Health Scare 🙁 – Part Five

I don’t remember much about overnight Thursday or Friday morning; I think I slept through most of it. Breakfast consisted of more broth, but, while I thought the broth was tasty, I had no appetite and was nervous about putting anything in my stomach, so I had the broth set aside to eat later. I remember that Nurse Lindsay (?) approved my coming off the liquid diet, and receiving a pulled pork sandwich for lunch was a nice surprise. I, again, hesitated to eat it, but I finally took a little piece with my fingers and tasted it… and then I had a strong urge to wolf down the whole thing! I didn’t (still nervous from having eaten too much popcorn Thursday night), but I did eat most of it 😛.

A Dr. Welch (?), who said she was on the operating team Thursday, visited. She didn’t share anything new, but said Dr. Loamler would stop in sometime… of course, knowing Dr. L., that could mean any time between now and ever. I don’t recall what time he showed up that day (if at all); he did stop in Saturday morning, but I’ll talk about that visit then.

Not much of significance happened the rest of Friday. The Assistant during the day was Jessica, and we chatted a bit. She had to bring in one of the other day Nurses, Grace, to insert another IV, as the one I had in since Monday morning was leaking. Grace had trouble finding a vein to use and asked if I’m Native American. When I confirmed that I am, she pointed out that she’s noticed that veins in Native Americans are deeper than in non-Native Americans, in her experience.

Lindsay brought in the overnight Nurse, Leah, and she was nice to chat with. The overnight Assistant was Kassidy, and she became my favorite of all the people who helped me that week; she seemed genuinely eager to be of any assistance, adjusting my pillow, moving the IV rack, etc. Even the way she offered to be of assistance impressed me; instead of asking, as everyone else did, “Is there anything else I can do for you?”, she’d ask, “What else can I do for you?” I used to teach the value of open-ended questions over closed-ended, and if she was one of my students, I’d’ve graded her an A+. Kassidy was the coolest 👍

There’s nothing else to report about Friday evening (except for a turkey club sandwich dinner, which was tasty 😛). I just waited for Saturday and to go home. It was a long, boring wait.

Saturday’s breakfast was an egg-potato mix… I’ve never appreciated eggs for breakfast so much, it was SO good! Leah brought in the day’s Nurse, Clare, to meet me, and she was very nice. Dr. Lowexpectationsmet stopped in after the ziti and broccoli lunch. He gave my bandages a superficial glance, said he’d have Clare remove the pump, gave me follow-up instructions, and approved my release… I think that was the only time that we talked that I wasn’t left entirely disappointed in the man.

Clare came in to remove the pump… and I have to say that was the most unpleasant moment of this whole health scare experience 🙁. She had me lie on my side with my patient’s gown up, and as I looked out the window, I felt, for one long second, the most intense pain! I grit my teeth and growled, and Clare immediately said, ‘that’s it. It’s out.’ I continued growling and moaning, and, as I do in uncomfortable moments, I tried making light of the situation: I said, “Clare, if I didn’t like you so much, I’d punch you!” 👊 I don’t remember her reaction, so I made another comment that it was my least-favorite experience in my whole hospital stay; she apologized, and we agreed to blame the whole thing on Dr. L.

I got dressed, and eventually an Assistant (I didn’t get her name 🙁) came for me. She walked me (I passed on being wheelchaired) down to the building entrance. There a taxi was waiting; a voucher had been arranged so that I could be taken back to the hospital’s other location, where my car was parked. The taxi driver and I chatted about sports (he’s a big fan and I’m not at all), and he dropped me off at my car. I drove to Walgreen’s, picked up my prescription (antibiotics and painkillers)… and FINALLY returned home 🏡

I was put on medical leave from work until the Friday following my release from hospital. My main activities during leave have been cleaning myself 🤮 and getting caught up on things I’d planned on doing that first weekend that didn’t get done: haircut, groceries, laundry, maybe some yardwork, chores, and my usual naps and movies. I’m still on leave now and have only laundry and yardwork to complete. Although the first couple of days I was moving slow and hesitant about dealing with the bandaged areas, I now feel almost 100%. I’ve been taking the antibiotics as close to the prescribed schedule as I can, but I’ve had no need to take any of the painkillers; I’ve felt no pain at all since Clair almost killed me Saturday 🙂. My appetite is almost back to normal, but I’m being careful to eat slowly and not too much… I think I might survive this.

