During the second week of August in 2006, a doctor gave me some pretty bad news. In fact, a case could rather easily be made that it was the worse news I'd ever received before or since. It was at this critical moment in my life that I experienced one doctor's unique brand of bedside manner.
Actually, I think doorway manner would be a more apt description. This particular sawbones informed me that the gutted and gored portion of my right leg would have to go. It was not healing and could not be saved as the medical consensus had initially hoped. Standing at the doorway to my room and surrounded by his team of medical interns, he rather nonchalantly told me that I was slated to go under the knife the following morning. “Okay,” I recall saying, neither shocked at what I had just learned nor frightened at what tomorrow would bring. And it wasn't because I was particularly courageous or anything like that. It had just been such an incredibly grueling and painful week filled with probing, poking, and getting shuffled around that I suspect I needed some kind of closure—a next leg on a journey, as it were.
This week in hell included a close call with the Grim Reaper due to massive blood loss, followed by two debriding operations to try to salvage the gruesome carcass that was now the lower part of my right leg. And, too, the pain was both unrelenting and intense, and intenser still every time the leg's dressing was changed, which it was several times a day. From where I sat propped up in my hospital bed, it was inevitable that a fourth time under the knife would occur, even though I was told similar wreckages had been salvaged and lived to walk again.
So, I received the news of act four from a distance with no one-on-one commiseration with a medical mind. There were also a couple of visitors in my room at the time, too—my sister and brother-in-law. It could have been the milkman and his wife who just popped in for a visit. Old Doc was completely oblivious to whose ears would simultaneously hear, along with yours truly, the news of my imminent amputation. Strange behavior exhibited in both the doorway and hospital bed several yards away, I'd say. But then I can attest from experience that hospitals are strange places to call home. A lot of strange goings-on come to pass there—things you couldn't possibly imagine during healthy times.