I tried not to. Get comfortable I mean. I really tried not to. I wasn’t staying here. This is temporary! I’ll get better and get out of here in no time. I still didn’t want to think about the whole needing a new heart to do be able to leave thing. I didn’t want anyone to see me. My mom would ask me if I wanted my favourite bear or anything from home. I refused. I didn’t want any of my favourite things to be tainted by this place or this room. Or worse, there was a very real risk of getting blood on it. My mom brought me some new pjs so I wouldn’t have to wear the hospital gowns. I could be a bit comfortable at least. Though my doctor would later joke about them being shipped in from Paris, hospital gowns are certainly not built for comfort. So, I started to concede to things like that. “It would be nice to have a blanket”. Hospitals don’t have real blankets. The fluffy kind. The kind of blanket that makes a blanket a blanket, you know? Mom started bringing me more and more things to make me comfortable. Still, my favourite bear stayed at home, all by himself. Another one in my life that didn’t understand why I didn’t want him there. I understand Toutou is just a bear, but that’s what I believed. He was waiting for me to come home just like everyone else, including me.
Days turned into weeks. Time kept passing and nothing changed. More needles, dressing changes, meds of all kinds. Every day. I learned how to move with the machine. But no matter how much learned how to move with it, I’d still trip over the tube and yank the skin on my stomach it was stitched into. There was no getting used to it. It hurt. It was also loud. A super loud non-stop tik tok tik tok as if I was being haunted by the crocodile in peter pan. The only difference was that I couldn’t sail away and instead of taking my hand, the crocodile was after my heart.
Within a day, the nurses had set me up with my own TV and VCR. I was set! Every day my mom would bring me three new movies from the video store. Can you imagine? Three movies a day for who know how long. It was the best part. I went back to school with Rodney Dangerfield in the morning and in the afternoon, I was crossing the country of wild America with Jonathan Taylor Thomas. The evenings were reserved. I had a special date in the family room on my floor with the Disney channel. We didn’t have the Disney channel at home, so this was special. At 9pm, after visiting hours (shhhh), I would go to the little family room with my mom or dad and watch Honey I Shrunk the Kids. No commercials! Quality stuff! (Netflix who?)
After hours was also a great time for exploring. The lights were dim and the whole place had this evening glow. I could walk around without worrying about anyone seeing me. I was terrified of people seeing me. There was a lounge on the first floor. I remember it was pink and there was a continuous bench along this swirly wall and the wall wove through the lounge. It was nice for a waiting area. It was a half wall lined with fake plants. I remember one night, I just sat on one of those benches with my dad. The whole place felt quiet and peaceful. A rare feeling to have in a hospital. That lounge no longer exists.
Food was a problem. I mean. It wasn’t my thirteen-year-old picky eating that was the problem. Everyone knows hospital food is …what even is it? I’d like to know. I was cursed with a strong sense of smell, and I couldn’t even have the tray in my room. Ok, I was a little bit picky. So, if you haven’t figured it out, I refused to eat it. I refused to eat anything. Not only that, I got sick to my stomach a lot. They didn’t know why, and I kinda thought “Guys…it’s not all that used to having this machine sticking out of it.” That didn’t seem to be a potential cause to the experts. They gave me lots of drugs. I still threw up. I shrank. Too much.
Eventually the doctors no longer cared what I ate. All they cared about was that I ate at all. So, after 9 pm, when I finally let her leave, my mom would go home and cook full meals for me. The first one I remember was a pork roast. My favourite. I gobbled it up and kept it down!
One day, my tray showed up as it did every day at the exact same time, no matter how much I didn’t want it to. Don’t worry, it came 3 times a day. But, on a side note, three times a day? If I wasn’t starving from not eating it, I would have starved anyway! They should really consider an evening snack tray, that’s all I’m saying.
Sometimes my dad would give it a try. “It’s pretty good” he’d say. Yeah, sure dad! The jello wasn’t bad, and it was nice to have some juice every now and then. They couldn’t squeeze the flavour out of pre-packaged juice or jello! One day though, on my tray, in a clearly deliberate transparent plastic container (great marketing tactic), sat a large slice of chocolate cake. I swear the frosting glistened in the cold florescent hospital lighting. Of course, the first thing I thought was that it must be gross. Historical data of the rest of the food suggested the odds were good that I was right. Luckily for my taste buds and shrinking waistline, I was wrong. That cake came every day and every day, I’d eat that cake.
And so, it went on. Not matter how hard I tried. Despite my continuous protests, it wasn’t long before I had settled into my new life without even noticing.