Once again, I was up, showered, room picked up, breakfast order phoned in, cuppa tea in hand all before 7am shift change. I can’t for the life of me explain how I’m doing this. I can’t even function properly before 10am when I am at home. Weird.
So, this morning I decided to watch Pitch Perfect–one of my favorite movies–while having my first respiratory treatment done. It turns out my RT loves the movie. She and I let nearly 30 minutes pass before we noticed that I was smoking an empty pipe and she hadn’t moved the percussor from the same spot on my back, because we were too busy being “aca-awesome”. Good times. I had also spent part of the morning blasting my Spotify account and occasionally singing along. Well, a toned down version of singing. It’s not exactly the kind of place to work on your belt.
I encountered a number of interesting characters today. The few times my door was left open, exposing me to the open rooms on either side (I really do hate having a room at the end of the hall) I was able to see and hear the goings on with those families. Remember the CF girl I wrote about in a previous update? The one that I got emotional about, and said she was beautiful? Well, it turns out that 24 hours of listening to her cough and gag has pushed me to my limit. I’m back to cringing, and feeling embarrassed that I ever sounded like that in my life. I know she can’t help it. But what she can help is her attitude. She has a standing order for pain medications (let’s just say, well above Tylenol grade) and when they don’t arrive at her room precisely on time, she gets grumpy! Worse, her boyfriend opens and slams the door, repeatedly, trying to get the nurses’ attention. When that doesn’t work, he paces in and out of the doorway. Any minute now, he’s going to channel Shirley McClaine in Terms of Endearment [“Give my daughter the shot!”]. You know what I’m talking about. Their sink also threw a leak today. He got on the nurses about that, rather than listening to them and waiting for maintenance. He tried getting chatty with me and I politely nodded along from my room. I wish you both well, but I just can’t.
Now, on the other side of the doorway is an elderly man. His sweet little wife has been with him the entire time. The few glances I have made in there have made my heart swell. They’re precious. At one point my nurse was standing in my open doorway with the medicine cart, charting some things on me and preparing to change my IV bag. The old woman from next door comes out and begins discussing personal stuff with the nurse. The nurse tries to point out that I’m sitting right there and can hear. But the old woman pauses, looks at me, does the smile and nod, then resumes talking. From what I could gather, the woman and her husband have very little (if any) insurance and cannot afford many treatments. She asked the nurse if someone could come in and explain the individual prices of everything before they choose whether or not to accept treatment. My heart broke. Then the woman smiled and touched my nurse’s elbow, “Let’s be practical. You wouldn’t buy a Rolls Royce if you couldn’t afford one. He’s had a good, long life. You know what I’m saying.” And with that she returned to her husband’s bed side. I’m not sure whose jaw was hanging lower, mine or the nurse.
My poor nurse! She was verbally abused by more than one person today. First, by the son of the elderly couple. While it seems that they have accepted the inevitable and are at peace with it, sonny boy is not. And he took out his emotional frustration on the nurse. Another patient became agitated because she decided it was time to go home, whether anyone else liked it or not. On more than one occasion, my nurse used my room as a sanctuary (and at one point, therapist’s couch) during her shift. I was happy to oblige. She is totally awesome, and under appreciated.
Shortly before dinner, a friend arrived from home to visit. She had messaged me around 9am saying, “See you in a few hours.” I expected her to arrive here by lunch time. Unfortunately, due to a major accident on the interstate, she sat parked on the road for 2 hours. When she finally made it here, I had already escaped my room and was sunbathing in the courtyard. She and I sat out there for a while. We even ran into the redneck boyfriend of my CF patient neighbor. He was upset that he needs to walk off campus to smoke (MUSC is smoke-free). He goes on those walks a lot. He even received a $25 fine for smoking by the entrance, which he claims he promptly tore up. What this says to me, is that this person is a chain smoker, who more than likely smokes at home. No wonder that chick hacks the way she does. Genius.
My friend left. I ate my dinner. And then right as visiting hours were ending, another friend from home arrived. Again, I slipped out of my room and hit the streets, waiting in a flower garden at dusk for her to arrive. She and I had a wonderful time back in the room, giggling like school girls and planning our trip to Ohio to meet Norman Reedus and Jon Bernthal. Both of those lovely friends will be returning tomorrow. I cannot wait.
Around 10:30, I walked my friend to the elevators and thanked her for coming. I turned the corner to enter my wing, dragging my IV pole around with me, and I ran smack into three RN and/or LPN. Two of them were using disinfectant wipes to clean off one of the computer carts. The other was on the phone, shot me a look, then lowered her voice to resume speaking, “Yeah…code…33 just died.” My heart stopped. I immediately dropped my eyes, clenched my IV pole, and walked faster, trying to act as though I hadn’t heard anything.
I got back to my room and settled in for a nice Skype chat with the husband and the kid. When my night nurse came in to hang my next medicine bag, curiosity got the best of me. “You need to come in here and gossip,” I whispered at her. She looked back to see that no one else was paying attention, and she hurried into my room.
It seems the man in 33, not her patient but who, according to her, “Looked like he was in his 70s, but was probably in his 50s” had cancer. His cancer was so severe, and untreated for so long, it had surfaced and taken over half of his face and neck. He was riddled with it. The doctor and other nurses told her that the man had been dropped off at the hospital by his neighbors around dinner time. So he hadn’t been on my floor for very long. The neighbors, it seems, were “taking care” of him, but in reality, the doctor said they were stealing his Medicare checks. The man must have known his time was ending because he kept refusing treatments. Unfortunately, he did not have a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate Order) thus the staff is required to keep trying. And he wasn’t coherent enough to sign an order. It’s actually better that he passed. He’s in a better place. But man…there are some despicable people in this world, I swear.
As she is telling me this, something in the hall catches her attention. The nurse quickly yells to another nurse, “She’s out again, get her!” and someone else yells back, “Calling security.” I was totally intrigued. “What’s going on?” I asked. It seems that there is an elderly woman with dementia who defies all attempts to keep her safe. Bed rails and bed alarms do nothing to stop her. So they used restraints. She got out. This time, they used 4-point restraints. She’s escaped twice. “She’s like Houdini,” my nurse said. And there she goes, off and running in her gown, headed to god knows where. Nothing can keep her in her room. And so, they had to call security. The woman would once again be placed in restraints, but the room will now be locked and guarded. It’s for her own safety, but it’s scary nonetheless.
“I’m so sorry,” I said to my nurse. “Your shift has barely started and you have to deal with all of this.” As the words were still hanging from my lips, another nurse yells down, “Chest pain in room ___. Get in there!” My nurse just looked at me and smiled. “If you need anything, holler!” And with that, she headed off to be a hero.
I love nurses.
So, tomorrow is Sunday. Both of my friends will be by at some point to hang out with me. My sister and mother are supposed to be coming to visit again. Maybe we’ll get to spend some more time in the garden. My pneumothorax doesn’t seem to be growing. I’ll have another x-ray probably tomorrow or Monday, along with some more labs. And if all goes well, I may be going home on Tuesday with IV meds for 2 weeks. I’m sore. I’m tired. But when am I ever not? Mind over matter. A good sense of humor, a positive attitude, being “practical” as that old woman said, that’s what keeps you going. No sense complaining when I know that I could very easily be like any one of the people on my hall. I’ll play the hand I was dealt, thank you very much.
Oh, and also, Henry Winkler (yes…that Henry Winkler) wished me a “speedy recovery” today on Twitter. What?