Flight of the Dodo - 11. Chapter 11
Dr. Levinson stopped talking to me and started writing on the yellow tablet on the desk. He was using a red ink pen. There was a knock at the door and then Peter came in.
“Is the patient ready?” Peter asked.
“Um, one moment,” Dr. Levinson said. He continued writing, looked up at me, wrote some more, and then put the pen down. “Edvard, when was the last time you ate?”
“I don’t exactly know,” I said. “The last time I’m certain I ate was on the morning of August 18. I had breakfast before going to the Seventh Heaven Hotel personnel office. I was on an IV at County General. I think I was given something to make me sleep. What is the date today?”
“It’s the twenty-second,” Dr. Levinson said.
“Then that means I haven’t eaten for, uh, twenty-two, uh, minus, uh, I’m not very good doing arithmetic in my head. Big numbers are very difficult for me. Let me think about this.”
“Don’t bother with the math, I’ve already got it figured out. Peter take Edvard down to Treatment Room Four.”
“Treatment Room Four West or East?” Peter asked.
“Oh, sorry, Four West.”
“Doctor, isn’t this a little early. Mr. Pedersen just arrived last night.”
“No, the initial interview clearly indicates a full series ECT procedures.”
“Well, okay, Dr. Levinson, you’re the man who knows best. Okay, Eddie, you’re in for a bit of a trip.”
Peter pulled the wheelchair away from the desk and turned it around so I was facing the door. Then he pushed me out in the hall and went in the opposite direction of the ward. Of course, I didn’t know where I was going or what kind of treatment I was going to receive. I thought about asking Peter what an ETC was, but since he wasn’t a doctor, he probably didn’t know. We stopped at an elevator and Peter pushed the down button. He started doing that half whistling E2 and E3 were always doing. It was an aggravating airy noise that wasn’t close to whistling. I know what whistling sounds like because E3 taught me how to whistle. I think I was in fifth grade then. That was before I was really crazy. I didn’t recognize the tune, but since I never listened to music unless it was on the television, my memory of music was very limited. Mostly, that airy sound was annoying, but I knew it wasn’t my place to tell Peter to stop. An elevator came and it had a gurney with a patient on it and two orderlies, though those two men could have been other medical workers because I had not been at this hospital long enough to know what clothes different medical people wore. I could only assume they were orderlies. Peter pulled the wheelchair away from the door as one of the orderlies pushed the gurney out. The patient on the gurney appeared to be asleep or, maybe she only had her eyes shut. Then I realized she looked to be about my age. That made me wonder what was wrong with her, but, more importantly, what kind of treatment she had. Then they were gone down the hall and Peter was pushing me onto the elevator. The doors closed and the elevator seemed to drop very rapidly. It stopped with a slight bounce and the doors opened, but the car was a few inches below the floor.
“Shit! Damned elevator, I knew we should of taken the other one,” Peter said. “Oh, better get you off before the doors shut and take us to God knows where. Stupid damn hospital.”
“You swore,” I said.
“Damn right I did and don’t you be correcting me or I’ll leave you right where we are and you can find your own way to Treatment Room Four East.”
“I thought Dr. Levinson said I was to go to Treatment Room Four West.”
“Oh, yeah, you’re getting an ECT and it’s in Four West.”
“What is an ECT?” I asked.
“Just a little procedure to help you think better,” Peter said.
“But I’m thinking okay, I think. No, wait, I don’t think like normal people. I’m always thinking crazy thoughts. Will this help me to think like normal people?”
“That’s the plan. That’s always the plan going into these things.”
“Does an ECT hurt?”
“Oh, no, you’ll be asleep and then you’ll wake up an everything will be better.”
“Good, then I want to have this ECT. I want to be normal. I’m tired of being crazy. My brother Emmett says I’m wacko. I think that is another word for crazy. After Emmett called me wacko, he had to go into the den with E3. I don’t think Emmett got any whacks, but his eyes were red when I went into the den for him to apologize to me for saying that word. I think he had been crying. It is very hard on everybody in our family because I’m crazy. Do you think it is wrong for me to want to kill myself because I no longer belong in that family?”
“You know, Eddie, I do think you’re probably loved very much by everyone in your family. Suicide is never a good answer for anything. I think during your stay here you’ll come to realize that your desire to kill yourself is wrong thinking. Also, I know during family visits you’ll feel the warmth they have for you.”
“I wish I could believe you, but you don’t know my family like I do. Other than Erika and possibly E4, I don’t believe anyone really likes me. I know Syl certainly doesn’t like me because she is always calling me a stupid, ignorant dodo. I’m simply too crazy for them. Plus, I don’t expect them to come visit me. They didn’t visit me at Western State Hospital, so why would they come here to visit me.”
“Well, here we are,” Peter said as he rolled me into Treatment Room Four West.
“Morning, Pete, is this our guest of honor?” a woman asked. She was wearing whites like Peter, except she wasn’t wearing pants. She was wearing a white dress. Also, she had one of those medical masks over her face and rubber gloves on her hands.
