Jim’s Hospital Journal

Seems like I’m always making excuses for not been so active on the "Funnies List" and some folks tell me they actually miss their "fix" of funnies. Circumstances sometimes do not allow for providing an advanced warning of problems which pop up…… problems which take a person completely out of the picture, funnies and all. Some of the folks on my list discovered my disappearance and the reason but others just saw me disappear.

Suffice it to say, I have been in the hospital from Monday, June 30, until Thursday, July 17. For someone who has seldom been in a hospital, this was quite an eye-opening experience. These have not been happy times, however, I’ve tried to put together a semi-detailed description of my past couple of week’s activities. Being the strange-humored person that I am, I tried to find the funnier things in my visit and to place a humorous twist on events, which were neither pleasant nor funny. I just happen to believe that humor can be found in the most humorless events of a person’s life. My journal was not meant to be a fine-tuned piece of literary magic but rather a reminder to me that there really were some funny things in my 17-day vacation of mucho pain. I plan to upload it to the following spot on my web page.

 ****************************************************************************************************** 

It was a dark and stormy night, late on Saturday, June 29; I began feeling less than chipper. I had quite a pain in my stomach area and since that’s a rather large area, it was a rather large pain. I decided to go to bed earlier than usual, hoping to "sleep it off."

Next morning in church, I was hurting so badly that I was unable to stand during all the times they asked. Gloria and I had arranged to meet an old high school friend and his wife for lunch. I told them I was off my feed a bit but did manage to get down a smaller salad and visit with them at the house, afterward. After a good visit and we said our good-byes, I knew things were getting "more worser and more worser."  As each hour went by, I didn’t think I could feel any worse, however, each hour I knew I had been wrong.

From that point on, I got to be on very good terms with anything which was either food or drink since I was able to see it twice. Everything that crossed my mouth did so bi-directionally. I became the poster child for nausea, and served that position as well as anyone had ever done before.

 Sunday evening, Gloria offered, several times, to take me to the hospital emergency room. I declined…….. I was wrong…….. I have learned my lesson . On Monday morning I called my doctor and he seemed much more concerned than with any of the other few times I have called him. His instructions were to get to the emergency room ASAP. Hmmmmmm where had I heard those same instructions……?

Tests all day……. "What do you mean, I can’t have anything for my pain?" "Not until the tests have been completed," was their unwelcome response.

I had been in the emergency room all day and was finally checked into the hospital as a patient on Monday night the 30th of June where I stayed until my release on the 17th of July.

For several days after I was admitted, I was not given anything to eat or drink. I did have an IV providing nourishment (they said) and I really was not the least bit hungry. The previous days’ experience with food did not leave a very pleasant memory but boy, was I ever thirsty? It’s interesting that I’ve never been to the point of thirst so badly (and hope I never do again.) It has given me a whole new perspective on the story in the Book of Luke where the rich young ruler, while in hell, ask that a finger just be dipped in water and touched to his tongue to quench is terrible thirst. I was in that same position (thirst…… not hell). I won’t say that some of the hospital staff are like those from hell but I suspect some might have studied under the same instructors.

 

Tests…….. Tests…….. Tests…….

CAT Scans

My medical tests were no fun to live through and finding something funny in them was a real effort. You know, the common household cat is a gentle creature. I realize that the term "cat scan" has nothing to do with your feline friend but I now see that it does poor kitty a real disservice to associate them with the this medical diagnostic tool.

 

I had three separate CT scans, which were not quite as bad as some of the others in that they don’t take too long to do. The preliminaries leading up to a visit to "The CAT" are not much fun. I learned that any time the word came that I had a CT scan coming that it meant several things:

