~Monday, August 25, 2008

Bad news is still good news, just because it's freakin' news

Scott has returned to the scary free clinic downtown. He visited there after a less severe bike accident and last time I didn't fare very well with the Hispanic children trying to take my food out of my hands. But beggars can't be choosers and we're grateful for the option.

It's a Christian clinic, designed to help those without health insurance or incomes receive medical care. The pay is on a sliding scale and it's kept inexpensive because doctors volunteer their hours there.

The volunteer doctor grimaced at the sight of Scott's hand. "You got burned through all seven layers of skin," he told him. "All that's left is the flesh."

The doctor set up a tub of warm, soapy water and instructed Scott to soak his hand, elbow, and foot for 20 minutes each, twice a day, starting right there. It should soften up the burns and relieve some of the pressure and swelling. He also wrote out yet more prescriptions: a burn cream, another pain prescription, another antibiotic, and the mega dose of ibuprofen.

Honestly, I was startled at the difference in attention Scott received from the two doctors. The rich one we know wouldn't even look at Scott's injuries and berated us, and the volunteer doctor that took the best care of him yet. I guess he volunteers because of his faith and his gifts. But I know not all of the people that come in to that clinic are like Scott. There are the homeless men looking to get high that they must deal with on a daily basis. I know that that must be difficult to deal with and, for me, it would make me even more cynical and jaded. But I guess it's not fair for me to project my misgivings on to other people.

But, finally, we have a diagnosis and a plan. Scott is to return to the clinic every three days so the doctor can check the progress on the wounds. If the swelling is not down to an acceptable level by early this week, then the doctor is going to refer him to a different hospital than the one we went to for skin grafts. Poor Scott is so skinny that I don't know where this extra skin is going to come from. I just hope that he'll be able to wiggle his fingers and be able to use his hand again. I'm trying to keep that my main focus.

And even though the diagnosis and the plan means that things are more severe than originally thought, it's good to finally know what is going on. To know, for sure, what the problem is takes some of the stress away. Now we're just hoping that he heals enough on his own that he won't need the grafts.

~Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I've been fortunate that my new place of employment lets me work from home when I need to. I took most of last week off to take care of Scott. The first couple of days he couldn't move around much and he was bleeding through his bandages every couple of hours. This product is really good at getting blood and ooze out of blankets, sheets, and couch covers. Good news is that he didn't lose his appetite like he did last time, so the roles have been switched and I've been cooking for him. However, my role of cooking has been heating up a can of tomato soup and grabbing the crackers out of the cupboard.

We went to the impound lot to visit his bike. Neither of us could agree what it looked like from the accident. He asked me in the hospital and I told him the mirrors and the handle bars had broken off. He looked away, assuming I was exaggerating.

"No, I remember looking over at it when I was strapped to the gurney. It didn't look that bad," he argued.

"Babe, you were unconscious for over 10 minutes. You are deluded if you think it's fine. It's totaled."

I told him that again when he got a $105 of his money to get the bike out of impound. He dismissed me again.

The bike was actually worse than I thought. Not only were the handle bars and mirrors broken off, but so were the tail lights, the wind screen, and the instrument panel. The front is a heap of broken plastic knotted by exposed wires. Instinct told me to grab my camera from my purse and take pictures of the bike. Maybe I'll upload them later. While I was zooming and focusing, Scott took the bike off the kick stand and found the start button dangling to the right side. He inserted his key and tried to start it. After a few tries, the damn thing started. It was all he needed to think that he can haul the bike home and fix it.

"Yeah, you'll just need a whole new front end," I said wryly.

As we waited an hour for his step-father to drive into the city with his pickup truck to load Scott's bike, we ran to a nearby fast-food joint to get lunch.

"I really thought I could just drive it home," Scott admitted.

"Deluded," I repeated, mouth full of burrito. "I told you there were no handle bars on it."

"I thought you were just being a woman."

I raised an eyebrow.

"You know," he explained, "Making things sound worse than they really are."

"Well it was really missing its handle bars."


