Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Crowded Hospitals

I'm not a big believer in ghost stories, but I've got a doozy to tell just the same. This particular ghost story has the added virtue of being entirely true and, in honor of Halloween, I figured I'd share it. It starts in the Jupiter Hospital, where my wife was admitted for dehydration a few weeks ago. On her second night there, while I was at home with the kids, Bridget's rebellious blood formed two blood clots and sent them hurdling toward her lungs. Things did not go well from there.

 The only luck we had, if you could call it that, was that Bridget's clots tried to kill her while she was in the exact right place - a hospital. The doctors and nurses responded quickly and saved Bridget's life.

Shortly after, Bridget was moved to a room in the Intensive Care Unit so that a cadre of medical professionals work on shrinking her clots. I stayed with Bridget most nights while she slept in the ICU. She had a private room with a glass sliding door, not unlike the rooms that you used to see on the sorely-missed drama, House. I planted myself in a reclining chair and spend most of my time watching NetFlix on my tablet.

Bridget, who was in constant pain from the clots, spent most of her time dozing from the narcotics she was being given. Every now and then she would wake for a few moments without opening her eyes and talk.

 Around 3 p.m. one afternoon Bridget called out to me.


 I looked up. Her eyes were still closed. “Yes?”

 “Make them go away.” I laughed because Bridget had been irritated by all the doctors going in and out earlier.

 “Who?” I asked.

 “All the people in my room. Make them go away.”

 I played along. “What do they look like?” I asked.

 Bridget paused as if considering something. “Some of them are old and some of them are young. They won’t leave me alone.”

 The hairs on the back of my arms stood on end and I considered my next question carefully.

 “Bridget,” I asked. “What are they wearing?”

 “They’re wearing nightgowns like me,” she said.

 And just like that, I had nothing clever to say. Bridget, though, didn’t want silence from me.

 “Tell them to go away.” And because I couldn’t think of anything at all to say, I said exactly that.

“Go away,” I said to the room. And then I waited a few moments.

 “What are they doing now, Bridget?”

 Bridget sighed, her eyes still closed. “They’re going away.”

 I wrote my brother an e-mail immediately to tell him what had just happened, both because I was creeped out and because it was a cool story. He wrote me back and explained as politely as he could that Bridget would probably be hallucinating a lot more things before she got better.

 And sure enough, Bridget had other, less creepy hallucinations. In one, the nurses were putting wine in her I.V. bag. In another, Tori Amos played her a personal concert. I did, however, have to fight the urge to Google Tori Amos to find if she was still alive. Gradually, I began to feel less weird about Bridget’s hallucination and when she awoke later that evening, I didn’t mention it. If she didn’t remember the people standing in her room, I wasn’t going to implant them there.

 Bridget’s friend Monica visited that night and brought, among other things, a sketchbook for Bridget to pass the time. The three of us laughed while Bridget doodled in her sketchbook and I finally mentioned that Bridget had been having creepy hallucinations. Bridget was intrigued but I refused to describe her most terrifying hallucination. She was already scared enough, I reasoned.

 I did show Monica the e-mail that I sent my brother and she was suitably weirded out - maybe more weirded out than I expected. You could see the hairs standing straight up on her arms.

 “C’mon,” I laughed. “It’s not that creepy.” Monica was not laughing.

“Look at what Bridget is drawing.”

 On the first page of Bridget’s sketchbook was a drawing of five to ten faceless people - their heads simple, scratchy ovals - all wearing what looked like simplified gowns.

 And that, kids, is a true story. Both my brother Roger and our friend Monica can verify it. Happy Halloween.

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