Archive for the ‘Daily update’ Category

Day 53 (December 13)

Posted: December 13, 2013 in Daily update
Tags: ,

I spent most of the night in a silent battle with the nurse. She’d come in to make her hourly rounds and turn on the heat in our room. I’d wake up drier than a wrinkled prune and turn the heat back off. This repeated until morning. Looks like I’m getting out just in time, as the ward heaters are starting to pump out intensely dry air that was aggravating my asthma.

After breakfast I finished my packing and waited for Kanako and her parents to arrive. They came shortly after 10am. After saying farewell to my roommates and a few other people in the ward we lined up for photos with the wonderful nurses. Next came the official check-out procedure with the main accounting office downstairs. Even though the city told me they’d cover 95% of my medical costs, in the end they covered everything. Maybe it’s their way of apologizing for keeping me in so long.

“Do you know what today is?”, Kanako quizzed me sternly. She was looking for a reply that didn’t state the obvious, so Friday the 13th and my release day were out as possible answers. I gave up, but she zealously reminded me that it has been exactly 10 years to the day since we first met.  If she knew back then about my run of bad luck a decade later she might have stayed away. Being reunited with her seemed like the perfect way to commemorate our anniversary.

Upon leaving the hospital, Kanako’s father drove us home and ended up cooking a nice omelette lunch for us. It felt strange setting foot back in our apartment after being away for so long. At first it felt as if I were visiting someone else, but now the comfort and familiarity are starting to return.

So there you have it. After nearly two months of isolation I’m back in society; so what next? Well, you’ll be happy to hear that I will continue updating this blog weekly until the end of my medical treatment. Stay tuned for the next part of my ongoing saga: dealing with the Osaka city health department!

Saying farewell to the nurses

Saying farewell to the nurses

Day 52 (December 12)

Posted: December 12, 2013 in Daily update
Tags: ,

Well, this is my final full day in the hospital, and Kanako, sharp-eyed as ever, pointed out that I will be released on Friday the 13th! Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers now can they?

I spent most of the day packing and sorting through my stuff and dreaming about life on the other side. The first order of business is to catch up on sleep, followed by gorging myself on every type of cuisine in hopes of putting back on some of that lost weight. Hiking will come next; perhaps this weekend if I’m feeling energetic enough.

While rummaging through my belongings, I decided to count the number of books that I’ve read since being hospitalized. Here’s the complete list, in random order:

  • Dark Summit – Nick Heil
  • The Wind is Howling – Ayako Miura
  • Born to Run – Christoper McDougall
  • It’s Not About the Bike – Lance Armstrong
  • No Way Down – Graham Bowley
  • Stranger in the Forest – Eric Hansen
  • Against the Wall – Simon Yates
  • Into Thin Air – John Krakauer
  • Ultra Marathon Man – Dean Karnazes
  • Mother Tongue – Bill Bryson
  • Mountains of the Mind – Robert Macfarlane
  • The Beckoning Silence – Joe Simpson
  • Fresh Currents – Eric Johnston
  • Tokyo Vice – Jake Adelstein
  • Minus 148 degrees – Art Davidson
  • A Walk for Sunshine – Jeff Alt
  • The Lost Wolves of Japan – Brett Walker
  • The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide – Andrew Skurka
  • The Mountain Monks of Mount Hiei – John Stevens
  • Serious Creativity – Edward De Bono
  • Touching the Void – Joe Simpson
  • Lowside of the Road – Barney Hoskyns (still reading)

I think I averaged about 1 book every 3 days, which is a pretty good pace considering I was also doing a lot of writing and blogging during that time. Of course, I didn’t have much else to do while being confined to such a small space. I think it was a much more productive time than just wasting away the hours watching movies or playing video games.

The sunset this evening was spectacular – a perfect ending to my long period of isolation. I received two weeks worth of medication to take home with me and have to come back in exactly 2 weeks for an outpatient check-up. I hope they don’t find a reason to have me re-admitted!

My last sunset in the hospital

My last sunset in the hospital

Day 51 (December 11)

Posted: December 11, 2013 in Daily update
Tags: ,

The Christmas decorations are up in the hospital. As I type, I’m surrounded by an adorable collection of holiday plushies: Frosty the Snowman is holding down the fort with his buddy Rudolph, everybody’s favorite button-nosed reindeer. Santa, looking more than a little plump after raiding the hospital kitchen fridge after hours, sits nearby in a glazed look of agitation. He’s going to have to lose some weight if he wants to make all of those deliveries.

Christmas isn’t celebrated as a religious holiday here in Japan. Sure, there are decorations, tinseled trees, and carols everywhere you go, but if you ask the average citizen about the meaning of Christmas, they’re likely to reply with: “Isn’t it Santa’s birthday?” Christmas is all about eating cake, going on a date, and looking at colorful lights. Gifts are optional.

I received an early Christmas present this afternoon. Dr. Tamura stopped by to tell me I can be released anytime. We decided that Friday would do; I wanted to get the date set in stone before he changed his mind! So there you have it. I’ll be officially discharged the day after tomorrow. Jude if you’re reading this then you can go ahead and schedule your long-over hair cut.

