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The middle days of a dreary hospital stay.

   The therapy with the legs I could understand. After all, I had lost the use of my legs. I had begun to gain some control over them, so the therapy made sense.

   "Vocational therapy" was—as almost everything else in this hospital hell—in the basement. The wheelchair was parked in front of a desk, behind which sat a physical therapist who explained to me that vocational therapy was for my upper body. I asked her why "vocational therapy" was necessary—twice a day, I think the chart indicated was the prescribed regimen—since my hands and arms worked find. She said something like, "Doctor has ordered it. It is in the chart." She rose, as if "Doctor" and "the chart" were the final words in the matter.

   I hate it when someone refers to "Doctor"with no accompanying name. She didn’t say "the doctor," but "Doctor." Name, title, and identity are rolled into one word.

   "How much does this cost?" I asked.

   She was perturbed. "I do not know."

   I presumed vocational therapy was not cheap. "I’ll decline it." I said, my head beginning really to pound from the LP, or spinal tap, from a couple of days before. I had become familiar with the pain’s onset anytime I was seated upright for more than a few minutes.

   "If you decline it," she said, "you’ll have to sign a form stating you decline it."

   I said sure. I read the form, crossed out a couple of items, and signed it. She took the clipboard, to which the now-signed but altered form was attached, back. She saw I had crossed out provisions related to the award of attorneys fees in the event of dispute. That is called a liquidated damages clause. She summoned an attendant and I was wheeled back to my room.

   Those middle days, between the third and seventh, blended together. There were several constants to my day. The first was at 2 a.m., roughly, when I would be awakened by a nurse who inquired whether the sleep medication had worked. It had—until I was awakened, after which I remained awake the rest of the night.

   I was anxious for The Star so that I could do the crossword puzzle.

   I now wore a pair of dark blue sweat pants—the catheter guided underneath the elastic waist band—Sarah had picked up for me. The hospital had provided a pair of socks with plastic runners on the soles. To this day I shall not wear sweat pants or socks with plastic runners.

   Friends and relatives began to visit. Three friends from The Stone Mug (the old Stone Mug) dropped by one afternoon when they were plastered. I appreciated that, but as with any other people dropping by to visit, I really wish they hadn’t. I would have to sit up to visit with them, and that meant the return of the headache. The expression of friendship and everyone’s effort to come by and show their support was wonderful, but it literally did a number on my head. There also were people who visited me of whose visits I have no recollection. Blame it on the drugs.

   Other constants were flowers, again, sentiment appreciated but the flowers reminded me of a mortuary, and I wasn’t dead yet, to quote a line from Monty Python.

   On one of my trips out of the room, the wheelchair passed a room where a very young man, I’d say in his early twenties, sat frozen in his bed. A couple of older women—his mother and an aunt, maybe—sat talking to him. On a table next to his bed were little religious figurines and several candles. The attendant explained to me the guy had ALS—Lou Gehrig’s disease. I realized how lucky I was, both with my diagnosis and with an absence of people who would shove religious figurines and candles in my face when I could do nothing about it.

   The woman from the finance office returned, as perturbed as before, but maybe in the foolish belief she would get me to sign that promissory note. I still refused. She still said it was mandatory.

   The neuro came into my room each evening with his deck of 3-by-5 index cards, smongst which was mine.

   Sarah was there three or four times a day, as work permitted. This was the start of tax season, she is an accountant, and so she was jammed at the office.

   There was one other constant I had not considered before my stay at the hospital. I was there in the week leading up to The Super Bowl®. I was taking prednisone. Perhaps this was my imagination, but it seemed that every other commercial on television was for pizza. I decied the first thing after I got home, I would ordered a Noble Roman’s® deep-dish pizza.

   I was taught how to take a shower while seated in a shower chair. I was taught how to use crutches, and encouraged to try them out whenever possible. Oh—and the catheter was removed, though still I could not void my bladder on my own. So I was taught how to use a one-time catheter in order to urinate.       

   On the seventh day the woman from finance arrived for what she thought was her next-to-final visit.

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