Friday, May 26, 2017

Ward of the Were-bunnies




I would like to take you back to February, and my days in the hospital (and- later - the rehab center). Even though I was focused on the fate of my finger, I knew immediately that "Something ain't right", as my Dad would say.

Hospitals are intriguing institutions, serving the mass of humanity, the good, the bad, the ugly...the really ugly...I'm not referring to physical appearance but the quality of the soul.  I ended up in a prominent hospital in New Brunswick, NJ.  In my youth, it was a general county hospital. It changed names, found endowment money, and began to spread its tentacles across the City. It devoured neighborhoods, absorbed existing structures, slithered underground, until it's become an entity onto itself.

I ended up in their A&E initially, a place that hasn't really been updated since the days of being a small, local operation.  Rooms were divided in quads - 4 beds per room - with a door. You were assigned a bed, the door closed, and you were trapped with 3 other folks needing assistance. In my room, there was a woman who had obviously undergone chemotherapy. She rested quietly, uncomplaining, awaiting a doctor. It was clear that she was in distress, but merely smiled at her husband,  and held his hand. 

Eventually, we were both moved to the Transitional Care Unit, or TCU. It was a ground floor, windowless, dormitory style space, with 15 beds in a large "U". Each bed was separated by curtains only. With just florescent lights on 24/7, one could not determine if it was night or day. It was a rabbit warren of people, which I immediately dubbed "tent city". 



 Here, too, the parade of the masses marched on. Every kind of individual was on display, from the humbled to the entitled...to the crazy who thought they were entitled.

For instance, take the woman behind the curtain to my left.  It was apparent that she was having some kind of digestive issues (mostly because she was shouting to the nursing staff that she had digestive issues). Despite that, she demanded that she be brought supper.  The staff advised her to look at the menu and call her order into the kitchen. 
"Why do I have to do that? Don't you have PEOPLE who perform these tasks?"
When advised that she did not have a wait staff, she angrily grabbed the phone and called the kitchen. She identified herself and started to order toast, an english muffin, oatmeal, three eggs...then she stopped, apparently listening to a response.

Suddenly, she erupted. "What do you MEAN I've exceeded my carbs limit? How is that possible? I'm not eating the other swill on this menu. It will kill me. DO YOU WANT TO KILL ME?!"
The nurses came running, and finally sorted out her food fiasco. 

Bored while waiting for her meal, she next turned her attention to me. "You over there! You! Your overhead light is too bright. Can you turn it off?"
As I wasn't allowed out of bed, I responded, "No, not really."
"It's too bright for me."
  "Sorry."
"Turn it off!"
  "Not gonna happen."
"Then I'll come over and turn it off myself!"
   "Stay on your own side of that curtain or I'll call security." At that point, I rang for the nurse and explained my situation. She quietly went to speak with my neighbor. I couldn't hear her side of the conversation, but the patient screamed, "I DEMAND she turn off that light! This is inhumane! I shall report you all!!"

I have no idea to whom she was going to report because I was suddenly assigned a real room.  It was a shared space, but I was given the largest section with a window.  My roommate was a tiny creature, whose husband was also in hospital just down the hall. It became obvious that this woman (whom I shall call "J") had issues...major issues. In fact, there were only 16 beds on the floor, each assigned to a "special" patient...and me.  It didn't take long before it dawned on me. This was the ward of the were-bunnies. I was among those called the "sun downers".  They slept or were quiet during sunlight, but the rising of the moon signaled the start of the howling hours.



Perhaps I should define the term "were-bunnies". It was coined by a friend I had in another hospital. They are the patients that may look and sound dangerous, but are actually harmless.  By that definition, "J" was no were-bunny. Although merely the size of a pixie with a glandular problem, when denied visits to her husband she would scream, kick, punch, and fight like a rabid ocelot. She would constantly need changing, during which times she tried to make her escape. Eventually she was tied to the bed and alarmed. Nothing stopped her, and security was called on a regular bases. When her daughter came to visit from overseas, she focused on the fact that the hospital lost "J's" glasses and dentures - valid, I agree - but had to be told that both were lost during two of her mother's battles, and she was the one who places these items in the soiled laundry which got carted away.

Thus was the live entertainment in our ward, but the room had larger issues. When possible that first night, I settled in for a solid old-fashion snooze. At around 3 am, I was awoken by an aging gentlemen in hospital gown leaning over my bed. Initially, I thought it was one of the loonies on walk-about, (it had happened a few years prior in a rehab center), but I was wrong. As I looked up into the gent's blank eyes, he slowly dissolved. Ducky. I had a haunted room.




As the sun rose the next morning, I watched my coat - hanging on the back of the open bathroom door - swing wildly back and forth. I advised one of my nurses that the room had 3 patients in lieu of 2.
"What do you mean?"
   "The room is haunted."
"How do you know?"
  "Crap keeps happening."
"Like what?" she asked innocently.  At that moment, the paper towel dispenser in  the bathroom started running like a house a-fire, spewing paper towels all over the floor.  

