She didn't respond.
"I want my own doctor," I said slowly so she could get every word. "I need to see him."
My personal physician was a great guy, and I never felt inhibited around him. He would shoot straight with me when I needed it, and yet he wouldn't turn a small injury into a big thing. He'd first detoxed me at Sand Lake in 1994, after I'd gone on a holiday drinking binge. Three days and two nights in the hospital, with plenty of IV fluids and round-the-clock monitoring to make sure I didn't have a heart attack, and I was screaming to get out. I got a stern lecture on alcohol abuse, and I swore such a thing would never happen again.
But before long I would be back in Sand Lake, back on the IVs, and listening, once more, as my doctor gave me another, more severe lecture on alcohol abuse and the dangers it presented to my body. I would thank him, explain that I had made an awful error and promise him this would never, ever, not in a million years happen again. Drinking was something I could control, or so I continued to tell myself. By the fourth time I was admitted to Sand Lake for detoxification, my doctor refused to treat me. But this was different. Now, I was bleeding all over the place, swelling up like the Elephant Man, and my skin was turning unnatural shades of gray, crimson and dusty rose. I needed a physician who knew my history.
"Did you hear me?" I demanded. "I need to see my doctor!"
"He's not coming," the nurse said. "He doesn't think he can help you."
I didn't want to confess that I was scared, but I knew this trip was very, very different, and it wasn't just the view from the intensive care unit that made me think that way. Usually the nurses and doctors at Sand Lake smiled and started conversations with things like, "Well, how are we feeling?" or "What seems to be the problem here?" This time there was none of that. No one smiled or spoke, and very few people would answer my questions. To begin with, why couldn't I get cleaned up? The blood was finally beginning to clot and scab, which made me look even more beastly. When a 40-something attending physician finally came by, I pleaded.
"Why can't I clean up?"
"Because your blood isn't clotting properly, and if we irritate the scabs, we could reopen the wounds and start the bleeding again."
O.K., I understood the last part of that, but I also wanted to know why my blood wasn't clotting the way it should.