We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Monday, November 20. 2023
I've had a couple of surgeries in my life, but had never spent a night in a hospital until last week: 5 days in there. Even in a very attentive and kind hospital it is a strange, unpleasant - and disorienting - experience. Feeling like a pin cushion is the least of it.
I'd be interested in other peoples' experiences.
Things I learned:
- Rules about your restaurant doggy bag: Heat to 165+ degrees before eating it, and throw it out after 24 hrs. Our new rule: No more doggy bags at all (except steak) which is a drag for me because I have not finished a restaurant meal in a decade. Typical food-poisoning is Salmonella, but I got Campylobacter (which is typically minor but not in my case). Besides fatigue and constant diarrhea, my electrolytes became dangerously imbalanced which is what concerned the docs: Potassium mostly. Plus IV saline to combat the dehydration.
- When you are sick as s-, you don't necessarily appreciate how ill you are because it affects your mental clarity. I had to fall on the floor from weakness + dizziness due to dehydration to realize this was not nothing.
- Being in hospital feels like confinement (is confinement) unless you feel too terrible to get out of bed. Plus the hospital gown makes you feel (and look) like an invalid: "How are we feeling this morning? Did we have a BM?"
- The BBC Planet Earth series has stunning videography. Also I read 2 books. I highly recommend Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World
- A "Clear liquid" diet is the worst thing. 3 times/day: Decaf tea, jello, ginger ale (which is ok), lemon ice (which I hope to never see again). Finally got a nice nurse to sneak me fresh coffee from the nursing station.
- How to fix an IV pump yourself when it beeps an obstruction.
- A regular Med/Surg floor at my place had 4 units, about 20 patients/unit. A unit has a Charge Nurse, 4 RNs, 4 CNAs (Certified Nurse Assistants) and a clerk. The RNs work 12-hr shifts for 3 days (7 -7), then 4 days off unless they want to fill in for others. I had a private room, thankfully. The hospital docs make rounds any time before 1 or 2 pm.
- When a patient dies it is dealt with discreetly. Happens all the time, too.
- Can you sleep normally in a hospital? Nope, even with sleep meds.
More about Med/Surg routines below the fold -
- The routine:
5 AM a guy comes in to take the trash.
6 AM a nurse comes in with the heparin needle (this is pretty much universal these days).
6:30 AM the lab vampire shows up to take your blood.
7:30 AM RN comes in with your meds and to change your IV bags as needed, and the CNA shows up to do your vitals to confirm that you are alive. Arm-pit temps are better than oral.
8 AM the food service shows up. (Food is not bad on their regular plan, but I got only one day of that. That menu had choices of burger and fries, chicken breast with mushroom sauce, lobster tail, filet mignon, a vegan selection - pretty decent choices.)
Around 9 AM Housekeeping comes in to clean.
Hospital MD stops by sometime between 7 AM to 2 PM.
Around noon RN comes in to check or change IV, give mid-day meds, and, with me anyway, for a little chat and jokes.
Around 1, "lunch"
An IV Specialist can stop by anytime to check your IV site.
Around 6, RN checks IV, gives PM meds.
Around 6, "dinner"
Around 6:30 Lab vampire comes by again to take your blood.
7:30 or so, night shift RN stops by to check in, and CNA comes in to do PM vitals.
Of course, all varies according to need. And if you need anything, you just push a button.
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Yes, when you're in the beepy room you get room service you never asked for.
