The Hospital: Day 4

July 22, 2005

Today, one of the drains in my chest came out – well, not on its own, the doctor removed it. The tubes were stapled into my chest much like the incision in my neck was stapled closed. One snip, a little pulling, and presto! One tube removed. That left me with one to tote around each time I got up to toddle off to the bathroom.

They also removed my continuous hookup to the IV today as well. Since I was eating (or more accurately, drinking) my meals and getting some water down, I no longer needed the fluids they had been pumping into me. Instead, one of the nurses appeared every six hours to hook me up to a bag of antibiotics. Once that was emptied, I was once again unhooked so I could move around as the need struck me.

My roommate in the hospital – Mrs. Green – whom I had not actually seen once but had heard, was leaving this day. I wasn’t having a very good day, as my throat was hurting terribly, my head ached still, and I just could not find a comfortable position to lay in, but my family pulled back the curtain so I could see her and wish her well. Her family was also there, getting her things together and waiting on the wheelchair to take her down to the front door. I wondered idly if that would mean I would be by myself the entire day or until the end of my stay, but I was so miserable that I just fell asleep and missed Mrs. Green’s departure altogether when the wheelchair did arrive and they all left.

Story: the night before, the staff had given Mrs. Green some percocet. About 1 or 2 AM this morning, I had been awakened for a vitals check and meds, and shortly afterwards, as I was trying to get into the least uncomfortable position to try and go back to sleep, Mrs. Green woke up and starte talking about little things crawling on the walls. She asked out loud if I saw “those bugs” and I croaked out a negative, because of course the only thing I had seen was the evil smiley balloon. No bugs. I don’t think she heard me, because a few minutes later, she was snoring softly.

The doctor ordered up semisoft food for today onward. Cream of wheat, yummy. Also some pudding, but that was much too thick for me to get down, so I skipped it. More creamy soups, yay. And tea and coffee, although I didn’t touch those. I suspected they were decaffeinated, and who wants that?

Mostly, today was just sleeping, occasionally sucking back some food, visiting briefly with the fam, meds, a few trips to the bathroom, and trying to find something in the dozen channels to watch on television. In the evening, though, no one from the family stayed as they had before. This was a bit of a problem.

Around 10 PM, I had drifted off to sleep finally. I suppose just before 11 PM, I woke up, and had to go to the bathroom. The staff had warned me not to try and get up on my own – after all, who wants a lawsuit because a shaky patient fell and cracked their head open? My family wasn’t there. So, I did the natural thing and rang the bell for the nurse. Problem: when the attendant came over the intercom, I was not able to speak adequately, neither clearly enough nor loudly enough, for them to hear me. So the attendant closed the intercom and turned off the alert.

This frightened me a little. Not because I was in imminent danger of wetting the bed, but because it occurred to me that if I had been in real trouble – like trouble breathing, or something severe – that I could very easily die since I couldn’t make them hear me and none of my family was there to track someone down if I needed assistance. This was one of the reasons they had battled with the nursing supervisor so that someone could stay overnight with me the first few nights, as it happens. I thought while I lay there that if I were in deep trouble I could start throwing things I could reach from the bedside table toward the door and that might get someone’s attention.

As it turned out, that wasn’t necessary. About five minutes later, they wheeled someone in to take Mrs. Green’s place. Unlike Mrs. Green, this woman was not quiet. There was a reason for this, as I was to discover.

While they were positioning the bed, the woman – Vicky – started talking, quite loudly, about going back to her “old room”. I had no idea what that meant, but assumed that they’d moved her here from another floor. The staff told her that she couldn’t go back to her old room, that this was her new room, and this was where people went as they got better so they could eventually go home. That was not good enough for her, though. She rattled on about how her people knew where the old room was (note for those not from the south: “people” in this context refers to family) and she had to go back and get her “cup”. Another note for those not from the south: “cup” in this context means…well, you’ll see.

One of the nurses laughed and told her she couldn’t go back for anything, as all her belongings were right here. Vicky disputed this pretty vigorously, telling them again that she had to go back for her cup. The nurse responded, and I quote:

“There’s no alcohol allowed in the hospital, sweetie. That’s what landed you here in the first place.”

Vicky did not appreciate this at all. She repeated again that she wanted her things and that her people wouldn’t know where to find her. The nursse explained that they would direct her family here, and that she needed to try to calm down and get some sleep. The nurse also poked her head around the curtain and apologized quickly to me, then disappeared before I could raise a finger and point to the bathroom in the universal symbol of “Hey, I need to go, can you help me up”.

The nursing staff stepped out of the room for a moment, and the next thing I know, there’s a shrill alarm going off in the room. They had belted Vicky to the bed to try and keep her there, but she had tried to get out of the bed and triggered the alarm. All the while, she was muttering that she was going back to her old room to get her cup. That indicates some pretty serious issues to me. The staff came back, put her back in bed, and told her to stay there, as this was her new room and everything would be fine. She was not buying that, and asked one of the staff:

“Hey Boo. Run back to my room and get my cup, won’t you?”

Whoever she was talking to didn’t answer, as they were walking out of the room again. I heard one of the nurses on the phone with a doctor, telling him they had one of his patients down here. I wondered if it was someone from the psych ward, because this woman’s focus was only on her drink, almost to the exclusion of her family, and perhaps she needed a little detox. She then tried to get out of bed again, once more setting off the alarm, which bored its way into my brain and I decided then that there was absolutely no way this was going to work.

The staff apparently decided the same thing, because after once more getting her into bed, not five minutes had passed before they were back and moving her out of the room. That had definitely been the weirdest hour I’d been aware of during my stay thus far.

Fortunately for me, not only was my noisy neighbor gone – although I heard her down the hall, as they had an empty room somewhere and I heard a nurse telling her “this is to help you sleep”, ha – it was also time for my meds, at which point I managed to get the nurse to understand that it was also time for something else, and could she please help me stand up so I could take care of the rest.

And then, it was once again time for the quest for a little sleep.

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