4-27-08 I’m Back Tchipakkan’s Adventures in Hospital land

Got sprung from the hospital a few hours ago! They said it’d be a week last Sunday, and since it’s only Saturday I guess I beat that- I was kind of hoping to get out by Friday, but at that point I thought they still didn’t discharge on weekends (as I learned with Ælfwine) but that seems to have changed. (when I didn’t get out by Friday, I figured I’d be stuck until Monday- but here I am!)
When I got home Brian and Darcy and Bear and a young guy called Donavon were here- to help clean the barn and otherwise make it less likely that I’d lift anything or exert myself too much.
All the dire predictions about not being able to go up and down stairs, and other stuff are not coming real, so things are pretty good.
Here’s a quick run-down of my adventures in hospital land.
20 Sunday I woke up and my hernia became quickly (over about an hour) very uncomfortable. You know how they say “you’ll know when you’re in labor”? Well, if your hernia is in trouble, you’ll know it. Owie. After an hour or so of that I decided it wasn’t going to subside. For the past several years if it hurt I’d lie down and the pain would go away- but in this case, I’d been lying down all night. Actually, since just before I went to bed I had a bout of diarrhea, I think that may have been the earliest sign, but didn’t know it at the time. Willow had this subconscious feeling that if you put someone in an ambulance, they don’t come back, and wanted to drive me, and so I tipped the seat back, and closed my eyes to keep the light out. I remember getting to the hospital and they took me straight in to an examining room. I know intellectually that I had a CT scan, but don’t remember it. I figure I had just given up on bothering with anything but direct questions by that time. Since I’m rather claustrophobic I’ve always been nervous about some day needed to go through one of those big metal donuts, but in truth I didn’t notice it at all. Hope I was cooperative.
Apparently it showed that my hernia was incarcerated- what we used to call strangulated.
I remember the doctor explaining to me that they had to operate immediately, and they’d only be able to find out when they actually were there whether it was (I filled in, so apparently my horrible habit of guessing what someone was going to say if they paused to look for a word was still functioning) “necrotic?”. “You know the word necrotic?” the doctor asked. “Why?” “I like medical stuff.” I remember saying, probably reducing any initial image of being smart. Anyway, the deal was, that if it was necrotic, i.e. dead, they had to cut out the dead parts and sew the ends together, and that would be bad because if that is happened, you can’t put in the hernia screen they put in these days.
I remember the doctor on the phone in the next room arranging to do me first since the guy he was scheduled to do was late and I was critical.
I remember him asking if I wanted to speak to a priest or anyone before surgery and I said I needed to speak to a social worker because I was uninsured.
I remember the anesthesiologist asking me to scoot back, and the nurse teasing him for being short.
Then I remember waking up in the hospital room and the girls saying goodbye. I had a nasal-gastro tube down my nose, with an oxygen over it, an IV in my arm, a catheter in my bladder, and a drain in my incision. No biggie, I’d been “out of it” all day, and continued- I went to sleep. They had my legs in inflatable “sequentials” which every so often squeeze your calves, so you don’t get blood clots when you aren’t walking around. Some people have said that they feel like someone’s grabbing their legs, but to me it felt like someone was stroking my leg and saying “there, there, dear, everything’s going to be all right.” Since we don’t have any control over such sub-conscious reactions, I’d say I got off pretty lucky.
21 Monday- Didn’t sleep too well, but respiratory had given me a little machine to practice breathing, “Do this 10 times every hour- it will keep your lungs clear.” So I did that because it gave me a sense of control. That was when I discovered that Dr. Bronfine comes in at 10 am, not the 8-9 I was used to with Ælfwine. He told me that it had looked like someone had “taken a baseball bat to [my] intestines”. Also, that he’d been listening to them with a stethoscope to hear if there was any circulation. I guess there was, because he was able to put in what he called a rather large screen. I was pleased that he said it was OK to ditch the catheter. That meant I could get up to go to the bathroom. This meant taking off all of various attachments, but hey, it got me out of bed. I could also occasionally walk the circuit of the floor- yay, another thing I could do to help myself heal.
Actually, I’d been doing something else- something they hadn’t told me to do: Reiki. Heck, I’d been doing that since it started hurting. Reiki. Lots of Reiki. They asked me “On a scale of one to ten, how much pain are you in?”
“None- well, this NG tube is probably a 2, but none in the incision.” (boy, that hurt!)
I did have a morphine pump to control my own level of pain which everyone assumed that I must be using- they all kept saying “…with all the pain killers you’re on…” and I’d say, “Am I getting something I don’t know about? because I’m not pushing that button.” They’d look and see I hadn’t.
I got visits from the chaplain and the social worker (who gave me the paperwork- “try to get it done by the end of the month”), and Willow and Kat (who brought my journal, contacts (which I didn’t dare use because I was feeling dehydrated), Dan came up, and Darcy and Brian, Ragnar and his daughter, Kitara, and Steve came up from Malden. Sadly, while I woke up pretty perky, by visiting hour I was so tired, I just told everyone “thanks for coming- go away”. Willow helped me figure out what the circuit was- about 200 feet. I figured a mile is 1280 feet, so go around six times. Not a big deal. (I was WRONG of course, but I didn’t know that then.)
22 Tuesday’s big excitement was that the Reiki lady came by, That was nice. I walked. I sucked on the respiration thingee. Since I hadn’t slept the first night, I asked about a sleep aid, but they said to just push the morphine button. duh. So I tried that. No noticeable effect. How much is a milligram of morphine supposed to do? I gave up on that after a couple of times. Pain? None in the incision. My nose was a 4, and my throat SO sore. What the tube was doing for me (other than staying in so they didn’t have to put one in again if I had to go back into surgery) was sucking out the water from the ice chips I was allowed to suck, and nothing would be going through my bowels. I couldn’t make the Reiki do anything for the nose and throat. The doctor ordered cepacol lozenges for it- but they were artificial cherry flavored, and I had my usual reaction- nearly vomited before I spit it out. Sad- there was a nice round numb spot on my tongue I’d have loved to have had on my throat. I had a room-mate overnight, but she left in the morning, and as it had been her throat that was operated on, we didn’t chat. That was the only night I didn’t have a single. Steve came up to visit again.
At home Willow was going over to pick up the new Astro- get a certified check, get it checked out by an independent mechanic, etc. Avi provided her the ride.23 Wednesday Dan told me that a mile was 5280 feet. Darn- that means I need to go around 26 times, which sounds a lot more reasonable, but luckily I was bored enough that this was more of an asset than not, whenever I got so that I couldn’t deal with the room anymore. Pain? Incision 0, nose and throat 6. Luckily, the doctor finally took out the NG tube. By that time I’d pretty much lost my voice, so I couldn’t hold as much of the conversation as usual, but it made it easier to get my guests to talk- and boy, when I hear about other people’s lives, even now, mine seems to be going pretty well!The girls came to visit, and Bear and Lee, and Aislinn. Bear told me about his adventures with spinal meningitis and rupturing bowels when he was younger and left me determined to be as good a patient as possible. Sadly, this had already gotten me in trouble. When Respiratory tells people “10 times an hour” it’s because they want them to do 10 every two hours, and know they forget. I started to hurt across the chest. I was pretty sure it was my chest muscles- pushing myself to my limit every hour- especially as it hurt when I raised my arm. I asked the nurses if they’d heard of anyone over working their chest muscles like that, but sadly what they heard was “Chest Pain”. “I wouldn’t call it pain- it’s pretty much like a muscle ache.”
“Do you have pain radiating down your arm?”
“No, and by the way, that’s generally a male symptom”
“Shortness of breath? Dizziness? Nausea?” No, no, no… oh well, they had to be careful, and I won a trip down for a chest X-ray, and my heart’s  fine. I still think we should be honest with our care-givers, but they sometimes make it hard with their ass covering. They also keep asking their same questions like “have you had a bowel movement?” when I haven’t had any food in me since Saturday and it’s Wednesday!” But they have to ask Sheesh!

