Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Oh yeah, where was I?

I was in the hospital with severe diarrhea, an unexplained fever and a lump under my incision. How can you have diarrhea when your bowels are paralyzed, you may ask? That's easy. The diarrhea was edema -- fluid leaking from the colon walls. Nothing had to move from higher up.

That was not my only problem. Every time I went into the lavatory, I had to push the IV pole in ahead of me and get it positioned correctly so I could wrestle the knee-length smock out of the way and get my pants untied. Then I had to reverse the process on the way out. Every time, the IV got yanked around inside my vein.
In the next two days, I went through four or five IVs. They would stop running completely, or the arm downstream from the needle would get painful and swollen. Now I was more dehydrated than ever. Just because I couldn't stand the thought of drinking anything didn't mean I couldn't, at the same time, feel just as thirsty as a dying man in the desert.

There was never an IV nurse after 5:00 in the afternoon. Once the IV stopped running at night and I lay there desiccating for five hours before someone came to put a new one in. She didn't know what she was doing. First she blew a vein in my left hand, then she tried to put the needle in the crook of my left elbow, in the big vein they take blood samples from, and she blew that one as well. She finally gave up. During business hours, I was considered a windfall instructional resource. The IV nurses would bring students around to jab at me, until I insisted that the butchery stop.

Once, while I was lying in bed, I looked down to see the line full of blood and then I saw that it had somehow come apart. I pushed the call button. When Nance came in, she gasped and said to me, "don't look at the floor." A man came in with a mop a few minutes later and he just said, "Oh man." I didn't look, but from the way the man worked the mop, I figured the puddle of blood must have been at least five feet in diameter.

I said to Nance, "Look, the reason this is happening is the way I have to manipulate my clothing every time I go to the toilet. I have to get this damn nightie out of the way so I can get my pants down, and it keeps getting tangled in the IV line. Can't you give me a regular short pajama shirt?" Well, they didn't have any. The long johnnie was the only upper garment in stock. But she improvised. She got me a surgeon's scrub top. Not only did that put a stop to the repeated torture of blown IVs, but it immediately gave me back a measure of dignity I hadn't had since the night I walked in. I was now the only patient in unit 7B who was not humiliated by his clothing. The scrub top had a flattering cut and was an attractive blue with tan piping; it was closed in the back; it ended appropriately at the waist. I was now dressed like an adult instead of an infant.

Believe it or not, the next morning, a physician taking residents on morning rounds called over a nurse and berated her, in my presence, for allowing a patient to wear a physicians' scrub top. If they can't humiliate and infantilize you, something is seriously wrong.


C. Corax said...

What an a-hole the doctor was! Infantilize the patient, kick the nurses.

This reads like fiction. It is hard to believe that one hospital could pack so much incompetence into one surgery.

robin andrea said...

I agree with CCorax, their incompetence is shocking.