Sunday, September 6, 2009

St@rFlight & BFN #9, Part 2: The Hospital

Upon arriving at the hospital, I was whisked into the trauma center. My gurney was surrounded by faces. I listened as my rescuers gave the ER staff a run down of what happened, my injuries and the treatment they had provided so far. Several people started looking me over all at once. There were questions or directions to follow from every angle. "Squeeze my hand" "What's your name" "Move your feet" "Does this hurt, or this or this?" One of the nurses put her hand on my forearm and asked me if I was cold. Her hand felt hot. I was cold, wet and shaking, I just hadn't realized it. They cut off my clothes. Someone offered an apology and said they'd keep me as modest as possible. The nurse who asked if I was cold reappeared with warm blankets. They felt amazing. After the initial assessment, they decided I was safe to move off of the helicopter's gurney and onto one of their beds. I was assured they'd be careful, but as 6 of them got into position and went over what they each would do, my stomach dropped. I was terrified of the pain it would cause. I had good reason. Even though they were as gentle as possible, my chest went into spasm and I was left gasping for air. I didn't know how much more I could take. One of the doctors came over to examine me.  He lifted my injured leg and as he brought my knee towards my chest my hip popped SO loud and thunked back into place. I screamed. A few minutes later I heard him talking to the nurse. He told her where he wanted Xrayed and that he wanted a CT scan of my chest, abdomen & pelvis. She said "You know Dr. X is in charge  tonight, there's no way she'll approve all that." Sure enough, in no time Dr. X was at my bedside explaining to me that although my injuries were painful, they didn't seem overly severe and that she believes a few xrays will tell "us" what we need to know.

A portable xray machine was brought to me and they started taking films of my neck, chest and leg. I heard someone say, "there, at the top of the femur shot, see that? We need a better shot" I thought "Oh shit, I broke my femur!" They took a few more xrays. Dr. X came over to a little while later and told me that I had displaced fracture of the iliac crest, but my ribs and everything else were fine. I couldn't believe it. I would have put good money on a broken rib or two. The pain was so much worse in my chest than in my hip. Every breath was excruciating. Trina arrived at the hospital and I was SO relieved to see that she was safe. In short sentences punctuated by gasps for air, I told her about my hip being broken and how my Dr wanted more tests, but that he was vetoed. She asked me if I needed more pain meds and I told her no, that they'd already given me several shots and nothing helped. I felt worse now than before so what was the point? She called a nurse and told her my pain was getting worse, not better. She said she's find something stronger. I'm not sure what she gave me, but I started losing time after that. Mr. Swimmer showed up at my bedside and asked if I remembered him. I said yes. He asked if I was feeling better. I told him no, the pain was so much worse and I couldn't breathe. He looked worried and told me I didn't look good. He said he'd find my doctor. I'm not sure how long it was, but my Dr came and said that I was going to CT scan. 

Two people I hadn't seen before came to wheel me away. Trina wasn't allowed to come so she went to the waiting room to give the rest of my family an update. By this time I was fading in and out. When my bed stopped I briefly opened my eyes, but my eyelids were so heavy. A man went to lower the rail on my bed but my foot was in the way. He just pushed harder. I kept whispering, "myfoot*gasp*myfoot" but he didn't listen. Finally he realized I was talking to him and moved my foot. He didn't even apologize! The two of them used my sheet as a hammock and just swung me over onto the CT scan table. My chest seized up and my hip was on fire. I couldn't breathe at all and was writhing in pain. As the pain subsided I was able to pant. The woman told me I needed to be more still. I was so angry, but couldn't even form words, I was very close to blacking out. When they were done they came over and the woman told me softly, we're going to move you back now. I told her to just give me a minute, but then faded out again. The pain brought me back, but they must have been a little more careful because it wasn't as intense. 

When I arrived back in the ER, my dad was there. He told me how much I had scared him and that my mom was driving in from Dallas. I said "already?" I didn't realize how much time had passed. The next thing I remember is that the Dr came to give me my CT results. I had 5 broken ribs, my spleen was lacerated and I had two hematomas, one at my broken pelvis and one around my bleeding spleen. He told me I was being moved to ICU and that they would keep an eye on my spleen. He said there was a chance I'd need a blood transfusion or to have my spleen removed if it kept bleeding. Apparently all of my injuries were super painful, but none of them required surgery at that time. 

