I often find myself making references to being imprisoned here. Whenever I’m talking about the way I did something before bed rest, I use the phrase “On the outside.” It just seems to make the most sense. Whenever I’m talking about plans for after the study, I often say, “When I get out of here.” The comparison really ends there, I’m sure, though I’ve never been to prison. If the movies I’ve watched are any indication, however, I’m willing to bet that I’m in my bed more than a prisoner is in his or her cell. I estimate that I’m out of bed for roughly 12 hours a week, and that time is spent on my way to, in, or on my way back from, the lab where I exercise every weekday.
I was chosen to exercise in the morning, which has been a little bit tough to adjust to. I’m not a big fan of the mornings. On the outside I was working from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Bedtime was usually sometime between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., and rare was the day that I was awake before 10 a.m. In here, I’m woken up at 7 a.m. every morning. After vital signs and blood pressure are taken, I am weighed and brought a warm washcloth for my face. Morning meds are distributed (currently I’m taking Nexium to prevent acid reflux, Antivert to combat vertigo, as well as a vitamin D supplement) and I brush my teeth. Shortly thereafter, breakfast comes, and I usually watch Saved by the Bell on TBS while I wait for patient transport to pick me up and take me to the exercise yard.
Two men push a gurney into my room, and, once it’s locked, I roll onto it. They wheel me out—still tilted 6 degrees, head down—and push me through the hospital to the lab. Usually I watch the ceiling for the ride down, which is infinitely more exciting than watching the ceiling in my room, because now the ceiling is moving. It’s a scroll of speckled, foamy tiles; exit signs; round boxes with tiny LEDs on them; fluorescent lighting.
In my peripheral vision, I can see people moving quickly in lab coats, in shirts and ties, in scrubs, with clipboards, on cell phones. I get quizzical looks because the gurney’s angle is so apparent. When we hit the skyway over Carnegie Avenue, I am punched in the face with sunlight. I have a window in my room, so I am aware of how sunny it is outside, but I don’t see the sun until now. Down another hallway and then through another skyway where the sun is less offensive. I can see cars driving on the street below and I’m surprised to find that I feel so far removed from all of that. It’s almost jarring to see things moving so fast. After going through a set of doors and winding through hallways, we get to the elevator. The ceiling of the elevator is mirrored, and this is the only time I see myself all day. I’ve been getting slimmer, and my beard is getting thick.
Down in the lab, I am suspended with bungees, ropes, and pulleys. I walk for a while and run for a while. I get sweaty and tired. My ride comes, and we do the whole thing backward.