I wondered if she was only an orderly like Peter, but then decided that was an incorrect thought. I was here for a medical procedure and someone who moved patients around certainly didn’t belong here.
“Yes, Mrs. Hunt, this is Edvard Oscar Pedersen,” Peter said.
“Yep, same name as on the order,” Mrs. Hunt said. “Okay young man get up on the gurney. Dr. Winston will be passing gas this morning. He should be down in a few minutes. See you, Pete.”
“Eddie, you be nice now and do everything Mrs. Hunt tells you,” Peter said. “I’ll be looking for you upstairs.”
“Bye,” I said.
“Okay, Eddie, sit up and let’s get that pajama top off,” Mrs. Hunt said. “Good boy, now lay down and slip your bottoms down.”
I did as she asked and then she pulled them all the way off. I watched her go to a bench and rip open a package. She came back with a plastic bag and a couple tubes. I wondered what she was going to do with them. She laid the bag and one of the tubes between my legs. Then she took the other tube and pulled a cap thingy off one end.
“It’s best if you lay down and shut your eyes,” Mrs. Hunt said. “Most patients feel a little discomfort with this procedure. That’s it, now try not to move.”
I think I felt her take hold of my willy and then I felt something go into it. She was right, whatever she was doing was hurting, but I followed her directions and didn’t move. Then it was over, but I didn’t open my eyes. I felt something being spread over me and looked to see a sheet covering me from the waist down.
“Good boy, you did just as I asked,” Mrs. Hunt said.
“What did you do to me?” I asked.
“Put in a catheter. We don’t want you voiding during the procedure.”
“Oh, okay, I guess.”
I didn’t know what she meant, but figured it must be part of the ECT procedure. Mrs. Hunt inserted a needle in my right arm and put a tube on it that was attached to an IV bottle that she hung from a post next to the gurney. I saw a man come into the room and walk directly over to where I was lying. He was wearing white pants, a white shirt, and a white coat of the same light material. It was closed with buttons from his neck to nearly his knees. He had a medical mask and rubber gloves on.
“Ah, good, the patient has decided to join us,” the man said. “And how is my favorite nurse this morning?”
“Quite well, Dr. Winston, thank you for the compliment,” Mrs. Hunt said.
“Now, young man, by the sight of the bandages on your wrists, I assume you’ve had anesthesia before?”
“Yes, Dr. Winston, I have,” I said.
“Any problems with vomiting, trouble waking up, anything unusual after the procedure?”
“Good, open your mouth, say ah, good, I don’t see any problem. Oh, good morning, Bob. Heard anything lately from Jimmy?”
“We got a letter yesterday. He’s stationed at Bien Hoa flying an A-37. He sounded a little disappointed he was assigned to that unit after successfully completing training on the F-4. He was looking forward to flying over North Vietnam.”
“Isn’t the A-37 based on the T-37? I think I remember Steve saying he trained on the T-37 down in Del Rio, Texas.”
“Yeah, and that was one of Jimmy’s biggest complaints. So how’s our patient?”
“He’s good to go, Doctor,” Mrs. Hunt said.
“He’s cleared to go for me,” Dr. Winston said.
“Edvard, you okay with this?” Dr. Levinson asked.
“Oh, yes, sir, Peter explained that I’ll feel much better after this,” I said.
“Well, that’s the hope, but we’ll be doing more of these to ensure you have a happy ending. Okay?”
“Yes, sir, I’m okay with that.”
“Just what I want, a happy camper. Okay, Dave, put him under.”
“Fran, inject the sedative, please,” Dr. Winston said.
“Yes, sir,” Mrs. Hunt said.
I watched her do that and then I went away.
Sometime later, I became aware and opened my eyes. I immediately realized I wasn’t in my bed at home or rather the bed I may have been in before I went to sleep sometime in the past. I sat up and looked around. There were four beds in the room. Besides my bed, the other three beds had men in them, men who were older than me. That is maybe I wasn’t as old as I thought. Then I realized that I needed to find a bathroom. There were two doors in the room. The one on the left was open and appeared if I went through the door, I would be in a hallway. Where that hallway might lead I didn’t know. The other door was closed. I pushed the bedcovers off and saw I was wearing blue pajamas. I didn’t remember if I ever owned a pair of blue pajamas. Then I noticed there were bandages around my two wrists. I couldn’t remember ever harming myself to require bandages of that degree. That they were there must be for some reason, a reason I wasn’t aware of. I moved my legs so that they were hanging off the bed and then pushed myself off the bed. I stood beside the bed for a moment until the dizziness in my head went away. Then I walked to the closed door and opened it. Inside I could see a sink, a toilet, and a shower that didn’t have a curtain. I went in and closed the door.
After I came out of the bathroom, I saw a heavyset man with wavy brown hair, a pale round face, and thick lips. The man looked familiar, but I couldn’t remember where I had seen him. The man had a wheelchair, but it was empty. I walked over to my bed and was going to get back in it, but the heavyset man said, “Not so quick there, Mr. Pedersen, I’ve come to take you down to PT this morning. Come on and be a good boy. I’m not in the mood to strap you in today.”