24 Thursday morning the doctor told me I could go from the sips of water I’d been having to sips of clear liquids- I was so psyched! Then hour after hour, nothing came. There were no orders. I got really depressed. Finally it turned out he was running late and after visiting patients went down to surgery and didn’t write the orders until he got out at four. I hope I learned from it- such reactions aren’t healing.
I think Thursday was the day Star came to visit. Willow and Kat took the Astro to get a tow hitch installed, and he stayed with me. He went down to the cafeteria and got himself a sandwich (with a pickle- it smelled so good!), and we chatted. Olaf came by- Jane’s recovering from her stroke and should get out of rehab next month, Bobby’s got a walking cast on his compound fracture, and Ewan has had part of his food amputated from his diabetes… see how I feel my life looks good? Steve came up again too. Bless the man.
Arwen called- she’s sent Hammer of the Smith off to the publisher and hopes I can have the cover done ASAP. I told her right after the paperwork for the hospital. As she said, that, at least, is something I can do picking up nothing heavier than a paint brush. She’d offered me a share in her hotel room for Beltaine and I’d turned her down at Mithracon, but at this point, if I have an indoors place to sleep, and the girls do all the set up, selling etc. I don’t see why I can’t do my workshops next weekend. Sadly, it doesn’t look like Beltaine is doing too well. It’s been so big in previous years, this year looks like Jane and I are the big names.
At any rate I finally got my clear liquids: except for the apple juice- popsicles, jello- cranberry cocktail, all full of corn syrup and artificial stuff I don’t eat. In anticipation of this I had had the girls leave me some 100% juice. Megan had also warned me that on cipro (and by this point I no longer had any temperature elevation) I’d be open to thrush, so staying acid seemed a good idea, so I grabbed one of the two they’d brought. Sadly, it was blueberry pomegranate, and went through me like there was nothing in it’s way. Still, nice to have a flavor in my mouth.
My IV fell out mid-day and it took three tries to get one in that didn’t infiltrate. oh well.

