Where am I?, I wonder silently. I hear a beeping from somewhere in my room that seems to match up with the pounding in my ears. Oh right, I remember now.
I'm not sure how long ago it happened, but I have flashbacks of getting into my car, driving through the rain, headlights coming towards me too fast to avoid, then glimpses of white walls as they carried me into the hospital. After that my memory is just a blur filled with lights and random noises that I'm guessing were the doctors and nurses rushing to help me, but I don't know for sure.
I try to turn my head to find a clock or perhaps someone to tell me what day it is, but I can't seem to move my head. Why can't I move my head? Oh, crap.. Am I in a full-body cast? Not quite; I can still move my right arm a bit. I feel around with my right hand until I find what I think are the controls for the bed. I try to figure out how to lift the bed so I can see my room just by figuring out the shapes of the different buttons. Wait, I don't even know which buttons have what function. I might as well just wait for a nurse. Or maybe I could try yelling for someone… I open my mouth as if to shout, but my words won't come out. It hurts to try to talk or breathe too heavily through my mouth. I ponder on it for a few minutes and, after taking a few deep breaths through both my mouth and nose, realize there's a tube down my throat and air tubes in each nostril.
Great. Now I'm stuck here in silence until a nurse or someone checks on me, I reason. I hear something quiet in the distance. As the sound grows louder, I realize the sound is footsteps coming from down the hall. Finally, the footsteps reach my door and stop. I hear the doorknob turn and catch a glimpse of the silhouette of a person's upper body as they walk in the door. The person walks closer and I can see by her scrubs that she's one of the nurses here. She doesn't look at my face right away and I have the chance to see that she's got olive-toned skin; sleek, curly black hair; and dark brown eyes. It looks like she would be shorter and more stout than I am, but I can't tell from my position.
"Oh, you're awake!" the nurse exclaims. She goes and turns some dimmed lights on to increase visibility without hurting my eyes. She leaves the room and comes back a few minutes later and I wonder to myself if she left to tell the doctor that I'm awake. Well, if she did, the doctor didn't come back with her. She comes over and checks the IV bag attached to my right arm through another set of tubes and I feel a slight tug from the needles under my skin. I don't know how I hadn't noticed it before, but I assume it's because I didn't have to move around much to find the panel of buttons on the side of my bed. She seems satisfied and goes about checking on the rest of me.
I wait patiently as she finishes up, wondering how I'm supposed to communicate with her. She turns to me and asks me if I need anything. I curl my right hand into a sign language 't' and shake it the way my mom taught me to do if I needed to use the bathroom. My mom? Where is she? Why can't I remember what she looks or sounds like? I don't get the chance to finish my thoughts as the nurse nods to show that she understands me and pulls out a bed pan.
At first I'm grossed out by the idea of using the bed pan, but I decide that the bladder relief it'll bring is much greater than the dignity I'd be losing. Besides, it's not like I have a choice here, right?
When I'm done, the nurse takes it away and an older, taller, pale-haired woman walks in wearing a long, white coat and holding a clipboard in the crook of her arm. She looks at me and I can see wrinkles around her eyes and lips that show years of smiling, but right now her face is overcome by a tight-lipped, wary expression. I think about it and decide that she's got the look of someone who believes that something unpredictable could happen, and I'm the one who'd be doing it.
Great, the doctor thinks I'm a psycho, I say to myself with a silent, painful laugh. I decide that laughing isn't a good idea right now.
I look closer and see the doctor's name tag pinned to one of her large, white pockets. Dr. Thompson? Where have I heard that name before? And then it hits me.
A whirlwind of memories flash through my head and I see my dad, lying in a hospital room. There's a woman standing off to the side talking to my mom as I watch my dad's chest rise and fall while he slumbers. I catch tidbits of the conversation the two women are having; "Will he make it?" "...how much longer does he have, Dr. Thompson?" All of the images in my head are blurry, but the words came out loud and clear to me.
Dr. Thompson was the doctor that looked after my dad when he was hospitalized a few years ago. But how do I remember that, when I can't even bring up a mental image of my dad? Or my mom, for that matter. I begin to feel confused and slightly dizzy from all of the thoughts rushing through my head.
The flood of images that passed through my head vanishes as quickly as it appeared and I blink away the visual residue clouding my vision. The beeping sound the heart monitor makes speeds up just a little, but not enough to concern the doctor; I've begun to panic, realizing there are more holes in my memory than in a block of Swiss cheese.
I lie there as the doctor goes through procedure, double-checking all of the things the nurse had just finished and then making notes on the clipboard all of her charts are on for my medical care. I start to fade in and out as I wait for the doctor to finish. Finally, the nurse walks back in and they start to talk about me as if I'm not even there.
I cut them short by waving my right arm around a bit, capturing their attention. The doctor asks me if I need anything and I curl my hand into a fist, moving it up and down in a nodding motion; it's the sign for 'yes' that I used to use whenever my throat hurt or I was too distracted to even consider nodding my head in response to my mom. The doctor asks a few basic questions in an attempt to figure out what's wrong: "Do you need to use the bathroom again? Are you hungry? Are you tired? Are you comfortable? Are you in any pain?"
I hold my hand up where she can see it and sign my responses to her. "No," I sign to her after each question. I start to get a little fed up with the doctor as she continues to try and figure out what I need. Finally, she asks the question I've been waiting for.
"Do you think you can write it down for us?" Dr. Thompson asks doubtfully. She gives me a concerned look as I hesitate to answer, not quite sure I'm up for it.
I think about it for a few more seconds and decide that I can handle writing with my right hand. I know it'll feel awkward because I'm mostly left-handed and only partially ambidextrous, but I have to communicate my needs to the doctor. I curl my hand once more as I sign my answer to the doctor's last question. "Yes," I reply. I know it's the only way I'll be able to get anywhere in my search for answers.
Dr. Thompson sends the nurse off to get me a writing board and a marker. I lie on my bed, glancing occasionally at the doctor who seems somewhat in shock at my decision to try and write, knowing I haven't written with my right hand in years. I look at my available hand and realize just how cold and numb it still feels.
I stretch the fingers of my right hand while I wait, knowing I haven't used them in awhile and that writing isn't exactly an easy task when using my weaker hand. Just as I begin to feel like I have enough strength in my fingers to write, the nurse comes back and hands me the writing board. She quickly moves to the side of my bed and raises the back of it so that I can write comfortably. I think about what I want to say for a moment and then begin to write:
What happened to me?
Who am I?
How long was I out for?
Has my family come to visit?
I need answers.