I knew this year’s July 4th was going to be a different one.
Disillusioned and deeply disappointed in our country, this was not going to be a celebratory holiday for me.
America’s democracy was already in critical condition when the mass shooting at an Independence Day parade in Highland Park occurred that morning confirming the sad state of our country.
Who were we as Americans?
The health of our nation felt dire. It was toxic. Riddled with systemic failure, it was close to becoming sepsis.
Never did I think my own health would take a critical turn on that day too.
The deep pain I felt at our country’s deteriorating condition was suddenly made manifest in my own body. On Independence Day, I found myself in excruciating agony in what would turn out to be a virulent infection and large kidney stone.
Like our country I became sepsis, finding myself in a life-threatening medical emergency.
A Hospital Stay for Sally
For the past several days I have been hospitalized.
I have just returned home from my Medicare paid-all inclusive four-day stay at Huntington Hospital.
The last time I stayed overnight at a hospital was at St. Joseph’s in Far Rockaway, New York in March of 1955 when I was born and my mother and I spent the requisite post-partum five-day stay.
Over the years I have spent more than my share of time in hospitals, though never as a patient.
Years of caring for my parents and managing their healthcare made me quite familiar with the ins and outs of hospital life, protocols, and dealing with an ever-changing roster of care providers.
I logged in more than my share of miles running up and down hospital corridors in search of a nurse or aide to assist my ailing parent. I learned to appreciate and acknowledge how hard the staff worked. Those skills would come in mighty handy as I became my best advocate.
Suddenly finding myself on the other side of the narrow hospital bed, dressed in a flimsy white and blue gown, hooked up to IVs and beeping machines going off at all hours was disconcerting yet oddly familiar. Always playing the part of Nurse Sally Ames, I was never cast as the patient. The view was decidedly different.
Seeing the ubiquitous white erasure board with my own name scribbled on it along with the ever-changing dates and nursing staff felt surreal.
By The Dawns Early Light
As July 4th dawned, there was no rockets red glare but I was wracked with a searing pain in my abdomen after a long and sleepless night. Something was clearly wrong, and googling the myriad of possibilities offered no relief. I made an appointment to see my physician on Wednesday.
With the July sun shining brightly and a clear blue sky I decided a little sand and surf might perk me up.
Visiting an ER on a holiday did not cross my mind but by end of the day that was exactly where I ended up at the urging of a concerned friend. I went from the beach to a bedpan in a blink of an eye.
Tests showed among other things, that I had a large kidney stone.
This was no mere stone apparently. The asteroid size jagged rock floating around inside me was huuge. A kidney stone Donald Trump would be proud to call his own…. “No one has a bigger kidney stone than I do, believe me!”
The agony accompanying it equaled its impressive size.
Doctors and nurses kept repeating that this particular pain is worse than natural childbirth and I’d believe it. Pumped up with morphine, I was quickly admitted to the hospital which admittedly took me by surprise.
A virulent infection turned sepsis meant emergency surgery for me that evening. It was later revealed it was lifesaving.
The swiftness and suddenness of all this was nothing short of surreal.
As the pain continued so did the meds, and the litany of controlled substances I was given would make a redneck drool -morphine, fentanyl, and oxycodone around the clock. It was my own Hillbilly Elegy.
When I was discharged, along with heavy antibiotics there was enough opioid drugs to enrich the Sackler’s pockets. I chose to forego the latter.
For several days I was in a hazy world of my own. The troubled world at large was kept at bay. The partisan rancor and divineness I see 24/7 on my various screens were silenced.
Instead, I was surrounded around the clock by caring, hard-working Americans of all ethnicities, genders, colors, religions, and sexual orientations committed to working together in healing their patients.
It was a continuous rotation of American diversity.
The bitter divisions and fissures had no place in the hospital halls and it was a blessedly political-free zone.
It went a long way in healing my broken spirit.
For all I know the surgeon who saved my life may have voted for Trump. The aides who gently supported me to help me walk may support pro-life. I will never know their politics and it didn’t matter.
There was just humanity and I was grateful to be the recipient of it.
A healthy democracy in a place of healing.
So in the end my faith was renewed in the basic goodness, kindness, and decency of most Americans.
Maybe it was a good July 4th after all.