On Thursday, I called in a favor with my family friend who's a doctor and made an appointment for Scott. My mother goes to him and says he's a good doctor, but I just don't get that same feeling. After seeing a specialist for my thyroid tumor, the specialist was shocked that he put me on steroids for it. I did some research on it as well and I told my parents and Scott that I wasn't comfortable with his treatment. Not really having an alternative, and partly not wanting to hurt his feelings with my doubt, I took the steroids. Which, according to the specialist I'm currently seeing, was a huge mistake. (By the way, I'm having another cancer biopsy next week, so awesome that all of this is going on at the same time.)

In the cramped room we waited for the doctor. I took out my camera again and took pictures of Scott's injuries (too gross to upload). The doctor came in and took one look at Scott's knees and pulled out his prescription pad. Scott started on the story with the accident, what hurt, and he started to unwrap his hand to show the doctor his injuries. The doctor cut him off. Scott looked at me helplessly.

"We want to tell you what happened," I tried.

"No, I don't need to know and I don't need to see it. I can tell from his legs that he has an infection. He needs antibiotics."

"I asked for some at the hospital and they wouldn't give me any," said Scott.

The doctor shook his head, presumably about the quality of the hospital, and continued writing on his pad.

"But won't you look at his hand? It looks bad," I said.

"No, I don't need to see his hand," he said visibly irritated.

"Well, he has a hole in his arm and he's complaining about painful breathing."

"Look!" the doctor whirled around. "We can either sit here and talk about what needs to be done, or we can do it! Which do you want?"

Scott and I both looked to the ground like scolded school children. I don't know if he's that good of a doctor and just doesn't need to see Scott, but I know I want the peace of mind of telling the doctor what happened and showing him the injuries just in case there is something going on that he doesn't see from a skinned knee.

He's been on the antibiotics for five days now and there is no improvement. If anything, Scott's hand continues to swell. Fortunately, the painful breathing has stopped. I called my mom and told her about the doctor's visit. Concerned, she said he messed up once with my thyroid tumor treatment and now this. She said he's going through a messy divorce and his kids no longer visit him because their mother now has all the money. She thinks that this is affecting his work.

Screwed over by a hospital and now a loose-cannon doctor, we continue to seek medical treatment for Scott.

~Friday, August 15, 2008

Crash, Part II

I was later told about the accident: Scott was approaching the intersection in front of City Hall. He passed by a scooter dealership where some of his friends worked. He waved and honked. He turned his attention back to the road, rounded a corner, and hit the gas when he saw the light switch from green to yellow.

A lady, who had just moved to the city from the suburbs of Louisiana, was paused at the same intersection from the opposite direction, waiting to turn left into the shopping center. She punched the gas when she saw the light switch from green to yellow.

Never having to share the road with motorcycles and scooters before, she panicked when she saw Scott approach the intersection. She slammed on her brakes and completely blocked his lane.

Scott tried to dodge the car. He swerved to the left to try to pass behind her. However, he turned with such ferocity that he laid his bike down and slid into her passenger door, then her back passenger door, and then came to a halt underneath her car. Knocked unconscious from the blow, he was trapped under the trunk of her car.

The lady got out of her car and began screaming. She thought he was dead. I'm not sure who called 911, but when they arrived he was still unconscious and trapped underneath the car. Paramedics began filling out paperwork under John Doe and searched his pockets for his wallet.

"Scott! Scott!" they called when they later learned his name. Scott regained consciousness. The paramedics asked if there was anyone they'd like to call for him and he kept shouting my name. That's when I came into the story.


I brushed back the faded blue curtain surrounding Trauma 1 at the hospital. Scott made eye contact with me and his lower lip began to quiver as his eyes welled up. The neck brace had been removed, but he was bleeding over most of his body. His legs had silver dollar-sized lacerations over his knees, shins, ankles, and feet, as if he was losing a long battle with AIDS. His left elbow was torn open to the bone and had bloody tissue sticking out like an open Kleenex box. Skin hung off his left hand like a handkerchief had been sewn to him.

I ran to his right side.

