Friday, March 25, 2011


My husband spent most of last week in a $1,700-a-day room with a nice view, being waited on hand and foot, ordering from room service and getting daily foot massages.

Unfortunately, the room was located in a hospital.

It actually all began quite innocently. He happened to mention to me, as he was getting ready for bed last Wednesday night, that his foot looked bruised. He didn’t, however, remember injuring it in any way.

A few days later, the foot resembled a red and purple watermelon. And if anyone (especially a certain wife who wanted to touch it) even so much as looked at it, he cried out in pain. That did it. I dragged him, kicking and screaming, to the emergency room. It was after midnight on Sunday night when we arrived.

The expression on the emergency room doctor’s face when he looked at the foot just about told us he wasn’t going to give my husband a bottle of feel-good pills and send him home. Before we knew it, my husband was hooked up to a bunch of wires in a bed upstairs, and was being pumped full of IV antibiotics.

Even though he was in a spacious private room with a recliner, a floor-to-ceiling window complete with a built-in window seat, a flat-screen color TV and a private bath, my husband had a “sentenced to serve time in San Quentin” look on his face.

“Don’t leave me,” he begged, as I prepared to head home. It was 8 a.m. by then and I was beginning to feel like an extra from the movie, “Night of the Living Dead.” Plus that, I’d left two dogs back home that probably were in the midst of their final encore of the “gotta go” dance.

“I’ll be back as soon as I’ve had a little sleep,” I promised him. “And I’ll bring you some toiletries and underwear and stuff.”

A look of panic crossed his face. “How long do you think I’m going to be here anyway? A month?”

“Well, it’s better to have too much clean underwear than not enough!” I said, backing toward the doorway. “Try to relax and get some sleep now.”

Just as I was leaving, a menu was delivered to the room. When I saw the words, “heart healthy,” “low sodium” and “low carbohydrate” on the top, I knew my husband, who held the world’s record for consuming the largest number of greasy cheeseburgers in a human lifetime and had eaten his way through an entire potato field and a salt mine or two, probably was going to be just a little disappointed with his meals.

Sure enough, when I returned early that afternoon, he was giving the evil eye to his lunch, which had just been delivered. It was a plain burger about the thickness of a playing card on a whole-wheat bun, complete with a packet of low-sodium ketchup and very small bag of unsalted baked potato chips. For dessert, sugar-free orange gelatin.

“I asked for two burgers, or at least a double burger, and they said I couldn’t have two!” he huffed. “I’m going to starve to death here! They gave me one slice of French toast for breakfast, with a tablespoon of sugar-free syrup! One slice! Can you believe that? That didn’t even fill the cavity in my back tooth!”

I had to laugh. His serving of French toast at home usually involved half a loaf of bread and enough maple syrup to raise the Titanic. He definitely was going to have a lot of trouble learning how to eat like a “normal” person.

The single slice of pot roast and dainty dollop of mashed potatoes he received for dinner didn’t help matters any.

He polished off his meal in two bites. “I’m starving!” he said.

“Well, eat your sugar-free strawberry Jell-O and you’ll be nice and full,” I teased.

If looks could kill, I’d have been downstairs with a tag on my toe in the hospital morgue.

“Smuggle some food in here for me,” he said. “There’s a McDonald’s not far from here. Get me a couple double quarter-pounder burgers.”

“Eat your Jell-O,” I repeated.

I then added, hoping to change the subject, “So, what are they saying about your foot?”

“I don’t know. My growling stomach drowned out whatever the doctor was saying.”

As it turned out, his foot became somewhat of a tourist attraction. Three different doctors came to stare at it and say, “Hmmmm.” And all three diagnosed it as something different.

“Cellulitis,” said one. “A bad infection,” said another.

Then there was the one that sounded like “shark-o.” I asked the doctor to repeat it twice. It still sounded like “shark-o,” which was a new one to me. I had visions of ocean barnacles and plankton clinging to my husband’s foot.

I later learned it was spelled, “charcot,” and is a pretty serious foot condition that frequently plagues diabetics.

Still, the only thing that concerned my husband was the food rationing. The doctors could have told him his foot was going to sprout tentacles at any minute, and all he cared about was how many pancakes he could have for breakfast.

He was delighted the next morning when he asked for French toast plus an English muffin and they said OK. In fact, he was so excited, you’d think he’d just won the lottery.

I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing when they delivered half a slice of French toast and half an English muffin – complete with “butter-flavored spread.” The expression on my husband’s face when he saw his plate just about wilted the sprig of decorative parsley on it.

The good news is he survived the week without dying of starvation, even though to listen to him, you’d think he was withering away to skeletal proportions.

The bad news is the foot still looks bad, won’t fit into a shoe, and the doctors haven’t yet decided what’s wrong with it, whether it’s shark-o, whale-o or some rare foot-eating disease. We have a list of appointments with specialists lined up over the next two weeks.

My husband insists he’ll see only the doctors whose buildings contain fully stocked vending machines.

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