A humorous, optimistic blog about Food, Family, Friends and Faith

Archive for July, 2012

Diary of a Hospital Stay

Today my husband is having surgery to try to repair an arteriovenous fistula and a tangle of blood vessels pressing on his spine. He’s been having trouble with pain and tingling in his lower legs since last year. After a partially successful surgery in February, he and his doctor decided to try it again. I wanted to record the experience for posterity, and sharing it seemed to be the next logical thing. Don’t ask me why.

3:45 am

Waking in the hours before dawn has never been one of my favorite things, and today is no exception. After a cursory glance at my Facebook account (during which I notice my daughter posted a comment at 12:30 am, just over 3 hours earlier), I drag my sorry, tired carcass out of bed and throw it in the shower. I have 10 minutes until I have to wake everyone else up and get them moving. Quick lather, rinse, repeat. Bellow out the bathroom door, “Time to get up!” I hear groaning from my husband and nothing from my daughter. She’s going to need the Mom equivalent of a nuclear blast to wake her up.

4:00 am

Knocked ever so gently on my daughter’s bedroom door. Heard a grunt. Made a mental note to check in 5 minutes to make sure she woke up. Cursing the fact that I can’t make coffee this morning. Rick can’t have it, and the smell of bacon/maple coffee would just be cruel and unusual punishment, so I postpone my daily cup for a few hours. I content myself with putting vegan cream cheese on a multigrain bagel for Louise, regular light cream cheese on a sesame bagel for me, and hiding them both in a bag so Richard won’t see them (that cruel and unusual thing again). That will have to suffice to satisfy my food prep requirement for the morning.

4:30 am

Louise stumbles out to the dining room. She plunks her computer down and grabs her bagel. I look at her and remind her that we have to leave in 20 or so minutes. She gives me her version of a stink eye (which is, admittedly, quite good, but still needs work), and sulks off to the bathroom. I nearly burst out laughing because I’m sleep deprived. I hear the toothbrush whirring. I wonder why she’s brushing her teeth when she didn’t eat anything and nearly burst out laughing again. I choke it back.

4:45 am

Rick comes out of the bedroom with a gallon Ziploc bag stuffed full of drugs and paperwork. “Do I need to bring underwear?” “Probably not a bad idea,” I reply. Then I giggle at the thought of my husband running around the hospital commando-style. The absurdity of the moment is not lost on me.

4:50 am

I throw my bag in the car. Louise comes bouncing out of the house, half a bagel in each hand, cream cheese gleaming in the faint light of dawn. She apologizes to Rick for waving food in his face. He says it’s no problem, but I know he would bite her hand off if she got too close. Given that the trip from our house to NYC usually takes 2 hours, I hope that we can make stops at the library, post office and gas station and still make it to the hospital by 7:00 am.

6:15 am

I look at the clock on the dashboard. I realize that we have made the trip to Manhattan in less than 90 minutes. Perhaps my desire to arrive on time caused me to exceed the speed limit a wee bit. Oops.

6:40 am

While waiting for Rick’s paperwork to be filled out, I pop onto Facebook and see that our town supervisor saw a cow lying in the middle of I684 near Katonah. That strikes me as wonderfully odd and I try to stifle a laugh but it doesn’t work and the nurse looks at me.

Dr. Niimi explains that he will access the femoral artery, threading a catheter up to the top of Rick’s spine, injecting dye and taking pictures. This angiogram will allow them to see how the blood is flowing in the spinal column, and will let them know if they can inject Superglue into his veins again to block off the offending bulges, thereby allowing the spinal fluid to run freely again. If the doctor doesn’t like what he sees or can’t get to the veins with his catheter, a neurosurgeon is standing by to go in through the skin and weed out the bad stuff. I become aware of an electrical humming beneath my skin and realize that I am nervous. I try not to show it.

7:20 am

Rick dresses in Roosevelt Hospital’s finest gown and slippers and toddles off to the operating room. No hospital bed ride for him – he has to hoof it in a paper wraparound dress and grippy socks. We head to the waiting room.

9:09 am

The first text message comes in from Rick’s family. His sister Marianne is with his Mom in St. Lawrence County. She asks to be kept informed and says she will forward my texts to her other siblings, which makes my life easier. A lot easier. I’m all thumbs on my Dumbphone on a good day, and she’s just taken a load off my mind. I start to browse Facebook, feeling incredibly appreciative that I have so many friends who are sending prayers and healing vibes to Richard and his doctor (and a few to me). I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Then I read a post about kittens and terrorists and start to giggle. The giggle turns into a chuckle, which threatens to turn into a belly laugh. I stuff it back in because there is another lady in the waiting room who might not understand why I am laughing about kittens, terrorists and cows on the highway. My eyes leak a little.

