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E R N I E ' S H O U S E O F W H O O P A S S
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So, last week Grandpa comes for a visit. Wonderful, have to entertain him and listen to how it used to be. How I shouldn't have pets because the only good critter is a dead one. And on and on and on. So, needless to say there is little love lost between us. Yet, we still torment each other by visits.
Now, three weeks ago Grandpa got taken to the hospital. Seems he had a sore on his leg that wasn't healing, got infected and before any of us could catch it an infection set in. Now, this wasn't your everyday puffy skin infection. This was a rank smelling, dripping pus and blood infection. Ever leave a package of meat in the fridge too long and it go bad? That's the smell.
So, he got dragged kicking and screaming to the hospital. All the while bitching about how all the doctors were going to do was charge him an arm and a leg for nothing. Did I mention he's a bit senile? Not enough to put him in a home (or so we thought). Just enough to drive you batty yourself. We get him in, they cut off the pants leg and it's nasty. But, controllable he's in the hospital for two days on IV antibiotics and off he goes back home.
Now, fast forward three weeks. Grandpa's been kinda scarce. Figure he's pissed because he was dragged to the hospital. Little did I know the truth. Kept in contact with him on the phone. The good ol' once a week call turned into three times a week. Always asking how his leg was. "Ohh, it aches a bit but it's fine." Was the answer I'd get.
Mind you I'm not the only one keeping an eye on him there are others. The hospital thought him well enough to go home, why should we think any differently?
The day is Friday. A day that will burn in my mind for all times. On a whim I decided to go visit Grandpa. Not because I wanted to, he is never fun company. But, because I felt he was hiding something. After all, he hadn't dropped by to read me the riot act in three weeks.
I knock on the door. No answer. I knock again. No answer. I know he's there, his car is in the garage. He's hiding out. Wonderful. So, I try the door and it's unlocked. Now, let me mention that Grandpa doesn't have air conditioning. He believes it's a waste. He also has this thing about opening windows. So, on a summer day it can easily be a hundred in his house. I push the door open and I am attacked by the stench. This surpasses anything I have ever smelled before.
If you've ever passed a bloated corpse of a roadkill on the highway, and been attacked by that smell, multiply that by about twenty.
My first thought is that he's died sometime between my last call on Tuesday and now. Figure in the heat and the closed up windows and it would make sense. So, I call out and he answers. He's not dead. He comes walking towards me and there is this sickening slopping sound. Sounds like he is pulling his feet out of mud with each step. The closer he comes the stronger the stench.
I'm immediately taken back to childhood and every Zombie movie I've ever seen. It's all I can do to control the rolling of my stomach. I wished I hadn't stopped and gotten a bite to eat before coming over. I try and figure out how I am going to get him to the hospital. I really don't want him slopping around in my car. I know, that's rude, but he is rotting as he stands there and I've got nice leather interior!
So, I pick up the phone and call 911. He stands there arguing with me, tell me he's fine the whole time. The ambulance show's up. They argue with him. Finally the cops have to be called because he refuses to go. It's at that moment I realize he just is not as sane as he pretends to be. He stands there, in the stench of his own rotting flesh, and says he's fine. Not.
They pop him into the ambulance, zoom him to the emergency room and off we go on the adventure. The have to snip his pants off because they are stuck to the skin. They pull them off and the smell just shoots up. There is nothing to contain it any more. I felt myself gag. I swear the nurse even turned a bit green around the gills. I look down at the leg and wish that I hadn't.
Swarming in the blood and puss are maggots. Yes, my friends maggots. Seems they have made a lovely feast of grandpa's leg. They shoot him up with morphine and begin cleaning. At the point where the maggots and dead skin began to fall off I had to leave right after I saw two exposed bones clear as day. I couldn't take the stench, the sounds or the muttering of the doctors any longer.
Grandpa still says his leg was fine. The docs say all that kept him from dying were the maggots. Seems they ate the infection and the dying flesh. That kept gangrene from setting in. But, now we are looking for a nice home to put grandpa in.
