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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Escape From Hospital Hell

It was like a dark comedy for me to escape from the Ross Heart Hospital at Ohio State earlier this month. This adventure had me playing Houdini, bleeding, and losing things.

Because I was running a fever in the evenings, per doctor’s orders I went into the hospital on Monday, Dec. 28th, and should have been discharged well before the end of the week. Alas, it was New Year’s week, and the labs closed down, so I was stuck there until the following Monday when the lab results confirmed what the doctors had already deduced: I had fungal infection in the lungs, treatable with pills. A prescription for the pills was sent to the pharmacy right there in the hospital, so that I could pick them up as soon as I was discharged. I had been campaigning with the doctors to let me out on that Monday, and finally, shortly after noon, they said okay.

The difficulty was that at 2:15 that same afternoon I was scheduled for a visit with Dr. Sun, who had performed the heart transplant and wanted to see my incision, which seemed to be healing nicely into a neat vertical scar on the upper part of my chest. I didn’t want to go home and then turn around and immediately come back, so I asked the nurse who brought me the discharge papers if I could leave my things in the hospital room and pick them up after I saw Dr. Sun. She said fine. I asked her when I could snip off the white ID bracelet on my left wrist, and she said to do that only when I had left the hospital building. I phoned my friend Mary Bush, who had kindly agreed to pick me up, and told her I would call her on my cell when she should leave her home to come get me. I estimated the time would be shortly after 3 pm, which seemed reasonable when I said it. Pause here for rueful laugh.

Shortly after 2pm, I went down to registration to check-in for the Sun appointment, and the receptionist wanted to put a new white ID band on my wrist! Since I already had one on the left wrist, which she didn’t see because there was a bandage closer to my hand where the IV had been taken out, I knew I would be in trouble if she discovered I already had a band on. (I asked a nurse later about this, and she told me that if I had two bands it would cause such a bureaucratic nightmare that I’d still be there). So I pointed to the bandage on my left wrist and asked her if it was okay to put the new ID band on my right wrist. She said fine, and did that.

Then Dr. Sun wanted me to have an X-ray done before he saw me, and, with waiting in the X-ray line involved, this took over an hour. Now X-rayed, as I was being led by a nurse to Dr. Sun’s examination room, it suddenly occurred to me that he was going to want me to take off my shirt so he could see the chest, and that would expose the two ID band problem. What to do? This led to my Houdini trick.

When we entered the examination room, the nurse sat down at the computer, facing mostly away from me. I pointed to the bandage on my left wrist and asked her if she had a scissors that I might use to take it off. She handed me one from her pocket, and I turned away from her, stuck it down inside my left sleeve, felt around for the ID band and snipped it enough that it could be easily torn off when she left. I thanked her and returned the scissors.

She left and I promptly pulled up my sleeve, ripped the ID band off, and threw it into the trash. All was well, I thought, until I noticed I was bleeding from a small cut on my wrist, and there were blood drops on the floor. I staunched the bleeding, cleaned up the blood, and managed to sit down and was calmly begin reading on my Kindle when Dr. Sun and entourage entered. He looked at the incision, said everything looked good, and so I could go. I called Mary and told her I would meet her in the hospital reception area, and then I returned to my hospital room and, with the aid of a kindly nurse, got my luggage and various bags down to the reception area, where I settled in, reading again on the Kindle.

Mary showed up shortly thereafter, and when she came in I told her I could wheel the luggage if she could handle the two shopping bags. By this time I was chomping at the bit to get out of there (“My own bed!” kept running through my thoughts---after seven nights in that medieval torture device that passed for a bed in the hospital), and with some hustling about, we got everything into Mary’s van. Tiny woman though she is, she muscled the suitcase into the back of the van without difficulty.


As we were driving away, and almost out of the hospital complex, Mary casually said, “Wasn’t there something about picking up a prescription?” I slapped my forehead and asked her to turn around to go back to the hospital pharmacy. The weather was very bad: ridiculously cold, snowing, ice on the roads, but Mary gamely turned around and parked in front of the relevant building. Then I had another bad thought.

“Mary,” I said, “there’s a new problem. I don’t have any money or credit cards with me, not wanting to have them in my hospital room.” Mary, as always, was generous and said I could borrow her credit card, which she kindly gave me. She waited in the van, while I went into the building. On my way to the pharmacy a new bad thought arose: if anyone looked at the card it was going to be very difficult to convince them that I was “Mary Bush.” Fortunately it was one of those “swipe your own card” machines, so this difficulty was avoided.

Back in the van, Mary carefully negotiated the icy streets and we made it to my home. She brought the luggage in and hefted it onto the bed (I am not allowed to lift things heavier than 10 pounds), I hugged her and gave her my thanks, and she drove off.

I luxuriated in being home, and, control freak that I am, set about putting everything in its place (my son, daughter-in-law, and ex-wife had stayed there in my absence, but things were mostly in their proper spots). Finally, I settled down (it was after 7 pm by this time), when I made an ugly discovery. I couldn’t find my Kindle, the electronic book reader sold to me by Amazon.com. This is a major loss since the device is expensive ($250), and it was my second Kindle. The first ($350---the price has been dropping) I ran over with my car in what was a very bad day, and I panicked at the thought of losing the new one. I called Mary, getting her answering machine, and asked her to look in her car to see if the Kindle was there. That didn’t seem likely, and if it was not there, that meant I had put it down on the table next to me in the reception area of the hospital when she came through the door, and then stupidly left it behind.

I phoned the hospital, got the reception desk, and, to my relief, the receptionist said that some kind person had already turned it in to him, and that I could pick it up tomorrow when I came in for my weekly biopsy. I gave sigh of relief.

So when I read that night it was from a paper book, but I did it in my own bed.

And the hospital hell was over.

1 comment:

  1. It is time for Mary to comment. I was at Doug's New Year's party. We all waited for Doug's call. There was not a single question in any of our minds that his party would end before Doug would still be the party host, albeit from a hospital bed. And it was typical Doug for his call to include a plea to move the party to the hospital.

    The party did not move to the hospital but all of us were delighted to hear his voice, and raised a toast that we were grateful to hear Doug's voice, and that we shall hear that voice for years to come thanks to the transplant.

    Let's move to my taking Doug home from the hospital. It may be a surprise for maybe one person who has never actually met Doug, but he likes to be in control. And the lack of that is something that Doug has dealt with well - in terms of medical staff.

    It rather ends there. It took approximately 9 phone calls/voice mails from Doug to arrange picking him up from the hospital. (He might have mentioned that there were some discharge issues.) But, he really believed when he heard he was going home that it would be soon. In the medical world this is often referred to the Tinkerbell Syndrome where patients actually believe what their MD's/nurses tell them. That it will happen if the patient really, really believes. Doug so wanted to be free of the hospital and comfortably home that he kept hoping. And hoping. And believing.

    I get it. Doug, It didn't matter how many times you called, being home is a good thing. A really good thing and the sooner the better.


    So, feel free to call again.

    Mary

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