I woke up and the pain was exquisite. I tried to roll over and go back to sleep, but I couldn't move. My eyes were dry, my tongue felt like it would crack and bleed if I moved it around in my mouth, I was swollen all over, and my legs weren't responding. I had tubes coming out of both arms, and I had a catheter running out of my penis. It was rather uncomfortable. What I thought had been a dream was very much real. I hoped I would wake up back in the warm comfort of my apartment, away from all this. I wanted none of it to be real.
I was thirsty. It was the only thing I could think about. Apparently I was being monitored very closely because my stirring had alerted a nurse to the increase in my cardio activity. In walked a black nurse, very petite, in her late 30s or early 40s. She had a very kind face, and concerned eyes. She had not seen me prior to being in the hospital, but judging by her reaction, I didn't look good.
"Mr. Payne, do you know where you are?"
"I'm at Methodist Hospital, on the 4th floor in the intensive care unit. I almost died from hypothermia and I have kidney failure. Ma'am I'm very thirsty. I'm sorry, you know my name, but I didn't catch yours?"
"Marla, my name is Marla and I'll be your nurse for the weekend."
"Marla, I'm so thirsty. Is there anyway you could get me some water, please? My eyes and mouth feel so dry." Here I did my best to sound pathetic, like a whimpering puppy. I was hoping to appeal to any part of her that was human.
"I'm sorry Mr. Payne, the doctor has you on fluid restriction because of your kidney failure. You're awfully swollen and your body is retaining a lot of fluid."
She reached down and lightly felt of my ankle. From where she had grabbed, I could see the imprints of her fingers. My leg was swollen to about twice its size. I jerked, rather, from my solar plex up seemed to convulse. It felt as if someone had stabbed me in my foot and in my hip with electrically charged daggers. I groaned.
"I'm sorry did I hurt you? Are you ok? On a scale of 10, rate your pain level."
"No, no, it wasn't you. I've been getting these electrical shock feelings in my leg. They run from my toe up to my hip. It's one of the most painful things I've ever experienced, but on a scale of 1 to 10, I'd say my pain is about an 8."
When I was first admitted, I had refused all pain medications due to an ongoing battle with opiate addiction. I had talked to the doctor that morning and had convinced her that even though I was recovering, it was cruel and unusual punishment to let me just lie there in such pain. Something about watching a 6'4", 260lb man have tears going down his face while failing to maintain a sense of pride as tubes ran all out of him must have struck a chord with the doctor. She had ordered 1mg of Dilaudid every 4 hours.
"I'll be right back," and she left the room and returned quickly. She removed a plastic syringe from her white scrub top, and screwed it into my IV.
"The doctor ordered an injection of hydromorphone 1mg. This will help with the pain. It may make you itchy, or feel like your hair is growing. They are common side effects and nothing to worry about. Also, this might burn a little, so I'm going to push it in slow."
She was one of the most kind people I had ever met. Instantly I felt relaxed, I could breathe easy. My eyes no longer burned, my body felt lighter, and my legs had stopped throbbing. This warm sensation started in my chest, crept its way up my spine, and did a little tap dance at the base of my skull. The pain was gone, along with the hopelessness of my situation. It woke something up inside of me. It was a feeling I hadn't felt for some months now. It was an unhealthy desire, very ominous. The act took all of 15 seconds and I had given up fighting a war that I had been winning for months. I knew I was back to square one.