In these posts I’m looking back on a recent hospital stay. I seem to be fine now, and am writing my way through the experience for therapeutic purposes.–ALW
I don’t see Doctor X again. Nor do I meet again the woman who introduces herself to me, I think, as my “case manager.” Maybe she was just supposed to manage me in the ER? (My entire stay was from Monday-Thursday.)
The two nurses I have while in the ER are fabulous, and for a while this amazing thing I think one of them refers to as a “butterfly” works wonders so they don’t have to stick me every time they need to draw blood or give me antibiotics. The one on my left arms lasts most of Monday and then another one is inserted in my right arm. Eventually neither of them allows for drawing blood, but they both continue to work for intravenous delivery of antibiotics, which I’m given four hours on and four hours off. Someone takes me for a CT of my head (“to see if anything has crossed the membrane”) and chest. The young female doctor I’m falling in love with tells me they may have to do a lumbar puncture but it won’t be today and they won’t do it unless absolutely necessary. Part of me thinks I can’t survive that, while most of me knows I will have to do whatever is necessary to see this through. I hope I am stronger than I look.
The night nurse reminds me of a dear friend of mine, a woman I’ve known only for two years but it might as well have been a lifetime for the connection we share. The nurse is kind and funny and tells great stories. She is tender and forthright and has an air that radiates calm and competency. I relax a little feeling the spirit of my friend Leila surrounding me, for Leila is one of the most grounded people I know and I’m hoping I can grab on to her faith (in God? in medicine?) across state lines in Florida while mine is under assault in Tennessee.
I watch television, delighted to find a channel that runs Murder She Wrote, one of my personal favorites. And imagine my glee when I see Mannix make a guest appearance!
I do not sleep.
I’m moved to a room about 6:30 Tuesday morning. It might as well be the Ritz, as it has a window and its own bathroom, meaning I no longer have to ask for the IV to be stopped, gather the flapping ends of my gown around me, and pad to the bathroom in the ER common area every time I needed to pee. (This is another thing that I realize makes my hospital stay not so awful. I can get to the bathroom myself, feed myself, etc. Also, the fact that I am cognizant enough to ask questions along the way and understand, sort of, what is being done to me makes everything better.)
It’s shift change time, and I’m not sure but I think this might be why a couple of things get overlooked, such as offering me breakfast and doing a proper “intake,” which the day nurse says repeatedly she needs to do but never does. (One of the ER nurses gave me graham crackers and peanut butter on Monday, but I haven’t eaten a meal since Sunday evening.) I wonder if the intake cues several things, such as getting the patient something to eat, getting the patient a clean gown, and providing said patient with toiletries. It’s Wednesday before I get a new gown and toiletries, which Precious has been retrieving from home for me. Not a big deal, I realize, but when you are scared, and in pain, and just want some semblance of normalcy, a little deodorant goes a long way. I’m not sure why I don’t think to ask about this. I’ve only been hospitalized overnight once before, some thirty years ago, so maybe I don’t realize I have the right to request such. Or maybe I am too preoccupied, you know, with matters of life and death. Mine.
Hallelujah! The two perfectly lovely doctors from the ER are on my primary care team and they tend me throughout. The young woman I mentioned above, and a young man, both of whom are compassionate, professional, thorough without being alarmist, willing to answer any question I can conjure. They are funny, and personable, and I want to write their parents to tell them what good jobs they did with their children. They treat me with respect without making me feel I’m old enough to be their parents. I had no idea I would see familiar faces once I was moved to a room, and it makes a world of difference for me. (My mother, who was hospitalized often in the last years of her life in Mississippi, never had that experience of consistency in her care. It matters.)
“We still don’t know what’s causing your white blood cells to be so low,” they continue to say. “We’ve ruled out some things, but we’re running lots of tests.”
More tests, more questions, more tests, more questions.
Fever up and down. Mostly up.
And then, lunch! What a gift to be handed a menu and told I can order what I want as long as I follow the diet restrictions imposed by my condition. I can’t have fresh fruit and vegetables, as a precaution against additional infection. The menu provides me with several options, and I’m thankful I have choices. Again, when so much has been taken out of your control, any decision you get to make seems bigger than it might under normal circumstances. (The food throughout my stay is good, tasty enough, although my orders rarely match my approved requests.)
That night I ask for something to help me rest and am given melatonin. It does not do the trick, but it may be that I am simply too wired to sleep. So I look out the window at the other wings of the hospital, row after row of rooms, window after window, some with lights on, others darkened. Each one with a story.
In that window there, is a baby being born? What about next door, is someone losing his life?
I watch the LifeFlight helicopter come and go, each landing, each takeoff, a story.