Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Penny from Heaven

Day Five.   Pancakes.  With cranberry juice.  If there's one thing I've learned, especially with my intestines being on mandatory digestive rest, it's that high carb foods don't like to digest and go through without copious amounts of pain, and that highly acidic juices feel like my stomach is on fire.  But considering they hadn't brought me the menu for morning the previous night, they just sent up what was standard fare for that morning.  Really, I should have been on low residue for at least my first few meals but the kitchen didn't bother to find that out. 

In walks Penny.  From Heaven.  There is no better way to describe her.  It was my first time meeting my new day nurse Penny.  She looked at me and the uneaten food with a noticeable question mark on her face.  She asked me why I hadn't eaten my breakfast, and I told her it was my first 'solid' food in 5 days, and it definitely was not going to digest well at all.  She started chuckling, and immediately asked what I would eat, so she could send down to the kitchen for it.  From experience, I know there are some things that will agree with my body, namely hard boiled eggs, skim milk, corn flakes, and maybe a small muffin with some apple juice.  After leaving and placing my order, Penny returned to formally introduce herself.  I could instantly tell we were going to not only get along (she was laughing at my ascerbic wit regarding the food situation) but that she was going to be a great nurse.  She proceeded to ask me what had happened the night before, after reading my chart.  In my typical way, I filled her in on the lack of English communication which led to the blowing of my vein and the yelling at my nurse.  I promised her I wasn't too difficult but just didn't tolerate unnecessary i.v.s being put into my arm.  I also told her the problems I'd been having with my catheter, which led her to ask "well, why do you still have it in then?" to which I replied "beats me."  Penny promised me she'd get right on it and find out if there was a reason I couldn't have it still.  She also asked why I was still on the heparin shots since I was going to be heading home either later that day or the next, and again, I mentioned that no one put a dc on the orders.  Briskly, Penny walked away to seek out the answers to the questions she had just asked.  As far as I was concerned, she was the one that was going to get things done for me at this stage, since I was chomping at the bit.

A short time later, in came my breakfast tray.  Delish.  Nothing tastes so good as hospital food after a four day lack of food.  As much as I hate apple juice (after many years of using it for colonoscopy prep) it tasted very good when chilled and added with the rest of my breakfast tray.  I happily indulged on what seemed like a ton of food, careful not to eat too much for fear of not knowing how it would process through my body.  See, I had learned after trial and error over the years that anesthesia coupled with heavy duty pain meds and being npo for several days slows down digestion to the point of stuff not liking to process through and causing an inordinate amount of pain as my intestines wake back up.  So I chewed slowly and hoped it wouldn't kill me later. 

Penny returned with some happy news.  My catheter could come out.  Since they were going to be sending me home, they decided they needed to know if I could pee on my own.  That was the best news I could have gotten after the rotten night I'd had the evening prior.  She left, got some gloves and stuff, and deflated the cath balloon and removed it.  I asked, while she was at it, if there was any way she could also remove my drains.  They were in such awkward places and were making it uncomfortable to sleep and move around.  One was in my lower abomen, which I'd had before, and one was...in the crack of my cheek/leg joint toward the groin on the inside.  That one was killer.  Though they had it pinned up to my gown and boxers, it was the stitches that felt like they were ripping out a tad.  Penny checked and said they weren't, but boy was it uncomfy.  I asked how long they had to stay in, and she said until I had my discharge papers in order, since they wouldn't be able to re-install them in case I had to stay in longer. 

Penny just rocked out the rest of the day.  She was able to get the bolus i.v. removed since I hadn't been using it for the past 2 days, save for the one dose that the nurse accidentally pushed through my veins.  See, the bolus pump keeps a record of all times it's been used, to see if it's been therapeutically used or not, and when it was realized by Penny that I wasn't using it at all, she said 'why not just give that vein a rest?' and got orders pushed through to remove it.  Woot woot!  Honestly.  It was amazing.  Like being in a race car, and going from 0 to 100 in less than a minute. 