I must've passed out again, because Trina was with me when I opened my eyes instead of my father. Two nurses from the ICU came to transfer me. They were both so nice. The next 2 days were a blur. I came around occasionally when the nurses would take blood or vitals or when radiology would take my daily chest films. Trina almost never left my side. The ICU nurses never told her to leave when visiting hours were over. If she had to leave to use the restroom she couldn't get back in, but they never actually kicked her out. I thought that was so sweet. I had a parade of visitors come see me and I remember almost none of it. Just little flashes here and there. The 3rd day, my nurse came to tell me that I was now allowed to have liquids. Until then I could only have tiny amounts of water from a sponge on a stick to help with the morphine induced dry mouth. She said she'd have them send up juice and chicken broth. I told her I didn't eat meat. She said "Oh, there's no meat, just broth". I blinked alot... They ended up sending a bowl of what tasted like water that broccoli was boiled in. I couldn't take in much, just a few sips of that and some juice. Unfortunately it didn't stay down for long. Vomitting was SO painful. Everytime my muscles tightened to heave, my chest and hip screamed with pain. It was awful. Later that day a physical therapist came by. She said I needed to start getting out of bed. I thought she was insane. I couldn't even sit up. With her help, I finally made it to the sitting position on the side of the bed. Tears were streaming down my face. It was the first time I'd cried from the pain. She said I didn't have to go any farther, but I hate giving up. With some work and assistance, I got to my feet and shuffled to a chair. She told me to call a nurse in no more that 30min to put me back in bed. Who would've thought that sitting up would be so exhausting? That small feat was my first accomplishment on my road to recovery. That afternoon my lunch of chicken broth and jello arrived. I tried explaining the concept of vegetarian again... Later that day I was transfered to a regular hospital floor.

When I got to my new room, it was dinner time. My nurse asked if I'd eaten. I told her I hadn't and that I was a vegetarian. She said no problem and that I was allowed solid food now. When my tray arrived, I was only mildly surprised to find pepperoni pizza and jello. Apparently "vegetarian" was too hard a concept to grasp even though the ticket on the tray had my name and said the word vegetarian in all caps AND was highlighted. I can see how that would be confusing... We called the nurse to inform her of the mix up and take the tray. She said she'd send down for new food but I told her not to bother. Trina went to the cafeteria to try and find something edible for us. The next day I felt better and stronger than I had since arriving. The physical therapist came and said it was time to walk. It was a pretty frightening thought since the day before sitting up made me cry. I actually did pretty well. Sure I was moving with the speed and grace of an arthritic 85yr old, but I made a half lap around the whole floor. I was quite a sight with my IV pole in tow, crouched over my walker, taking 6 inch halted steps and breathing open mouthed like I was running a marathon. :) I felt so accomplished I even had them set up a shower chair so I could wash the 4 days of funk off my nasty self. Later that night my dad brought me some delicious pizza (sans meat) and I took an after dinner stroll with him. I was on top of the world...for a VERY short time. 

I woke up so nauseous I couldn't see straight. I called the nurse's station to see if I could get some nausea medication. She never came. When I vomited I was really surprised to see the pizza I had eaten 13hrs before. Trina walked out to the nurse's station to tell them that I had never received my meds and that I was vomiting. The nurse didn't seem alarmed that food had stayed in my stomach half a day and was still recognizable. I was sick and cranky all day. To top it off the Dr came in and told me my hemoglobin had been dropping for 5 days straight and if it went down one more point, I would have to have a blood transfusion. He said they'd have to see my numbers "trend up" for several days before releasing me. I ate next to nothing all day. Even drinking water was a chore. That evening Trina finally convinced me to eat some almonds so I could get a little protein. Nearly 9hrs later I threw up almonds and acid. Again I voiced my concern to a nurse about how long food was staying in my stomach before I threw it up. Again I was blown off. For breakfast they brought me eggs and hashed browns with a big slab of fried ham across the top. Trina was furious. She took the tray out to the nurse's station and told them not to bring me any more food, that she'd take care of me herself. A few hours later a nurse came in to tell me my hemoglobin had gone up 4 tenths of a point so I was being discharged. 