And if, and when, I do fully survive this, I’ll give credit where it’s due. The professionals I met throughout this ordeal were of incredible help and support. I’ll be honest, not having been through anything like this before, I was very nervous and anxious and scared, and I did my best to not show or even acknowledge or feel any of that; that’s my excuse for all the dumb jokes (and all the silly emoticons). But almost everybody was receptive of my jokes and comments and attitude throughout, and I believe that’s what kept me sane.

I wish I could do something to reward the many heroes who I met, but I think money’ll be tight soon with medical expenses. Plus, there’s many I encountered whose name I didn’t get. but I did make one arrangement. Last night I found a website that made items for nurse appreciation (pens, notebooks, tumblers, carryalls), and I ordered three kits:

I’m having them delivered to my home so that I can insert a personal card, and then I plan on delivering them to the Surgical Unit (where I spent the most time). I figure it’s the least I can do for all the amazing care and treatment and reassurance and hope and protection and attention those awesome people gave me.

What can I say to wrap this up? It was an experience I’m not thrilled to have gone through, but there were some positives, I guess. I’ve seen how delicate yet resilient the human body is, and I’m a little motivated to try to care for myself better. But I’m mostly moved by the care and attention I received; while previously I’ve always considered teachers the true superheroes of these times, they’re now only slightly edged out by healthcare workers, and I’m so appreciative of every one (yes, every one) that I met through this experience.

OK, time for a nap 🙋‍♂️

Health Scare 🙁 – Part Four

I wasn’t allowed to eat anything from midnight Thursday morning until after the surgery. Dr. Lobloller led me to believe that someone would be by early that morning, so I tried to stay awake after first rising around 6A. Previous days that I’d been left waiting, I filled the time by recording my thoughts in writing these blog posts. But I was kind of burned out in doing so by Thursday, so from here on I’m going on mostly scanty memory (and ask for your understanding if some details seem vague).

I was uncomfortable throughout that day, in pain only under my sternum when coughing or chuckling (the coughs were from a slight phlegm build-up from the endoscopic procedure Tuesday). I kind of preferred not lying in bed but sat in the room’s extra chair, leaning forward onto the rolling table, most of the wait. A couple of times Nurse Kathy came in, didn’t initially see me in bed, said, “oh!”, and then found me in the chair.

I think it was Kathy that mentioned that someone had asked her for paperwork by 8A, which led her to believe things might get started around then. After 8A had passed, I was visited by Dr. Ibazebo, a very nice woman who’d stopped in a couple of times over the week. After checking my vitals, the only new information she had led me to think that the procedure wouldn’t begin until 1P. So, until then was more sitting uncomfortably with intermittent careful visits to the bathroom.

It was after 5P that someone (I forget her name) came up from the Operating Room area to get me. She had me lie on a stretcher, collected all my IVs, and somehow maneuvered the stretcher out of my small room down to the OR. I was left to wait in the same place I waited for the last procedure.

Lynne wasn’t working that day 🙁. I did see something that bothered me, a doctor was being very inappropriate with one of the women at the front desk; he gave her a long backrub and made many very suggestive comments to her. She seemed at times dismissive and at other times accepting of his behavior. Each looked right at me occasionally as if to see if I noticed what was going on between them with all the other activity going on in that area. After a couple of minutes, they both disappeared. I’ve been wondering about them since 😵

The Nurse who helped me was Anna, and she was very energetic. She had a very positive attitude and would have been a fun person to chat with under different circumstances. She was very patient in helping walk me to a nearby bathroom that I had to visit maybe four times (!?!?) while I waited. She had to leave me waiting on my stretcher a couple of times when a trauma call came over the intercom and the area cleared out very quickly. For a few minutes I lay there all alone in mostly silence, with occasional sounds, like doors closing, coming down the hallways; it was eerie, like out of a zombie movie. Eventually people came trickling back, but I never found out what the trauma emergency was 😬

