On the evening of my release after 25 days in a hospital bed, my view of the world is shifting beyond the big picture window looking out at the shrub-steppe hills south of Wenatchee from the third floor of Central Washington Hospital. It’s a nice view, but like looking at the same painting day after day.
While I’ve been in the early stages of recovery from a rare autoimmune disorder (again, not COVID-related in any way), my physical world has been limited to a comfortable space that nevertheless is wired, equipped and staffed for constant human care. There’s no mistaking where you are. The only times I left were for a couple of necessary tests or procedures, not under my own power. Even a walk in the hallway was not an option.
I wasn’t out of touch. With my cell phone and laptop close at hand, I stayed connected as best I could. But as I noted in my column last week, the disorder I developed made it difficult to read, speak or type. It took me nearly an entire day of laborious keyboard work to complete last week’s column, but it was an effort I wanted to make.
I watched a lot of TV over the past several weeks, something I’m not used to because I don’t have one in the Methow Valley. I had access to many channels, which provided constant reminders of everything that was going on, or available for consumption, in the “outside” world. At times, the hospital room seemed like a sane refuge from all that.
A long hospital stay amounts to big expanses of time on your hands (or, more accurately, your butt, because that’s your full-time position). Even if your communication options are compromised, as mine were, your brain doesn’t shut off. It keeps processing information.
That became an increasing frustration for me because, in the absence of anything to do but think about stuff, I thought about stuff a lot. COVID. Global, national and state politics. Methow Valley events and issues such as wildfire-related logging, the community’s internet service gaps, the climate action plan, upcoming local elections, or the Friends of the Pool’s community outreach efforts. It would have been a good time to be commenting about such things in this space, but that was beyond my ability.
Now that most of my symptoms are in retreat and I’m moving on to the second stage of recovery as an outpatient in Seattle, I can communicate much more effectively. I hope I’ll be able to revisit some of my bedridden thoughts and fashion them into something cogent as I return to limited action for the newspaper. And I suspect there will be other things coming along to contemplate as well.
Meanwhile, I’m back in the real world, albeit on a cautious basis. The early October drive over Stevens Pass was a beautiful reminder of what I’ve been missing in my medical cocoon. Every minute I spent at Central was necessary for my wellness, but I’m grateful to now be engaged in reclaiming my well-being. The Methow will be a key element in that restorative process.