I cried ’til I laughed

I have great respect for the doctors and nurses in British Columbia.  I have had many interactions through the years in the Kootenays, Okanagan, Vancouver and Vancouver Island.  It saddens me that as a result of our current economy, doctors and nurses are not able to provide the same level of care that they used to provide to patients.

Some days you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.  I think this was one of my days to cry, but by writing this out, I can now laugh.

I am a breast cancer survivor.  Almost 10 years ago I was diagnosed with adenoidal cystic cancer and had my breast removed.  I was told that it was so rare a cancer and it usually attacked the liver, lung, neck or brain and if it did, most did not survive two years. So in a way, I felt blessed that they caught it, I survived and I would be monitored for the rest of my life. Over the years, I’ve had my share of x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, MRI’s and PET scans.  It was last fall when after my PET scan in Vancouver, I was told my thyroid “lit up” or appeared “wonky”, which is a perfectly legitimate medical term!  Hmmmm.  So after seeing more specialists and having more tests, a thyroid nodule was discovered growing on my thyroid.  Rather than watch it grow, and with my history, the decision was made to have it removed.  On Tuesday, May 14th, the nodule was removed and half my thyroid.  Turns out it was a benign tumor, thankfully not cancerous.

Now, I’ve been in and out of hospitals throughout BC for a variety of operations through the years.  This is about my 16th or 17th time under general anesthetic. (I was a wee bit accident prone as a kid!)  I have no allergies and do not usually have any problems with anesthetics. The nurses and doctors are always very nice to me – it’s just, after all the times I’ve been hospitalized, this is the first time I’ve had to do so much “self-nurse care”.  Before the operation, I met with the nurses and anesthesiologist. Each time they asked me about my current medications, which I brought with me.  When I checked in on my surgery date, there was no record of my medications. Hmmmm.

Surgery went fine and then I was in recovery.  After about three hours, I started to think something was amiss.  I was awake enough to realize they were pumping me full of morphine and oxycontin, apparently in an effort to bring down my blood pressure.  It was going off the chart (for me anyway).  I knew my husband would be worried.  I sensed, somehow, that no one had told him what was going on and I was right.    This was the first time no one had bothered to call my husband after my surgery to let him know what was going on.  Hmmmmm   I asked the nurse if I could call him and she graciously called him and let me speak with him.

Shortly after that, the doctor on call, approved some kind of medicine, that dropped my blood pressure to almost normal in about six minutes (who knew?), so by 5 pm I was sent up to my room.  I had asked for a private room and knew I’d be lucky to get a semi-private room.  I just did not realize that a semi-private room meant sharing a bathroom with the other semi-private room, so four of us were sharing the same bathroom.  I believe the “free room” or ward is shared with four patients who share the bathroom. Hmmmmm!?  What am I paying for?  I’m all about keeping the risk of infection to a minimum, particularly in a hospital. My previous visits had given me the luxury of a private bathroom or sharing with my roommate only!  When I arrived on the floor, I waited in the hall while my bed was put in the room.  I was asked to get up and walk into it.  Now I have an IV attached to my wrist and compression leggings on which have to be plugged in while lying on the bed.  I made it, albeit dizzy and woozy mooning the porter and all those in the hallway as I moved!  Gotta love those hospital gowns!  My exhausted and worried husband had taken one look at me with my sliced throat, and through my hazy doped-up blur I thought he probably looked worse than I did and sent him home to rest.

And here it began.  If I wanted to go the bathroom, I unplugged my leggings and unplugged my IV unit (to make it portable), wandered into the bathroom, closed both doors and locked up as best I could.  Then I would return, and plug myself back in and figure out how to turn my leg compressor back on. I had to make sure my tubes did not get tangled.  I started to feel like my dog at the end of his leash.  It’s no wonder he gets tangled up.  I would turn the wrong way and be stuck and have to spin back around!    Hmmmmm.

