The night was a partially nude blur, but I was a bit more lucid the morning after my total thyroidectomy surgery. Around 7:30 a.m. a line of doctors in white coats came into my room. Some I recognized, some I did not. They looked at my incision and drain line, and then started in with questions about my pain, breathing and speech.
I still wasn’t able to talk much and everything that came out was a crackling whisper. I sounded like a chain-smoking phone sex operator. Or how I would imagine one sounded.
I confessed that I remembered that they had visited me the night before, but I couldn’t recall anything we talked about or the results of the surgery.
My surgeon took a deep breath. He was about to have to remind little Timmy that Old Yeller was dead.
“The good news is that we feel confident that we were able to get all or most of the Cancer. We were also able to identify and retain 3 of 4 of your para-thyroid glands,” he said.
It’s my experience, that when someone leads with “the good news is..” then there is bad news coming.
“One of the major nerves to your right vocal cord was running right through the tumor, so we had to sever it,” the surgeon explained. “That cord is now ‘stunned’ and we will have to keep an eye on it to see how it recovers.”
“Well, DAMN.” I thought. “But at least they got the Cancer out.”
Throughout the day they would draw my blood every 6 hours to monitor my calcium levels. If all went well, I’d be heading home that afternoon.
Minutes after the docs left, I heard a call over the hospital loud speaker, “Attention Hospital! Code White! Building 1, 4 WEST.”
That was my building. My floor. My wing. What was a ‘code white’ again? I knew what a code blue was, after all, I own a TV. But a ‘code white’? Hmmm. Then it came to me. I’d just heard it in some training I had a work. Code White is an ACTIVE SHOOTER!
I waited for the follow up “This is a drill!” But it never came. Just then a nurse and nursing assistant (the Navy calls them Corpsmen) came rushing in my room. They moved quickly to roll and lock a supply cart in front of my outer door, and a recliner in front of my inner door.
“Should we put her in the bathroom?” the nurse asked the corpsman frantically.
“No!” He answered her. “We just need to close the blinds and be quiet.”
The Corpsmen, who had instructed me earlier to call him just “Steve” turned off my bed alarm and finally addressed me in a whisper.
“This is probably nothing, but we need to take precautions. Someone reported a man with a gun at the end of our hallway.”
“You have GOT to be shitting me!” I thought. “I’m like the walking, talking (or whispering) embodiment of Murphy’s Law!”
Within a few minutes my phone was ringing and beeping with calls and text messages. The report of an active shooter at a high-profile military hospital had made national news. My family and friends from al over the US were trying to contact me to make sure I was OK.
My husband, who had just arrived at the hospital, was told to go back to his car in the parking garage and wait until the “all-clear” was called.
Steve sat casually in the recliner barricading my door. You could tell he was fresh out of training, maybe 19 or 20 years old. He was a nice looking young fellow of average size, but he talked like he was the hulk.
“I HOPE someone tries to get in here,” he said. “I just feel like fighting.”
The nurse sat across the room, fidgeting and nervous.
Lucky for me, I’d just received a healthy dose of pain meds. I looked over at Steve, decided I was relatively safe, and drifted off to sleep.
The hospital remained on lock-down for 5 ½ hours before allowing the staff to return to their rounds under the protection of armed guards at the end of each wing.
It was another hour after that before the hospital as a whole was back open for business.
A few un-spent rounds were reported, but no shooter was ever found, and no one was harmed.
Unless you count my husband, who may have been scarred for life. He spent the entire 6 ½ hours in his car at the top of the parking garage just waiting to get in to see me. Between us, he peed in a Gatorade bottle and shit in a Ziploc bag. For reals. You can’t make that shit up! Pun intended.
In the end, it was one of those weird blessings that I stayed in the hospital. That afternoon, my calcium levels plummeted to a near dangerous level, right about the time I would have been released from the hospital. More on that next time!
Thanks so much for reading! Please feel free to comment, share, and follow!