Three pm, clock out time. A weather front is moving through the area, showing its own, slow tempo. January is the traditional start of cold temperatures here. Outside the sky is clouded over; a fine-mist-to-light-sprinkle peppers the area with wet. The temperature has dropped ten degrees, yet the wetness makes it feel another ten degrees lower. It’s a dreary day in northeast Florida.
This better not be an indicator about my next treatment.
I pull my jacket tighter, closing it around me as I make my way out the hospital’s front door. Cold and damp assault me. I continue under a covered walkway as raindrops sprinkle bushes bordering either side. Pip-pity-pip-pip, they fall. Passing through another doorway, I enter the southern parking garage, take the stairs down one flight to the first parking level, and ambulate through the parking spaces to the Faculty Clinic building. Inside, I stop at the Registration Desk.
I move to the window as the voice dies away.
“Hi, there. Last name is New, N-E-W.”
“Thank you, sir.” Pause. The registration clerk types my name into the system. “Please state your address.”
I do so.
“Thank you, sir.” Pause. “We need to update your insurance—”
I hand her the new insurance card. Last fall, the hospital did the annual loony dance about choosing another group insurance company. They’re always trying to find the cheapest one to go with. Excuse me, the best financial choice for the money.
“Thank you, sir.” Pause.
She spends ten minutes updating the new information. A printer spits out a paper form, which she signs and hands to me.
“Second floor, second office on the left, sir. Have a nice day.”
“Thank you. You too.”
I eschew the elevator and take the stairs. It’s only one flight up.
“Hello, Mr. New. Good to see you again.”
“Afternoon, Front Desk, how you doin’?”
“Oh, same, same.”
“Nasty out,” I say.
“So I’ve heard. Here, I’ll take that.”
I hand her the paper.
“Take a seat. I’ll let Tech 2 know you’re here.”
While I wait, I devour several more pages of the current novel I’m reading.
“Mr. New,” sounds a sing-along voice, “come on down!”
I rise, smiling at her. “Happy New Year. Had a good vacation?” We head down the hallway to The Chair room.
“Yes, I did. Went to Georgia to see my grandbabies. We had a great time. I saw in the notes where you’ve had a bad time with the previous treatments.”
“Well, I wouldn’t say they were bad, just inconvenient. It’s not like I want to take them two weeks apart,” I said.
“Yes, well, sometimes that happens,” said Tech 2, referring to the UTI cropping up twice before. “Sometimes, we have to give the treatments two weeks apart. Some people are affected strongly by the dose. How are you feeling? Any flu like symptoms?”
I shake my head. “No, nothing. I feel fine.”
“Good. Well, you know the routine. I’ll be back in a sec.”
Tech 2 steps out and I do the usual strip. The floor is cold today. I keep my socks on, ignoring the plastic booties with the dribbled on plastic treads. On goes the gown and the facemask. I climb into The Chair. I have to play with the mask awhile before I get it bent just right and placed far enough away from my reading glasses so they don’t fog up when I exhale. I don’t understand how workers in Surgery wear the things with glasses.
There is a knock on the door.
“Come in, I’m ready.
Tech 2 breezes back in. I notice she doesn’t bring anything in with her. Oh, yes. She’s been giving me some privacy time in order to change. Nice of her.
“So, are you ready for this?” Tech 2 said. “I just hope we don’t have to postpone again. I’m sure you don’t want to come for this twelve times instead of the usual six!”
“Got that right. Yeah, let’s do it.”
She has not tilted the chair as much to position me flat on my back. Instead, I place my hands behind my head, interlace my fingers, cup my head in them, and wait. For the first time, I watch her unwrap a set of flesh-toned vinyl gloves. Ah, these are sterile gloves for working in a sterile field, which she sets up between my legs and below by butt. I knew she used sterile gloves. I’d just never seen them before.
Tech 2 opens more items that are sterile. Yeah, I recognize these. After the iodine, the syringe full of lubing-and-numbing jelly, and the two minutes, she reaches for the catheter.
“Yeah.” I keep breathing. Deliberately.
Tech 2 holds the neck of the catheter and lowers it just out of my sight. The gown’s edge, dipping lower between my spread legs, blocks my view. I feel something. I watch Tech 2’s hand rise up to grasp another two inches of catheter, and then watch it disappear as she pushes it in. Up and down, up and down. Slowly but surely, she threads the French 16 catheter in.
Ah, pressure (ooh!) and more pressure (umm!).
“And there we go!”
I hear urine (mine) cascading into the plastic urinal situated below The Chair. “Got a Dipstick in place?” I want to know about the confounded UTI.
Tech 2 moves her free hand, displaying it. “Looking good, Mr. New.” She lays it aside, but close enough to glance at it. “No color change on Nitrates or Leukocytes.”
“Fantastic! I guess the sulfa-drug and the double length of time taking it finally did the bug in!” The sound of my urine hitting the urinal dribbles to a stop.
“Yep. Sure looks like it. Still no color change. If it were going to, it would have changed by now. We’re good, Mr. New!”
“Ready for Treatment Number Three?”
Tech 2 grins. “Hooking it up now.” She holds it up for me to see.
Bubbles float upwards in the fifty-milliliter bottle. We watch the meniscus (the liquid level) drop lower and lower until it appears in the catheter. There the flow stops, being level with the fluid inside my bladder.
“Retrieving the catheter.”
I feel it slip sliding out.
“And we’re clear. All right, Mr. New, You’re good to go. Here are the washcloths and I’ll start some warm water flowing. Come on out when you’re dressed. Remember the rules at home.” She smiles and leaves.
Final Result: Treatment #3 is delivered! Two hours until I get to pee. It’s gonna feel good.