Once I turn 60 I start having medical adventures that required me to go to the hospital. I learned that I can't sleep at the hospital. Of course, it doesn't help if there's a nurses station right outside the door and they spend the whole time chatting. Loudly. There has to be some sort of technical solution to being able to sleep in a bed in a hospital. They gave me medication and it still didn't work. I learned that if they need me to take liquids and it makes me want to throw up that I can accomplish the task of swallowing water by taking the smallest amount possible a little at a time. Also I found out it's important to maintain good oral hygiene. You want to brush your teeth and disinfect your mouth. A lot of cold and flu have entry points into your system through the mouth. You can also get pneumonia by inhaling your saliva especially if you have infection in your mouth. If you ask for a toothbrush and toothpaste they'll give it to you. The last time I went in they had a white board next to my bed with my name and information and there was a question that said what is the one thing you would like us to know about you?. The nurse asked me what to put in that section. I told her I make YouTube videos. She wrote it down. Believe it or not everybody who came in and saw the board that said I made you two videos treated me like an astronaut. Even the doctors wanted to know how to start their own channel. Their most popular question was “ can't they sue you?”. I am getting ready to have impacted wisdom teeth come out as a senior citizen. They have been getting infected. They're right next to the nerve. The oral surgeon says there's a 50% chance of permanent nerve damage. You won't believe the crazy dentist experiences I have had. The only thing going for me is I think the surgeon is good and is going to do whatever he can. We can't ask for much more than that. But getting old is not for sissies.
I have a crazy dental experience: 21 YO, in the military, they decide my wisdom teeth need to come out. I show up for the extraction and two dentists are going to care for me, I think one was new enough that this was his first time pulling wisdom teeth. They cut it into 4 pieces, or try to anyway. But they can't seem to actually break them apart. So the newby dentist, who was a small man is trying to break my tooth into four parts where it was cut and he is using a tool that looks like a twisted broken screw driver. He can't get leverage so he straddles my almost sitting on my lap and is prying away and the tool slips. I'm fully Novacained so I don't feel much pain but my mouth begins to fill with a warm liquid and the dentist looking over the newby's should winced and looked away. They get the blood stopped and go back to using the drill with the grinder tip and manage to get the tooth separated/broken up and remove it. They send me back to the barracks with a mouth filled with cotton and give me a prescription and tell me to actually get into bed before I take it. But they only got one tooth and they were supposed to get all four.
So after some weeks of pain and a large hole in my gums I go back to have them continue the destruction of my mouth. But I'm meet in the lobby by both dentists and they smile and tell me that they were both betting I wouldn't show up. But they happily informed me that I had an appointment at the hospital where an oral surgeon would take out the other three teeth. I don't really know what the oral surgeon did differently but it was a piece of cake. Little lingering pain, no deep hole in my gums, no scary prescription that I must already be in bed to take. I've often wondered what my two dentists learned that day?
I had a similar experience in the Army at 20 years old. At a routine dental exam, the dentist told me to make an appointment to have all 4 wisdom teeth removed because “they might cause you problems later.”
I declined and told him I’d wait and see if I had problems. One tooth removed at 38 years old. The other three are still firmly in place.
I think those new Army dentists were just looking for unwitting victims to practice onl
Did we have a BM?
I'm having trouble envisioning this as a shared activity.
A "Clear liquid" diet is the worst thing.
Closest we've come at our house was my wife's 30-day all liquid diet after some dental surgery. Even with some great soup recipes, she lost 10 pounds.
You are lucky you are in shape from your exercise program, food poisoning can take quite a toll on your age group. I'm amused how often people in medical fields, including the related specialties, find that their personal experience with hospitalization is a revelation. Oh my goodness, that is what our patient experience is like!
From my family hospitalizations it is clear that sleeping is very difficult in hospital rooms, and most patients have some issue with hospital diet.
I'm glad you are home and on the mend.
Well, that Campylobacter does not sound pleasant.
I ate some old turkey a year ago for lunch. Big mistake. Being a miserly penny pincher, I wasn't going to throw the last sandwich worth of $12 dollar a pound turkey away. Food poison is no fun. I went to bed feeling bad. Woke up with terrible indigestion at two am. I decided to take a couple of tums. The first one went down and as I was chewing the second one, everything came back up. No hospital visit, thankfully. But leftovers get tossed after two days. Simply not worth the trouble bad food can cause.
Glad you are doing better.
Took me a few years to get the hang of food-safe penny pinching with leftovers. They gotta be processed right after dinner, either into the freezer, the stockpot, or prep for tomorrow's meal, refrigerated of course. Which means planning meals 2 or 3 days ahead. Heck, I'm already looking forward to some tasty turkey salad wraps for Football Friday, and I'm still thawing out the Thanksgiving turkey. Like that.