10:21 am

I realize i am nursing a headache and go in search of a water fountain so I can take some aspirin. I doctor my water with 1000 mg of Vitamin C. Not only do I want to stay healthy so I don’t get Rick sick, I want to be able to fight off any pathogens I might pick up here. No word yet from Dr. Niimi.

12:15 pm

No word yet, so I call the housing people and ask if we can get into our room sooner than 2 pm. We get the green light, so we schlep our belongings over to 515 60th St., which is a residence that Roosevelt Hospital has for families of patients and residents. We have rented a 2-bedroom apartment for two nights. It’s awesome! Huge! Two spacious bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, living room. I could easily live in an apartment that size. I flop on the bed and have to remind myself not to fall asleep,because we have to go back to the hospital. We swing by a Chinese restaurant to get some spicy tofu, and a halal vendor for some felafel (no sauce, thank you!). Came back to the hospital.

1:12 pm

I am so tired! I want nothing more than to put my head down somewhere. Anywhere. My phone rings and it is Mary Ng, the physician’s assistant. They were able to fix some vessels on the right side. Then they did another angiogram and saw some vessels on the left side that needed fixing, but they were too hard to get at. So, films of Richard’s back are now in the hands of a neurosurgeon, who will decide his surgical options. Truth be told, I didn’t understand why they didn’t just go in and cut out the bad part in the first place. {sigh} This means another trip to NYC in the future.  Looking forward to seeing Richard in a few minutes.

5:00 pm

Richard’s doctor came in and said they had success with the right side embolization. He has full feeling in his right foot. YAY! I feel like jumping up and down like a crazy person. He tells us that a neurosurgeon, Dr. Mandigo, will be doing another surgery tomorrow, and he’ll be in later to discuss the procedure. I am glad to have everything fixed in one trip, but concerned about the “removing bone and exposing spinal cord” part.

I ponder the benefits and risks of falling asleep in a hard hospital chair. Kink in my neck? Ok. Twist in my back? Ok. Waking up in a bathtub packed with ice missing a kidney? Not cool. I decide to stay awake.

6:45 pm

Louise and I hike a few blocks in the furnace-like Manhattan summer evening to Whole Foods. Holy Crowd Control, Batman! This store is more crowded than Walmart on Black Friday. We get some takeout and a bottle of hot sauce and shuffle back to our room. I vaguely remember some soba noodles, raw veggies, and a samosa with mango/papaya chutney.

8:30 pm

We troop back over to the hospital for our last visit of the day. Dr. Mandigo comes in and tells us what to expect tomorrow. They will remove a piece of his sacrum (“take the roof off”), cut into the protective sheath around his spinal cord out, identify the veins still inhibiting the flow of spinal fluid, seal them up to stop blood flow and snip them out. Then they’ll sew him up, somehow reattach the bone, stick a fork in him and slap him on a platter because he’ll be done. He will have to be flat for 48 hours, and then they’ll get him up and walking. I have a feeling this is going to sort of suck when we get him home.

9:45 pm

We go back to the apartment and change into our jammies. I watch an episode of Chopped, take some melatonin and go to bed, falling into a deep, dreamless sleep.

10:14 am

I am sitting in the waiting room again, waiting for Richard to come out of surgery. After a great night’s sleep I am feeling human again. Here we go again – day 2.

* * * * *

There have been several instances in my adult life when injury or illness to close family members has forced me to spend time in hospitals. From my mother’s terminal  cancer, to Louise’s horseback riding accident and subsequently crushed pelvis, to my husband’s aneurysm-like brain bleed on the eve of our first wedding anniversary, my time spent in hospitals has convinced me of one thing: people who work in the health care field are giants among men.

My grade-school friend Mark is a former police officer, shot in the line of duty. He is now a kick-ass fire fighter, paramedic and instructor for the Savannah, GA Fire Department. My high school friend Kerry is a nurse in a hospital in upstate NY. Their decision to work with people who are very broken and incapable of fixing themselves requires an extraordinary courage and strength.

Thank you to Mark and Kerry. Thank you to Dr. Niimi and Dr. Mandigo for trying to fix my broken husband. Thank you to the CCU and OR nurses. That one smile, that one bad joke, that one prayer makes all the difference. Namaste.

* * * * *