I wasn’t aware my name was Pedersen, but went to the wheelchair and sat down.
“And how is our young Mr. Pedersen today?” the heavyset man asked.
“He don’t have much to say these days,” the man in the bed next to him said. “It’s like he isn’t here.”
“Well, that’s to be expected after ten treatments,” the heavyset man said. “Isn’t that right, Mr. Pedersen?”
“Like I said, he don’t talk much,” the man said.
The heavyset man pushed the wheelchair out of the room. In the hall, the wheelchair went right and was soon at some elevators. After only a moment, an empty elevator car arrived and the wheelchair was pushed inside. There was the sensation of going down until it came to a stop and the door opposite the one they came in opened. The wheelchair was pushed out and turned left down a hallway. It stopped and turned right into a large room full of all kinds of unknown objects. There were not a lot of patients in pajamas, but there seemed an overabundance of men in white shirts, white pants, and white shoes. Also, there were a few women in white blouses, white dresses, and white shoes. The wheelchair stopped at a desk.
“This here’s Edvard Pedersen,” the heavyset man said.
“Thank you, James, we’ll call after he is finished,” the woman in white at the desk said. “Now, Mr. Pedersen, have you been doing your exercises?”
“Have you been doing your exercises?”
“What are exercises? I’m not familiar with the word.”
“Did you have an ECT treatment recently?”
“What is an ECT treatment?”
“Oh, dear, back to square one again. Why do they insist on multiple treatments. Who is your psychiatrist?”
“What is a psychiatrist?”
“Bobby! Can you come here?” the woman in white said.
“What’s wrong, now, Maddie?”
“Mr. Pedersen here is in another fog. Do you know who’s his psychiatrist?”
“Oh, yeah, it’s Levinson.”
“Do you want me to give Ed his treatment?”
“Would you, please?”
“Well, as long as you said please, I guess I have to do it. Okay, Ed, come on over to the weights and I’ll get you started. God! Will you please get out of the wheelchair?”
I stood and waited to be directed further.
“Come on, Ed, walk with me,” Bobby said.
“That is the second time you referred to me as Ed,” I said. “What is an Ed?”
“That’s short for your first name, Edvard.”
“Edvard, Ed, no, I can’t place that name. Is there something seriously wrong with me?”
“You could say that. You definitely could say that. I wish they’d tell how many treatments you’re going to get before starting you out down here and then zapping you, erasing practically every recent memory you’ve had. There’s no telling how much of your long-term memories have been lost. For fuck’s sake, you don’t even know your name.”
“I’m sorry you are upset with me. I don’t know what I can do to help.”
“Ed, come on, sit here in this chair,” Bobby said. “Okay, we’ll start out with the five pound dumbbells first. Hold out your hands, palm up. Yes, like that, but bend your elbows more. Yes, just like that. Now, take the dumbbells in your hands, grip with your fingers. Here, move your thumbs over here. Yes, that’s great. Now, bend your wrists. Hey, you remembered. Now, can you do that fifteen times?”
“How much is fifteen?”
“Tell you what, I’ll count along with you, okay?”
“Up, one, back down, up, two, down, up, three, down, up, four, down, yeah, Ed, go on, you do the count.”
“Up, five, down, up, six, down, up, seven, down, up, eight, down, up, nine, down, up, ten, down, up, um, um, what is after ten? I can’t remember. What is after ten? Oh, please—”
“Calm down, come on, Ed, calm down, it’s okay, I’ll help you. Come on, don’t cry. Here, let me wipe your eyes. Feel better?”
“A little, but what comes after ten? Is it nineteen?”
“No, but I’ll count for you. Hold out the dumbbells. Yes, like that. Now, up, eleven, down, up, twelve, down, up, thirteen, down, up, fourteen, down, up, fifteen, down, and stop. Now, turn your hands over. Yes, just like that. Now, we’re going to do it backwards.”
“Yes, but, how do your wrists feel? Any pain?”
“No, I’m okay.”
“Okay, up, that’s right, one, down, up, two, down, up, three, down, up, four, down, up, five, down, up, six, down, can you go on?”
“Up, seven, down, up, eight, down, up, nine, down, up, ten, down, up, uh, um, oh, eleven, down, up, uh, twelve, down, up, thirteen, down, up, fourteen, down, up, fifteen, down.”
“There you, now, rest for a bit and then we’ll start over.”
“What comes after fifteen?”
“Oh, okay, yes, that makes sense, I guess. Numbers more than ten are confusing to me. I’m not certain if I ever learned them. Is it possible I don’t remember the numbers because I have ECT treatments?”
“Yeah, they really mess up your mind, but your memories should come back in time.”
“Yes, that will be good.”
I thought about myself, but couldn’t remember anything other than waking up in the bed, going to the bathroom, coming down here, and, now, doing exercises for what purpose I had no idea.
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