  1. I would have to have another IV port stuck into my hand or arm. I suppose there are some folks who can be stuck one time and have a perfect stick. Not me……. every time……EVERY time required multiple pokes and sometimes multiple pokes from multiple pokers. I have become true holy man…… not a Hindu Holy Man, just a holy man, poked full of holes. It I’d been hooked to a garden hose I could have easily been used as a "soaker hose" like those which are deliberately made to leak.
  2. I’d never had a CAT scan prior to my trip to the hospital and really didn’t know what to think. I was vaguely aware of how one worked and basically what they looked like. I knew it was somewhat like a doughnut where the patient is placed within the center hole area. I was never aware of the exact size of the opening and I always thought that if I every had to have one of these scans that the hole for the patient would be too small for someone my size and they would have to "shoe-horn" me into the hole area. I had the mental image that when they turned it on with me wedged in, that it might work for a while but would ultimately start to spin me around rather violently.
  3. Having a CAT Scan also meant drinking a wonderful little cocktail called "Two-Berry Smoothie" which is about a quart of something you would NEVER intentionally pay for to place in your mouth and certainly would never drink.
  4. Nothing to eat or drink and no pain shot for at least 4 hours prior to the test. NOTE: After several days as a patient, I was given small amounts of things to eat and drink……. there are more comments on these gourmet menus, later in the article.

 

That Other Test:

The other, particularly unkind test is not one while has allowed its name to stick in my mind. I did, however, see a couple of swastikas imprinted on the machinery and I complimented the technician on her modern torture techniques. The thing which I do remember about it --- I was told, shortly before being delivered to "IT" was that it was a combination of two tests: the first would take an hour and I must remain motionless for the full hour and the second which was 47 minutes and I must also remain uncomfortable and motionless. The first task was easy (uncomfortable), the second not nearly so easy. Just let me say (before all of the horrible memories rush back and causes the keyboard to fail) that the tests (promised to take 1hour and 47minutes) took just over 4 hours and a half.

My wife, patiently waiting for my return to the room, was getting very nervous and had already set up a plan with one of the floor nurses that if they didn’t hear any news on me within the next 15 minutes that they make a trip to "the lower depths" of the hospital and start checking Toe Tags for one with my name. I was finally returned just prior to the expiration of that time period. It was one of the worst experiences of my life.

Oddly enough, about 4 days later, the doctors said I should have a second run at this fine piece of human torture. Same drill ---- nothing to eat, nothing to drink, no pain shots for the 4 hours prior to the test. I was taken to the Nuclear Medicine area dreading my next several hours and know there was nothing I could do to avoid it. In one of the most wonderful events of fate in my entire life, the technician was just about the inject something into my IV line when she noticed that one of my currently running IVs was considered to be food and the test would have to be rescheduled for the next morning. Also it was noted that the instructions had changed so now they required: nothing to eat or drink for 8 hours prior to the test. Since I was set up to have the test as first thing in the morning, this was not as big a problem. Late that evening, I was told that the test had been cancelled and might be rescheduled. I was thrilled. I’m even more happy to report that the test was never rescheduled and now that I’m out, there’s no way I’m going back to take it.

I spent 17 days in the hospital and occupied a total of 4 different rooms. I had started my stay on 5 south overlooking the heliports where I could see the helicopters come and go. Then on July 4th, when there were only two of us patients in that wing, they moved me to 5 west. I guess it was on Thursday the 10th that I was suddenly packed up and moved without warning to a whole new section and on 3 north. Several days later I was moved to 8 west where I finished my stay. I told those who questioned why this would happen that I was actually in the "Witness Protection Program."

As far as the reason for one of the moves (room 2 to room 3), that after an EKG I was given which looked somewhat questionable, then they gave me a blood test that looked bad (heart-wise) so the doctor wanted to monitor me. The floor on 3 north is the monitored floor. The monitor consisted of four plain gray cables coming from a 2"x 3 1/2" x 1" radio transmitter and running to several stick-on patches to my chest and side. The transmitter was made by Hewlett-Packard and had the unit number HP M1400. Being the radio nut that I am, I was curious to find the transmit frequency. I spent an hour or so scanning frequencies with my VX-5R ham hand-held transceiver but was never able to track it down. I asked my wife to bring my portable frequency counter from home so later in the day, I easily found my frequency. My transmitter was on 468.3898 MHz. Now, having a good starting place I was easily able to find it with the VX-5R. In fact, I could listen up and down the band from there and hear the transmitters of other folks on the same floor. What I heard was just a digital signal with no usable info for me as a listener but I enjoyed the search.

