Nighttime is an especially odd time in hospitals. I had forgotten. The first night I was too full of meds and zoned out to care.
Everyone is gone. I have no movement and am trapped in bed, a perfusion of wires and tubes extending from both sides of my body. My “totem” pole to which I am attached through multiple connections is beeping and blinking, managing timed releases of meds. My Fentanyl dose regulator among them. Fentanyl has been my savior in the last 24 hours after I was taken off of the morphine based drugs which do not agree with me. The pain button, which delivers a dose of Fentanyl when I push it, lays across my lap. A safety blanket always within reach. I am trapped in a room, trapped in a bed, locked into a limited range of movement.
And now it is time to sleep…my bed vibrates every few minutes as the mattress rolls to keep my circulation moving. The room is filled with the blue and yellow hue of the monitors. Slowly I drift off to sleep from exhaustion and pain meds. I am determined to get a good nights sleep, no easy task in a hospital. I know first hand that sleep is one of the best medicines for me.
The dreams come quickly. I am in a variety of settings, all very different from where my actual body is. I stir and wake occasionally to find myself back in this sterile technology enabled room. Locked in position in my vibrating bed. Several times during the night I need to relieve myself but I cannot get up because of all of my attachments. I fumble about to find the urinal and move the tubes and wires aside. Always hesitant, a deep seeded resistance probably born from a 5 year olds fear of wetting the bed, that hazy dream state…what is really happening? A deep seeded dread of fumbling the task in some fashion and then creating an incredible mess that would be not only discomforting but also ruin any chance of a good nights sleep.
And somewhere along the way in this tumultuous night I am visited by the narco dreams. Dreams I have had at least once before, perhaps more. They come to me always when I am struggling in a hospital room trying to sleep with narcotics flowing through my veins. My first memory of them was when I was 18. I knew right away last night when it began. I had been there before. Like the replay of a movie you don’t want to see in an empty and seedy theater. It is dark, edgy, unsettling. I am not sure I could describe it if I tried yet it is familiar. I imagine it similar to traveling through Dante’s rings of hell, I felt sadness, fear, pain, human suffering. It was cold and harsh, it was not welcoming. it was deeply unsettling. I woke with the pained feeling in my body and the residue of fear tinging my mouth.
Another day has passed, better on many fronts and yet also filled with some challenges and more physical pain. Overall though a day of good progress. I will leave that for another post. I am getting ready for another night of sleep. I can move around tonight. The chest tube is out and the totem pole sits idly and silently in the corner. The Fentanyl is gone. My meds down to just a few. Once again I hope for a good nights sleep. And tonight I pray for no more narco dreams. I hope that last night was the last night of my life I will revisit that dream.
I wonder what that space is? Is it my sub-conscious processing the trauma? It felt like a journey in another world, an inhospitable place I would never wish on anyone. It clearly seems associated with trauma and powerful narcotics…a place I hope I never have to see again in my life. I wonder how many others have struggled with their own narco dreams as they work hard to recover from major traumatic surgery? I hope I am alone in that journey yet I am certain that is not the case. I watch so many here coping with so many challenges and fighting so hard. A testament to the human spirit in the face of life threatening illness. I feel so much compassion and empathy for the suffering of all those I see around me. I celebrate their courage and strength to push on in the face of adversity even when the odds are not always in their favor. And yet I have met so many recently who are doing just that, pushing on and not giving up. Facing the challenges every day. It is awe inspiring, and my heart is filled with compassion for all of us as we venture forth through this human experience.
I looking forward to drifting off tonight and having a peaceful sleep.