How to survive a hospital incarceration

My brother-in-law recently had surgery.  It drudged up memories of my last surgery about 5 years ago.  I went in fairly healthy and hopeful, and came out almost dead and changed for life.

In everyone’s life, surgery is almost a certainty at one time or another.  I have had more than my share, mostly around my home in Lake County.  For my last surgery, my wonderful county club hospital doctor wanted me to have the BEST surgeon at a TOP hospital for Crohn’s.  He sent me to a big teaching hospital (BTH will used as alias so as to protect the identity of the innocent) in Chicago.  Great teaching hospital, great doctors, a big deal in downtown Chicago.  I thought I was 100% prepared, and anticipated every circumstance.  However, I did not take into consideration that my own body might betray me, and that I would not be able to act as my own advocate. 

My sister and niece went with me and planned to spend the night and go home the next morning after checking to see if I was ok.  I would come home a week later.  Upon arrival at the hospital, everything started to go wrong, from the get go.  They couldn’t get an IV in me.  The doctor was running late.  The nurses blew out all my veins out.  The anesthesiologist was called to knock me out and then put in an IV.  Surgery started very late.  Poor sister left in waiting room.  Doctor finally came out at 7 pm and told her I was done and would be taken to a room in an hour or so.  At 10 pm security escorted her out, they didn’t know where I was.  At 11 pm I woke up in a big dark empty room.  I squinted at the clock, and saw 11.  I thought it was still morning.  I passed out again, and then woke up when somebody asked me who I was.  At 2 am I remember being transferred to a room.  I have no idea where I was or why I was lost until 2 am.  I firmly believe I was left by mistake in the recovery room, all alone.

My sister and niece came by in the morning, and then left to catch the train home.  This is when my REAL ordeal started.  My right lung developed an air embolism from the anesthesia tube, and so they had to take out my epidural, and put me on push button morphine, which I very insistently told me doctor ahead of time DOES NOT WORK ON ME.  I am VERY resistant to all pain meds.  Heck, they can hardly get me to sleep with anesthesia!

The next five days went by excruciating slowly.  The nurses came in, took my vitals and poked me with needles and stole my blood, and that was about it.  Nobody washed me, helped me brush my teeth, nothing.  I laid there like a corpse, barely able to speak, as I had to focus all my energy on my pain.  Every minute seemed like an hour.  My whole existence had narrowed down to a small bed filled with pain and discomfort. The doctor would come in and I would just nod my head, I have no idea what they were asking me.  Finally I got to the point where I could speak, and the next time the intern came in, I broke down crying hysterically, telling him my tale of woe and neglect from the nursing staff.  I was a dirty, filthy, stinking mess.  Soon, I heard my doctor’s voice in the hallway, and a whole staff of nurses came in, to help me into the bathroom and clean me up and put on a new gown etc.  I felt so much better after that.  The doctor apologized profusely for the lack of care I had received, and then told me, that’s why most patients have family come and stay with them, there is a pullout window seat in all the rooms.  Apparently the nursing staff at a large teaching hospital doesn’t recognize a patient’s needs.  To their defense, I never had the same nurse twice, and most of them barely spoke English.  So I would say there was a HUGE lack of communication.

At that point I decided I definitely did not want to stay there anymore, and I better get out while I was still alive.  I begged the doctor to let me go home, and she finally consented.  So at 5 pm on Day 5, I called a limo to come take me home.  What an idiot move that turned out to be.  Rush hour.  2 and 1/2 hours of a bumpy car ride with an incision from the ribs to pubic bone dissecting my midsection.  Finally got home to my own bed and slept like a log the first night.  However, I still could not move about on my own and spent the next few days in terrible pain still.  Thank goodness for the kindness of my sister to feed me. Then, my incision developed an infection, most likely picked up at the hospital.  So I had to deal with another visit to the doctor who had to open the incision up and drain it and antibiotics and that whole business.

I tried to document everything that happened to me, and brought it to my doctor on my follow-up visit.  She again apologize and said she hoped this never happened again to another patient.  I told her that I realize now that a patient needs to have an advocate with them to make sure they are being taken care of properly, but that there are many people out there that are single or old and have nobody to stay with them 24/7 until they can take care of themselves.  Most people assume they are leaving their loved ones in the good care of a nursing staff, when in reality the nurses haven’t a clue as to your mental state, or even physical pain for the that matter, especially when you cannot speak and are not in your right mind.  Now, this is NOT true at all hospitals, or with all nurses, I have had the BEST nurses in the world at my suburban county club hospital, who even gives back rubs at night to help you sleep.  However, recently my hospital was gobbled up by none other than BTH, so I have NO IDEA what that means.  I can only hope they still have the same quality of nurses as before.  With the rising cost of health care, and the number of people with no insurance who cannot pay their bills, the hospitals are really taking a beating lately, and quite honestly don’t think things will improve.

