Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Tell Me Why, I Don't Like Mondays...Part 4

I went to Holy Spirit Hospital and they took me in on the gurney. It was just like those medical shows where you're looking up at the bright lights, but the bustle of doctors and nurses is way overdramatized. Matt and Joe, the EMTs, pushed me into one of the Emergency Room triage areas (For those that don't know, when a hospital is busy, they divide people up into three categories: Those that will make it, but only with immediate care; those that will make it, but they can wait; those that won't make it, no matter what they do. I was in category two).

Will, my nurse, came in and gave me the once over. We talked about the date, my name, my date of birth, losing consciousness...the kind of light banter that makes a nurse's night, I'm sure. He ascertained I was pretty much okay, except for the bleeding. I lay on the backboard, feeling different parts of my body seizing up. First my thigh, then my calf, then the base of my buttocks which sent shooting pain all the way down my left leg. At one point, I remember praying and asking God to take the pain away, if only for a little while. Miraculously, I felt it move away, like a tide. I thanked Him, and lay still, praying.

He hooked up my IV and started the drip. Another needle, this one in the right hand.

I asked Will if I could call my wife. He dialed the number, gave me the answer. I left a message. Then I asked if I could call my neighbor, which I did. As I explained in my earlier cancer posts, I live in the kind of neighborhood where everyone looks out for each other, takes care of each other. I explained what was going on, and asked her to try to call my wife until she reached her. My neighbor looked out her front door and saw my wife walking our dog.

For us, these conversations always go something like this: "Hi Honey. First, I'm okay...but I got hit by a pickup truck." I figure if my voice is the first one she hears, she'll know it's not too bad. She got to the hospital about fifteen minutes later.

She said my daughter crumpled into a sobbing mess when she told her I had been in an accident. I called my daughter immediately, and spoke to her, letting her know I was fine, was going to be alright, and had no major injuries. It's amazing the stores of strength God makes available to us in moments like this. I felt no pain, no fear, no anxiety--I just knew I had to make my daughter sure Iw as okay...and I did. One of the things my wife did was to ask my daughter to help pick out clothes she could bring to me at the hospital. My daughter picked the t-shirt I earned from my first triathlon--I love that kid! She also packed THE LION, because "it helps you be brave when you need to be brave." For those that don't know, my daughter, who is eight, has packed the lion in my stuff everytime I have had to take a trip. He has been to Tennessee, Belarus, New Orleans, the Appalchian Trail and more than a couple hospitals. He makes me brave because he reminds me of the strength of my family...

After about an hour (I think. Time is kind of fuzzy in situations like this), the doctor came in to see me. Note: If you get hurt on a Monday night, you KNOW you're not getting the Doctor from Johns Hopkins...or even the cream of the crop from your local medical college. The doctor walks in, looks at the television with a look of contempt, turns it off and starts asking me questions. Then he decides he wants me off the backboard, so he GRABS MY THIGH AND TRIES TO MOVE ME!

"Oh does that hurt?"
Joan said later she saw him start to reach for my thigh, but couldn't get the words out fast enough. She wanted to punch him when he did it. I think he made himself a mental note: ascertain full extent of injuries before trying to move patients. His bedside manner never did improve.

Then they gave me some morphine, which made me horribly nauseous. I ended up not throwing up, but it was touch and go for about 20 minutes. They gave me another drug that counteracted the nausea and I felt better. Eventually, I was wheeled to the Radiation Center for x-rays. Will came down to make sure I was feeling better. I thought it was a class move, very thoughtful. The head x-ray technician was actually really funny and engaging. He made me laugh for the first time since getting to the hospital, and his staff was equally enjoyable. They took shots of my arm, chest, thigh, calf, full leg, and ankle...probably eight or nine shots in all. At this point what's one or two more, right?

I got wheeled back to my ER holding cell and continued to wait. That's the other thing they don't show on medical shows. The interminable waiting. My wife was awesome, going up at various points and asking "What's next?" "What are we waiting for?" She kept the ball moving forward. I'd probably still be there if she hadn't done this.

They took some blood to run tests and make sure nothing was abnormal, and they also took a urine test. Another needle. Ummmm....right arm. Will looked at my arm and asked, "Did you have a shot already today?"
I replied that I had.
"Do you want to try the other arm?"
"No," I said. "I got a shot in that arm, today, too."
"Are you serious?"
Right arm it is...

After more waiting, it was time to get my wounds cleaned out. They were going to do stitches, but decided against it. The way they clean road rash is to pour a liquid painkiller onto it (which is in itself a misnomer, because the "painkiller" stings like hornet going on) and then get a scrub brush with the yellow disinfectant (betadine?). Will scrubbed the wound vigorously, apologizing. I just gritted my teeth and told him, "Do what you have to do." That included him digging in at various spots with a toothpick-like instrument to pull out blades of grass and gravel that were imbedded in my skin. Grit teeth. "Do what you have to do." Grit teeth. "Do what you have to do." Done. Mercifully. Done.

Then I had to wait for the doctor to come in and close things out. He came in again, looked at the television with the same air of contempt and shut it off. I think he was wondering who kept turning it on. After almost 5 hours of this ordeal, I really didn't care what he thought. On a funny note, I couldn't look at my wife because I knew I would start laughing at the doctor.
"How are you doing?" he asked.
"I'm ready to go home."
He asked, "Do you want me to wrap things up and go over them with you before we do that?"
I almost said, "Not really" but thought better of it.

He went over the procedures, asked Will to get some things, then almost dressed him down when he started to go get it before the doctor had finished his proclamation. After Will left, I told the doctor about the great care he had provided, the attention he had shown me. I'm not sure he heard it, but he needed to.

I stood up, and walked (hobbled) out of the Emergency Room, continuing my 39 year streak of never having to be wheeled out. My wife drove me home at 1.30 in the morning. It's been a long time since my bed felt so good.

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