[We left our heroine in the ER after taking her grandfather in for a severely infected leg wound...]
So, I managed to hold my lunch. Barely. Nothing like tasting it a second time in the back of your throat. The nurse comes outside to get me. She's not looking the least bit green any longer. I guess you get used to the smell of rotting flesh after a bit. She motions for me to follow her. I swallow back the lump of bile that rises in the back of my throat. Do I really want to? I mean, come on, it's not like Grandpa is all that nice to me. It's not like he is well liked. Why couldn't I have snuck away when I had the chance?
My feet are dragging, one hand is over my stomach, I must have looked like I was on my way to the electric chair. I think I would have preferred that. The door swooshes open in front of me, I step through and I swear it clanged with a shut. Ugh, that was final. Damn enter only doors. I follow the nurse in her little green scrubbies, with her little paper covers on her shoes and wonder if I will get a hazmat suit like that. I'm wearing my own clothes. Shoes, jeans, T-shirt. Damn, I love this T-shirt. I wonder how much I would have to slip her to get an outfit like hers. Then I realize, I'm stalling. I pass a broken leg in an exam room, there is what must be a car wreck being stitched up in another, some drunk teenager in another. Then we reach the only one that has a curtain pulled around it all the way. That is not a good sign. Let everyone see the broken limbs, cut heads and harfing kids, but not Grandpa.
"Watch where you step," the nurse in green calls over her shoulder before basically manhandling me through the curtain.
"What do you...." My hand covers my mouth and my nose. Christ on crutches! The curtain is used to contain the smell. It's used to hide the floor. I quickly pray to every God that I have ever heard anyone mention.
I can't not look at the floor as I walk. There is bloody gauze all over the place. Apparently they just use and pitch and clean up later. There are pieces of skin in a half covered up tray. Bloody, reeking, pus filled clothes and shoes are in an open biohazard bag at the foot of the bed.
There lays Grandpa. Kinda tiny in the little bed with the rails all pushed up. He's got the glassy eyed look of someone that's on the good stuff. His legs are wrapped in what I am sure, or what I hope, was at one point clean gauze. Yet, now, there are little spots of green showing. Not dark green mind you. More of a yellowish green. Kind of like the color of an under ripe banana that has been squished into a paste. Don't forget the garnish of red that is seeping through as well.
"Umm.. How you feeling?" I ask a stupid question. Hell, what am I supposed to say? Hey, how'd it feel to be a walking rotting almost corpse?
"Mmmnhghmms, damn!" that's his slurred response.
"Well, yeah.. Ummm.." Swallow back the extreme amount of spit that seems to have collected in my mouth. The smell, it isn't so bad anymore. Except every time I breathe I swear I can taste it now instead of smell it. Ugh, I have to get out of here. I can't take it. "They'll get you to a room and get you settled. I'll see you in a couple of hours."
I turn and beat a hasty retreat. Only one problem, I forget to watch where I'm going. My sneaker hits what must be the most pus and blood filled piece of gauze there is and I slide. My arms pinwheel. Please don't let me fall down in this mess. Please, I won't ever do anything wrong. I won't drink, I won't.. Ohh, the curtain. My hands snag it and my slide of hell stops. I take a deep breath. Big mistake. I barely manage to swallow back my dinner for the twenty-second time that night. I don't look back. I can't look back. I don't want to see what the gauze left behind on the floor. I think that would have been the end of me.
Morning has come. I've spent the night dreaming of zombies. They all look like grandpa. They all want to give me a hug. Ugh! I wake up in a sweat and decide another shower is in order. I turn the water as hot as I can take it. I don't care if I look like a lobster when I get out. I scrub and scrub and scrub. When I'm bright red I finally decide that I have to be clean. I hop out, snag my oldest jeans, shoes and shirt and get dressed. I don't care if I look like a bum. I'm not risking anything after last night.
