Wednesday, March 01, 2006

What I Learned in the Hospital

1. Most of one’s time as a patient is spent waiting for the food trays to be brought around. I hear the clatter of the cart coming down the hall and smell the distinct aroma of powdered eggs, instant coffee or mystery meatloaf, I hear the cheery voices of the food service workers as they greet the other patients, gauging how far away from me they are, how long it will take to get my tray, to see the smiling face, by how loud the voices and the clattering trays are. The food arrives, placed before me on a tray, the main course enticingly covered with a blue plastic dome. I motor the bed into a sitting position and remove the cover with what I am embarrassed to admit is a flourish of anticipation. The main course is not so enticing without the blue plastic dome. No matter what the meal, I try to drag it out, savor it, if you will, unwrapping and using every condiment, including salt and pepper, which are the two things, and the only two things, the food *doesn’t* need, just to extend the experience of having something in front of me to do that doesn’t involve TV or doctors or the Demerol pump.

2. A Demerol pump helps make the time in between food trays fly right by.

3. Nurses will give you whatever you want (drug-wise) as long as there is a possibility you will be quiet and not ring the call bell. Ever. The night nurse my first night in the hospital got me hooked up to my IV antibiotics, saline, and the Demerol pump. I was asking all kinds of questions about the medicine when he stood up and leaned on the rail on the side of my bed. I noticed he had sweat trickling down both sides of his face. He said, “Listen, Honey, you seem anxious, you want something for that?”

4. Nurses are terribly overworked. My roommate toward the end of my stay had had her second hip replacement. She asked me to ring for the nurse to come and get her off of the bed pan they shoved under her 10 minutes earlier. It took someone another 15 minutes to respond. She also shared a scary story with me: she was in Mount Sinai here in NYC and the nurses were so “overworked” that she had to hire, out of her pocket, a private duty nurse to take care of her. While she was in the hospital. With nurses.

5. Watching medical shows like House, Scrubs, or reruns of ER while actually *in* the hospital is not a very good idea.

6. I can only watch the first half of Law and Order. Not even a Demerol pump makes Sam Waterston or the “actresses” who play the ADAs, some of whom can barely say their lines (Angie Harmon, I’m looking at YOU!) watchable.

7. Demerol does not help with muscle spasms. Several times I got “stuck,” more than once on the toilet, in the throes of a wicked spasm, the knot marching up my back like Sherman’s army through South Carolina, sheer wasteful devastation.

8. Demerol pump helps with #4 and 5 above.

9. It helps if your doctors are good looking.

10. Demerol pump helps with #9.


At Saturday, March 04, 2006 8:20:00 AM, Blogger kim said...

Hey Ingrid - followed a link to your blog from flickr. We've been contacts there since way back when.

I'm so so sorry to hear that you're having such a rotten time - I'm trying to figure out what the deal is from a quick scan through your blog, and it seems to be nerve injury to your back caused by your tennis elbow and subsequent tests?

If this is the case - and I know that unsought advice is probably the last thing that you want right now - but when you're on the mend, do think about finding yourself an Alexander Technique teacher.

I've had RSI and back/neck problems caused by computer use for ten years now (I'm 31 - I've basically been semi-crippled by it since I was 21...) - I'd given up on a medical solution, after all kinds of nerve conduction tests. It got to the point where I was more or less constantly in pain from my neck, and couldn't use a mouse... but I was so used to it *I barely noticed the pain any more*. Anyway, after dropping my 100th mug, or spending a fortnight in support bandages, or 2 days flat on my back on a wood floor unable to twist... I remembered an architect friend reccomended Alexander Technique. And I got me a teacher.

It's a funny thing - a bit... sort of new age, but actually based on good strong anatomical roots. And I *hate* anything that smacks of mysticism or fluffiness or non-scientfic thinking, so it's a big deal for me to start doing it. But I went with it. It's about slowly retraining you in the way you use your body, so you stop postural movements that aggravate your condition. It works, to the extent that I've only had tiny outbursts of arm pain in the last year, and I'm back using a mouse. I'm managing my pain better - I'm aware when it comes on now, and carry myself in ways that let it subside naturally. It's changed my life, but you can probably tell that from this rant...

You sound like you're a way a way from thinking about the end game at the moment - and I really hope things go well over the next month or two. Your description of the pain is heartrending. But... anyway. Much love, and best wishes. Just wanted to share in case it's something that will help?


At Monday, March 13, 2006 2:28:00 PM, Blogger Mary said...

Good to know that you are on the mend! I hope you'll be fully recovered soon. Back pain is so debilitating.

Take good care -- you are in my thoughts.


At Tuesday, April 04, 2006 8:28:00 PM, Blogger md in toronto said...

hi Ingrid - great to see your new posts and comment thankyou!...looking forward to more pics and reading about your progress. Spring is so close I can taste it...snowed ever so briefly today.
- Michael


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