It still hasn’t sunk in, but the end is in sight. Now of course, I’ll out of the fire but still in the frying pan so to speak, because the antibiotics will continue nonstop until at least the end of April. I don’t mind that, as I’ve been taking anti-coagulants daily for the last 6 years. So far the TB meds haven’t wrecked my liver so let’s hope it stays that way. I should be good to go as long as I avoid alcohol, which will be easy since I quite drinking completely when I had my heart surgery.

Kanako came by this afternoon and we celebrated with ice cream and Scrabble. Kanako said I looked incredibly happy today and I honestly do feel ecstatic. I doubt I’ll be able to sleep tonight but that’s fine with me, as the only thing I need to do tomorrow is to relax and pack my bags.

Frosty and Rudolph: partners in crime

Frosty and Rudolph: partners in crime

Day 50 (December 10)

Posted: December 10, 2013 in Daily update
Tags: ,

Since this is my 50th day of hospitalization, I thought I’d do something a little different. Below is a list of 50 things I have learned about Japanese hospitals:

  1. Resistance to flatulence is futile.
  2. Sometimes grown men do wear diapers.
  3. Shit stinks. Literally.
  4. Lights out comes much too early.
  5. Light on comes much too early.
  6. Hospitals are BYOE – Bring Your Own Everything.
  7. You can never have too many books.
  8. If the nurse says it’s gonna hurt, it probably will.
  9. Needles are a necessary evil.
  10. Medicine always has the most unpronounceable names.
  11. The changing of the sheets is something to look forward to.
  12. When the doctors says ‘soon’, they really mean they don’t know when.
  13. Toasters make everything taste better.
  14. The TV in the common room is always turned up way too loud.
  15. Moaners will be moaners.
  16. Don’t expect a good night’s sleep.
  17. Bath time is something to be cherished.
  18. Privacy can only be found on the porcelain throne. Unless you need assistance with that too.
  19. The thermometer goes under the arm, not under the tongue.
  20. Pain meds are your best friend.
  21. Nurses will always come in unannounced. Keep your pants on to avoid being surprised.
  22. There’s never enough storage space.
  23. There’s a Nurse Ratched in every hospital.
  24. Another man’s dentures are never fun to look at.
  25. Japanese people really do love sleeping.
  26. Routines aren’t designed to be broken.
  27. White bread really should be outlawed.
  28. My room is always too ‘bright’ for the nurses.
  29. Water takes 3-1/2 minutes to boil in the microwave.
  30. Pajamas are shockingly expensive.
  31. A catheter really is the worst thing imaginable.
  32. You can never have too many visitors.
  33. Nurses wear white. Assistants wear pastel.
  34. Pay phones are still very much in vogue.
  35. No the windows don’t open. I already tried them all.
  36. If given the choice, always go for the bed by the window.
  37. No matter how bad you may feel, there’s always someone much worse off than you.
  38. Don’t get sick on a weekend.
  39. Fruit always tastes better in the hospital.
  40. Even though everything is made of concrete, the fire department will still come to test the alarm systems monthly.
  41. Don’t get your head stuck in the bed railings. At least that’s what the warning signs say.
  42. Most of your fellow patients were probably born in the Taisho era.
  43. It’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.
  44. Japanese people do not know how to whisper.
  45. Beds always face east or west.
  46. The tea they serve is always tepid and never potent enough.
  47. A little bit of Japanese can go a long way.
  48. If you need to have your pubes shaved, it’s better to get the male nurse to do it.
  49. Don’t be afraid to use the nurse call button.
  50. Blogging about your experience can help ease the emotional pain.
50 days and counting

50 days and counting

Day 49 (December 9)

Posted: December 9, 2013 in Daily update
Tags: ,

With more construction work continuing upstairs, I spent most of the day trying to get my mind off the noise. A lot of it blends into the background until you start focusing on it, by which it starts to drive you mad. My game playing roommate got a new video game in the mail and proceeded to play it the entire afternoon. Normally that wouldn’t be cause for concern but the new toy involves touching the screen or device with a finger, resulting in a tapping sound more annoying than a leaky faucet. That, together with the high-pitched buzzing of electric razors, left me with a terrible headache. I’ve never used an electric razor in my life – I think my ears must be particularly sensitive to the frequency of the pitch, as it sends me running down the corridors in much the same way your beloved pooch would respond to a Galton’s whistle.

Other than those minor annoyances, it was a relatively quiet day in terms of medical treatment. I didn’t see Dr. Tamura at all today, so there was no update on my prognosis. I’m still following the unofficial motto of this fine establishment: “Hurry up and wait.” The nurse did tell me that I have a blood test and X-ray tomorrow, which my doctor had told me about last week. And he seems to be keeping his word for once about not ordering another test of my sputum. Maybe I will be released later this week after all. Oh, no, I better not start thinking like that again or I will be in trouble. Ok, I take that last statement back.