I had the worst heartburn of my life. I felt as if every sip of water or nibble of food just displaced that amount of acid out of my stomach and into my throat. I felt worse than the day I arrived. I was sick to my stomach, weak from anemia and low blood sugar and in more pain than ever and they were releasing me. Less than 24hrs earlier a Dr had told me I would have to improve for several days before I was allowed to leave. Even so, I wanted out of there. Trina was taking better care of me than anyone there. She'd had to practically beg for my medication on several occasions, she was the only one making sure I had food that I could eat, she was there night and day keeping me comfortable, helping me to the restroom and being my advocate. 

The 3 hour drive home was awful. My broken bones and sick belly amplified every bump in the road. The turns made my stomach churn and my chest spasm. Going over railroad tracks was murder on my pelvis. On the way home we stopped at a pharmacy. She bought me antacid and stool softeners. The way we saw it, my digestive system had shut down. It had been 6 days since my last bowel movement and nothing I ate stayed down, even the acid was backing up. I cut my pain medication dose down to the bare minimum. I just needed to take the edge off so I could breath. That's no easy feat with 5 broken ribs that click with every inhalation. By the next day I was back on the road to recovery. Food and water going in, waste coming out. It was a beautiful thing. 

My poor wife had to do everything for me in the beginning. I couldn't lay down by myself or get myself out of bed. I could barely walk down the hall without being winded. Getting me in and out of the shower was such a big production that I was only bathing every few days. I had Trina shave my head since I couldn't even lift my arms high enough to touch my head, let alone brush or fix my hair. I'd rather be shorn than limp around with greasy bedhead. She said I was being vane, I just thought I was being logical. I made quick progress those first few weeks. My 3rd day home I was able to completely dress myself, even tying my own shoes. By the 2nd week I was off the walker and only using a cane. I could almost always get myself out of bed in week 3. Week 4 I was able to turn over and sleep on my right side for small amounts of time. I felt a little more independent everyday.

I wish I could say that all was well now, but that's not quite true. My progress has slowed and I've hit a plateau. As my spleen, ribs and pelvis have healed, the pain in my hip joint has gotten worse and worse. I made an appointment with my orthopedic doc and he thinks I may have torn the cartilage in my hip. I have an MRI scheduled for Wed and I'll find out Fri if I need surgery. I guess I have a few more hurdles before this little journey is done. Wish me luck.


Unknown said...

Make sure you write a letter to your hospital administrator and to the newspaper about the care you received at the hospital. Wow, what an experience.

mulberry said...

just finished reading the last of the horrible trauma blogs... how awful. i am so sorry you had to go through all that... and the hospital shit on top of all the rest. hospitals seem to take NO responsibility for the food they serve, as though it had NO impact on health. i had a friend go in for severe almost fatal food allergy reaction and then she was served, no less than 4 times, food that had she eaten it, would have killed her.

N said...

Yikes. How very scary and frustrating. I hope that your recovery kicks back into gear, and I know that it won't be the same again, but I do hope that you're feeling even better soon.

welcome2ourworld said...

Wow ! Now that was a post ! Damn. I am sorry you had such a horrible stay at the hospital. I really hope you don't need surgery. Get well soon :) Greetings from Germany, Jen

2momswithaplan said...

Wow! You have definitely been through hell! I'm so happy you are getting better. That hospital sounds horrible... I would definitely report them when you are feeling better. Its a good thing you have Trina there to help you.

Anonymous said...

That is unbelievable. I wish there were some way we could help the two of you out but please know that I am thinking of you and wishing with deepest sincerity that you heal well and recover quickly.

Lots of love xoxo

mama bea, bao in the oven said...

Oh My Effing Gawd. I am so sorry you had to go through all of that, but I'm so glad you're alive and on the road to recovery. You and Trina are both total rockstars.