As a teenager and as a young adult I relished new experiences. In my 60s… not so much. Like it or not, I had some new experiences a week ago.
I had taken a half-day of vacation on a Friday afternoon to get caught up on a number of things piled up at home. As the afternoon progressed I became exhausted. By evening I was feeling light-headed. Thinking that a good night of sleep would help me feel better, I prepared for bed sometime after 8:30 p.m. Standing at my kitchen sink to fill a glass with water I became lightheaded. Worried that I was going to pass out I lowered myself to the floor to avoid hitting my head if I did.
The next thing I knew I was regaining consciousness, staring at the cupboard doors under the sink and trying to figure where I was.
Finally I realized I was on my kitchen floor and that I had been unconscious for a while. It was a bit of a struggle to pull my king-size frame off the floor but I was able to get to a phone.
I called my son who didn’t answer. Now alert enough to be alarmed, I called 911. The Ankeny Fire and Rescue guys were at my door within minutes. My mind was still fuzzy and it was difficult to answer their questions. They strapped me to a gurney and just as they were about to haul me to the ambulance the phone rang. It was my son who had just noticed my call. The EMT who answered told him to meet us at the hospital.
Among the many thoughts rumbling through my woozy mind, I realized this was my first ride in the back of an ambulance. I had driven an ambulance several times while serving as a reserve police officer. I prefer the driver’s seat.
At the hospital’s emergency room I struggled to answer countless questions and remember events of the past few hours. They determined I was bleeding internally and had passed out because of the loss of blood.
As my mind began clearing I looked around the ER and realized that it was identical to (or perhaps the same) room my wife was in shortly before she died last January. Grief heightens anxiety.
Later in the evening I was admitted to the hospital, another new experience. The next morning an endoscopy (still another new experience) revealed a large bleeding ulcer.
To my displeasure, I was not going home that day (Saturday.) Sunday afternoon I was told I had to remain hospitalized for at least one more day. The care I received was exceptional. Everyone from the nurses and doctors to the hostesses who brought my meals to the woman who cleaned my room was kind, considerate and professional.
At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I will say the hospital bed was too short and too narrow. Using the rest room while connected to IV lines was a bit unhandy, but I won’t go there. Oh, and that hospital gown? Can you say "full moon?"
Mid-afternoon on Monday I was "sprung from my cell." I went home with a number of marching orders including directions for a low-fat diet. Okay, I can buy low-fat ice cream.
After a Monday night scare with an infected IV site, I’m doing okay. I am grateful for the great care I experienced, especially that from my son who took really good care of his old dad. Over the years I have attempted to learn from new experiences. The weekend’s series of new experiences taught me that I’m not 35 years old anymore and I need to slow down. I learned that after a while needle sticks don’t hurt so much. I learned that good health is to be treasured. I learned that doctors and nurses earn every darn penny in their paychecks. And I learned that I’m still young enough to learn from new experiences.
When it comes to learning, I want to be in one of the first two groups Will Rogers described. "There are three kinds of men," said the great 20th century philosopher. "The ones that learn by readin’. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves."