Private Eye: Eugene Leftowicz

27 November 2012

There was a crowd at the traffic island. The first person to greet me was Jacques, “Have you any news?”

“Yes,” I replied, “I visited Joy last night at the hospital.”

“How she?” asked André.”

I replied, “She is in a lot of pain from her fibromyalgia. The pain was previously just in her legs, but now it has moved into her back and neck. She was first given an injection of Dilaudid. She threw up but felt better later. Then they started giving it to her in pill form and it just made her nauseous. She’s hoping to get morphine, but in that case, she’ll need Gravol.”

“She’ll get a good buzz from that,” said Jacques. “This is the third time in the hospital for her this year. That’s not good. I don’t know how much time she has left.”

André said, “That’s a wake-up call from the Man upstairs. She has to quit drinking altogether.”

I said, “At least she has her own place now.”

Jacques said, “Yes, that’s good, but you can’t stay all by yourself, all the time. I can’t. She’ll want to come down and talk to her friends sometimes, even when it’s cold out.”

Timmy said, “I saw my workers this morning. I’ve been leaving messages. This morning I decided to go to the office and they were there. They’re going to look at a place for me in Cabbagetown. If it looks alright they’ll show it to me tomorrow. They have to check it out first, to see if it’s livable. I don’t mind Cabbagetown, I grew up in a worse place than that. Do you know Lachine?”

I said, “No.”

“I’ve got to get off the street. I’m losing my patience with people in Toronto, the way they treat us. One day, I’m just going to flip out. I’ll need Valium just to pan.

“I have some skills, I’m a specialized gas fitter, but there’s not much work in that field. I’m a welder, but I don’t have my ticket. They offer a seven-month course in welding at Seneca, that I might qualify for. It costs about five thousand dollars. The government will cover a one-time re-training. It’s sort of like a student loan.

“It’s a vicious cycle living in shelters. In order to get a job, they want me to have an address where I can receive mail and phone calls. If I’m living at a shelter it’s sometimes difficult to get any sleep, so I’d either miss work or be so tired that I’d get fired. In order to get an apartment, they want me to have a job. I can’t win.”

I asked, “How long have you been on the streets, Timmy?”

“For a while, in Montreal, then Vancouver, but I really can’t count Vancouver, because I was working there.”

I said, “You’ll never freeze to death in Vancouver, but it costs a lot to live, doesn’t it?”

“It depends on how you live. I had a bachelor apartment with an adjoining bathroom. They call it a Jack and Jill. I didn’t mind. I just had to make sure that when I went to the bathroom I locked both doors. It cost me four hundred a month.”

I asked André, “How was your day after I saw you at noon.”

“It was cold. I tried panning in a few places, but there was nobody out.”

Jacques said, “I talked to Mariah, she’s coming down here tomorrow. She will bring Joy’s keys or some of her stuff. We’ll work it out.”

….

I went to the East General Hospital tonight. All the information desks were closed. I asked two paramedics if they knew where the Acute Recovery Area was. They’d never heard of it. One said, “They keep changing the names around here. “I showed the paper where I’d written the room number — 505. “Take the main elevator in the old section and go to the fifth floor, maybe someone there can direct you.”

I went to the fifth floor and asked a nurse (or an orderly — someone in scrubs) where the Acute Recovery Area was. He said, “Go straight down the hall until where you can see the single door open. Turn left, pick up the telephone receiver, and tell them the name of the patient you’re here to see.”

I managed that. Looked around, couldn’t find a bed or room number. A voice behind me asked, “Sir, can I help you?”

I answered, “I’m looking for bed number 105.”

“Right here, sir,” said a nurse with blond wavy hair in the style of Madonna or Lady Gaga.

Joy said, “I saw you go past my bed. I tried to call you, but I’ve lost my voice. I’m susceptible to pneumonia and this is the way it usually starts.”

“I could tell right away that Joy was feeling better. The pained look was off her face. She said, “I wasn’t expecting you to come tonight.”

“I said I’d be back.”

“I know, but I thought you meant later in the week. Now they have me on Dilaudid and Morphine. My skin is really itchy, I can’t help scratching. It’s a good thing I don’t have long fingernails or I’d be cut to shreds. I’m also on Heparin so my blood doesn’t clot. I talked to my doctor about getting back on Seroquel. He said, ‘Why do you think you need Seroquel?’ I said, ‘My mind feels like its traveling a hundred miles an hour in a ten-mile an hour zone. Can you wrap your head around that?’ He said, ‘Yes, we’ll put you on Seroquel.’ I can now look forward to a good night’s sleep. They don’t give it to me until ten o’clock. I don’t know why they wait until ten o’clock. Where I was before they gave out all the meds at nine.

I heard a banging sound on the other side of the curtain. Joy said, “Sometimes I think that woman is possessed. She makes the strangest sounds.” Soon, I heard a wailing noise, ‘Piro, Piro!’

“It wouldn’t be so bad if she spoke English, but I have no idea what she’s saying. She was at the other end of the ward. I don’t know why they put her beside me. Sometimes I feel like strangling her or holding a pillow over her face. The nurses also lose patience with her, especially the blond one.”

I asked, “Do you have earplugs with you?”

“No, but the dark-haired nurse said she’d get me some. I’m going to need them. Now that they ‘ve got me hooked up to all these wires and tubes I can’t go anywhere. When I was just on the intravenous, I could get into my wheelchair and pull the intravenous stuff along with me. I was told not to leave the area, but I slipped past them five times already. I needed to have a smoke and I wanted to go to Tim Horton’s for a decent cup of tea. The last time it was security guards that brought me back. They asked, ‘Are you Joy?’ I said, ‘Who wants to know?’ They said, there’s a nurse up on the fifth floor who thinks you may have gone AWOL.’

“The nurse made me a cup of tea. It tasted like garbage. I asked her, ‘What did you do to destroy this tea?’ I couldn’t drink it. I left it on the table and asked Al to dump it when he came in. They asked me if I wanted a nicotine patch. I said, ‘I had one of those the last time I was in. I was throwing up for three days.’ She asked, ‘Do you want to try a Nicorette Inhaler?’ I said, ‘I’ll try it.’ All it does is give me a sore throat.

“Good news is, I was able to eat a piece of toast, mind you, it was after taking Gravol. When they brought in this heart rate and blood pressure monitor I thought I was getting a TV. At least I have something to look at as the numbers go up and down. It’s good now, 127 over 113. It had gone as high as 180. They were worried that I might have a stroke.”

I asked, “Have you had high blood pressure before?”

“Yeah, when my oldest son was born. I’ve always known I had high blood pressure, but it didn’t bother me.”

I said, “I notice that you have a phone now.”

“Yeah, I tried phoning Jacques, but all I got is his voice mail. He’s probably drunk by now. I’ll call him tomorrow.”

I said, “André told me that your workers know you’re in the hospital.”

“Yeah, they’re going to visit me sometime. My check should be coming tomorrow. I have to find someone to bring it to me, then find a way to get to Money Mart.”

I noticed that Joy had difficulty even lifting a paper cup full of tea. She said, “The nurses told me to ask for help going to the commode, but I told them, “It’s only two feet. I can manage that. I don’t like that thing. I’d rather go to the washroom, but I’m too wired up. Earlier, when I snuck away, I just pulled out the intravenous needles, but I got shit for that. The nurse said, ‘We have enough trouble getting blood as it is. Every time you pull the needle out we have to flush the vein.’

The blond nurse came in to take a blood sample but was unsuccessful. She flushed the vein, still no luck. “We’ll try to find another vein. It’s not going to be easy. She tried three or four times with Joy saying, ‘ouch’ and ‘oh, that hurts’ each time.

Joy said, “I’m a real wuss when it comes to needles. I always have been.”

I asked, “Is all this due to your fibromyalgia?”

“It’s caused by a combination of factors, lack of exercise, poor diet, and drinking. I’m guilty on all three counts.”

It was approaching nine o’clock, the end of the visiting hour, so I said, “Good-bye. I’ll try to get back, later in the week.”

~~~

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