Yeah, I know. Not everyone wants to know what it was like while I was in the coma.... so if you don't, now's the perfect time to hit your browser's back button.
Today as I was felled by this nasty head cold, something hit me from out of the blue. Not sure what triggered it. Within seconds though, I was reliving an odd aspect of one of my coma dreams.
As I was prepping for the first "swallow" test, they feed you applesauce mixed with a seriously blue food dye. Apparently the dye shows up as a leak if you are unable to swallow properly. Considering I had been ventilated for over a month and still had a trach-tube in... swallowing was rough.
The setting: I am sitting in my recliner, waiting for the speech pathologist to administer the test. Meanwhile: All around me I can hear voices, but something is amiss. The voices slowly become more sharp and distinct. I am definitely not hearing English. Not sure yet what though.
A nurse aid comes into the room and says something I can't quite make out. Then proceeds to tell me that I should expect some changes in hospital staffing. Then goes back to speaking Slavic.
Bewildered, I look around the room, obviously unable to get up or really move around. As I survey the equipment, all of the instructions are either in Spanish or in Russian. What on earth? So I asked the nuse aid: her response was that it was simply cheaper to provide care this way.
With the first couple gulps of the swallow test down, I knew I had to urinate. A lot. I was sure that it was all going to come out blue and leak everywhere. Mind you, I was actually sporting a catheter at the time, and was semi-conscious. Not enough though. Weird stuff happens on all the drugs they had me on.
I probed further. She replied that now that the hospital was incorperating with multinational corporations, they had to maximize profitability and the easiest way to do that was to start with folks who would work for less. She explained that she and her family lived near the hospital. For some of my care, she would be bringing me to her home. Apparently her mother was an RN and was moonlighting as well.
Moonlighting or bootlegging depending on how you look at it. What they would do is when a patient could be moved out of the ICU they would take them home instead of the post-operative care unit. There, family members would administer to the patient's needs. In addition, they would collect unused medical supplies that would otherwise be thrown away at the end of the shift. They repackaged them and sold them on the black market to folks who couldn't afford proper medical care.
So as I lived with this family, my mother and I got to know them pretty well. Apparently the husband of the family had injured his back severely in a firefighting accident. All of the kids were nearly finished with school and two of them were planning to work for the hospital. They all worked as "outreach" for the community. They provided care, medical supplies and serious help to folks who would never otherwise be able to afford a hospital stay.
The dream ends with me laying on the dinner table having their youngest sons who were still in high school, drawing blood for a workup. They kept telling me we needed to hurry because it was almost dinner time and they needed to set the table. But I shouldn't rush, because that would skew the results. Their care was impeccable. They were skilled and compassionate. It sort of made me wonder what it would be like to live in a world like this. I am sure this is common place in other parts of the world.