Sunday, January 01, 2012

The Last Report

Forgive my silence, dear reader, and the rather extended pause in the on-going saga of hospital care in the U.S.  I have been away--but my absence is testament to the fact that the recently inflicted treatment must have worked.

When my doctor said he wanted to try a new prescription for atrial fibrillation, he also noted there was something I wouldn't like: a hospital stay.  At the time, my only response was--no problem.  I just have two trips that I am planning to make, and, if I can fit in the hospital stay between those two trips--well, fine.

So, at the beginning of December we went to San Diego to see our son and daughter-in-law, then over Christmas we traveled to South Africa and met up with our daughter and son-in-law. The doctor didn't blink at my schedule caveat--so I am guessing he hears such conditions frequently.   His response--I think we can work something out.  And work it out we did.  Trip 1, hospital stay, and then trip 2.

As anyone who watches the myriad of health shows that have been televised knows, hospitals are places of great drama.  There are daily mini-dramas.  My two roommates are illustrative.

The first roommate came in very shortly after I was admitted.  She was wheeled in, and transferred to her bed. With her came a retinue of family--sons, daughters, spouses. Who knows who all was there?  All I could tell was that there was a hub-bub of activity on the other side of the room.  Since my husband was with me, I just rolled my eyes to indicate my puzzlement--and, yes, maybe intolerance.

But over the next two days, this family showed warmth and support.  You see, the woman was in her 80s.  She had been, until a few weeks before, a picture of health, quite independent and most certainly stubborn.  Then, she had a fall, and a subsequent stroke that leveled her.  She was hospitalized, and then a heart condition became apparent--she had multiple blocked coronary arteries.  

Her family members buzzed about her, trying to make her comfortable, tut-tutting if she tried to move or do something.  Even though the curtain was drawn, I could hear them saying "Mom, you can't do that" or "Call the nurse for that."  It seemed a bit over-done to me, but she was clearly the glue in that family's fabric--a true matriarch.

When no one was there, I went to her bed and said hi, and introduced myself.  I asked if she needed anything, and she managed a very weak hello followed by a demurring of help.

As it turned out, that seemingly overwhelming family was really tremendously supportive.  At one point, I heard the older son say to his sleeping mother--Oh, Mom.  It was a heart-felt cry.  Later, he came over to my side of the room and sat down and visited for quite a while.  Another son also made a point of introducing himself to both my husband and me.  For a brief two days, I almost seemed to be included in that expansive family.

When the mother went in to surgery, one son stopped by to see me, just to see how I was doing.

And, then, there was my second roommate.  With the matriarch in surgery, and being returned to a more intensive care room, the bed next to me was empty.  Soon, a second post-surgery patient was wheeled in.

What ensued was a circus.  First, with new patient in the room, all the staff departed.  Then the phone rang.  And rang.  And rang.  So , I said--through the curtain--just push the red button.  Meaning, of course, on the phone.  But new patient thought I meant on the device to call a nurse.  She kept saying, loudly, HELLO, HELLO.  Then she said GEORGE?  I finally got out of bed, went over to her side of the room and pointed out the telephone.  Of course, she had NO idea who I was, and gave me a wild-eyed look.

Then, a nurse came in (maybe in response to the call button) and said--Barbara, don't move around so much; you have to stay still.  As soon as the nurse left, Barbara tried to get out of bed.  That set off a loud beeping alarm which produced several staff members.   This happened multiple times, each time with an accompanying loud beeping alarm.  Every time they came into the room, they said (quite loudly)--Barbara, what are you trying to do?

Soon, another staff member came in, and began to ask Barbara some questions.  Herewith the conversation:

Q--do you know where you are?  A--I am at So-and-so's house.
Q--why are you there?  A--I am at a party.
Q--do you know what year it is?  A--(pause) 1998.
Q--do you know who is President?  A--Al Gore.
Q--aren't you in a hospital now?  A--(most indignantly) NO.

Oh, my.  Other than the startling news that Al Gore actually won the election (well, he did--but that's another story altogether), the whole conversation was most bizarre.  But, I recognized the questions as standard ones asked to ascertain whether or not someone has dementia.  Oh, and Barbara most certainly did.

Layer dementia on top of the disorienting experience of being in a hospital, and no wonder Barbara looked at me with wild eyes.

Most annoying of all, each time a staff member came in to see Barbara, they asked if she wanted her television on, and then JUST turned it on.  And turned up the volume.  I told my husband--I can't stay here another night if Barbara is my roommate.

Thankfully, when the doctor came in (finally), after initially saying I had to stay one more day so that I would have the requisite number of doses of the new medicine--and after being informed that in fact I had HAD the correct number, he agreed to discharge me.

Hospitals--places where life's dramas, both tragedy and comedy, play out.  I promise--this the last report on my hospital stay.

Next up, the trip to South Africa.


Nora said...

Glad you are O.K. I had to try not to laugh too much as I read your post (I know I should not laugh but...) well because I would be feeling the same.

KGMom said...

IRB--Happy New Year!
Oh, do laugh. That is the appropriate response. I kept thinking "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest" or maybe something by Fellini.

Mauigirl said...

Happy New Year, I hope you have fully recovered from your tribulations. I've been missing the blog world and am hopefully back now - will be stopping in again soon! It's possible the roommate actually had something they call delirium, which can happen to people who are hospitalized even if they are OK mentally otherwise. It happened to my father-in-law after an operation - he thought he was somewhere entirely different and not in the hospital at all! Now he's fine.

Peruby said...

Oh, I can SO relate to this. I had gall bladder surgery and was sharing a room with a loud mouth. She talked on the phone constantly at ear splitting level.

When a nurse finally did come in to check on me, I burst into tears. I told her I was miserable and I could not stand the noise. She was SO comforting.

I "think" they gave me a heavy dose of something, but the best was they wheeled me to a little room tucked away with a huge fan that sounded like a waterfall and I slept the rest of my stay in bliss.

Hope you get some time to rest and relax and recover from your busy December. I would not mind some pictures of the land in South Africa. Or the people if it is not too intrusive.

KGMom said...

MauiG--I am sure that's what roommate 2 had--the disorienting psychosis of hospital stay + surgery and who knows what all.

Peruby--a few posts and some pics coming up from the South Africa trip.

Anvilcloud said...

Not for the faint of heart but interesting reading in the morning.

NCmountainwoman said...

Hospital stays are not for the weak-hearted. The most miserable week of my life was in ICU in 2009. I know for a fact that all medical personnel are taught that unresponsive patients can still hear, but they seem to forget it quickly. I clearly recall someone shouting, "Pump the blood faster. We're going to lose her!" And while I could not respond, I knew they were talking about ME!

Can't wait to hear about your trip. And don't apologize for giving us reports on your hospital stay. Such information may help someone in similar circumstances, if for no other reason than that they are not alone in their hospital experiences.

Anonymous said...

Yikes! Barbara didn't try to wander off? I guess not, since you did, instead.

Glad you got out with your sanity intact and sense of humor intact.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

I live where there are still a lot of older country/farm people who avoided hospitals all their lives. For them the hospital was a place one went to die.

Our local "hospital" really a clinic for the local GP's, with only nurses on staff. I have told my son that if I get seriously ill he was to bypass the local "hospital" and take me directly to the real hospital another 1/2 hour down the highway in the small city.

I am not a big useer of the medical serices. The last time I was hospitalized I was 5 years old.