Friday, January 4, 2008

No Room For Modesty

I spent more than 30 hours in in ER at Red Deer Regional Hospital. I was to be in Intensive Care, but the first bed available was in Emergency. Because I needed monitoring, it was the only other place I could be housed.

A few ICU beds opened that first evening, but trauma patients needed them far worse than I did. Sure I wanted my own room, but it’s hard to wish for it knowing there are only two ways a hospital bed opens.

My doctor, a resident in Internal Medicine, had been consulting with my Rocky doctor over the weekend so he knew exactly what was going on. He had the case because the cardiologist was on vacation.

I left the oxygen behind in Rocky and as soon as I was settled Red Deer I had the catheter removed. This pleased me no end even as it would have been a lot more convenient later that night when the 24 hour urine collection started. This was for the amyloidosis test, and I was all for it.

ER is a busy place and it’s hard to get to sleep. My intellectual capacity was down to maybe 70 per cent when this started and it has been slow coming back. I couldn’t concentrate enough to do a progressive relaxation induction on myself to get to sleep. Instead, I managed to picture a peaceful scene of a large lake between some lushly covered hills in a jungle or rainforest. But no matter how hard I tried to change it, my mind lake was a deep, beautiful yellow from a sunrise or sunset because while I was constructing it a Code Yellow, missing patient, had been called.

I’d decided to go gluten-free there so that my sinuses would remain fairly clear. If I was to have breathing difficulties, then I wanted to know exactly where they came from. The hospital did okay although it helped that I was quite hungry. I even liked the corn meal mush I was served for breakfast. In fairness there was rice toast and a hard boiled egg, too. Eggs and I both need salt and there was none to be had for me. I was beginning to feel like the salt-sucking creature from “The Mantrap” episode of Star Trek who had to have it to survive.

The big urine collection was due to start at 7 a.m. at the morning shift change. Instead my night nurse, a 30ish fellow, decide to start it at midnight. This was okay with me, especially as he decided he was going to pour the offerings into the collection container for me. I’d been told earlier that I was to do this myself.
My Commode Chair, already important, became the focal point of my existence. I was tethered to many machines so it was close by and, because of the need to save each drop, a plastic, removable “hat” was fitted over the container.
Modesty has no place in this. Mike was there all day and needed to keep an eye on me when I got out of bed. If my curtain was open too much a nurse had to close it unless Mike was there and I had to ring for the nurse when it was time to add to the bottle. I washed my hands with some large wet wipes used for bathing.

I have to say the ER nurses were phenomenal. Some were pulling 16 hours shifts because the hospital is short-staffed. They remained professional, courteous, and smiled even as they had to run into my room every few minutes.
My cardio monitor was uncommonly sensitive. When I moved, especially my right arm, it would disturb one of the leads stuck to me and it would go off. A nurse had ot check each time this happened. It sounded like that scene in the Star Trek two-parter, “The Menagerie,” where Captain Pike has realized what Spock is planning for him and he desperately signals “No.”

I had my first of three echocardiograms the next day. This is an ultrasound of the heart where more than 50 different pictures taken. I had a quick look at the screen and saw a thin skeletal shape hammering up and down. It was right out of a Tim Burton movie.

I felt sorry for the nurse who’d accompanied me down to the ultrasound room. She was a friendly, talkative woman in her late 20s who was in the middle of a 16 hour shift. As we waited for the pictures to be checked the diuretic continued its mission. Waiting to get back to my room was not an option. I still wasn’t supposed to walk around, but there was a bathroom about 10 feet away and we decided to chance it and she let me walk to it and back.
Yes, my doctor caught us but that went okay. The reason I felt sorry for her was we were still collecting my urine and she had to carry the little collection hat back to my room.

We do not pay these people enough.


the Bag Lady said...

Ver-r-r-y interesting! (The Bag Lady would have commented sooner, but her cat unplugged her keyboard from her CPU...and it took a few minutes to figure out what was wrong.)

Crabby McSlacker said...

Very amusing account of what must have been an incredibly difficult situation.

(I love the yellow lake you were stuck with for your visualization!)

Guess the only upside is that it must make being back home especially sweet after all you went through.

Reb said...

Are you sure the Yellow Lake was from the Code Yellow and not the diuretic?

Leah J. Utas said...

dfBag Lady - Clever puss wanted some attention.

Crabby - Glad it was amusing.

Reb - Yup. Fair question though.

Talia said...

Welcome back Leah

Hope your recovery goes well, and nice to see you seeing the funny side of things

Leah J. Utas said...

Thank you, Talia.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you are back. I missed your comments over at Crabby's.

Leah J. Utas said...

Why Holly, what a lovely thing to say.