I know, these hospital visits are starting to parody the Rocky movies. The collarbone/concussion was the first and will never be forgotten just like Apollo Creed. Then you were surprised at the tumor sequel but were still entertained by the twists and turns and moved by the ending of me becoming the Heavyweight Tumor Champion of the World. And then the hernia sequel made you groan, but somehow, just like Mr. T did in Rocky 3, it kept you interested. But alas! When you thought you had had enough, I threw in the Ivan Drago of bowel obstructions, which somehow still moved and kept the interest of the audience. I assure you, however, if there is a part five hospital visit, I'll spare you and won't bother to blog about it, just like no one should have ever paid to see Rocky fight Tommy Gunn in Rocky V.
Anyway, back to my hospital story. I flew back to Tucson an hour or so after posting and didn't feel very well. I was very bloated and just tired. That night I woke up around midnight because I couldn't get comfortable. Lying on either side hurt and I felt short of breath when I tried sleeping on my back. I immediately took some more Tylenol and tossed and turned until 2:30 a.m. when I decided to take an oxycodone. That knocked me out until 5:30 a.m. when I woke up because I just couldn't get comfortable. The symptoms worsened and at 8:30 a.m. I was nauseated and sweating, running to the bathroom to vomit, which actually provided about 30 minutes of relief until the nauseated, shortness of breath cycle would begin again. Oh and every time I would heave, it felt like my belly stitches would tear, leaving my stomach throbbing afterwards.
This cycle continued like clockwork, so I called my doctor in Seattle and she told me to go to the ER right away. I asked her if she would vouch for me that going to the ER was necessary if the insurance company refused payment, and she seemed astounded that I would ask such a question. She said, "Um, shortness of breath, vomiting--this is an emergency. You can't not go to the ER because you're afraid it won't be covered." Being a doctor, she must not have to fight much with her insurance on what's covered and not covered. Oh health insurance...it's disturbing how aware I've become of the details of coverage since buying my own individual plan.
When I got to the ER, I sat in my pajamas in the waiting room, with my head over a trashcan while family members of other patients watched some terrible lip sync game show with the volume cranked up really high. I still remember this terrible singer, bleating "Oh baby, baby, how was I supposed to know...." which may have actually been worse than the pain I was in at the time.
The next two hours (I think of it as the 2 years before I got morphine and anti-nausea medicine.) must have been the most terrible hours of my life thus far because in addition to the nausea/vomit/stitches tearing cycle, it also involved them shoving an NG tube up my nose and down my throat. This tube must have been at least two feet long. When the tube entered my nasal cavity, it burned like when you go swimming and water gets in your nose, and then the tube sliding down my throat felt like swallowing a piece of Dorito with sharp edges (oh Doritos--I miss you good friend.) but instead of the Dorito going into your stomach, it just stays lodged in your throat, leaving you just swallowing in pain trying to remove it. I remember crying and saying out loud, "I have to leave this tube in over night?!!! I can't make it 10 minutes!" But quickly I realized any anxiety and crying only made my body and throat tense up and made it worse. It was so weird how thoughts of "distress tolerance" and "acceptance" started becoming louder in my mind, slowly overtaking my whimpering and negativity. Or it could have been the morphine. Probably a mixture of both.
|My transformation into an elephant|
I ended up keeping the NG tube in for three days. The purpose of the tube was to give my bowels a break by sucking out all the acid in my stomach. This also prevented my symptoms of nausea and shortness of breath from reappearing. What was happening was that all the CO2 in my abdominal cavity from my previous surgery (they fill your abdomen with CO2 when they perform laparoscopic surgeries) plus all the acid and gas from my bowel obstruction was rising and filling my chest, creating a massive amount of pressure on my diaphragm. For me it felt like that shortness of breath you get if you're punched in the stomach, but the feeling didn't go away (well, unless I vomited).
I also wasn't allowed to eat or drink until Saturday night at 9:00 p.m. I was so excited for my first meal of lemon jello. In the meantime, I was busy trying to figure out how many calories were in an 1000mL IV bag made of 5% dextrose...
|Feast Fit for a Queen|
And then once I was able to have a bowel movement and also eat Saltines without puking, I was able to go home, which was Monday afternoon.
|I'm into the Andy Dufresne "Freedom from Shawshank" poses|
|Updated belly with Man Hands|
Here are some musings/events of note during my stay.
Why does the hospital food have high fructose corn syrup in it? The orange sherbet and so called healthy "Mighty Shake" both had high fructose corn syrup as the second or third ingredient. The hospital had signs all around that said "Get healthy and fit for the new year." You would think at a place of health, the food would actually be a little less processed and healthy? I think we need a Jamie Oliver Food Revolution intervention.
It's sort of fun to wake up and pee in a portable toilet. I felt like a queen who couldn't be bothered to walk the 10 steps to the bathroom. It was also difficult to stretch the IV machine that far.
The stay was made much easier by the company of my boyfriend and nurse. I remember watching him sleep and thinking of Rudyard Kipling's "The Elephant's Child" in Just So Stories. Does he look at me and wonder why he as a stubby nose instead of a trunk like mine?
|Snooki from Jersey Shore|
Oh and, of course, I also took mental notes on what events were and were not blog worthy :) So there you have it.