…the ICU’s O2 sensor alarm sounds like the battle klaxon on a Klingon Bird of Prey.

I wake to a ridiculous beeping.

“Breathe deeper, hon. Your O2 stats aren’t high enough.”
I breathe as deep as I can; it starts to hurt.
“Deep and regular, there you go.”
The beeping stops, and nurse turns away to the patient in the next bed.

I’m in the Recovery Area. It’s a huge, open floor with multiple stations for gurneys. It’s pretty full. I wonder what time it is.
“2:30 PM, baby.”
Apparently the morphine has directly wired my brain to my mouth – and my nurse is definitely a mother in her spare time.

I doze; the beeping starts again.
“OK, you have to breath deeper. Are you supposed to be on a CPAP?”
I nod, focusing on breathing just until it hurts.
“Oh. Well, let’s get one down here.”
She makes a call. “Roger, I need a CPAP at bed 11 in Recovery.”
“Do you have your own mask?”
She taps my hand. “Do you have your own mask?”
That was for me. I nod.
“He’s got his own mask.”
They exchange a few more details, and she hangs up. “He’ll be down in a few minutes.”

The O2 sensor goes nuts 4 or 5 more times before Roger finally shows up, rolling a gigantic CPAP machine obviously designed for elephants.
He starts things off with a breathing treatment; it’s a nebulizer full of Albuterol and water, and makes me giggle because it gets everything wet.
I realize that I am giggling, which means I’m definitely high.
He wrestles my mask over my face; I try to be helpful. He’s very patient.
As soon as he’s gone, I’m off to La La Land again. The O2 sensor keeps quiet, and though I sound like Darth Vader, I manage to sleep for most of the next 8 hours.

A stylized CPAP mask.

I slowly return to consciousness, and look over at the nurse. She grins, and puts a glass of ice chips on the tray table beside my bed.
“You might need these.”
I realize that my tongue has transformed into 80 grit sandpaper, and I nearly knock the glass off the table in my haste.

Ice chips are amazing.

I am in a bit more pain than before.
“Just push the button right here.”
Yep, brain is still hardwired to my mouth.

I click the button a few times. The nurse smiles, the pain recedes.
Morphine rocks.
The nurse laughs.
“You should have been in the ICU by now, but there was some big trauma event, and they’re full, so you get to stay here with me.”
I smile. As long as she gives me ice chips, that’s totally fine.
She laughs.
This brain-mouth thing might get awkward.

A few hours pass. I know this because I can only have ice chips every hour. Apparently Morphine wreaks havoc with my perception of time.
The nurse comes back from doing something, and lets me know that an orderly from ICU is on his way down to get me.
I feel bad for taking up a bed in ICU just because I’m fat.
“It’s ok, hon. You’re on the right track now.”
Damn it. Stupid brain mouth thing.
She laughs.

I have a perception of Intensive Care Units as dangerous places, but that changes after just a few minutes in GW’s ICU. There is one nurse assigned to do nothing but watch my vitals and the vitals of the patient in the room next to me. The nurse is very attentive; I know this because he’s telling me to “Breathe deeper!” every time my O2 stats drop below 95%.
Of course, the attentiveness might have something to do with the fact that the CPAP machine hasn’t made the trip up to the ICU with me, and the ICU’s O2 sensor alarm sounds like the battle klaxon on a Klingon Bird of Prey.

It takes the CPAP almost 2 hours to follow me up from Recovery. The respiratory therapist is apologetic; he’s working by himself at the moment, and it’s pretty busy.
I forgive him, and fall asleep.