(Part one of this sad-but-true story can be read here.)
Despite (or because of) everyone’s best efforts, staying in the hospital overnight is not a fun experience. Multiply it by seven nights, and the experience goes from not-fun to very not-fun. Even in a private room like mine. Still, the bed is comfy, and you can adjust yourself to a sitting position with the handy-dandy remote control that also has the call button for the nurse and the television remote. Technology.
The first day of my stay, my IV port was stuck into my left hand. I’m left-handed. Oh well. On my right wrist, two bracelets: one declared me a FALL RISK and the other had bar codes that nurses and PCTs would scan before doing anything to me. A PCT is a Personal Care Technician, which I gathered is one level on the medical totem pole lower than a nurse. Nobody explained the distinction, so I had to guess from context. The worst a PCT can do to you is wake you up three times a night to stick a thermometer in your mouth, wrap a blood pressure cuff around your wrist, and jam your finger into a blood oxygen meter. The worst a nurse can do to you is inject you in the tummy every eight hours with something that prevents blood clots. If you’re lucky, they don’t come in the middle of the night to do this. I’m not lucky. My stomach is pocked with 2:00 AM injection sites.
A doctor came in to talk to me about what was happening, but he was going on vacation in a couple of days, so he’d pass my case to a different doctor. A surgeon came by to talk about things, but he was also going on vacation in a couple of days, so he’d pass my case to a different surgeon. Don’t get sick during vacation season. They also promised to have an infectious disease doctor come and take a look at me. The very term “infectious disease doctor” tends to make one nervous when you have to see one. As does the term “surgeon”. Nurses came and went to put up new bags of antibiotics in my IV. Everyone asked me how I got sick. I told them I didn’t know. I couldn’t point to a single event that precipitated my illness. So they gave me broad-spectrum antibiotics, and if my blood cultures came back with something specific, they’d give me something that was presumably less broad in spectrum.
I tried to rest, but couldn’t sleep. My only entertainments were daytime television, nurses and PCTs coming in to jab/stick me, and peeing.
Peeing was awful. They give you a plastic jug to piss in. (They call it a urinal. Hee hee.) I’d get up (which was agony), lift my gown, put my wedding tackle into the jug, and go. Then I’d close the jug, hang the handle on the edge of the bed, sit down, clean my hands with sanitizer, and breathe until the pain of being on my bad leg subsided. All the while, my jug would hang nearby, filled with hot yellow brine. A couple of times it unhooked itself and fell on the floor. Luckily, it didn’t open. More than once I thought of trucker bombs. A trucker bomb is a plastic bottle that used to hold water. On long trips, truckers would piss in them, close them up, and chuck them out the window. That’s your trucker bomb. When the PCTs came in, or the nurses, they’d see my jug/trucker bomb and empty it into the commode under the sink in my room. After a couple of days of using the jug, I just shuffled to the commode instead. It hurt to lurch there, but it was less dehumanizing. Still, the empty-but-stained jug remained hooked to the bed near my head my entire stay. My own personal trucker bomb. Once I stopped using the jug they asked me how often I’d pissed that day. I tried to drink as little as possible because standing up to pee was so painful, but with IVs going right into your bloodstream you have to go anyway, whether you want to or not. I’m pleased to report that I didn’t have any accidents.
I asked my wife to bring me my laptop and e-reader. Those were lifesavers. As is my wife. Another day of live television and I’d have begged the doctors to put me into a medically-induced coma until death or recovery. My son didn’t like the hospital smells. I tried to reassure him that I’d be all right, but he was concerned. I hated that part. He’s a little boy. I want him to worry about the quality of dessert, not about his dad’s health. I put a positive spin on everything, even though I was concerned, too. He can see me sick, but he won’t see me scared.
Early on, we didn’t know how long I would be here. And then the possibility of surgery came up. An anesthesiologist came by the next day to ask me to sign a piece of paper consenting to general anesthesia.