The nurse peeked around the corner, then scurried back to huddle by my bed.
"Ah...there's no one in there.."
   "Yes. I know."
At that moment, yet another nurse came in. She took one look at the first nurse's face and said, "What's the matter?"
"The paper towel dispenser is running."
   "And....?"
"It's motion activated. There's nobody in there."
The second nurse lowered her voice. "That's been happening all over the ward."
Like I said...just ducky. I had a haunted ward.

Until the end of my stay, evidence mounted. Lights and TV went on and off without human intervention, my phone would unplug itself, and then turn itself on.  The last little bit of fun came when a new patient was moved in down the hall. He told the staff he was a wizard and would defeat all the demons walking our hall. Wizard is one thing; nutsy fagan wizard with an agenda is quiet another. I was relocated to a rehab center the next evening.

Now, you would think that would be the end of my tale - but no. Once at the rehab, the nursing aid (a great, big, gentle giant of a Russian) was trying to adjust the bed for me.  Suddenly, it started to groan and vibrate and buck like the mattress from "The Exorcist".



"What is this?" Alex kept repeating, "You bring ghost with you from hospital maybe?"
   "Maybe."
He turned whiter. "No. Don't kid. You think ghost?"
   "Hell if I know."

The bed kept it up despite maintenance, engineering, and a boat load of other guys trying to make it stop.  It wasn't until Gary came to visit, with a full bottle of sage spray, that I was finally able to...er hum...rest in peace.




Finally, here are the photos from our crawl at Princeton Cemetery:




































Enjoy your memorial Day!





Friday, April 14, 2017

TWO ROWBOATS AND A HELICOPTER

Hi, all. Sorry for the long delay in blogging. Unfortunately, I ran into another health problem that required a long stay in hospital and physical rehab.

It's a sad sorry, but much good has developed from it.  Warning: I am going to include photos which, in and of themselves, are neither "gross" nor "sickening" in my opinion. However, some people have weak constitutions, so bear that in mind before reading this entry.

I have slowly developed neuropathy in my hands. Although not as severe as in my feet and legs, it prohibited me from feeling hot and cold. I was trying to be careful when microwaving food, but managed to burn my fingers anyway.  The blisters on my left hand healed.  The one on my right, index finger did not. One Sunday morning, after my shower, I noticed that my finger had turned white, and a rash was running down my arm. Within 12 hours, the finger had turned black.





By then, Claude and my housekeeper were at my flat. An ambulance was called, and I was taken to Saint Peter's first, then transferred to Robert Wood Johnson/ Barnabas Health. They had a hand specialist. Initially, the surgeon didn't think I would need surgery, but changed his mind when antibiotics failed to improve the condition of my top joints. It was gangrene.

Now, here's the wacky part: initially, the surgeon said it was a "dry" gangrene. "We can send you home, and just wait until the finger falls off!"

At first, I just starred at him, slack jawed. Then replied, "I have a cat. There I'll be, sitting on the sofa, petting my cat with my left hand when - boing - I feel my right hand jerk...and my finger is hanging by a thread of skin. When it falls off completely, I get to chase the cat, who thinks he has a new, tasty toy."
"Oh, it won't be THAT fast," says he. "It's the natural way to let it happen."
"Cut it off."
  "But general anesthesia is so.."
"You're cutting it off."
And so...he did.

I was awake for the entire procedure, and insisted on seeing the end result. I was shocked that he was only able to save 1/3. Then he informed me, even that small portion was in danger.



What was left was purple and swollen...not a pretty sight.  

I tried to stay positive. I was soon advised that cultures for the remaining bone only showed staph infection. The portion they amputated was riddled with osteomyelitis. Good thing I didn't wait to have it fall off!

I was sent to Cranbury Center, in Monroe Twp., to complete physical and occupational therapy.  It was only a few miles from home, and has a wonderful staff and physical plant. While there, the finger improved. 

It went from purple to normal color, and reduced in size.


As the old, infected skin peeled away, "Dexter", as my nub was now called, took on a strange appearance.  With the stitches on top looking like hair, and scabs that resembled a nose and ear, Dexter bore a strange resemblance to a crying baby with a swollen eye!


In less than three weeks, the surgery site was virtually healed.

Today, it is better still. I've been adapting to writing sans index finger, and typing. Now, as to the good that came out of this: I've stopped playing games with my health. My sugars are now better controlled, my diet has improved, and I've lost weight. I am tired of going to the grave a bit at a time.

There is an old joke about a religious man, experiencing a flood. When a rowboat goes by his house and offers to evacuate him, he refuses. He insists that Jesus will save him. 

As the waters get higher, he is forced onto his second floor balcony. Another rowboat comes by, but is again refused.  

Finally, he us forced to the roof. A helicopter offers to air lift him, but he insists Jesus will save him.

The flood waters wash him off the roof, and he drowns.  He appears before Jesus and says, "Where were you? I believed in you, and trusted that you would send help!!"

To which Jesus replied, "I sent you two rowboats and a helicopter, what more did you want?"