Anna wheeled me into the OR (still mostly empty since the trauma call), and I met the anesthesiologist (I forget her name 🙁); she was very cool, and the three of us got me onto the operating table so easily, I told them that I’ll ask them if I ever need helping from one home to another. They administered oxygen and the anesthetic, and I quickly fell into NOTHING…

I really remember very little about coming to again, being returned to my room, or even anything the rest of that day. I think I was still on a clear liquid diet, but I don’t recall eating at all that day. My abdomen was bandaged in two places, at my navel and just below my right ribs. There was a small ‘pump’ attached to my left side, collecting liquid from the laparoscopic incisions. I was (and still am) very hesitant about touching or applying any pressure to those areas. I tell ya, it was very unnerving when I’d get up to use the bathroom and have to navigate and negotiate around towing an IV rack attached to my left arm and also a small plastic bag hanging from my right side.

Health Scare 🙁 – Part Three

I wasn’t allowed any more food between midnight and the procedure Tuesday. There was a lot of waiting time Tuesday, so I started writing this blog post then. The morning nurse, Mary, stopped in a few times to take vitals, but I was mostly left alone. Eventually, Kelly arrived to take me to the operating area. Kelly’s a small woman but pushed my bed, with me in it, all the way; when I asked why someone smaller that me had this assignment, she answered, “I’m small, but I’m strong 💪!” The bed was put in a waiting area, and I sat watching many medical people, all in blue gowns, walking by; I couldn’t help but notice all the different kinds of shoes they wear, from Crocs to sparkly boots!

Dr. Kim, the anesthesiologist, came by to explain things and she did a nice job; we fist bumped afterward 🤛. A woman named Lynne explained consent forms. She had a feisty, grumpy sense of humor; when I said i liked the pen she handed me to sign the consent, she immediately said, “No! No, you can’t keep it.”

I was given a hairnet and wheeled into the Operating Room. Dr. Ishan as waiting and he did a silly little dance when I saw him. I said, “Please don’t do that during the procedure” and he danced a little more, even spinning around 🙂. Other things were explained, and eventually an oxygen mask was put over my nose and mouth. Dr. Kim said the anesthetic was being applied intravenously, and I immediately noticed the lights above me and the face of the woman holding the mask getting blurry. And then…

NOTHING

And just like in movies, the scene went in and out with a voice saying, “Can you hear me? Wake up”, and the face of the woman who had been holding the mask (I forget her name) slowly coming into focus. I’ve never been under anesthesia before, and I find it difficult to describe what it was like. I don’t know how long I was out, but I have no concept of it being either a long or even short amount of time. I tried to compare it to sleeping without dreaming, but that’s not the same. Even when I don’t dream, when I awake I’m aware that time has passed; I’ll think, ‘man, I slept too long’ or ‘that wasn’t long enough’. But under anesthetic, I had no sense of time; it could’ve been five minutes or five hours. I can only describe it as NOTHING.

I was lying on a stretcher in some post-op waiting area, all covered up, and a nice older woman was waiting there with me; she said that they needed the doctor to allow my being taken back up to my room. The woman asked if I was cold (it was SO cold in there), and she brought me a heated blanket. Trying to be conversational, I asked if they use a warmer for blankets, and when she confirmed, I said that I gotta get one myself; this is nice. She gave me a funny look and said, “Why don’t you just use your clothes dryer?” I felt dumb, laughed it off, and didn’t chat much with her after that 🙄

I was wheeled back to my room. And as I came completely out of the anesthetic, I felt SO much better; I think I felt better that evening that I did before all this started Thursday 👍. I was brought a clear liquid meal (beef broth, yellow jello, and apple juice, if I remember correctly), and I ate everything slowly over the rest of the evening.

Before bedtime, I was visited by Dr. Aanested, who wanted to explain the findings of the ERCP. When the blocking stone was removed, many more were found in the gallbladder, and it was then decided that the whole gallbladder was to be removed. The doctor described the laparoscopic procedure to be used, and his explanation was very informative and assuring; I complimented him on his speaking ability.