Free of my cath bag, I was up peeing on my own.  And I had one of my two i.v. poles removed.  If you had told me that I had won the lotto, I don't think I would have had any sort of excitement compared to how I felt in that half hour after both were gone.  Slowly things were being removed from my body instead of being put into it.  I went for a long-ish walk and enjoyed that too, without having two poles and a cath bag hanging from my walker.  Actually, I didn't even need a walker at this point.  I was pushing my solitary pole all by my lonesome.  It's funny--as much as I was still attached to things, I could see the progress I'd made, when noticing the others on the floor who were hunched over their walkers.  I seemed like I was lightyears better than they were, and it had only been a few days in actuality. 

I returned, got my sponge bath from mom, and got even more good news from Penny...the heparin was done! This was like a great belated birthday present.  Lunch showed up (overly grilled cheese, to the point of not being able to eat it) and a garden salad (holy fiber batman!) and some chocolate pudding.  I ate the soft part of the grilled cheese and the chocolate pudding, happy to be having food.  The breakfast from morning still wasn't really working its way through, so I was trying to drink water in addition to the apple juice to help move things along. 

Penny came back in before her shift was over just to chat.  She was a blast.  During the winter season, she also moonlit as a snowboard instructor at Windham Mountain, where I do the Warrior Dash.  We were recounting my hospital stay thus far, and the two of us were laughing hysterically.  I loved her.  She was just so down to earth and had such a great bedside manner.  She mentioned that I was possibly going to be discharged that afternoon, but we told her it wasn't possible as my dad was 2 hours away and couldn't get up there in time.  Happily, before she left, she told me to hold tight, since she'd be back tomorrow and be my nurse again.  Tuning into the Food Network, I watched the Paula Deen and waited for dinner to arrive. 

Mmmm.  Another grilled cheese, but this time edible.  It came with more chocolate pudding "parfait" (that's hospital speak for topped with whipped cream) and a fruit cup.  I ate out the melon and mom ate the rest of the fruit.  All in all it was a great day, except now I had to remember to pee and not call for someone to do it for me, but what a luxury that was :)  The only small problem was that they tried to give me my heparin shot during the night shift, but I reminded them that it had been dc'ed.  Victory.  Mom settled in with her dinner, I turned on The Cake Boss marathon, and eventually passed out.  Mom woke me up and said goodnight as she headed over to the hotel for the night to sleep, and I settled in for sleep, knowing I'd be going home the next day.

2am.  Lights on.  "We need a blood sample."  "Nope."  "Yes, we need a blood sample from you."  "I'm refusing."  "Do I understand, you're refusing to submit to the daily blood draw?"  "My veins have been abused enough.  I'm going home later today.  You do NOT need one last blood draw.  I'm putting my foot down and you're not drawing."  "Well, we'll have to note that in your chart."  ::giggle:: "Go right ahead!"  Lights off.  Victory again. 

Day 6.  Feeling empowered, when the residents came in at 6ish-am, they asked me why I hadn't gotten my blood draw.  I politely/sleepily/smugly reminded them that I was going home today, and had the nurse two nights prior not blown my vein, I might have been willing to be stabbed yet again, but since I'd had 7 i.v.s/attempted i.v.s in the last 6 days, that there was no way in hades that any more needles were going in, but instead they'd be coming out.  At this point, with not much in the way of pain meds in me, the sarcasm started dripping from the corners of my mouth and pooling on the sheets around me.  I bet they were not used to people like me on that floor, just speaking my mind at 6am.  But at that point I wasn't going to not stand my ground.  What could they do to me?  Nothing! 