The gods have sent one last message.
This time, I think I got it.

Next time, I'll tell you all about my weird experiences in my "Haunted" room in RWJ/Barnabas Health, and the aftermath. Strange story.

Finally, the last cemetery crawl from last Summer!












The Fairmont cemetery is also in Newark  NJ. It's an easier drive-thru than Mount Pleasant, but fewer unique examples of grave art. Above is an interesting statue of someone named "Clark". No relation ...I don't think. However, my grandfather was left an orphan in Newark, so...?














It's obvious that those who have the riches can't take it with them, but family can enshrine it above them!

Next time, Princeton!

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

ONE MORE TIME, WITH FEELING



Just wanted to start with a little fun Sherlock to kick the year off right.
So, here we go. First off: an announcement!

Calling all Vendors, Psychics & Paranormal Groups Saturday, September 30, 2017  11 am to 6 pm 
ParaX presents:  Behind the Veil 2 
Psychic/Metaphysical/Paranormal Fair At the East Brunswick Elks Lodge 21Oakmont Avenue, East Brunswick, NJ 08816 
A day of fun for the public to kick off the fall season, filled with Psychic readers, unique merchandise, lectures, food, local artists and authors on the subject of ghosts, witches etc. Vendors & a helper receive free admission with their paid 6 foot space, chairs supplied, but you must provide your own (6 ft.) table.   Half price space if you are approved to be a lecturer. A raffle, just for Vendors! You will receive directions and a final flyer via, email. We will also provide the website and facebook links, so you can help us advertise. We look forward to having you! 

Yes, we are doing the expo again. If anyone is interested, please let me know and I will send you a form.

The end of last year was a total wreck for me. First, in October, I had to give my presentation to the Red-Headed League of New Jersey on "Arthur, Sherlock, and the Supernatural." I believe it went well. It was also the group's 40th anniversary. Here is a picture of the cake:



And here are some of the goodies that were given out (including the Sherlock protection pouches with the 221B house key. (Those were from me.)




And here I am, with a microphone threatening my personal space.


I was not feeling well that evening, and I look it. However, I received many kind remarks on the lecture, pouches, and free Fate Magazines provided by my publisher.

Next up was the Expo. Great vendors but low turn-out. We saw areas for improvement and are addressing them for the next go-round. Still rather ill, tension was made worse by friend Bob's sudden illness. (He was going to do a lot of my tote and carry for set-up.) He made the show, but my sister Diane really came through for me. She helped set up the night before, attended the show, and stuck around to help break it down. My Jeni, Keith, and other friends also pitched in. I also got to meet Bruce Tango, father of Dave and one of the folks from "Ghost Hunters".






Yup. No matter who you are, sooner or later you get to push the wheelchair. Mostly that fell to Bob or my sister, bless their hearts.

After that, I really fell ill to exhaustion, chills and fever,,, and I still had the holidays to sludge through. By the time New Year's Eve rolled around, I was whipped.  It has only been the last week or two that I've started to come alive.

I managed to finish an article I was doing on an investigation of White Hill Mansion, and get to posted off to my publisher.  It should either be in the next Fate issue, or posted on their web site (the jury is still out on that one.) Meanwhile, my article "Missing Mabel" - about the first dean of Douglass College - is in the current issue :



'Tis a mystery, this one...a spooky mystery!

Ellen and I also did a third cemetery crawl.  I'm falling behind on those, so allow me to share the first adventure in Newark, NJ.




Mount Pleasant cemetery reminded me a bit of  Green-wood cemetery in Brooklyn. I think that is primarily due to the ornate gate. Unlike Green-wood, there was no welcoming bathroom. At our age, Ellen and I LIKE welcoming bathrooms very much. Still, we persevered.                                                                                   





It had the typical  Victorian greco-roman designs. The tomb on the bottom looks like a cremation was being carried out, but it's only a cloud.                                                                                                

This is a tribute to a fireman. It was extremely tall, and very difficult to shoot.                                                                     

There is the occasional Celtic cross...







...and we have the typical urns, spheres, and pointy needles.  Ellen compares them to a part of the male anatomy...over and over... We also have a cut-off column on the left of the last shot. Life cut short, as it were.                                                                                            

    There is a nice, little receiving vault...                                             
                                        
as well as the individual graves of the wealthy. Ellen liked this grave in particular because, right next to this memorial...

...is the humble stone of Peter Rankin, "A Faithful Servant".  Touches the heart strings...poor Peter.                                                               
I was certain that we would be in a doubtful part of town. Newark doesn't have the best of reputations, but we were fine.  Actually, the biggest threat came to the bottom of Ellen's car. There were branches, disappearing pathways, ruts, bumps...the tombs were pretty but the general upkeep failed to impress.  If you decide to do a crawl there, rent a junker for the day.                                              

That's it for now. Next time I'll do the other Newark crawl, and a spell to rid yourself of the influences of unwanted people, so you can start the year with cleaner, happier energy.    

Be well...and avoid the plague running rampant in New Jersey!