The monitor transmitter was a neat idea and I’m sure it was a real improvement over earlier monitoring schemes, which involved long wires attached between the patient and the wall. The transmitter, however, dangled with its weight being supported by the four sensor wires where it hung about a foot below one’s waist. That particular location did require the wearer to be cautious and to pay particular attention to where it was when they sleepily got up in the middle of the night.

 

Ah…… Another Test ---- The ORCP

Later they decided that I should have a test which had been often mentioned but had some possible "down sides." The test is identified as ORCP. I asked two different doctors what that stood for and both told me (I think they said the same thing) but it didn’t make any logical sense so for me to remember the true name of the test, I couldn’t. To remember the letters I just called it, "Operating Room Chicken Parts."

That test was run on Fri morning, the 11th. It involves knocking me out (THANKFULLY) and inserting a tube down my goozle (throat), through the esophagus, past the stomach and find the place where the gall bladder dumps into the small intestine. The test went well and, fortunately, I had no extra problems from that and the doctor said he saw "sludge" in that line. I asked him later if he had considered a can of BARDALL 'cause I was pretty sure I had heard it advertised as really good for sludge. The doctor looked at me kinda funny…….. Several of my doctors look at me kinda funny, come to think of it.

The general diagnosis, at this point, was Pancreaitis. Any time pancreaitis is mentioned, to either medical or non-medical folks, the comment, which almost always follows, is, "Oh that’s one of the most painful things you can have." I can’t tell you what a warm fuzzy feeling that provided me but, even before those who had shared that fine piece of medical information had done so, I was already getting pretty suspicious. I know I had already placed it at the top of my "all time favorites."

The gall bladder was also mentioned as a possible problem. There were several things pointing to the problem but with multiple choices, none seemed to be enough to be the definite culprit. It was still a guessing game and I was the "guessee."

As Saturday, the 12th arrives it looked as though they were narrowing down the possibilities and saw a more definite plan of attack. Evidently they have heard from my insurance company that they’re not going to pay any more so the words: "conclusion" and "closure" are becoming more popular. Motivation seems to take many forms.

As the 2nd week ended, it looked like the current plan was to remove my gall bladder on Monday, the 14th. I asked whether they could save it for me and let me use it for a coin purse but they say the answer is "no" and that it has to be checked in the lab so I guess I have no response to that. I do know that if that thing shows up for sale on E-Bay, I’m going to be really upset.

Mercy, the changes keep coming quickly. Now, as of Sunday morning, the 13th, the gall bladder surgery is scheduled for one day later, on Tuesday, the Ides of July. The doctor wants to have me run a heart stress test before I have the surgery. My temptation was to say, "Hey, if I take my vehicle in for brakes I don’t expect to have the transmission replaced."  Thinking better of it, I chose not to make that comment……. probably one of my wiser decisions. As physically down as I’ve been the past couple of weeks, I hope they won’t expect me to catch up with Lance Armstrong who is currently cycling through the French Alps.

As it turned out, my stress test did not involve any running or even activity on a treadmill. It was all done as I lay pretty much flat on my back. It began with a sonogram of my heart and I could watch it as they captured pieces of my heart’s activity. During a slack time I asked the operator if that was actually a picture of my heart and he assured me that it was. I asked him to identify the arrow that I see through hearts on Valentine’s Day. He looked at kinda funny. Hmmmmmm….. I’ve seen that look more than once before.

For the actual test, they introduced a drug into my system which speeded up my heart and make it act as though I was running on the treadmill. Mighty interesting feelings as that test ran and I really felt pooped afterward. The good news, however, was that they gave me a good report on my heart, which was an unknown to me previously, so I began to think that, perhaps, if I can somehow avoid stepping in front of MAC trucks that I might still have a few more miles in me.

The next day, the 15th, was my day to be relieved of my gall bladder. Nothing was definite, as far as time was concerned, as to when it would actually take place but all were sure that it would be after 2:00 in the afternoon. Just after 11:00 that morning, I got the word that they were coming for me.