25 Friday I got no tray- although I’d noticed a “clear liquids” diet tray as I walked past it (still walking). There was little on it but the juice I’d have eaten, but I’d asked for some broth, and was disappointed. One of the aides found a packet of bouillon and made it for me. It was the most amazing combination of really repulsive (the only broth not home-made I’ve had in years has been good organic broth) and totally heavenly because it was warm and protein-ish, and it really was both good and bad at once which was odd. Then lunch came and went, and I was really hoping they’d move me up to “full liquids” but the doctor hadn’t even come by yet. The nurses were busy too- my IV pump ran out of plain saline, and whenever I beeped to tell them they said they’d send someone in but didn’t, and this went on for a really beep filled hour and a half. To keep it short (since I want to go to bed) leaving it that long meant the vein wasn’t kept open and had healed shut when they tried to run the next batch- which infiltrated impressively- my hand really filled up- good thing they switched from the cipro to the water when it started hurting because I guess a lot got in. They eventually gave up and took it out, and asked the doctor to just order cipro by mouth, which he did, along with the full liquids- which sadly meant ice cream, custard, and other sugary stuff, along with tomato soup. Luckily, my stomach seems to have shrunk some during the fast.
My sister Trish came by and showed me the pictures of her wedding. She and Dana had hopped down to the Caribbean for a private wedding on St. Thomas (I think). The minister even had to look around the beach to find witnesses- it was just them (and the photographer). The pictures were SO sweet! I love love.
I was a little disturbed when they tested my stool for blood and it came up positive. Turns out that it’s common. Also turns out that both cranberry juice and blueberry juice will create false positives. Oops. Well, it’s not like they weren’t offering me the cranberry.

26 Today they put me on real food- oatmeal for breakfast! Then the doctor cut me loose and I came home before lunch. Willow and Kat picked me up. Kat still doesn’t like the new car- at this point she has a good reason. The darned thing automatically locks the door in a few seconds after you use the remote to unlock it, so it took her two or three minutes to get into the car at every stop. It occurs to me- you can’t go to the hardware store to just cut another door unlocker- I hope keys unlock the beast.
As I said at the start, Brian, Bear, Darcy and Donovan had come over to help muck out the barn or anything else that would help. Due to their only being one fork they did other stuff like assembling the rabbit cages (which needed new bottoms) clearing a lot of Wolf’s crap and chopping a lot of bamboo, assembling the new garden cart, etc. We stopped on the way for some antibiotics and food for them. Sadly, as Willow is still wiped we decided to do it at Walmart where we could get it all done at once, but when we checked out with the food, it turned out that the pharmacy had closed for lunch, and we had to wait which we did at the Toadstool bookstore- looking for a replacement copy of my drug-vitamin interaction book. Didn’t find it, but got some books for Kat’s birthday which is in about 10 days, and I ordered it on the internet when we got home.
It is so weird trying not to do anything but supervise, but it’s going to be nice to sleep in my own bed!
Thanks to everyone who visited, sent flowers, cards, energy, prayed and otherwise helped me over the last week. And I’ll certainly take as much help as I can get in the up-coming weeks. Willow has pretty much collapsed from pushing herself too hard, and I’ve got so much to do on top of normal stuff. I’ve got a little list if anyone wants to spend some of their energy over here. (Today the guys and I decided to call the great hall Stormhiem to make it more easily differentiated from the barn, and they decided that the area down back where Wolf and Tree’s trailer was would make a great place for thrown weapons practice.)
I am sure there was more before I got sick, but I’m also pretty sure that it’s my adventures in hospital land about which people are interested in hearing- and that was that. I still have the drain in my belly. Apparently once you’ve tucked your intestines back in, your body abhors the vacuum and tries to fill it with fluid for a while. It should come out at the end of the week along with the staples.
That’s it. I think. If you think I forgot something, feel free to ask.

”It is a trade secret, but I’ll tell you anyway, all healing is self-healing.”

— Albert Schweitzer

“The art of medicine consists of keeping the patient amused while nature heals the disease.” Voltaire

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