“Hell is empty and all the devils are here,” I chant repeatedly, my body shaking like a clown in an ant suit in an effort to stay awake. Grotesquely charred demons, with bloody red spiked-tooth smiles, hug the ceiling in vast numbers as I’m wheeled down the corridor toward a private room. I must be dying. Again. Hell is yawning and I’m a carnival magnet! It’s a war between my spirit and the hounds of hell! I try to call for help. But I can’t form words or even sounds now. Tis’ alone I am to fight these demons every half hour on the hour. Wake, shake and bake. At some point during the horrific night, I think, this is your last chance, God. You keep pulling this stuff on me, I’m going to surprise you and croak.
Morning finally breaks. The sounds of nurses buzzing about as they change shifts, waking everybody up in the process, tells me I survived the night. And there’s more. The brand new day births good news! I can think again. I can actually talk to my nurse rationally. Well . . . until I remember my macabre tango with madness in the ER. Anxiety hits and the switch goes off momentarily. WHO THE HELL ARE YOU I shout at Ms. White Shoes. The nurse panics, and runs out to prepare another shot for sedation. By the time she returns, the switch is back on. “What’s that?” I ask suspiciously as Nurse Hatchet strides toward the bed, her face full of naked, evil purpose.
She spouts patented false reassurance to stupid, crazy woman. “Don’t worry, Mrs. ET. You’re a little anxious. This will take the edge off.”
“Uh, no thanks. If that’s what you gave me last night, I almost died!”
“Are you allergic to Haldol, Mrs. ET?” She checks chart. “We didn’t know that.”
Of course you didn’t, I think crabbily. Nobody asked me. So, you deserve the gross lie I’m about to tell. “Yes, I’m very allergic. Look, valium works better. At least it did when I was in here the other day.”
She leaves and comes back with one little round pill. Ten minutes later I’m peacefully asleep. Which lasts until I’m awakened for breakfast a couple of hours later. Surprisingly, I’m starved and wolf it down. My husband arrives with a doctor at his side. A pretty woman with a dot in the middle of her forehead. She introduces herself, and speaks with an elegant, slightly accented voice. “Hello, Mrs. ET. I am Dr. Verylongname. How are you feeling today?”
“Like a banana flattened by Big Foot. So, what’s with the cop outside my door, Doc?”
She smiles warmly. “Mrs. ET, please do not worry. The policeman is merely guarding another patient.”
“Oh.” Not to worry? With my luck, I’m next door to a murderer.
“But,” she continues mournfully, “I am afraid that you are under quarantine. You have shigellosis, which is highly infectious and contagious. It is an intestinal bug which can make you very, very sick in a short period of time.”
“Can it make you nuts?”
“You can get sick enough to hallucinate and have delusions, yes.”
“Oh, that’s a relief. I’ll be myself again soon. Is that what you’re saying?”
Dr. Verylongname hesitates. So not good. I switch off immediately and become a child again. I get to my knees on the bed and begin to crawl in circles chanting, “No, no, no, no. I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine.”
The nice lady doctor replies gently, “Yes, you will be fine, Mrs. ET. In fact, you will be able to go home tomorrow.”
“No, no, no, no. Don’ wanna. Don’ don’don’.” I begin to rock back and forth.
She reaches out and rubs my back in a circular motion. “Ok. Only when you are ready will you go home.
The switch goes on, and I abruptly settle into a lotus-style sitting position. “That’s great, Doc. But do you really think the mental problems I’ve been having are just a side effect of this illness? Because it seems to me, a few screws in the ol’ noggin have bit the rust.”
“Duh. No shit, Sherlock.”