"It's okay, Scott. you can cry if you want." Just annunciating the action was enough to make him stop. Health care techs swarmed me, making sure they got all his information for that inevitable bill. Meanwhile another technician was placing a lead disk underneath Scott for all the X-Rays they were taking of his chest and arm. Scott was busy pushing buttons on his phone to call his boss. Unbelievably, there was a signal in Trauma 1, but nowhere else in the emergency room.

I had already called his father and he was on his way to the city. I didn't even have to ask; he automatically asked which hospital we were at. His mother, however, asked me to call her back once I learned how severe his injuries were so she could decide whether to make the trip intown or not. I opened my mouth to say, If it were my mother, she'd want to be here no matter how severely I was hurt, but thought better of it. Actually I had already called my mother and she offered to drive intown to meet us, and Scott isn't even her child.

All the necessary phone calls had been made, and Scott's investigating police officer handed me Scott's ticket after passing judgment, and there was still no doctor. We were at the city hospital– the one that accepts patients without health insurance, so the subpar level of care is expected. Outside sat a homeless man in paper scrubs sheltering himself in a bus stop. The waiting room was filled with crazies, which made me really grateful when they ushered me straight past them behind the locked doors of the actual ER. I thought back to my hospital visit this year. My doctor and insurance sent me to the private one where a nurse personally escorted us from the car to the exact room where I needed to be. We navigated the marbled floors of my hospital without having to dodge the occasional pile of puke. The nurse for my procedure was warm and comforting and made the experience really easy for me. The differences between the two hospitals were astounding and I couldn't believe someone I loved was subjected to this.

Scott began complaining loudly about the pain and a male nurse added another clear injection into Scott's IV.

When the doctor did arrive, he greeted us with broken English. "Let us look at the hand," he said as he swung a stool underneath him.

"You're the best doctor here, right?" I asked him, smiling.

He looked at me and then looked back to Scott's hand wordlessly.

"You're supposed to say 'yes,'" I continued, finishing the joke for him. "A 'hell yeah' would even be better," I mumbled. The murse laughed.

"I no like to brag," responded the doctor.

I conveniently stepped out in front of the faded blue curtain to meet Scott's father. Watching Scott's innards ooze out his arm was a little much for me. When we stepped back inside a few short minutes later, the doctor was already gone and Scott was officially discharged. The murse returned with Scott's own set of paper scrubs because all of his clothes were cut off at the accident scene. The only thing that remained on him was a pair of Hanes boxers I bought him the previous weekend at Wal-Mart.

There were no discharge orders, no instructions on when or how to change his bandages. The wounds on his legs were untreated. I held a handful of prescriptions not knowing what they were for and which one we would choose to fill— we didn't have enough money to fill all of them. Scott asked for an antibiotic to take for all his open lacerations, but they told him he didn't need one.

I laid out the blanket reserved for my shedding dog on the passenger seat of my still new car. It was concerning that Scott couldn't hold his head up on his own and that the doctor never came back in to look at it. I took him home and laid him on the couch before I went to find an all-night pharmacy. The pharmacist told me Scott had received prescriptions for pain, a muscle relaxer, and an anti-inflammatory something or other. I counted out the $30 Scott's dad gave me and chose to fill the pain pill.

I received a call from Scott. I was at the third place I went to to find an open pharmacy. I thought he was just growing impatient.

"I just went to the bathroom and it's all blood! I don't want to die!" he cried panicking.

I asked the pharmacist about the amount of blood in his urine and told him about the accident. "Do I need to take him back to the ER?" I asked.

The pharmasist didn't seem that surprised that Scott was pissing blood, so I took that as a good sign. Just to be sure, I called the ER that just released us.

"Ma'am, we do not dispense medical advice over the phone, and we do not connect calls to doctors. If you feel he needs to come in, then just bring him."

"You're serious? We just left there less than a half-hour ago. His information hasn't even been filed yet!"

I called my mother, who has no medical experience whatsoever, but is a practical person. "Wait and see if he does it again. If there's blood in the next batch, then take him." Sounded good to me.