ALL leftovers are processed through our pups within minutes of getting home from a restaurant. They recognize take home containers and are not real patient about waiting while the leftovers are mixed with the dog food for THEIR meal.
Leftovers from Thanksgiving and Christmas are usually turkey or ham, of which the pups get very little, and go into the fridge as soon as they cool down. Pups can have green beans and some mashed potatoes.
So glad you are back, Bird Dog. Any stay in the hospital for any reason is awful.
Husband has been hospitalized three times in the last 8 years, 2 knee replacements and one bypass. (He's fine now, thanks.). We both typically use earplugs and sleep masks and he actually got a decent amount of sleep each time.
Food for the knee replacements was okay but awful at the heart hospital--way too carb heavy. We even had an exit interview with the nutritionist--supposedly to educate us on a "heart healthy" diet--and she agreed with us that their own food had too many carbs in it. (And no flavor but that's another issue.)
I second that part about sickness affecting your mental clarity. I nearly died from bleeding ulcers about 15 years ago. After I fainted the second time and was too weak to stand, I finally realized something was wrong and a family member called 9-1-1. They put 8 units of blood in me. After 2 surgeries and 3 weeks in the hospital (with little sleep!) they got me back as good as new.
Glad you are home and back at it. Staying out of the hospital is the best strategy! Any stay sucks, and the mental distress can be as bad as any physical illness. If you are over 60 (probably 50 if truth be told) the daily routine you described, combined with lack of sleep and the effect of pain relief narcotics can loosen a lot screws up top.
be grateful you didn't get two days of bland - Oatmeal and white toast for breakfast, turkey on white kaiser roll for lunch (no mustard), baked chicken breast and white rice (margarine, no dairy) for dinner. I was ready to reveal the location of the rebel base.
We need to know that you have a back up plan for notifying us!
Very glad you recovered, and I'll take your restaurant leftovers advice as gospel; I can't finish the meals either. I write instruction manuals for a major manufacture of infusion pumps. The last time I was in the hospital, I warned them that I was going to check the internal maintenance records on any pump I was hooked up to, because I was sure they hadn't bothered to change the factory password. They thought I was kidding. After I was unhooked, I showed them that I wasn't.
I imagine they were quite surprised when you showed them what their maintenance records were.
My mother went into the hospital exhibiting delirium. Ended up being fluid on the brain. Completely recovered in a few weeks. If she didn't have her childrenn advocating for her she would have been diagnosed with dementia and tossed away. Our healthcare system is a very scary place
Fortuitously, your mother also didn't decide you were the spawn of Satan. Apparently, as long as they can string together a sentence, they are considered compos mentis enough to do whatever they want. I learned this after talking to a lawyer (not a single medical professional would talk to me.) Over the course of two days in the hospital, my elderly relative went from "I love you; we're family!" to hating me and my sibling, changing her health care power of attorney to her neighbor and totally shutting out her actual family. There was nothing we could do. We were told by the social worker at the hospital, our attorney, the hospital chaplain, and the people from the Area Agency on Aging: "She can do what she wants." Even though she was seriously ill and pretty out of it. After she was discharged the days late, she went to a new lawyer -- procured for her by her neighbor -- and changed her durable power of attorney and her will. (Our attorney, who didn't think much of her new attorney, did say that her new attorney apparently played enough by the rules so as to avoid accusations of undue influence on the part of the neighbor.)
Remember in Your Life - "There's Always Wreckage in the Fast Lane".
One wonders if you still feel wrung out, with no wind in your sails after that ordeal? I wouldn't be surprised if it takes a week or two to come back up to speed.
As bad as your week from Hell sounds, my brain had you in bypass surgery or a bone crushing accident after such a long absence fro MF.
Once again, welcome back.
re: Empires of the Sea. The audio (I believe read by Roger Crowley) is great. Hopefully may still be available.
