Transient? I Don’t Think So! Part IV: Murmurs, Mists, and Apologies.

I had slept through my first night on the neurology floor. I should stipulate that I am using the term “sleep” rather loosely. I was awakened at least every two hours. It seemed that a good way to ensure that I would be awakened soon was to say to myself: Self, put on your CPAP mask and get some sleep. Every time I would put my mask on, it was a pretty safe bet something would happen that would disturb my futile attempts to sleep…perchance to dream (perhaps Hamlet was just being an idealist).

The most frequent source of interruption was due to the patient who shared the room with me. I didn’t know much about what brought him to our floor aside from hearing family members relay the news to other family members. Over and over again, I could hear his daughter call someone on the phone: “Daddy had another seizure.” I knew enough to surmise that his neurological state was far worse than mine. He could only communicate by speaking very softly and using facial gestures. He could not move on his own. This meant that the nursing staff had to come in every two hours and shift his body in bed to prevent bed sores. This meant, every two hours, I would hear the nursing staff come in and talk to my roommate (and each other). They would also change the sheets as they were typically soiled. Every time the nurses came in, they would apologize for the interruption (and the smell). Every time the nurses left, I prayed for my roommate’s recovery and knew it could have been me in his condition. My mind would wander. What if I had stayed upstairs longer? What if my wife and daughter had not reacted so quickly? What if I had not gone into my daughter’s room that morning and my episode got worse on my way to work (or after I had punched in)? I knew it really did little good to think this way. I couldn’t change what happened. Still, every two hours of each night in the hospital, my mind would ultimately go down this road.

Another nightly interruption came from routine blood work. I used to work as a phlebotomist in my 20’s. The phlebotomist is the person who comes in to draw your blood. I knew what it was like to be called a “vampire” or “leech”. The point being that I understood their side of our relationship. They had a job to do that was part of my care. Still, I must say two things. First, for every patient whose sleep I interrupted in the course of my duties: I will go to my grave pleading your forgiveness even though I have not been in that line of work for some 20 years now.Secondly, I urge phlebotomists everywhere. When you apply alcohol to cleanse the site, PLEASE…IN THE NAME OF EVERYTHING HOLY TO EVEN THE MOST DEITY DENYING ATHEIST…WIPE THE ALCOHOL OFF BEFORE YOU PUNCTURE YOUR PATIENT! The lab results will still be accurate and your patient will be grateful.

I wound myself down again only to find another two hours had elapsed which meant my roommate’s routine was starting again. It was another round of ambient conversation, another mist of deodorizer, and another apology from the nurses. I put my CPAP mask on again and made another attempt. Two hours passed and the roommate’s routine began again. However, there was a different element in the room: sunlight. It was morning and my breakfast tray was being brought in. I resigned myself to staying up for a while a sipped on my hot cop of a black coffee that resembled coffee in roughly the same fashion that Justin Bieber resembles a musician (except the coffee was more fit for human consumption.

I could only sit and wait to find what the day had in store for me…it would be a day that tested me (literally and figuratively).

Transient? I Don’t Think So! Part III: Arrival at the Neurology Unit.

So, at this point, I had ridden to a hospital in an ambulance, endured several tests of my brain (Yes, I DO have one), eaten food that an anemic, starving tapeworm would have turned down, and was transferred from the emergency room to a hospital room on the neurology unit. I had been in the hospital for nearly 8 hours so I was looking forward to a final destination (well, not TOO final) and instead of swirling in the proverbial holding pattern that is the emergency department.

Almost as soon as we got there, problems began to show up. My wife had spoken to the ER staff several times about the fact that a) I have sleep apnea and require a special machine to sleep and b) I had to take special medicine to help me get down to sleep. I heard them tell my wife several times that they would pass that information onto the neurology staff and that the hospital would provide me with a machine for my sleep apnea and my own unit would not have to be brought in from home.