I set up camp in the living room. I knew Scott would be too injured to sleep in the bed and that the back of the couch would at least cradle him somewhat. I set out his pain pills and the entire contents of my first aid kit on the coffee table next to two glasses of water: one tap and one sparkling. I grabbed the itchy Wal-Mart sheets of my college days and put those on the couch for Scott to ooze and bleed on. Then I grabbed my favorite pink velveteen blanket and laid it on the floor with my pillow. I needed to be near him in case he woke up in the middle of the night and needed something. It felt like summer camp to me.

He bled through his bandages before bedtime. As we unwrapped his bandage on his hand, we saw that the doctor didn't even cut off the flag of skin flapping from the side of his hand. Scott asked me to grab the kitchen scissors and cut the skin off, but I shied away. The whole scene was just a little too gross. So Scott, freshly home from the hospital, sat on our living room sofa with the kitchen scissors used to cut open packs of chicken and cut his own skin off. I was thoroughly disgusted at our medical system.

To be continued...

Thank you to those that donated. You will each be hearing individually from me shortly. With your help, I was able to fill the rest of the prescriptions and get him a follow up appointment with a real doctor. You don't know how important that was. Thank you for helping me see the good in the world (I know it's there; it's just tough to see right now). I told Scott a little bit about it without giving away too much information and he is forever grateful for the kindness that people he never met are showing him. I am not touching a cent of it, it's all for him and helping him get well and back on his feet. He is facing about $10,000 in debts over Monday. It's amazing how quickly your life can change. Thank you.

~Tuesday, August 12, 2008


"Sarah, I got in an accident. A bad one," Scott garbled into the phone.

My initial reaction wasn't worry, after all we've been through this before. And the last time he said he wasn't okay, he really was.

The other end of the line became muffled and I heard a man shout, "Sir, don't get up!" The same voice became clearer in the phone," Ma'am, we're in front of City Hall. You need to come down here."

I slipped on my discarded work heels and ran out the door. Thankfully, City Hall is about 1.2 miles away. It's the way you would go if you were picking up sandwiches for dinner, like Scott was. I pulled out of our building and praised myself for transferring the first aid kit to the new car and storing it in the glove box. I tapped my heel impatiently at lights and made a right turn to approach City Hall from the opposite side.

As soon as I turned on the main road, I felt foolish for thinking about my first aid kit. In the distance I saw two fire trucks, an ambulance, four police officers on motorcycle and one squad car. We were fortunate that the police station is inside City Hall. I pulled up and parked behind a firetruck and left my car running in the middle of the road. I got out and ran to the intersection in my work heels, which results in a prissy trot, but I didn't care.

Scott's shoes were scattered in the intersection; it was obvious they had flown off his feet. His sunglasses lay with a missing lens in between the two shoes. Next to the sunglasses, Scott's clothes lay in a bloody pile where they had been cut off by the paramedics. Five feet to right was a dark, wet stain on the street, several feet in width. Scott himself was strapped to a gurney being loaded in the ambulance. The neck brace inhibited him from seeing my arrival and the back board looked uncomfortable.

"Are you his wife?" asked a fireman.

"Yes." Now was not the time to argue semantics.

The firemen and policemen surrounded me asking for his information. I shook as I listed our address, his birth date, medical allergies, if any. I nervously looked over to the side of the road where two men in plain clothes picked up his motorcycle and moved it to the side of the road. The front end of the bike is gone. They were picking up the side mirrors off the road.

I ignored the firemen and the paramedics. "Scott, are you okay? I'm here!"

He stared straight ahead, not acknowledging me, his eyes glassing over. "Scott, I'm here. Can you hear me?"

He nodded slightly and they slid the stretcher into the back of the ambulance.

I looked back to the fireman, letting the worry and the panic wash over me. "What happened!?" I choked.

"We don't know; we're investigating the scene now. But it looked like the car made a left-hand turn in front of him."

A woman paramedic reached her hand down to me from the back of the ambulance. "Come you should ride with us," she gestured.