As it was after 5 pm, I missed dinner; so they told me.  I was not on any restriction (which I thought strange as I usually was only allowed clear fluids or jello after surgery).  They found a plate which had some canned apricots and a sandwich.  (I had requested a gluten free diet). I was too hungry to care at this point and by now I had not eaten since 5:30 p.m. the previous day.    Two mouthfuls and nope – it was returned quickly and violently.  Now, I’ve just had “neck” surgery, so this was an extra not pleasant experience and feeling.  Let’s be honest, my throat had been sliced and the internal part was still sore from the breathing tube, and I had a drain in my neck.  (Not a pretty sight, sorry, but “throwing up” held a whole new meaning for me!)  OK, so I could drink water.  I drank the tea with no milk, but half an hour later, that, too, was a mistake.  Later I tried apple juice and that came back just as fast as it went down.  Even brushing my teeth, my body rejected the taste of the toothpaste.  Hmmmm .

I discovered the Nurse Call button, but it usually took 15 minutes for a response.  I eventually got the headphones for my TV. I suggested that they remove my roommate’s name from my bed – wouldn’t want to get any medication or tests mixed up!? There was a big sign above my bed.  “Do not do blood pressure readings on the right arm” – as a result of lymph nodes being removed when I had my mastectomy.  So, what does the nurse do? Goes to my right side to take my blood pressure.  Good thing I was awake!!    I tried to rest, but with the IV and leg compressors, heat, hunger pangs and strange noises, I knew it would be a long night.  It was an effort not to bare my ass to the visitors in the hallway as I kept throwing the sheets off me due to the heat.  I’d be up every 2 hours to use the bathroom, hospital gown waving in the wind, trying to get rid of the excess fluids from the IV.  With a morphine filled mind,  and paranoia setting in, I’d heard about those robberies in hospital, so I had to make sure no one would get in my closet and take my prosthesis.  Those things cost up to $500 you know!    Hmmmmm.

I could hear a woman was yelling “HELP me, HELP me”!  My roommate slept and snored pretty much the whole time I was there.   My roommates IV unit starting beeping (like an alarm clock), but I thought she was calling the nurse – and after half an hour I called the nurse to come and turn it off.  Apparently, it was my fault that it beeped so long, as they could not hear it at the nurse’s station!  Hmmmm.  (and this room costs $165 per night?)  I decided I might as well read my magazines at 1:30 a.m.  My world was reduced to no food, no rest and I had to figure out my own way in and out of bed, turn off and on machines and basically stand guard!  With my thoughts left to myself at 2 a.m. after surgery that may or may not be cancer, I cried!  Then I started thinking about this story and started laughing.

Every time the nurses came in to check on us, my eyes were WIDE OPEN.  It started to freak them out.  The nurse came in at 2 a.m. to take blood, I was wide awake.  They came in to check my blood pressure and take my temperature, I was wide awake.   They offered me “drugs” to help me sleep.  I burst out laughing.  Drugs make me puke!  What part of that didn’t they understand?  Hmmmm.   By 5:30 a.m. – I had gone 36 hours with no solid food (just water).  I was a “wee bit famished”.  By 7:30 a.m. food arrived:  Rice cereal (baby cereal), one dried-up gluten free toast, grape jelly and coffee.  I have not had coffee in about 5 months.  I didn’t care – I was so hungry and it tasted soooo good.  I kept it down!  Now, I just had to wait for my doctor to release me.  38 hours with no solid food – there’s a new record for me!!!!

My husband came to check in on me and by lunch time, there was still no sign of the doctor, so I sent my faithful spouse home (about 30 minutes away).  Of course, ten minutes later the doctor came in to release me.  Thank goodness for cell phones and texting so I got my hubby to turn around before he got home.  Drainage tube removed, IV removed, prosthesis safe, got dressed and got out of there!  Not sure what was going on with my roommate.  The whole time I was there, she only went to the bathroom once and she slept pretty much the whole time!  Hmmmmm?  Good thing I didn’t have a roommate who kept going to the bathroom every two hours and had to have the light on because she couldn’t sleep!

grr gown

Sylvia Marley

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