The Funny Side of Hospital Stays
Recently, I had the distinct misfortune of needing emergency surgery to remove my appendix. It went gangrenous and ruptured the day after Thanksgiving. Little did I know that would lead to a month of fighting for my life and spending more time in the hospital than at home. Due to my autoimmune conditions, my body went bananas and anything that could go wrong, did. But, I survived, a little worse for wear, bruised and scarred, but alive. And full of stories. Stories I’d like to share here because with all the pain and crap we go through as chronically ill people, there’s always that one moment of hilarity that breaks through. After going through an entire month of pain and crap, I found quite a few moments to share.
The Ice Chips and Gas
As the mother of boys, I have always been the referee of farts. I really can’t stand them even though “everyone does it.” So of course, the first rule I’m given upon getting to my room is “no food until I pass gas.” I could only have ice chips. Yeah, I get that this is to ensure my intestines are working again, but no juice, no broth, no popsicles? It was my fifth day on only ice chips (yes, I said five) when I actually had this conversation with my nurse:
“OK, so what constitutes an actual fart?”
“Why? What happened?”
“I just felt a lot of bubbles escape… well, my butt.”
“Oh, we kind of like it to be forceful enough to be heard. So if you couldn’t hear the bubbles escape, it doesn’t count. But I bet it’ll be soon!”
She was right too. Later that evening, I scared my husband by giving a big “woohoo!” when I let one rip! Unfortunately, that side effect of surgery takes a very long time to go away, leading to much embarrassment and the mantra “my wife is a sailor!” (Woohoo!)
The Butt Drain
After finally healing enough from my surgery and meeting all the requirements to go home, I thought all I had to do was sleep and slowly increase my food intake. Wrong. I quickly developed two major abscesses in my abdomen and landed back in the hospital. OK, more antibiotics. But this time they decided to insert tubes attached to bags that would drain the fluid from these infected areas as well. I would be awake but medicated while they did this. (Ummm…)
So we get to the procedure room and I get on the table and the first thing they tell me is to lay on my stomach. I did not immediately say, “What? I just had surgery!” Instead, they explained they could not access the abscess from the front. (This keeps getting better and better!)
After the procedure, I ended up with one tube entering my lower back and one entering my upper butt cheek, which I sat on every time I used a toilet. I never did find out exactly where that abscess was which required them to use my butt as an entry point, but I now have a perfectly round scar on my right butt cheek as a memento!
Take My Roommate
During my second stay at the hospital, I was graced with a roommate who was the definition of what not to do when you are a roommate in the hospital. She stayed up late (4 a.m.) watching TV (loudly) and laughing as if she was home. She refused earbuds for the TV (by screaming “get them off my body!”). She used my shampoo. She argued with her mother constantly. She ordered snack food at all hours. She monopolized the staff. And she refused to wear gowns.
This last one is what became the biggest issue. I was fortunate enough to have family visit me often during the day. I warned them what she was like before they came. At one point while my mother was there, my roommate had a “crisis” and came running through the curtains dividing our halves of the room to use the bathroom. (She got the window, I got the bathroom.) She was wearing just her underwear. (The no gown thing, remember?) This happened a few more times. Fortunately never when my husband was there. Mom and I dubbed it “lunch and a show.”
After my second stay was over and it was deemed the drains were working and I was no longer sick from the abscesses, I was once again sent home with the drains still in and the bags safety pinned to my clothes as the next big fashion statement. And it went very well for quite awhile! Until my intestines revolted. I actually thought it was my Sjogren’s flaring up. I was sore and to be honest, occasionally my system doesn’t process water and sheds it all quickly, meaning a day on the toilet. But when I spiked a fever, I was told to come back to the hospital. Again!
This time it was C. diff. A bacterial infection caused by antibiotics (for the abscess) killing off good bacteria in the colon and allowing the other bacteria that’s normally there (C. diff) to overgrow and cause real problems. It’s also impossible to kill outside the body so I was quarantined. I’ll admit, seeing my husband in a yellow paper dress every time he came to visit was priceless!
Anyway, I required a private room. So I had to wait for one to be set up. And it was a nice room: two windows, end of the hall, quiet… but no curtain around the bathroom. None! And the one thing C. diff does is make you go. I kind of needed that curtain. I had to have my husband stand guard more times than I can count, but even after multiple requests, it never came. I eventually got creative with extra hospital gowns.
Then comes the fact that my doctor, knowing my history of fractured vertebrae, ordered a special mattress for me so I wasn’t in pain laying down so much. The problem was, in quarantine, nothing could leave my room. So the old mattress that was taken off my bed was set up in my shower. Right next to the toilet. No problem, right? Ha! It lasted all of three visits to the potty before wreaking havoc the fourth. I was sitting doing the C. diff shuffle when that mattress ever so slowly folded over on itself and landed right on my head and shoulder, pinning me to the opposite wall. I tried, but really was not strong enough to lift it, push it or stand by myself. I had to pull the red cord. That means there’s an emergency and brings staff rushing to your room. And here I am on the toilet pinned by a mattress. Great! However, the looks on their faces were hilarious. Really! How often do you see a mattress fallen over on a patient who’s on the toilet? I’ll never stop laughing about that day!
These are just a few of the funny moments I took away from my month in and out of the hospital. I was there so much that staff knew me by name and the techs doing the testing did double-takes. Food service workers knew my preferences and brought me extra butterscotch pudding. They made this horrible ordeal bearable by being so caring.
Now, there is just one incision left to heal and I need to build my strength back up. I went through something I honestly didn’t think I’d make it through. The key turned out to be my attitude and my sense of humor. Hopefully, I have passed that on to some of you through this story. If not, just remember to always be aware of rogue shower mattresses!
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