I recall just a few things from the operating room. I remember seeing the clock at just about 12:00 noon before I remembered little else. I did think that I was sure going to miss Paul Harvey on his noon radio program. My wife had told me that I would notice two things in particular, that is, the operating room is very bright and is very cold. Actually, what I did notice that it was very bright and was very cold.

 The operation was done laproscopically, which means I only had about 4 small hole in me rather than one big one. Supposed to be quicker, better, less painful and painful for less time. With nothing to compare it with I can say that it was certainly quick but I still don’t know about the pain part. I know it is pretty sore and hurts like crazy to cough.

I heard someone say that the operation took about 53 minutes. I woke up in recovery and was lucky to have my cousin, an RN who works in recovery, to keep a special eye out for me. Only two memories remain with me from recovery: it was so busy that it reminded me of a busy bus station, and I had a pain in my right shoulder that hurt about worse than anything I’d ever seen. They explained to me what caused it and, although the reason didn’t stick with me, it seemed to make some sense at the time. Also it only lasted about 5-6 minutes.

The remainder of my hospital days saw quick improvement and I even got a few things that were worth eating, including a hamburger on Tuesday evening. I don’t think Burger King, Ron’s or McDonalds has to worry about the hospital food service driving them out of business, it tasted pretty good when anything I could compare it with was several weeks previous.

Today, Thursday the 17th, I know they were about to send me home when the dietician came around and took my order for meals and even gave me some choices. It’s a terrible game the hospital plays to plant those last thoughts in your mind that – they let me choose what I wanted. Yeah, sure!

I only got to eat one of those meals I selected by myself.

  

Assorted Comments on a Long Hospital Stay:

One of the greatest inventions of medical science that I was able to be part of was something called the "PICC" which stands for something like - Peripheral Intra-venous C?? Catheter

It involves placing one or more tubes into a vein at the elbow and threading the tubes up to an area just above the heart. It provides an easily accessible port for adding "stuff" via IV or a port for drawing blood. I always thought the greatest medical inventions would be a "skin zipper" for those who must be opened and closed in the same area more than once. Another great invention would have been a rubber plug added to the arm to add to and remove blood when that had to be done. The PICC is as close to that rubber plug as you can find. When a lab tech comes in (at all times of the day or night) and said, "Mr. Pickett…. I need to take some blood." Heck, I just said, "Help yourself….. Take all you want……. I’ll make more. Without the PICC, the lab tech would need to "stick" a vein (catch me if you can [not me…. the vein]) each time a blood sample was needed. If that involves lab techs taking blood 3 times a day (not uncommon) that’s a LOT of sticks. The PICC is providing, essentially, a pre-poked port. The blood was removed from a plastic fitting rather than a needle sticking in me. The PICC is such a wonderful thing that I told a couple of the PICC techs that I thought I’d buy me a couple of them when I leave the hospital, just to have handy. The PICC has to be checked daily to make sure both tubes remain open and available. One is usually used for my nourishment (a milky-looking substance, which just keeps coming and coming). The other is held open and available with a saline solution. I’ve gotten so much saline solution during the past couple of weeks that I keep finding myself singing old sea chanties.....many which start off with, "Yo Ho Ho……."

 

Assorted Observations in the Medical World:

1. Medical personnel are committed to early hours. I don’t see how they do it but I’m glad they do.

2. Nurses and med. techs often like early hours and choose them because they can spend more time with their families.

3. Doctors must really be committed to early hours. I suspect as a doctoral candidate arrives at his or her first few days at that medical institute of higher learning, they are handed a large stack of papers to read and sign. I’m quite sure one of that documents says, in large letters, "Are you willing to get up extremely early in the morning for 90% of the days of each week for 35 years in order to shower and leave your family still sleeping and drive to the hospital in total darkness to see your patients?"

If they cannot answer that one in the affirmative, they are automatically and immediately washed out of the program.

