Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Hospitals are in the business of over-reacting. That's what they get paid to do. And rightly so. When it comes to health, it makes sense to be a bit of an alarmist about things that concern you. Which is why I went into the emergency room on Saturday night, and ended up in one of their critical care units on Sunday morning.

Although I was never anything other than fine, they put me in their TCU (one step down from ICU). According to the website for the hospital, the Telemetry Care Unit is a "31-bed nursing unit provides care for patients who require monitoring such as cardiac surveillance following procedures including pacemaker insertion, cardiac or vascular surgery." They put me there because of a racing heart rate. (Which they eventually diagnosed as a combination of exhaustion, dehydration following a day of zarfing, anemia, and pain.) But since my family has a history of heart disease (my father died of a heart attack and my mother has already suffered one minor heart attack), the hospital went into over-react mode and set me up in a 4-bed critical care ward with a group of patients who all sounded like they were just this side of dying. They all seemed to be having breathing problems, one poor man had a cough that sounded like he was swimming in warm pudding and they had to (delightful) repeatedly suction phlegm out of his throat so he could breathe. That was my next-bed neighbor.

So there I am, begging for quiet, next to waterlogged guy. I felt terribly sorry for him, but the sound was both repulsive and loud, and went on several times an hour for the entire time I was there. He was also hardly lucid, so whenever people came to visit him they kept talking ever-louder in an attempt to get a response. Eventually they ended up yelling his name, trying to get him to understand they were there to take him for a CT scan, or to let him know that they were cousin Al and they were worried about him. The man in the bed next to him watched TV most of the night. Loudly. (We were in an open ward, separated only by curtains, so I could hear everything he watched.) And whenever waterlogged man would start coughing, TV guy would turn up the sound.

I was also by the door into the hall, next to the nursing station. So there were phone call and loud conversations all night long. And there I am, in spite of the ear plugs, hearing it all. Trying to sleep and failing. Wishing for darkness but by a window into the hallway where florescent lights glared all night long. Wishing somebody would hand me poor, migraine-wracked head an Imitrex. But nope, no migraine drugs. (t was like those jokes you hear about Amsterdam, where you can get heroin but can't find Nyquil. Here all I wanted was a migraine pill but all I could get was Delaudid, a lovely, warm, haze-inducing narcotic that is lovely for pain but not for all that long. It hits instantly (the good), but wear off about two hours later (the bad) needing you to request another IV dose. I could have all that I wanted, apparently. It was like a drug buffet, but nothing to actually treat the cause of the pain.

And yes, I realize I'm selfish to be all about me when I'm surrounded by obviously incredibly-sick people who don't seem to be in any state to be leaving the hospital later. But hey, this is my blog, it's all about me. If waterlogged guy had a blog it would be all about him. And I'm not minimizing the pain by any means. I know they're suffering more than I was and I did not begrudge them one moment of their treatment. It's just hard to be best by nausea, finally get an appetite back, and have them bring you lukewarm oatmeal for breakfast -- only to have them start vacuuming phlegm from the guy next to you. Truly unappetizing.

All of this was decidedly unnecessary. (I almost used the phrase "over kill.") All I had was a migraine, and there I was in the "I hope you have a will" section of the hospital. It wasn't until I got out that I realized I was in that section. I can't imagine what poor Husband thought when he found out his wife was in a critical care unit. Had the positions been reversed, I would have freaked out. When he left I was in the ER, they had just decided to admit me, it was 6 am, and I sent him home because he'd been up all night. He comes back a few hours later to visit and discovers I'm surrounded by pacemakers and things that go endlessly beep in the night. (Which is good, because when they stop beeping, it's not a good thing.)

As usual with this hospital, the staff was great. I was a bit pissed that I from 6 am on Sunday when they decided to admit me to 1 pm yesterday when the ward doctor released me, I never once spoke to a doctor. That bothered me because I knew I was fine to get out but couldn't get anyone to OK that. Nor could I get anyone to OK Imitrex, which was really all I needed (plus dark and no sucking next door). But the nurses were amazing. And, being in a CCU, when you hit the nurse buzzer they come running. The endless Delaudid kept the pain away for the most part. They do this "how is your pain on a scale from 1 to 10?" thing and, at one point, it was up to a brain-exploding 9. But the lovely cocktail made it go away. The one thing it didn't do, oddly enough, was make me sleep. I hade five doses of Delaudid in ER, from 10 pm Saturday to 6 am Sunday, and I was lucid and awake for the whole time. Man, can I hold my narcotic or what?

1 comment:

FinnyKnits said...

I have just learned that I will not ever go to the ER for a migraine. Even if it does last 32 hours. Because the thought of being trapped in a beeping, coughing, brightly lit environment with no escape is truly horrifying.

Though, I'd like to see how much of that fancy D drug I could handle. That might be fun.

If my head weren't splitting in half.

Hey - question - what if you *just leave*. Like, since you're physically capable of doing so, you just get up, say "Fuck this" and walk out.

Can they stop you?