Hospitals have CODES. Codes for nearly everything; fancy word codes, acronym codes, letter codes, number codes, and color codes. The main purpose of the codes is to confuse and prevent the hapless layperson from knowing what the heck is going on. But hapless laypersons, thanks to TV scriptwriters, eventually figure out some codes, like “CODE BLUE”. The PA system blaring “Code Blue…Code Blue…Code Blue” might just as well be saying “Help! Help! Help! Someone is about to die and we have to do something right away but we don’t know what to do, so everybody come running and mill around and do stuff.”
Early this morning, Natalie is quietly sitting alone with Aaron, when through the 1041 door, past Rosemarie’s big “Smile Required for Entry” poster, past Natalie’s “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the Glory of God…” poster, in rush the nurse gendarmes, responding to “CODE GRAY”; “ABUSIVE PERSON OR PERSON WITH A WEAPON”. Now how did they know? There is, in each room, a CCTV camera disabled by a bit of misguided congressional wisdom known as HIPAA. Aaron doesn’t have a vitals monitor, it having been disconnected a couple days ago (as he has out-improved its usefulness!). Beeping IV line monitors are pretty much ignored. So how did they know the goings-on behind the closed door of 1041? Can remote medical diagnostics now detect abusive qualities buried deeply in the psyche? And finally the real question, “Was it Natalie or was it Aaron?”
Sunday doesn’t quite blend into the other days of the week. Non-critical lab results are not available (including the results of Friday’s bone marrow biopsy), the elevator ride from the first to the tenth floor is more likely to be an express, and visitors come bearing munchies and distraction. This is the first Sunday that Aaron can appreciate the distraction, if only for a few minutes at a time.
His coughing has worsened, and it is with effort that he tries not to cough. Robitussin and Codeine are tried without seeming effect. Dilaudid seems to be the most effective cough suppressant; it’s suppression is administered by way of sleep, so Aaron is not too sociable. Though when he is awake, he is unfailingly polite; always “please” and “thank you”. The neatly stapled-shut incision from the gallbladder removal oozes blood and the drain line from the abdomen seems to drip bile unabated into a fist sized bladder that keeps getting in the way. Perhaps the coughing has loosed up the otherwise tidy and healing-nicely incision. Yet another CT scan is scheduled to check for the source of the cough…. Pneumonia is, as always, suspect.
Down the hall, Eric is also doing better…he was kicked upstairs from the ICU a couple days before Aaron. His fiancée April describes how, having achieved remission, he ignored for several years the strong recommendations of the doctors to obtain follow-up treatments. A few months ago, in lieu of the follow-up treatments, began the relapse and its nearly fatal consequences.
The first day of summer has come and gone, nearly unnoticed. It is comforting that the rhythms of the seasons are immune to our displacements.