Breakfast arrived.  More hard boiled eggs, corn flakes with skim, and an apple cinnamon muffin.  Mmmm.  Considering how well the prior day's breakfast processed through me, I figured I was safe with doing the exact repeat.  Penny arrived soon afterward, with word that I'd be going home definitely since I was self-peeing and keeping food down and outputting it as well.  Oh.  Happy.  Day.  Not for nothing, but after that amount of time in a hospital bed, without my cats, there is nothing like hearing you're going to be sprung.  Something like letting the inmates out of the assylum. 

Dr. Polynice had been in the day before, and said that he was very pleased with how I was healing.  Said everything looked perfect and that I should be back to my normal self in no time.  That thrilled me to pieces, but also made me want to get out that much sooner.  Penny told me she was checking to see if the paperwork had been filed, and in the meantime if she could get out my remaining i.v. and drains. 


And Waiting.

Penny returned.  She said she had paged down to the doctors to see what was going on, and that reconstructive had signed off on my release, but colorectal hadn't yet, and she didn't know what the holdup was, but to sit tight and she'd get back to me.  My roommate was driving her nuts too.  Apparently she too was to be released today, but was arguing with Penny about how to get home.  She kept telling Penny that her husband was supposed to come at some point, but she didn't know when, and frankly didn't care.  She was also, again, complaining about the coffee.  Really?  Penny wasn't the cause of it.  And how was it that Penny was the one who was supposed to brew a fresh pot? 

Penny actually came over, rolled her eyes a bit with a head nod toward the other side of the curtain and said 'I'm so sorry, I'll be RIGHT back and check again.  I still have the page down to them for the discharge papers, and the last I heard if they don't get to it today you'll have to stay in until tomorrow.'

WHAAA?!?  Really?  It's going to be that hard to obtain a resident's signature just to get me sprung?  Penny sensed the desperation in my face and voice, because getting sprung also meant that I could get my final i.v. and drains out, and she knew how much they were bugging me. 

Lunch got delivered.  Grilled cheese again.  Don't worry, the hospital DID offer more choices in food, I just kept writing in what I knew would sit well in my stomach.  Except for one problem.  I was fed up with grilled cheese and chocolate pudding by now since I was itching to go home after breakfast.  I did manage to nibble at the grilled cheese, but there was no way that chocolate pudding was going down yet again, which considering it's chocolate and I love chocolate, is almost unimaginable for me to be saying.  Penny returned with a surgical resident who had scissors.  Know why she had scissors?  I was getting my drains out, I was getting my drains out, na na--na na, I was getting my drains out.  Truthfully, at this point, I think they hurt more than the actual recovery from surgery.  When something is embedded deeply within, and the tissues have healed around it, and all of the sudden it's being pulled out from whence it came, it tends not to tickle too much.  But the stitches got cut, the drains got pulled, and I was almost home free.

Around 1pm Penny returned and asked just how much I loved her, with a big cheese on her face.  Could it be true?  Did she really get orders to get me sprung?  She informed me that it was all but a done deal, and that she could take out my remaining i.v. and I could get dressed.  I had to wait for a half hour after the i.v. was taken out to make sure it sealed over fine, and for the paperwork to be officially signed, sealed, and delivered, but in the meantime she read me all of the discharge instructions she had to help expedite things.  There is nothing like taking off the gown after that last i.v. is removed and putting on legitimate clothing.  Aaah.  A t shirt, comfy dance pants, and a hoodie.  I felt human.  I stood at the sink without poles or tubes and brushed my teeth like a human being.  No rinse and spit with a series of cups and the kidney shaped dish.  No worry about bending my arm and the i.v. line beeping.  It was a glorious feeling.  I did love Penny.  Bunches. 

About 2pm the final paperwork was delivered, and my chariot arrived.  I was plopped delicately in the wheelchair on my tush pillow (not donut, that would hurt too much) and whisked down to the waiting car in valet parking. 

Free at last.  Fresh air, green grass, changing leaves.  I know how prisoners must feel with their first taste of freedom after a long stay in the clink.  Now home to see my cats and dog and take a shower 48 hours later.       


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