I bypass breakfast and head to the hospital. A quick stop at the info booth tells me the room he's in and I head on up the elevator. I take deep calming breaths the whole way up. I reason with myself that he can't still reek like a bloated corpse on the highway. He's not going to be surrounded by bloody pus filled clothes. I'm sure they burned those by now. He'll be surrounded by that too clean smell that hospitals have.
I enter the room, a cautious breath in and nothing. I can't smell anything. God, I might make it through this after all. And, don't anyone think I'm being selfish. Put yourself in someone's rotting smell, bloody gauze sliding shoes and don't tell me you wouldn't be thinking a bit of yourself.
Let's fast forward a few days. Grandpa's been on IV antibiotics. I've managed to make myself scarce whenever there is a gauze change. He's getting back to his normal annoying self. He doesn't want this, he can't stand that. There is nothing wrong with me I tell you. Blah. It's time to start therapy.
I wander down with him, figuring I'll head into the cafeteria and get a drink and wait. But, no, I went too far. I should have just taken a left when I had the chance.
"It's nice of you to stay with him through this..." Candystriper girl says.
What the hell? Who said I was staying? Gramps is back to berating me at every turn.
"I feel soooo sorry for the." Her voice drops. "older folks that have nobody."
Damn it! Do they pay her to heap on the guilt? How am I supposed to walk away now? I murmur a few encouraging words. Yeah, I love the ol' coot. He's my gramps. Yaddayadda. Whole time I am cursing my stupidity for getting out of bed this morning.
Enter the therapy room. Two chicks pull him out of his chair. He curses a blue streak. They ignore him. They sit him on this chair in front of what looks like a big silver kettle. They begin unwrapping the gauze. First layer no problem, second layer no problem... Third layer is a bit sticky. Did I look? Yes, I couldn't help it. They pulled with abandon. Chattering to each other. Not even paying attention to the bloody gauze they were yanking off. Giving a little tug when it was a bit too dry or stuck to the skin. Thankfully, they were tossing it as they went so there wouldn't be a repeat of the slide. Finally, Grandpa's legs exposed.
Let me tell you, I have never seen anything like it. Looked like someone had taken a torch to his leg. There was skin just hanging. The flesh was a nasty raw red. Looking like a sunburn. Unidentifiable fluid had left streaks in the red. Good news, there wasn't a smell. Or I had blocked it from my mind.
They lift grandpa up in the chair, turn his legs around and lower his legs into the kettle. Flip of a switch and a whirling sound starts. It's kinda like a Jacuzzi they explain to me. Sloth off the dead skin cells and promote healing. Yay. I won't be able to enjoy a Jacuzzi for a while now.
I think they must have slipped Grandpa a mickey in his IV when I wasn't looking. He was staring down at the water like it was a good porno. I stand there tapping my foot, watching the timer go down. Minutes pass and Grandpa is still staring. I can't help it. I go up on my tippy toes and look over the rim of the kettle. How I wish I hadn't.
There in the bubbling water was what can only be described as skin soup. With each bubble that surfaced it pulled a piece of dead skin with it to the top. I'm not talking little flakes that come off when you peel with a sunburn. I'm talking long strips. Or what looked to be long strips. Bubble, skin, bubble, skin. Rolling bubbles of dead skin God only knows what else. I clamp my lips closed firmly and turn my back to Grandpa and the kettle. I wonder if he's going to be nothing but bones when the timer goes off. He's not.
In comes nurse one and two. Up comes the chair, spin him around, pull up a chair and here comes the fun part. You know how when you go to the beach and go into the water, no matter what you do you come out of the water with that film of sand on your legs? Whelp, Grandpa had a film. It was a film of dead skin on his legs. Seems when they turn it off all the stuff settles to the top, so it sticks when they pull him out. Wadded up pieces of gauze are taken to the legs. From knee to ankle. Wiping off this mess. Wiping off any pieces that were uncooperating in coming loose in the water. Snagging the little pieces that were still stuck to the leg on one edge. Up and down, scraping and scraping until his leg was a nice pink all over. No signs of the streaks of fluid no nothing. Wrap 'em back up and send him back to his room. It's done for the day.