So the moral to this whole story is to make sure your loved ones have a patient advocate by their side to make sure they are taken care of properly, especially the elderly or single people, who may not have any visitors.  Nurses are busy people, and don’t have the time to chat with patients to truly assess their condition.  I would say that most nurses try their hardest, but staffing shortages make it hard to complete all their duties.  Ultimately, YOU are responsible for your own welfare, and cannot depend upon the kindness of strangers.

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The empty staircase

It has been over twenty years since I walked into a house empty of dogs.  No golden retriever spinning around my legs.  No yellow lab thumping her tail from the top of the stairs.  No sloppy kisses, no smiling retriever lips, no dancing brown eyes.

I finally stopped crying all the time.  Life must go on.  But everywhere I go there are still reminders.  Christmas collars.  Leashes.  Scarfs.  Makes me wince when I see all the paraphernalia I have accumulated over the years, for dogs.  I couldn’t bear to throw everything away, so I gave away all the perishable goods, and washed and cleaned all the other stuff and stored it on a shelf in my basement.  I have said all along I will NEVER get another dog, it is too painful, they are just too damn human to me.  But I have learned to never say never.  The circumstances of my life could change, and another dog may enter.  Who knows, the man of my dreams who is going to sweep me off my feet  might have a whole house full of dogs and want to share them with me.

I have thought about fostering, but my sister made a good point.  I would never give them up.  I would just keep taking them in.  That’s why I only lasted one day when I volunteered at the animal shelter a few years back.  I cried the whole way home, not wanting to leave those animals in cages for the night.

So what’s a dog lover to do?  Turn back into a cat lover.  I have had cats most of life too, and they are cool in their own way.  I took in Simon the Siamese Scaredy Cat a few months back, a “gift”  from my sister, complete with fleas.  Simon has really come around, and acts a lot like a dog.  He is big as some dogs, at 21 pounds.  He now has his own office chair at my desk, and sits next to me all day, napping while I work on the computer.  He likes it when I spin him around.  He trots after me wherever I go, unless he knows I am coming right back.  At night he sleeps curled up on his little round kitty bed on my bed, or under the covers on chilly nights.  He is very polite in his sleeping habits and does not take up too much room or present me with his rump in my face the way most cats do.  He will sleep in as long as I want, and doesn’t meow at me for kitty food or other silly things.  He loves a good belly rub, and loves to pat my face with his big soft paws.  He also comes right up to me and kisses me.  Its obvious the cat is smitten, lol.  He’s my boy.  A big, beautiful boy.

He’ll do.

A Total Eclipse of the Heart

At approximately 9 a.m. this morning, September 24, 2011, I lost my best friend of the past 12 years.  She went to join her baby sister who went to the Rainbow Bridge only 5 months ago, both victims of canine kidney failure. 

That was the very last piece of my heart that was unscarred.  Once again it has been ripped out of my chest and left ragged and bleeding.  I don’t know if it will ever heal again.  Too much damage has been done.  Too late for a heart transplant, or even life support.  All the air has been sucked out of my body, and there’s no blood left to pump through my veins. 

I am just an empty shell.

Another piece of heart is being torn out of my body

My Mollie was the cutest little pup.  I bought her on New’s Years Eve, 1999, for my ex.  I should have named her Millie, for the Millenium, but Mollie stuck.  She was so beloved by everyone, especially my 6 year old Golden Retriever Maggie.  I don’t think Mollie’s paws hit the ground the first few months.  She was either carried around by a human or Maggie. 

Mollie’s daddy left us when she was just a pup.  He was cheating on us with a woman with a Shitzu.  A Shitzu!  Can you imagine????  Luckily Mollie was young enough to readjust.  Maggie didn’t though.  Every night she laid by the stairs, waiting for her daddy to come home.  He never did.  She died of a broken heart shortly thereafter.  Her fur soaked up buckets of my tears, and she was my heart dog.  Her death, so quick after my divorce, left me with two gaping holes in my heart that kept pumping out blood.  I swore I would never get another dog.  Mollie was enough for me.

Mollie had to grow up quick after that.  She was the best dog.  Never chewed up anything, which was unusual for a lab!  She was a little alpha after Maggie died, and didn’t really care for other dogs, she was very protective of me.  But she was lonely during the day.  Lo and behold, the neighbors had some Golden Retriever pups.  The poor little runt was left behind.  So I took her home just for a quick visit with Mollie, and she never left.  She became our new Golden Angel, Maddie.

Mollie was NOT a mommy dog, like Maggie was with her.  To Mollie, Maddie was just another play toy, and boy was she rough with her!  But Maddie was a trooper, and followed Mollie everywhere.  The two were great sisters, and loved each other so much.  We had some good years.

