Daylight flooded my hospital room. It was a new day for most, as I hadn’t slept, it really didn’t feel that way to me. I knew I would be visited frequently by hospital staff, so I got up and put myself to work.
It was time to clean up the room, gathered my stuff and reassessed what I needed. I followed that with making myself as presentable as possible. I couldn’t shower, could’t change my shirt, both because of the IV. I stuck my face in cold water, tried to reduce the severity of my bedhead and brushed my teeth, which felt wonderful.
Next I ordered breakfast, easy foods. Scrambled eggs, yogurt and juice. Sadly, I still was not able to swallow, still was dealing with thick saliva. I choked down the eggs, they were cold by the time I finished, the yogurt was cool and easy to swallow. It went better than the dry chicken from the night before.
Next on my list was to log into work and adjusted my out of office for one more day. I realized I had no idea what to set it for. I still could not speak or even normally swallow. Normal actions caused me to violently cough. Just one day at a time I guess, I had hoped to go home today and I will take it from there. I emailed my boss an gave all of the appropriately vague and professional information on my status. Check out their short term policy when you have time, I thought to myself. Work had really bad benefits and I worried this would, end up being my vacation for the year. One thing at a time. Focus what you can control.
It was time for the nurse to come in and check, the nurse tech came with her. They introduced themselves. The NT took my vitals while I spoke with the nurse. I asked what the plan was.
“Your blood work is a slight concern and they may keep you another night. The white blood cell count was a little out of range.
The hospitalist will be in later during rounds to talk to you.
I see you have eaten, how did it go?”
I responded with a ‘so-so’ motion.
“Your throat is still bothering you huh? I understand, it is to be expected. Try to take it easy today and get some rest. Call me if you need anything.”
Everyone left. I was feeling frustrated about being told I would be there another day. My blood was taken in the middle of the night, when I hadn’t slept and hadn’t eaten. I wanted to argue with someone, but there was no one to argue with. It occurred to me that I was making myself busy because I thought I would be leaving soon. Now that leaving had been put into question, there was less need to prep.
With nothing to do, I had time to feel tired. The room had a couch in the corner and it looked decent. Hell a bed of nails would look decent right now. I grabbed my cup, paper towels, blankets and pillows, unplugged my IV and set up camp. I figured out how to arrange myself and my stuff so that I could lay face down and not set off any stint alarms. I barely remember laying down on the pillow and I was out.
The doctor came in and echoed what the nurse foreshadowed. It was a little shocking that I didn’t feel like arguing anymore. Trust the people to know their job as much as you can was something I told others. I took my own advice. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and press, but in the end they are in that role for a reason. They also used one of my favorite tactics for bad news; hint at the bad news, give the person a chance to absorb it before actually delivering it.
With nothing to do, but rest and replenish, I laid back down. I spent the rest of the day drinking smoothies and water, reminding myself how useless cable was and napping. The boys came to visit after school and we ate McDonalds. At that point, nothing had really improved. I still couldn’t swallow or speak. My boys got tired of the hugs before I was done needing them, but that is just how it works sometimes.
Along with the boys, I received fresh clothes and my own shower stuff. The hospital provided less than hotel level toiletries, but I wanted to smell like myself again. The boys left and I was along again. The nurse unhook the IV, wrapped the remaining tubing and puncture site in a waxy paper and sealed it. I showered for a long time, shaved, and got ready, as if I was going out. A little reminder of normalcy, even if it was only going to be shared with the nurses.
After the shower, before I would be tethered again, I took a walk around the hospital. Slowly people watched as I walked through the halls. This was not only to get some exercise, but some perspective. Rooms and rooms full of people in some level of pain or suffering. Where did mine rank? Very low I surmised. I spent this much time on the planet, did some very ill-advised things and this was my first night in a hospital. This visit wasn’t even life threatening. It was just moderately painful. It left me feeling pensive, but optimistic.
I spent the rest of the evening zoning out to FX movies and catching family members up on the events. My ability to swallow and speak had still not improved significantly. There was a noticeable build up somewhere between my nasal cavity and my throat. It was not uncomfortable as of yet. The nurse had come back in and reconnected me to the IV and took my vitals.
I prepped the couch again. While I showered, they had refreshed the bedding, on the bed, and removed everything from the couch. Subtle…
I got ready to fall asleep. When they connect the IV, they didn’t add the padded wrap. That proved to be problematic as I set off the stint alarm 3 more times trying to find the right position. The tech nurse mentioned that it was uncommon to have an IV in the arm, versus the hand for an admitted patient. Lucky me. That would have been helpful yesterday. Oh well.
I had been drooling heavily in my sleep, a direct result of the spit having nowhere else to go. I grabbed a few towels in preparation for this and wrapped my pillow in one. I drifted to sleep listening to The Maze Runner, no concerns over being pulled into this movie.
Sleep came quickly. It was interrupted by sputtering coughs and expelling. Somewhere along the way, I became aware something had changed. My mouth had a copper taste, my face felt both warm and cold and very sticky. My throat felt different, less pressure, but it had a new ache. The room was black, but I could see on the towel was covered in something darker than just saliva. I flipped on the light and there was blood on the towel and it had spilled onto the floor. The fluid was thicker than usual, indicating it wasn’t just blood.
A call to the nurse was next. I sounded different. At first it was all phlegm, but once it cleared I sounded more like myself than I had in days. The nurse came and didn’t seem that surprised. They had expected this kind of expelling at some point. Thanks for the heads up, I thought. Knowing I would be spitting blood at some points seemed an important thing to mention. She helped me clean up, got more towels and refilled my water. Once everything was situated again, I laid back down and went to sleep.
I woke up a few more times expecting to see blood and was not disappointed. I adjust and replaced towels as needed and soldiered on. The next morning I was eager to wash my face and brush my teeth. There was quite a bloody mucus Jackson Pollock left behind. All of that and I felt…amazing. I could swallow! There was still pain, but it was from the needle punctures, not because of raw and swollen skin. I could drink without choking or it going back up my nose. I could eat food and get it to my stomach without nibbling away at each piece. I almost felt normal again.
The doctor came, checked me out and told me I was going home. Shortly after that the nurse came by with discharge papers, prescriptions and instructions. I listened, signed and was cut loose (pun intended). I packed up and headed out. 50 hours after I showed up with what I thought was severe strep. Lots of recovery left, 12 antibiotic pills a day to take, my throat was still swollen and irritated and my mouth was not clear quite yet. I was able to speak clearer, but not I still had a ways to go till I could articulate and project as an adult. I was unable to return to work till I gave my throat a chance to rest and heal.
I started the previous Sunday by taking my boys to the zoo. I started to feel off that night. 9 days later and I had told myself it was muscle strain, then the flu, then was confirmed for strep, and now have successfully navigated a bronze medal abscess and my first overnight in a hospital.
I could use a little boring for awhile. Something tells me that is not in the cards.