I looked down. Scott's things were still scattered along the intersection. "He doesn't have his shoes. He needs shoes," I mumbled as I picked up every broken object of his off the road, including the torn, blood soaked shirt.

"Ma'am, come with us, please," she gestured again.

"No... I drove here. My car is in the middle of the road," I stammered.

"Well, park your car and ride with us."

"No... I need it. I'll just follow you to the emergency room."

By this time, I was shaking so badly that Scott's belongings were falling out of my arms. They wanted to inspect me and make sure I was okay, but I declined. Scott was the one that needed help.

"Ma'am, you can't drive in this condition," a fireman warned. Police officers began to crowd around me out of concern. I stepped back.

"I'm going to follow," I said firmly, trying to regain control of myself.

"Okay, but don't run any lights," she warned.

At the hospital they ushered me through triage and placed me in the family room. A pastor came and introduced himself to me. The last time I went to the ER with Scott, I was able to sit in the room with him, but this time things were different. They collected my ID and wouldn't give it back to me. They sent a pastor. They said he was in Trauma 1. Trauma.

"Why can't I see him?"

"He's awake and asking for you."


I'll get to the rest of the details later, but please keep Scott in your prayers. He is home, but things are bad. Because he's a chef, he was fired this morning because he couldn't go to work and use his hands. Furthermore, his last job is refusing to pay over two weeks of pay they owe him. He has no medical insurance. His motorcycle is totaled and he now has no mode of transportation. The details are still fuzzy about the accident, but they are faulting him, making him financially responsible for both parties. He's pissing blood and may need surgery for a punctured bladder.

This isn't something I would normally do, but I can't see a way out of this. How do you believe in good when you do all the right things, like work out your two weeks notice, only to have his employers refuse to pay him. We are taking all the necessary legal avenues, like filing complaints with the department of labor, and filing a claim in small claims court, but it could be months before we see any money, if any. I'm still getting my pay sorted out at the new job, which means I'm in the middle of a 6-week pay freeze. We have no money coming in. I am officially in over my head. It's a full-blown emergency.

I came home from the drug store this morning with $30 in three things: an arm sling, gauze, and neosporin. Scott's refusing to use them and wants me to take them back to save on the money. I am ashamed of myself for making him think that money is more important than getting better and I was able to talk him into using the items.

This is a long-winded way for me to say I am asking for donations. I don't know if I am breaking some blog code by putting up a donation button: if I have offended you, I am sorry and please forgive me. I do not expect anyone to give, but anything would be largely appreciated. He's refusing a follow-up appointment at the free clinic because he doesn't want to pay the $35. I think he needs to go.

I'll write more later. Thank you, blog world, for listening.

~Tuesday, August 05, 2008


I have a small scar under my left eye. I got it Christmas Eve 2004, when I was at my then-boyfriend's Mark's parent's house. The Femme Fatale was with me and, having never seen a cat before, she was obsessed with their house cat. She wanted to smell him, and she wanted to play with him.

Mark stood in the door jamb holding the cat protectively, more for the cat's comfort than from the likes of the Femme Fatale: the Femme Fatale doesn't have an evil inkling in her 50-pound furry frame. I walked over to where she had her nose raised straight up in the air a la Snoopy, trying to get more of the cat's scent. I reached down to grab her black nylon collar to hustle her from the cat's space when the cat went all Kitty Ali on me and attacked my face.

I dropped the Femme Fatale's collar and shielded myself. The dog fled the scene on her own. I felt the blood run down my face, then my fingers and arms, without even having to look. Mark's dad ushered me to the kitchen sink where I dumped the blood cupped in my hands and held my face under the faucet until the water ran clear again. The cat had missed my eyeball by less than half an inch and left an two inch long incision across my face.

I've never had anyone comment on my scar—it faded into a quiet indentation beneath my lashes—but I notice it every morning when I put on makeup. Every time I spy it, I feel comforted. I have an outward scar to reflect and validate the inward pain resulting from that relationship. A battle wound. And then I wish every one of my ex-boyfriend's parents owned cats.


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