"Every government interference in the economy consists of giving an unearned benefit, extorted by force, to some men at the expense of others." Ayn Rand

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Hospital: Exigo

With so much time spent recuperating, you'd think I would have finished the hospital saga way before this. I have thought about writing about many other topics, but I've disciplined myself to not be allowed to write about anything else until I finish my story.

Cut to Saturday morning, PRMC ICU. Rules are rules in ICU, and they don't kid. Visit hours are enforced, and the nurses mean business. So the families wait in the waiting room.

One of the families in there was an older couple, and as time passed, we started talking. She told me her son was in ICU, on a ventilator. She didn't offer any more, and I didn't ask. After talking for awhile, she got a phone call, and being seated next to her, I heard her side of the conversation. She was talking about a fire, and how the baby was in Baltimore for an autopsy; her other grandson was in Johns Hopkins on a ventilator. My brain was sluggish, but I finally realized her son was the man I had read about in the news; he and his wife and two children had lived in a mobile home, and there had been a fire. The 18 month old boy had died in the fire, the five year old had burn and was on a ventilator, and the father had been burned and suffered smoke inhalation trying to save both boys. He couldn't save the baby. The trailer had burned to the ground; they lost everything.

I was so struck by this realization. I kept thinking to myself "how is she functioning?" I imagine exhaustion and repetition played a part in it; but then she said to the person on the phone that her son was despondent, and was asking his mother "how am I going to get through this". That was her breaking point; I had to go downstairs and outside to compose myself. I didn't want to make her feel worse.

For the next few weeks, I thought of this family all the time. I told people about them, and I'd cry. I just kept wondering how they were doing, how they were coping. Actually, the story was in the news quite a bit here, and the people at the elementary school in Willards organized several fund raisers, and asked for donations of anything, as the family had nothing. Someone was letting them stay in a rental house rent free for three or four months, but they needed everything. I went into the attic and got as much as I could; I had clothes that would fit the mom, so they went, and some dishes that we were saving for the kids that went. I took a trip to Walmart, and got Spiderman and Batman pajamas and sweatshirts, an art set, and some Batman and Spiderman toys for the 5 year old. It seemed so insignificant, but it was something.

But I digress.

Ok, I got really far on this part last night, but I think I erased it. Poop. I was all the way up till the trip out of ICU!

Oh well. Back to Saturday morning...Diane came in early Saturday morning, and brought coffee and the beloved cheesecake. It was so good to see her, and to have her there with me. We sat, and we talked, and we looked at the Ikea catalog. We planned the rest of Richard's life. Finally, we got to go inside. I saw Richard and was immediately overjoyed at his appearance. He looked about a million percent better than he had a mere 10 hours ago. Diane burst into tears, because, in all actuality, he looked like crap. But he was sitting up, and he had eaten breakfast, and he was smiling. He was pressing the little happiness button for morphine, but he was better. (More on the morphine issue in a bit). Diane stayed for awhile, and I think she felt a little bit better for seeing him, and seeing that he was on his way back from the nightmare that had been the night before.
We stayed in ICU all day; we were cleared to move back upstairs in the late afternoon, but once again, had to wait until evening to to anywhere. But it gave us time to experience the wonder that is the ICU. It's a terrible/wonderful place. The sounds that we heard in there were awful sometimes, and amazing other times. When they call a code, people come running from everywhere; I guess each person has their job to do in the moment, and the others come just to be there if needed. But it happens so very fast, lights blink and you hear running feet. The nurses who care for the patients are very professional, almost to a fault; but they don't have time to be chatty. The only similarity I found between the ICU's I see on television, and the real ones were the glass fronted rooms, and the sliding doors. Everything else? Just television.

Late in the afternoon, we discovered a small pool of water under the bed...turns out the small pool was the morphine running onto the floor. It explained why Richard was not as comfortable as he should have been...damn. I would have put my diet coke bottle underneath the drip if I'd have known. It would have been a hell of a cocktail. :)

We moved upstairs early Saturday evening, back to the 5th floor, into a private room, which was nice. It was my old room, which was ironic. Or, one of my old rooms. We settled in, again, with the hope that tomorrow would be the day he'd come home. Or at least be one day closer.

Sunday came, and Dr. Gittleman (the GP) came by. He wanted to run some more tests, plus they had to do yet another 24 hour pee collection. Richard wasn't happy, but I wanted him to be where I thought he still needed to be. He couldn't walk, he couldn't get around; he could hardly get out of bed still. We still had the kidney issue, and we had the antibody issue. I thought we'd get answers before he came home; I hate loose ends.

We settled in for a day of football in the hospital. We awaited the physical therapists. We ate hospital food. We passed another day in the hospital.

Monday dawned, and a few hours after I arrived, they released Richard. Right in the middle of the 24 hour pee test. Before he could walk well. I wasn't happy...and I didn't want Richard to miscontrue my feelings. I wanted him home more than anything, but I didn't want him home before he was well. I wanted answers to all the unanswered questions that were raised since this happened.

In a flurry of activity, the physical therapists came around, and took Richard down the hall to teach him how to walk up and down stairs, how to navigate on his supercharged walker, how to get the hell out of the hospital.

Truth be told, I was scared that I wouldn't be able to take care of him.

But finally they kicked us out of PRMC; we took the big ride down in the elevator. We got him into the car, and I drove home like I had 144 dozen eggs in the car.

But once we got home, it all kind of fell into place. We moved downstairs for the immediate duration. I faced cleaning the bolts coming out of Richard's arm, and once I faced it, it wasn't so bad. After a few nights, I stopped being afraid to sleep next to him for fear of rolling over on his arm. We muddled through the first few days.

It was good to have him home.