Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Smell

I was one of the only patients who had to share a room. I think it was because the nurses knew that I wasn’t prone to violence, and that I was generally tolerant.

So I was put in a room, divided by a curtain, with a great guy named Ron. One of Ron’s apparent problems was agoraphobia. He wouldn’t leave the room. The only time I ever saw him go out the door was to furtively sneak across the hall to use the bathroom. He looked like a WWI infantryman, going over the top from one trench to the next.

He absolutely refused to leave for any other reason. He was paranoid, too, and begged me to keep a lookout for suspicious people who might be coming to get us.

For a week or two it was nice to have someone to talk with. Ron had been admitted just a few days before me. Nurses would bring him his food and his meds.

Then things went off the rails. Ron was a smoker, and had been put on the patch. He kept asking me to find smokes for him. I told him I couldn’t – I didn’t even have clothing privileges. Finally, a visiting friend brought him a pack.

Ron snuck into the bathroom and lit up.

A nurse smelled it, and dragged him back to his room. She made him cough up the pack, and told him they would no longer bring him his meals – he would have to start leaving the room to pick them up.

This made my life hell. Ron would pester me to get his meals, until finally I would give up and sneak out to get them for him. This resulted in me getting reprimanded by the nurses. I felt stuck – it was either listen to Ron whine for an hour, or risk getting in trouble. I tried telling him to shut up – but he wouldn’t stop. He had nothing to lose.

Then he started to smell. Badly. By this time he had not showered in two or three weeks. The B.O. became overwhelming – even with my window open I was nauseous.

I asked for and received a menthol cream. Every night I would put some in my nostrils so I could fall asleep to the smell of mint.

Even though I asked for a transfer to another room, I never got one. Ron was a great guy, but by the time I was discharged he was still there – stuck in his room with his body smell. I felt bad, because he was good company. I also felt bad for whoever was going to replace me.

The lesson I learned? I never want to live with cavemen. That childhood dream has died.

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