Then poor little Maddie got sick.  Very sick.  Kidney failure.  And she was only 7.  Six months later, this April, she was gone.  Mollie and I cried and cried over the loss of our girl.  I said to Mollie, who was now almost 12, you better live forever, you have outlived two of my goldens!  She just licked my tears, once again.

My heart does not have much territory left unscathed.  Mollie started losing weight.  I knew this scenario…..it was all too familiar.  A trip to the vet confirmed my worst fears.  Mollie too now had kidney failure, to add to her list of old age problems.  No God, please, not Mollie, not now, not so soon after my little Maddie.  Please don’t take her.  I begged, I prayed, I cried.  Seemed to work for a little while.  A few weeks.

Now, this past week, she won’t eat.  She is having bowel problems.  I’m making her hamburger and rice, and she will eat some of that.  Nothing else seems to even tempt her.  She keeps going outside to try and poop, mostly unsuccessfully.  First she was constipated, then the diapoopsie.  Now something in between.  Not sure if all this is due to her kidney problem, or a new problem.  Whatever, it’s not good.

I will not let her suffer.  I will take her to the vet if her problem does not resolve quickly.  I don’t want her to linger.  It will be painful to her, and even more so to me. 

And that will take care of the rest of my heart.  It will be TOTALLY shredded then.

Dancing with the Enemy?

Dancing with the Stars premiered last night amongst great controversy.  Certain groups of people are upset that a transgender person is dancing.  They say it will give the wrong message to children.

Oh, you mean the message that you can wear almost nothing on prime time TV is ok though, as long as you are dancing?  As long as you aren’t “different”?  Trust me, children would not even KNOW that Chaz is transgender unless YOU tell them, and even then they probably won’t care.  And ABC doesn’t mind stirring the pot as long as it translates into ratings.  DWTS has had gays, old ladies with overflowing bosoms and truck driver language, controversial athletes, and many D lister stars who wear the skimpiest of costumes, let alone the professional dancers.  Throw in an Osmond or a Kardasian and you have a great season! 

Children are exposed to all kinds of things from an early age on.  Do you remember how horrified everyone was about Jon Bennet Ramsey in her little pagent costumes?  Nowadays, Toddlers and Tiaras are stuffing fake boobs and butts into their little stars who are barely out of diapers!   All in the name of fame…..

Reality TV is everywhere, and most of it ain’t pretty.  Housewives cussing and swearing and bitch slapping each other, Bachelors and Bachelorettes back stabbing and hooking up right and left, partners abusing each other as they race around the world (and they win awards for this!)…..the list goes on and on.  Even the commercials ain’t your father’s Buick!

I myself am of the age where Happy Days couldn’t play in Peoria, where I grew up.  Boy, things have certainly changed!  Do you think it is for the better?  I am curious to know.

Why is all the blood rushing to my head?

My theory of gravity has always puzzled me.  It would puzzle you too, if you really thought about it.  Gravity pulls us from the center of the globe, so we don’t fall off the face of the earth.

The guy here on top of the North Pole is the lucky one.  He is anchored to the earth while standing upright.  The rest of us aren’t so lucky.  And imagine the poor polar bears on the South Pole.  They are basically standing upside down all the time.  The only reason their heads don’t burst open with all the blood is that no matter where you stand, the gravity pulls your feet towards the center of the earth, thereby pulling everything downward.

I live in the Northern Hemisphere, which means I am “tilted” all the time.  The people on the Equator are perpendicular.  They need to turn sides frequently so everything doesn’t settle to one side.   Here, see what I mean?

Then we have the gravitational pull of the moon, which is responsible for the tides.

I wonder, is that why water drains clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere?  Actually, it really doesn’t, not for small things like toliets and bathtubs.  Oh well, just throw another shrimp on the barby!  Australia and New Zeland are on my bucket list, and I am certainly not going to waste any time checking the direction of the drain, lol.

So, as I lay my little heady down to sleep, I am grateful for the gravity that keeps me from falling out of my bed and spiraling off into outerspace.  Now, aren’t you glad you knew all this????

The Kennedy’s Camelot – Redux

Since it is the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, I have revived this blog post.

There has been a lot of buzz this week about Jacqueline Kennedy this week, and the 8 hours of taped interviews she did, only 4 months after the assassination of her husband.  First off, apparently we have been mispronouncing her name all these years!  We need to put the french twist on it, which is actually very beautiful.  Jacqueline was indeed a very beautiful woman.  Which, I believe, was her initial asset to JFK and the presidency.  Women all over the world fell in love with her bouffant hair, pill box hats, and breathy voice.  I’m sure the men did too.  Sometimes, in my opinion only, she seemed a bit simple and simpering in her early years.  Naive about the ways of the world.

In her interview, she states that women were too emotional to be President.  It was apparent that she was madly in love with her husband and children and it was her job to keep the family running.  I think this was typical of the era in which she lived.  She filled the White House with the shrieks and laughter of children, and made it her home.  She says those were the best years, the Camelot years.

