparently saved her live but pissed off the doctors because she was immediately redirected to the Intensive Care Unit of the said public hospital.
To not accept her would have created a stink but taking her back as a case had resulted in the ripple effect of accusations of mismanagement and misdiagnoses. It immediately called into question, the actions of all the doctors and nurses who had been in charge of her care before she left.
Then there was the issue of a new team of professionals having to take over her management when she was already near dead.
In those ten days since her arrival to the ward, Nurse Nazra had watched her colleagues from most senior doctor to the orderly work feverishly to save her life. She always knew that her turn to manage her care would come one day and so she had prepared her mind for the task.
“At least she’s out of the woods, now” Nazra had told herself but she knew too well that that may not be true . Ruth was not unconscious anymore and she was communicating with the staff but she was totally paralyzed and seemed to have no will to live.
Nazra looked at her blank expression now. She had not responded to her question and Nazra wondered if she had heard at all. Bending closer over her, she soothingly touched her arm. “Are you okay now?” she repeated.
Ruth’s eyes darted across the room from Nazra, She could not move her body but she carefully scanned to room for any signs of commotion that would help her to understand what was going on.
“What do you mean by ‘now’?” She wanted to ask but the tracheotomy tube in her throat had taken her voice and she did not have the strength for a lip-reading session with the staff.
She looked to see if the crash cart was at her bed but saw none. “Okay! At least they did not have to resuscitate! So what’s so bad?” Her eyes caught sight of a doctor dressed in scrubs, standing at the foot of her bed.
She began to scan his face for answers but as if he had read her thoughts, he sheepishly buried his face in his palms as if he were playing a game of peek-a-boo.
“That’s quite queer for a man, you know?” Ruth smiled within herself, happy to see that she had not lost her wit. She looked by at Nurse Nazra as if to ask “What’s wrong with him?” but when their eyes met Ruth saw the same terror etched on Nazra’s face.
“Are you okay now?” she continued like a broken record.
“Okay, this is really scary. You’ve got to stop doing that and tell me what the hell is going on!” Ruth inwardly verbalized with a rapidity that her mouth could not begin to communicate. Ruth looked again to her blushing doctor at the foot of the bed. Same reaction!
Suddenly, a voice came from her right but out of her visual field.
“Nah! This has to be a praying woman. Nobody could reach that far and turn back!”
Ruth froze for a moment, her mind as paralyzed now as her limbs. “What is he taking about?” A doctor, she assumed, was discussing with the nurses at the nursing station, the impossibility (it seemed) of what just took place.
“She is a nurse and a member of a church. She comes from a praying family…” He continued his rambling as if he had known her for several years. Ruth listened with intent ears trying to recognize the voice but she didn’t. She could only dart her eyes but she could not turn her neck in the direction of the sound.
“That almost sounded like my eulogy!” she smiled sarcastically, turning her attention back to the nurse gazing sympathicly into her eyes and stroking her arms. “Please tell me what’s going on” she pleaded with her eyes.
“We just suctioned this blood clot from out of your trach” Nurse Nazra said as if she too had read her mind or maybe because she had recovered from her “robot malfunctioning episode” to begin to express sequential thought again!
Ruth looked at the clot in the nurse’s hand. She remembered that a day or two earlier, how Nurse Carrie had frantically complained to the Ear, Nose and Throat specialist that the tracheotomy site was bleeding profusely and “this should not be happening at day five after surgery!”
Ruth had looked at Carrie’s expression then. She too had had that wild look upon her face. The one that Ruth imagined she would have if her patient was going to die before her eyes and someone else was just “pussyfooting” about it. She had enjoyed watching Nurse Carrie’s outburst as she demanded that the surgeon come and examine the site for himself.
That had been two days ago. Ruth was sure of it now because the dressing placed over the wound then, was only changed “last night” Ruth recalled.
She looked at the clot with a sense of detachment as if it had not come from her body. It was so massive that if must have occluded the tube which was her makeshift airway passage for the while.
Ruth could only imagine the chaos this had caused but she had no recollection of being in any kind of distress. The last thing she remembered was Nurse Nazra introducing herself that morning as the one who would be “taking care of you today”.
She remembered saying in her mind, “Thank God! I’ve been waiting for the day when you would be my nurse”. Ruth had watched Nazra work from across the room for some days and was very impressed with her devotion to her patients.
“Why can’t they send her by me?” she had often mused within herself but today she had come and Ruth had greeted her with the warmest of smiles.
“How long ago had that been?” Ruth asked herself and wondered again why there was no clock on the wall in ICU. “Maybe they do not want their patients to be aware of the passage of time as they fought to get back on their feet again.
Maybe such knowledge would create too much anxiety for those who were conscious enough to be interested in it” Ruth had reasoned but she had found a way to keep in touch with reality by associating the changing of shifts and visiting hours with the time of day. She usually had to ask, though, “What day is it?”
Now, Ruth had no idea if the ten am visiting hour had come and gone and since she could not remember being fed, she assumed that she was either “out of it for a long time” or it was still early in the morning.
She raised her eyes to the monitors at the side of her bed. Her blood pressure was a bit high and so was her heart rate but they were not cause for alarm. The “accordion pleated lung” as she jokingly referred to her respirator was still huffing and heaving like a rise and fall of an asthmatic chest- all with no effort of her own.
Ruth pulled herself back to the situation at hand. She looked again at the humungous blood clot in her nurse’s hand then suddenly widened her eyes as if startled from a dream.
“There is no such place as Fentanville, is there?” She thought with a smile. That must be just a place to where I go whenever I am given Fentanyl. I must have created this place for myself” she reasoned. “A place of escape to which the drug transported my soul while it numbed the body from the pain and discomfort of cleaning the trach”.
Ruth could not recall being given Fentanyl that morning nor did she remember her trach being cleaned so what had prompted Nurse Nazra to suction her tube, she could not tell and what had brought those two doctors to her bedside, she still did not know.
She was only too glad that there really was no such place as Fentanville and even if there were, that she had taken up residence there.
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