The food has completely repeated itself, as I have now tried every single dish offered at the hospital. Some of the food isn’t bad, while most can be considered edible by most humane standards. There are a few things that I don’t care too much for, one of which being seaweed. I can eat dried seaweed until the cows come home but I can’t stand the slimy fresh stuff they slip into my miso soup and into some of my salads. If I was stranded on a desert island with a group of Japanese people then I’d definitely be the first one to die of starvation. My fellow refugees would be chowing down on seaweed and kelp to their heart’s content while I would be staring in a hallucinogenic trance brought on by hunger and dehydration.

Tomorrow is a day I thought I would not have to face. 50 days of hospitalization. A new record for me and a milestone I hope to never repeat.

Maple leaves showing their true colors

Maple leaves showing their true colors

Day 48 (December 8)

Posted: December 8, 2013 in Daily update
Tags: ,

I awoke to a beautiful day, with crystal clear skies and amazing visibility, so I took advantage of the weather to head out on a mid-morning reconnaissance mission. I was planning on visiting a nearby supermarket if the local baker was closed, but fortunately they were open, so I could get a resupply of brown rice bread to liven up the first meal of the day.

On the way back I took a detour to check out the maple leaves and the reflections in the pond. I was surprised to find that there were still some autumn colors, including some Japanese larch transformed into a brilliant brown. They’re what is known as a deciduous conifer, one of only a few ‘evergreen’ trees to shed their needles. The willow tree on the edge of the shore had just begun to turn a sunshine yellow, while the Japanese maple were a fiery red. Though the colors are brilliant, true foliage hunters have been disappointed by the poor condition of the leaves, dry and wilted from an unusually mild autumn. I don’t mind such imperfections, however, as they sure beat the beiges and whites of the hospital ward.

I spent the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon engrossed in a writing deadline, which I was able to deliver to the editor on time. I’m pretty happy with the way it came out, and if it all goes according to plan it should be in next weekend’s paper. It is a travel-writing article about a place I visited a year ago and I had honestly forgotten I submitted the proposal until receiving the commission yesterday morning. Such is the world of journalism, where editors are always pushed for time.

I’m currently reading a Robert Macfarlane book entitled Mountains of the Mind , an engaging history of man’s fascination with alpine peaks. While parts of the book veer off into fearful tangents of abstraction, there is one passage in particular that I think can not only relate to mountaineering, but also a lengthy stay in a Japanese hospital. The words in italics I have substituted from the original word mountain:

“Returning to earth after being in the hospital – stepping back out of the wardrobe – can be a disorienting experience. Like Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy returning from Narnia, you expect everything to have changed. You half-expect the first people you see to grip you by the elbow and ask you if you are all right, to say ‘You’ve been away for years.’ But usually no one notices you’ve been gone at all. And the experiences you have had are largely incommunicable to those who were not there. Returning to daily life after a trip to the hospital, I have often felt as though I were a stranger re-entering my country after years abroad, not yet adjusted to my return, and bearing experiences beyond speech.”

It brings up an interesting point about my eventual reintegration into society. While all of my friends will be asking about my experience and concerned about my well-being, a lot of my casual acquaintances will have been completely unaware that I was gone at all. I’m pretty sure I’ll get tired of explaining to every single person about my hospitalization and will eventually just excuse my prolonged absence as being merely down to a case of “being busy.”

Larches in transition

Larches in transition

Day 47 (December 7)

Posted: December 7, 2013 in Daily update
Tags: ,

Each patient has their own approach to hospital life,  the results for which can be no more apparent than in fashion. About half of them opt for pajamas no matter what time of day, while others prefer the white-trash look of a matching tracksuit. Crocs seem to be the footwear of choice, though I’ve seen a few people crawl their way along the halls in bath slippers.

As for myself, I stroll around in either a pair of shorts or some beige sweatpants, topped with a quick-dry polyester hiking shirt. If I get cold, I’ll slip on a long-sleeve shirt or fleece top. On the feet sandals suit me just fine, a pair of fleece socks to keep the extremities warm. It was still summer when I checked in here, so I don’t have very many winter clothes with me, and no jacket or coat to speak of. I hope it’s a relatively mild day when I do finally get out of here.

I spent most of today on-line doing research for a newspaper article I’m working on for next weekend’s paper. I finally got the go-ahead for the piece which they want to fast track because it’s holiday related. I should be able to finish it tomorrow with an injection of inspiration added to the morning breakfast.

No visitors today, so I went for a bit of a walk outside, but had to cut it short because of the frigid temperatures. I wish I would’ve packed a knit cap with me to protect my ears from the arctic bite. My hair just doesn’t provide enough of a buffer unfortunately. I think my undoing was waiting until later in the afternoon when the sun was near the horizon. Tomorrow should be a bit better because the hospital is completely closed, so I won’t risk running into anyone if I head out earlier.

Today I walked briskly for 30 minutes non-stop, and I didn’t pass out or spit up any blood. I think that alone should warrant my immediate release. Forget about testing my nonexistent phlegm; just bring the Osaka city health department in here so they can see how healthy I am and how guilty they should feel for leaving me in here with these medical freaks of nature. I mean, the guy down the hall is still moaning nonstop like an injured goat, and I am the only person who doesn’t spend 90% of his time lying in a sedentary state of defeat.

My choice of  footwear

My choice of footwear