It all started innocently enough. The hospital nurses gave me a model car to put together, probably to keep me in my bed rather than romping through the hospital hallways with the other kids on the children’s floor. This was back in 1971, and hospitals were not yet in the practice of moving patients out as soon as possible.
I had just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and admitted to Good Sam hospital (see my earlier post on my hospital adventure). I had made new friends with kids who had cancer and heart conditions, as well as those who had had numerous surgeries to correct birth defects, just to name a few of their conditions. One of my roommates, a young kid who had a serious heart condition, was taken to surgery one evening, and he never returned. One of my other roommates woke me and the kid next to me up with screams in the middle of the night and then cried inconsolably the rest of the night. He said he knew our friend had died. I thought he was crazy until the following day when a nurse told us that indeed he didn’t make it through the surgery. No one was there to console us or provide us with counseling.
Maybe that’s why my fellow children’s-floor friends and I were so out of control. I’m sure we simply didn’t know how to handle all we saw and were experiencing.
It all culminated when I ran over a little old lady in the hallway. One of the big kids (and by big, I mean he was maybe 13) was pushing me in a wheelchair through the halls. I was Mario Andretti, speeding around the Good Samaritan 500 Racetrack. The other race teams had already given up. We were the undisputed 4th-Floor Wheelchair Race Champions. What I didn’t realize was that at some point the kid pushing me had given me a big shove and then let go. An older woman stepped out of a room directly in my path, and I suddenly found I had a very unwilling passenger.
She could have just enjoyed the ride, but instead she had to make a big deal out of the incident. (Incident was the word the nurses and hospital administrators kept using.)
So suddenly I had a model Lotus racecar to put together, which was kind of fun for a short while. But the tires had a piece of rubber that needed to be cut away in order to attach them to the rims. I asked a nurse for scissors, and she complied, probably to keep me busy and out of trouble. As I poked out the stubborn rubber section of a tire, however, I plunged the scissors between my index and middle fingers (I still have the 42-year-old scar). Seven stitches and I was good to go, sans the scissors.
Several days later I was in isolation, away from all my fun friends, with a serious case of Staphylococcus. It was the worst. No more races, no more friends to play with; they didn’t even let me finish building my model car. Finally, the doctor let me go home, where I carefully finished assembling the Lotus.
Several weeks later, my doctor removed six stitches from between my fingers. One of the stitches somehow fell down into my hand. He wanted to send me back to the hospital to let them find and remove that lost stitch, but the hospital said no, ostensibly because he could take care of that in his office.
That was fine with me. The kids back in my neighborhood and I had sled races to run and a new model car to pommel with a BB gun.