It wasn’t until overnight that I started feeling lousy; I think of it like how it’s not till a full day has passed after I’ve done yard work that I start feeling sore. I awoke with a bad headache running from behind my left ear to behind my back ear. And then my throat was very sore (understandable, considering the procedure). But the worst was the tight feeling that developed under my sternum. That was about where the gallstone was removed, so I’m told it was inflamed or sore and would get to feeling better. But it sure was uncomfortable, especially when I would cough or burp or chuckle at something.

The next morning I was visited by Dr. Lohmiller, the doctor who would be conducting the gallbladder removal. I’ll be honest, I did not like this guy. Although what he had to say was informative, I didn’t like his speaking ability at all. When he’d talk about the risks, he gave great emphasis to the chances that I MIGHT DIE. And he seemed more concerned with his own speaking than with with my hearing what he was saying. The couple of times he asked if I had any questions, he’d almost immediately interrupt my questions with vaguely-related information that sounded medical and clinical and official and sounded authoritative coming from him, but he answered directly very few, if any at all, of my questions 🙁

Sometime that day I was moved to a room in the Surgical Unit. This new room was smaller, but that made it cozier. It had a window:

And I was happy to tweet an improvement in the clock situation:

My second-least-favorite experience of the week happened this day. I will not be too detailed in describing it as it’s of a sensitive, delicate, and disgusting nature. I was hooked to the IV rack and left alone to rest in bed… but I needed to use the bathroom. It seemed like a simple matter, and I wheeled into the room. The problem was that I assumed one activity would be taking place when the other primarily occured, for which I wasn’t prepared as to how I was situated in the room (vagueness deliberate), and things got really messy really fast, and, as I said, it was not a good experience. I began straightening up matters, but that was limited due to my physical state and the IVs; I got myself cleaned up and then requested help in getting the rest cleaned up. But, lesson learned; even now at home, I’m prepared for anything when I enter a bathroom.

I was served another clear liquid meal (more broth, jello, and apple juice) and waited for the procedure scheduled the following day, Thursday. Dr. Lobloblaw had advised that I not sit still all evening, so sometime that evening I was visited by Assistant Lorraine, who, despite my being in quite some pain by then, was SO patient in helping me out of bed and walking me up the hallway and back. She was incredibly sympathetic, holding my hand at one point and calmly rubbing my shoulder when the pain was almost unbearable.

One of my favorite moments happened on this walk: as we came out of my room, one of the nurses was coming out of another room, saw us, motioned to Lorraine, and told her that she needed to ‘slap a mask’ onto my face. We were embarrassed that we’d forgotten to mask me, and as I was putting on the extra mask I had hanging on the IV rack, as that nurse was walking away, I joked to Lorraine, “Man, she really doesn’t like to look at my face.” Lorraine laughed a little, so I tried another: “The next time I see her, I’m gonna slap HER mask off HER face.” That made us both chuckle, and I winced because that incited pain in my chest. We continued our slow walk to the end of the hallway, and as we got there, that same nurse walked by again. I didn’t say anything, but behind her back I raised my hand as if I was gonna slap her; that caused Lorraine and I to again laugh, and I shook from the pain that caused; as Lorraine calmly rubbed my shoulder, I said that I HAVE to stop making jokes, and she patiently walked me back to my room. Lorraine was one of my favorite people I met this week 🙂

Health Scare 🙁 – Part Two

The receptionist took my initial information, gave me some paperwork, and asked me to sit in a waiting area. I sat, and one second later, the admitting nurse called me in 👍. The time was approaching change of shifts, and the nurse must’ve been anxious to go. As I came in, she reached out her right hand. I instinctively tried to shake it in greeting, but she reached past my hand and snatched the paperwork from me 🙄. She noted my symptoms and vitals and all that jazz, had me put on a patient’s gown, and left me to wait.

Eventually her replacement came in, and she also made note of my symptoms, gave me a Covid test (I’m negative 😌), and left me to wait. Later a doctor came in and had me repeat the details. She explained that I’d need a CT Scan (pronounced ‘cat scan’), and she left the room. The replacement nurse came back in with a drink for me; she called it Contrast, said it was for the cat scan, and warned that I wouldn’t like the flavor; actually, I didn’t hate it, as it was like limeade, but it needed cherry added 🍒). A tech later came in with a wheelchair and pushed me down to the cat scan room.