Well, guess what? The neurology floor did not get one iota of that aforementioned information. This meant that they had to contact the attending physician for my sleep medication and possibly my sleep machine. This not only upset me because such an ordeal could have been prevented. It upset me further that my daughter, Brianna, had just returned to the hospital from our house and could have brought my sleep machine with her had she been aware that it was needed.

There was SOME relief to be had. The nurse I got on the neurology floor saw the fact that I had an IV line in the crook of both my elbows. She explained that while she was currently a bit tied up, she would return to remove one IV line and relocate the other to the lower part of my non-dominant (left) hand. I was happy to hear this promise. The IV line that had fluid going into it was very positional. Anytime, I moved my right arm the slightest way, it made the alarm on the IV pump go off. After 8 hours, this was beyond irritating. I had no idea just HOW irritated I was until about 10 minutes after the nurse left when I moved my arm and the IV pump alarm went off again. I said: BEEP! BEEP! YOURSELF! and then I blindly reached over and punched the IV pump. This made Brianna’s eyes get as big as saucers as she tried to stifle her laughter.

The nurse returned to change my IV’s as she promised. She noticed that at my bedside was: a partially full bottle of soda; a Kit Kat bar, and a hot fudge sundae that Brianna had brought me. The nurse said: “I will just say this ONE TIME. You are on a diabetic diet.” Brianna and my wife, Renee, began to offer explanations such as they were trying to lift my spirits and the papier mache chicken sandwich I had earlier. I told them both to relax and explained that the nurse wasn’t going to throw them into hospital jail for violating my diet. This made the nurse crack a smile. It was a minute crack but I saw it.

As promised, she removed one IV and moved the other to my left hand. This gave me MUCH more freedom of movement without provoking the infernal pump alarm. After the last episode with the pump, I could have sworn I saw it flinch whenever I looked at it. The nurse also informed me that my sleep medication had been ordered but they were still working on the sleep machine. At this point, my wife intervened and reminded the nurse that it was nearly 9 PM and I had been up since 5 AM that morning with no sleep at all in between. We all agreed that it would just be easier to bring in my own machine and have the respiratory department “inspect it” before I used it.

I’ll be honest, I began to get rather irritated (again) as this meant my daughter had to drive back to the house, pack my machine, and transport it to the hospital. I felt that my family and I had been through quite enough and that such an inconvenience was beyond avoidable.

The nurse asked that I page her as soon as my daughter arrived with the machine. She would then page respiratory and give me my sleep medication. After she left, I took a deep breath. I then began to eat the Kit Kat bar (two bars at a time because this is America, for crying out loud). I then began to help Renee compile a list of things she could bring for me in the morning. I already had my tablet. Items basically include changes of clothing, and, OH YEAH!, my clown nose. I really needed that thing.

Brianna returned with my machine and helped me set it up. I paged the nurse who, in turn, paged respiratory and gave me my sleep medication. My wife and daughter kissed me goodnight and left to go home. Respiratory came up to “inspect” my machine. This basically meant that they looked at the power cord and saw that it was not frayed and was intact. I was almost irritated (again) by the fact that I waited all that time for them to spend two minutes with my machine.

After respiratory left, I sat there in that bed. For the first time in more than 13 hours, it was quiet. I mean if you heard a pin drop, a librarian would go: “SHHHHH!” It was in this quiet that my brain started to process everything that happened that day up to that point: nearly falling on my grandson, slurred speech, frightened looks on the faces of my wife and daughter. It all began to sink in. Right then the nurse walked into the room to check up on me one final time. At this point, I was starting to shake and was holding back tears. The nurse asked me: “What’s wrong, Shane?” I looked at her and stated what was very obvious: I’ve had a VERY ROUGH day. She looked at me, gently held my arm, and said: “Well, get some rest now.”  I would come to find out that the only place I was going to find a place of rest if I happened to be reading a piece of sheet music. Resting in a hospital, well, I would come to find out that that was just plain silly.