She was also quite vocal in her dislikes of certain other politicians and foreign dignitaries, some of which gave me a chuckle, especially her opinion of Russian women.  I wonder what Jacqueline would think of Hillary, Sarah and Michelle today.

When JFK was assassinated, right in front of her, was when Jacqueline became the strong woman she was for the rest of her life.  She was strong, stoic, and silent in her suffering.  I think she surprised us all.  Underneath the pretty exterior and soft voice was a tough cookie.  Over time she became a woman to be admired, for more than just her style.  She raised two very fine children, and had her own career, with the words she loved.

Many people tried to tear down the idea of Camelot.  The Kennedy’s have had their fair share of scandals, and life was perhaps not as idyllic as it seemed.  Who knows what JFK’s presidential legacy would have been had it not been cut short.

In the interviews with her daughter, Caroline, they gently gloss over the idea of infidelity on JFK’s part.  Caroline simply states that her mother loved her father, and that she knew, at the end of the day, that he loved her too. Caroline is much like her mother.  It seems she has escaped the Kennedy curse, and I hope she lives a long and happy life.  Some of the Kennedy men have not been so lucky.

Life Goes On

9/11 is over.  No more incidents.  Thank Goodness.  Let’s move on from here, stronger than ever.  But everywhere I look, more bad news.  The Euro banks.  The Poverty level.  The Unemployment rate.  The Jobs bill.   Wild Fires.  Floods.  Hurricanes.  The “Economy”, which I guess is all-emcompassing depression.  It’s enough to give a person a complex.

The sun still rises every day, and sets every night.  The weather is getting cooler here, which is lovely.  Young sapling trees are starting to turn color already.  My dog is still alive.  My cat is still playful.  My eyes still open every morning.   I have a lot I want to say.  I just need to get back in the mood.

Life Goes On.

THE Anniversary

Many people love anniversaries, look forward to anniversaries.  Anniversaries should be happy times.  Not this one.  Not this one, not ever.  I can barely watch the remembrances, even now, ten years later.  Seems like it happened yesterday.  I just dread tomorrow.  So many innocent lives.  For what?

Ten years ago today I was in a very, very dark place, myself.  At first I wished I was in one of those towers.  I would have traded places with any of those poor innocent people, with wives, husbands, children.  I had nothing.  Nothing that I could see at that time.  My own vision was clouded with my own personal catastrophe, that was as real to me as those towers.  It would have been an easy solution to all my problems. 

I was at work on that day, trying to make it through another day of heartache and pain and tears.  The WTC collapse seemed so surreal.  Our bosses at work would not let us watch it online after the collapse, or leave for the day.  I was scared.  Would they be attacking other tall towers in big cities?  Nuclear plants?  I lived near both.  After work I went home to an empty house, and turned on the TV and sat and watched in horror, alone, and in tears.  I could not believe or comprehend how people could destroy each other like that.  But I knew personally just how evil people could be, so it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise.  People hurt and kill people all the time.  But the mass intent of this was just too overwhelming.  I think I was numb.  Eventually I just collapsed into myself, just like the towers.

In the coming days, Americans banded together, and it helped restore my faith in humankind.  I only wish that the spirit of that day would last forever, and help this country find its way again.  Maybe this anniversary will rekindle that flame.  I will be honoring the moment of silence at noon tomorrow, and remembering the brave people that died that day.  And I will always remember the personal pain I felt myself on that day, and how I rose from the ashes and became a much better person.

God Bless America.

Go back to bed before you hurt yourself…or someone else!

Ever have one of “those” days?  No sleep the night before, and before your eyes are all the way open in the morning, you are counting down the minutes until you can crawl back into bed.

That’s me this morning.  Yesterday went back to the dentist cause my jaw/tooth was aching so bad, thought it was from the cavity refill.  Partly, yes.  Mostly, it is from a really red throat and swollen gland from a sinus infection!  Who knew?  I didn’t have a runny nose or anything, never crossed my mind.  Now I am on strong antibiotics, and hope it knocks it out soon, today feels worse.

Also, my Crohn’s has been on a rampage this week, and the antibiotics will just add fuel to the fire.  One of those, damned if you do, damned if you don’t situations.  Right now the mouth takes priority.

So I woke up out of sorts today, and my Catholic guilt won’t let me have a sick day and just go back to bed.  Oh no.  There are too many other things to worry about.  Things must get done.  Today.  Not tomorrow.  I can just hear my mother shouting at me, telling me I am lazy and to stop reading that book and do something useful!  My mother has been dead for 8 years now.  She still has the power to yell at me from her urn on my coffee table.  That Catholic guilt just never quits.  And that’s a blog for another time.

I’m going to bed now before something else malfunctions.