I looked all over, but I saw no cats. The tech told me how to lie on the cot and then left the room to operate the machine. I’ve never had a cat scan before, but I have to say it was one of the weirdest experiences I’ve had, lying on my back with my jeans pulled down to my knees and my arms up over my head as the cot rolled in-and-out of a large electronic donut 😵. When it was over and the tech asked how I was, I said that it was weird, but what was most disappointing was that I didn’t get to see any cats 🐱

I was wheeled back to the examination room and left to wait again. The doctor came back in and said that the cat scan discovered a nodule blocking my bile duct but they wanted to run an ultrasound to look for gallstones before they addressed the nodule. She left, and after another long wait, Jim and Sarah came to take me to the ultrasound sound room.

I should explain that I’m not complaining about the long wait times. I understand that it takes time to find results and also that everyone’s busy with many other patients, especially in a public hospital, on a Monday morning, and during a pandemic.

Jim was the ultrasound tech with Sarah assisting. I liked Jim; he used words like “rock-n-roll” and “outasight” and “I dig it”. They applied gel on my belly (“Guava Jelly”?) and ultrasounded me and wheeled me back to the room.

The doctor came back and explained that a stone was found, also blocking the bile duct, and that needed to be addressed right away. She’d arranged for me to be ambulanced to the hospital’s East location for the procedure to be done that afternoon 😳. I took it all in stride. Eventually two medics arrived, wheeled me on a stretcher to their ambulance, and drove me across town. By the way, in the ambulance, I had the day’s 313 moment. Above the back door was a military-time digital clock that I looked at a 1:03pm, or 13:03 (that counts).

I was brought up to my hospital room. It’s a big room, almost as big as my last house. Of course, my initial thought (and pretty much my main thought since I first considered medical help this weekend) was, ‘how much is this gonna cost me?’ 😕 The first thing I noticed when I was put in the bed was that the clock is weird:

Why does the second hand hesitate about five seconds and then rush to catch up? Shouldn’t it advance once every second? And a weird thing is that a clock in the operating area of the hospital acted the same way? Is it a hospital thing? Is because of some time- or energy-saving idea? If so, why not hesitate and then advance once only every ten seconds? Or 15 seconds? Or 30 seconds? Or 60 seconds? Or five minutes? Or 30 minutes? (Hang in there, readers; I’m going all the way 😛.) Or 60 minutes? Or 6 hours? Or 12 hours? Or 24 hours? Or seven days? Or four weeks? Or six months? Or 12 months? Or five years? Or 50 years? Or 100? Or 1000???

I think I wasted more time typing that than time saved by the clocks.

The nurse, Jena, came in and took my vitals (temp, heart rate, etc.). I don’t recall everyone who came in or everything that went on, but there were long boring intervals in between… the worst of it was that my tablet’s battery was drained and no outlet was close enough to plug into while using. So, I plugged it in on a table just out of reach from the bed and then sat in bed staring, annoyed, at that crazy clock 😡.

I do remember two events that evening. I was finally served a light meal, cream of mushroom soup and apple juice. It sound weird, but it was tasty. Also, the evening nurse, Ellie, and Dr. Ishan (sp?) stopped in. The doctor was charming as he described the next day’s procedure. It’s known as an ERCP (?) and involves feeding a scope down my throat to the bile duct, removing the blocking stone, and looking around to see what else might be needed. The explanation was enlightening and even encouraging; I appreciated the visit.

I was allowed to get out of bed for restroom visits (towing the IV stand along). I was waiting til after the doctor’s visit to log on to my tablet. But after all the time that I thought it was charging, I discovered that it wasn’t fully plugged into the outlet and was still drained 😡. I tried all the outlets in the room and even restroom, but none would keep the charger properly plugged. I got to very much not like that room. It wasn’t til the next nurse, Christina, came in that the tablet was charged; she plugged in above the plug for the IV pump, using it to prop up. She was a life-saver 👍.