Great to hear on audio except to think of all those mighty European efforts years ago being tossed away by their heirs in the 21st century. May their ghosts haunt them.
I've had food poisoning, but never nearly bad enough to put me in the hospital. Man. Glad you are back among the living and upright, BD.
Sleep in a hospital? Hah! I have been awakened from a deep sleep at 4am to GET OUT OF BED AND BE WEIGHED. (I was in for nothing that had anything to do with weight.)
Hospitals are great for emergency care. Longer stays? Not so much. I will say that most staff - especially the nurses and techs - that I have been around have always been great people.
Crazy isn’t it? The last thing I want to do is wake someone up at 4am. The funny thing is the human body has a way of “telling us” if there is an issue by weight gain/loss. Our Heart, liver, lungs and kidneys are especially sensitive to water loss/gain. Why early in the am? Most consistent time of weight. It would be nice if the provider(s) explained this because to know the “why” can help alleviate the inconvenience. I try to make sure to use a bed that will weigh my patients, but that isn’t always consistent because each blanket, pillow, etc. adds weight. So sometimes I have to disturb their “nest” to get to one of each and I’ll go toot-sweet to bring a warm set once we are done.
I think that the greatest skill that can be used with those in our care is communication and that is not always taught well. It helps me advocate for those I care for when they are as involved as possible. But I’m weird like that.
Thanks - that helps. I was really aggravated about it, though I didn't give the tech any grief - just doing his job. At the time it made no sense. I was recovering from a Crohn's-related bowel obstruction (resolved without surgery, thank goodness) and just did not see the point. You're right; better communication would have prepared me to accept it with more grace.
You sound like a great care-giver!
I am fortunate to love what I do. It is good to hear you avoided surgery and were kind to the tech. Here’s to avoiding more hospitalizations!
Geez what a terrible experience you've had, Bird Dog. I'm very glad to see that you are on the mend, and that the malady is one that is eminently recoverable from. Many stays in the hospital are for more serious things that are not, and even some of them are not because of the hospital stay.
Glad you're out and: Get well soon.
Had a much milder version of food poisoning from parmesan dressing from a place in Massachusetts. Laid on the motel floor for two days as couldn't leave the toilet long enough to get to bed. Spent only one night in cardiac unit in 2014 and you can't sleep at all. Heart monitor alarms going off all through the night and every hour or less automatic blood pressure cuffs crushed you arm to make sure you were alive. Plus blood being drawn at various times through the night. Food was ok though. Fortunately have been able to avoid hospitals since.
Only overnight stay in a hospital was recovering from colon resection. I hadn't been inside a hospital since I was a child, so it was very disconcerting. Generally tolerable, but for two things:
1) They didn't kill me, but they killed my laptop (power surge)
2) It was a double room, and my roomie (dementia) liked to leave the TV on to True Crime thrillers all night long. Not easy to go to sleep to rape/murder melodramas... :)
I've had several hospitalizations. They are dirty, horrible places. I've observed that the nurses and staff do what they can, but they're outnumbered. Best not to speak of doctors.
First rule of hospitals: Enter at your own peril.
Second rule of hospitals: If you absolutely must, do so with a committed advocate at your (bed)side.
Even the most modern, high-tech facilities will be short-staffed; and not as competent and caring as you might imagine.
"And if you need anything, you just push a button."
Of course ( :
Glad you're doing better. I am bummed about my leftover lasagna in the fridge. Tomorrow would've been the last day I'd've normally been willing to eat it -- Day Three -- but you've convinced me to throw it away.
Take care!!! I missed your blog links!!!
5 days in for removal of cancerous kidney. food sucked. How do you screw up a grilled cheese?..thank god I had a private room and 2 of my daughters were there all day. Good friend put them up and came a few times too(he works). I probably got more sleep than usual. Staff were great. I've worked in the care field and know why a lot of the stuff is done, so no problems with the all hours stuff. glad you made it out alive BD.
Glad you're back, BD. You were missed. And I have to say, you certainly parlayed this near miss into a very instructive post. Appreciate it, but also hope I never need it. God bless you and yours.