 

Other Doctor Observations:

  1. Doctors seemed in their youth to be very much influenced by Pillsbury Doughboy commercials.
  2. When a doctor is listening with a stethoscope, to your various "body sounds" have you noticed how often they move it to different spot, listen a while and say, "Uh huh." Uh huh has long been regarded as an answer in the affirmative. Do you suppose someONE is actually inside there, asking the doctor questions?
  3. There were a couple of times that I was tempted to stop one of my doctors in his tracks after he just told me that "……. Indications seem to be pointing to ‘adfsdlkjkj;ladlk;lkj askjlkjadkll;adsdslkj adfklj;lkjadfkjadf" and say,"Can you spell that?," or "I’ll bet you can’t repeat that 5 times and say it the same way each time," or "How much seasoning is required on that?"
  4. Doctors have to be good poker players. By the time they become master doctors, they are also master pokers.

 

Other Hospital Observations:

  1. Could someone please check for me, the dieticians and food service folks as they’re coming in to work and see if they are carrying their own lunch bucket? I certainly have my opinions; I just can’t prove it, at this time.
  2. When it’s 2:15AM and the nurse removes a small IV bag of depleted anti-biotic, wouldn’t good logic tell them that when they release said debris from a height of greater than 4 feet above a steel trash can, that the resulting clatter will tend to awaken the patient to a higher state of consciousness than is absolutely necessary. I suspect that the reason the nurse did this (on numerous occasions) was that she had not been assigned her first or second choice of working hours.
  3. When the hospital began sending me my "Breakfast, Lunch, and Supper" (actually known as a liquid diet) I was flabbergasted that they always included several small packets of Sugar, even though I am a diabetic and the doctors and nurses all knew that I am a diabetic. They could never, however, convince the kitchen that this was not a good idea. To add fuel to the fire, my menu, which was always included and showed each item they included in the "shipment," not only said Sugar but also even included an additional line for "Extra Sugar." I look at this kinda like placing a person on depression-watch or suicide watch and adding to their order "Extra Bullets." I spent a while trying to come up with the logic behind it and finally concluded – there is no logic.

 

Interesting thing on Saturday, July 13.

Since I am diabetic and need to keep my blood sugar in check, it requires checking my blood sugar several times a day. People who must lance their fingers to get a drop of blood know it becomes more difficult, day by day and week by week, to find a good unstuck place on one’s fingers. It becomes harder and harder to find a place which yields a sufficient quantity of blood for the sample. The possibility of lancing into a nerve becomes more possible each time you do it. (OUCH!)

Saturday evening, a nurse tech came in to get a blood sample. I asked her if there was a reason she couldn’t take it from my toes since my poor old fingers were in such bad shape. She said, "heck no, if that’s what you want. It’s all connected to the same pipelines inside." Did I want her to do that? Absolutely! A hidden reason was, because of my diabetes; I also have Neuropathy, which means I have good pulse and circulation in my feet but very little feeling in my feet. She fired the lance to get a drop of blood and it was great. Absolutely no feeling and plenty of blood for the sample.

I had asked several other nurses if they could use my feet instead and they had just looked at me funny. I find lots of people here at the hospital, look at me funny. I guess they’ve never seen a retired school teacher before.

When she came in in the middle of the night for a blood sugar sample, she asked if I still wanted her to use my toes. Absolutely! Now as Sunday has come and gone and many more samples have been made, all have been from my toes and I have not felt a single stick. I hear the spring-loaded lance go off but feel nothing. I considered that an excellent solution of one of my problems. From the first time they tried it, I never had another finger touched. All samples were taken from my toes.

It’s also going to take me a while, once I’m home, to read through my email. My 10 meg mailbox has taken quite a hit and seems to have filled about a week before I got to it. If you sent me a message and it bounced, please try again. I’m not mad at anybody and refusing their email.

To those who were aware of my situation and didn’t shout aloud, "Serves him right!," I am grateful. For those who offered thoughts and prayers, thank you so much………. it worked…….then I knew it would.

Thanks to all and for all,

Jim – K5LAD

July 17, 2003

Comments?  You can e-mail me --   mailto:k5lad@arrl.net

Go to Home Page (as quickly as possible) home.gif (1310 bytes)