Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Part Deux

So when we last left off I was relishing having a room to my self.  And drugs on demand.  However this idyll was spoiled somewhat by the clear fluids diet.  Let me explain.  If you can see through it, I could have it.  Jello?  yes.  Consomme'? yes.  Fruit Juice? yes.  Oh and make that three times a day for three days.  Actually make that three days of not eating.  Not that I was hungry, but I was petulant and in a lot of pain and I have to say I even got tetchy.  Stop rolling your eyes right this very minute, I'm an invalid.  And that's invalid with the emphasis on the "in" not the "val". 

And what good would a treatise about a hospital stay be if you didn't have your own personal version of "Nurse Ratched" to moan about?  (please see One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest for  reference).  Mine was a PhD. Nurse Practitioner named Aldrich, but for our purposes shall be known henceforth as Nurse Wretched.  What a piece of work.  Evidently since I was not privately insured by the rich Gods of insurance, I was assigned this gem of a medical practitioner instead of an MD.  I didn't really give a whoop about any of that, but I would have preferred someone who at one point, at least, had endured pain of the sort I was experiencing.  Perhaps she would have understood managing the pain through a thoughtful use of narcotics was a better idea than hers, which was basically an aspirin and the mantra to man up.  Many of you will recognize that being in pain, the type which manifests itself through the very act of breathing could have the nasty side effect of, say, crankiness.  So this queen of medicine with absolutely no sense of humor prescribed an oral medication that I discovered upon my investigation,  had the significant side effect of agitation.  This becomes important when we visit my last interaction with the angel of mercy. 

I was also allowed to have my choice of other IV meds at certain times during the day, I had only to express my pain level  in terms of intensity of one to ten to determine the dose.  Unfortunately, because I've never been a very good stoner, I kept forgetting whether 10 was no pain or a lot of pain.  Evidently this was an important distinction to make. 

I was hospitalized in Santa Rosa for four nights and three days.  I had expected to be incarcerated over night for observation, so the length of stay was something of a surprise.   But I was pretty much asleep most of the time so it didn't matter that much.  I also spent some time walking around the corridors with a nurse  holding me up while I grasped the back of my gown so as not to share the glory of my backside with the ward population.  The exercise regime was under the orders of  Nurse Wretched.  However, at some point in the stay she decided I had not saturated enough oxygen and then confined me to the bed with a clip to my finger and a hose up my nose which were hard wired to central command at the nurses station, so that if, say, I had to go the bathroom I could  wait till someone could come unhook me from the various  breathing devices.  Or I could unhook myself and tottle off alone while various bells and whistles went off.  Upon returning to my sanctuary (bed) I would try to remember to reattach all the various things so I could nod off, but nine times out of ten I would forget something so a nurse would have to come in anyway and cluck cluck about this and that.  Still I think they appreciated they didn't have to come for potty duty every five minutes.  Clear fluid diets will do that to you.  This had the added benefit of giving Nurse Wretched something to lecture me about since I wasn't getting enough exercise prowling the halls.  Never mind she had confined me to the bed, she could still give me lots of dire warnings.  You just can't win for losing.

At some point during my stay I gained a "room mate".  She was about 110, spoke no English and had had a stroke.  Neat.  So she was confined to her bed full stop, the don't even think about leaving your bed kind of bed confinement.  This warning did not seem to translate effectively because she got up quite often to go potty.  Sadly, in her case an alarm  shrieked to warn everyone, including me, that the patient in bed "A" was escaping then six or seven medical experts would have to rush in to screech at her about fall risks and instability and being sick and what not. Then two or three translators would have to re-shriek the orders to the lady.  And nothing ever really got through to her.  It seemed to be important to screech because thats what you do when you have to converse with someone who doesn't know what you're saying.  When my little room mate wasn't trying to make a break for it she would lay in her bed/prison and chant.  That unnerved me to say the least.  I fully expected crossed chicken bones and dolls with pins stuck in them to appear at any time.  She also had visitors.  About 30 or 40 at a time all babbling in the mystery language and the errant children who liked to peek at me from around the curtains.  I found that baring my teeth at them had the desired affect of discouraging their visits.

All good things must come to an end and so I was informed that at some point I would be transferred to a Kaiser hospital.  It was also agreed that going to a Kaiser nearer to home was a good idea.  But they teased me with that tantalizing thought for a couple days.  In the meantime I was still on the clear fluids diets even though Nurse Wretched had told me I could now be on a modified diet, sadly she neglected to tell anyone but me about this revelation.  Day after day, three times a day I was presented with consomme, jello and fruit juice as my only dining option.  Long about day three I started to feel a little hunger.  At that point I had not really eaten anything since Saturday noon.  It all came to a head one morning when I was once again presented with the hell diet and I had a complete hissy fit about it.  This was resolved by someone bringing me a steaming bowl of Cream of Wheat.  Yum.  I love Cream of Wheat.  Comfort food, memories of mommy and all that.  Soon after that Nurse Wretched appeared to make her daily assessment of me as an individual (found severely inadequate) and as a patient.  She informed me that she personally had determined not to send me to Kaiser the day before, probably just to be mean, but I could probably go this very day, but I had to have a heart ultrasound first.  Ok.  Then she asked me how I was tolerating the diet (translation:  have you gone #2 yet?)  So I said the diet was intolerable and why was I still on clear fluids long after she'd told me I could have real food.  That caught her attention.   She said, "What?" So I told her that the only offerings that had come my way in the guise of food was consomme, jello and fruit juice and that I'd finally had a cow about it that very morning and I had been presented with a bowl of Cream of Wheat.  She said, "What?"  So I explained it all again to her, using much smaller words, and the point finally got through.  Defensively she said that she had told me I could have a more significant diet.  I said that was great and all, but perhaps writing that down as an order would have perhaps gotten that point across to the nursing staff and dietitian.  Then I stared at her.  She blinked and asked me why I was agitated.  So I told her why and also brought up that agitation was one of the side effects of the medication she had prescribed.  And I stared some more.  She bustled off to chew some nurses butt for not reading her mind and soon after that I was ensconced in an ambulance and on my way to Kaiser Vacaville.  Bon Voyage.

The stay in Vacaville lasted  three days and among other luxuries I was also allowed a shower.  I guess I forgot to mention that I'd only had sponge baths up to that point and hair washing was not part of the service.  Amazing what feeling clean can do for you.  I was almost sorry to leave, but on Thursday we parted company and I was remanded to the care of my loving spouse.  Some of you may think that is a cruel and unusual punishment, but I will state here and now that he is a paragon of sainthood and my care under his tutelage has been nothing short of spiritual.

So I'm home and recovering.  I have pain meds to take on a schedule and they help a lot.  I've caught up on all the shows I'd recorded and have watched several movies.  I will be happy to give you my critiques of them if you'd like to ask me, but I won't bore you with that unless you beg.  I am rapidly running out of at home amusements.  I'm not allowed to lift more than five pounds nor do I have my car, and I shouldn't drive just now in any case. Wa Wa Wa.  I see the light at the end of the tunnel, though the light is a few weeks off yet.  I'll be fine.

I fully expect to resume my house sitting gigs.  I like doing that.  And it gives me lots to think about and more importantly to write your expense, but there you have it.  Thanks for your notes of sympathy.  And your jokes and cards.  I can't laugh, but will sooner or later. 



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