Monday, March 31, 2014

The Long Road

To recovery.

I moved into a regular hospital room on my birthday! It was small--tiny! But I was happy to get out of the CCU. While I was in the CCU I had my stomach tube taken out. Do you know how they do that? They pull it out through your nose (the way it went it, only I was asleep when they put it in); I was awake and it tasted disgusting. Let me elaborate (those with weak stomachs ought to look away), first it feels like you're gagging, then you taste the acid from your stomach as the tub trails it up your throat and through your nose. So it feels like you just barfed through your nose. It was disgusting.

Moving on. My parent brought my cheesecake and my dad bought my flowers (because I wasn't allowed to have flowers in the CCU and he wanted to be the first one), he brought me red roses and my mom brought my purple flowers. The boys came with Annette and Nate, my friends Michala, Laura and Rachel. They sang happy birthday and gave me prezzies. I got a movie, a shirt signed by TSO, a robe, some slippers and a Chromebook. I was still pretty drugged up but I enjoyed it. I ate about half of a tiny sliver of cheesecake because my stomach had shrunk from five days of not eating.
Later that evening they moved me into a larger room. Then the fun began. Mom and Dad stayed with me, visiting hours ended at 8 but they stayed til about 10 before leaving. However, the night before, I started having horrible chest pain. I wrenched and turned and cried. Mom and Dad were talking about leaving and I begged them not to leave. Mom finally decided to stay. Tonight, in my new room, my Dad traded off. The rib pain would come in waves. While I was in this new room the nurses would come in at about 3 in the morning to take my vitals and give me any meds I needed, I was usually awake. And then they would come again at about 6 AM to switch the nurses and give me my blood thinner shots and more meds.

On the night before Thanksgiving (I do believe), 1 week after the accident, April was supposed to arrive but, due to flight delays, she wasn't getting in til 11 so she was just going straight to my home and would come the next day. My dad was staying with me and it just so happened that in the middle of the night I had the worst pain in the world. I can't remember if it was the same or worse than the stuff I had before when they had to sedate me, I just remember it being unbearable. My nurse, Michael, came in, took one look and said, "I'll get Kim" (my head nurse). Kim came in and gave me a stronger pain med. I was then taken off of the old IV pain meds and from there on out given the oral medication. It helped a bit and they gave me only what I needed based on my pain level. This pain medication made me nauseated. I also had next to no appetite despite the nurses and my parents urging me that I needed protein to build new tissue.
The next day April arrived. I can't express the emotions I felt when she walked in and we embraced--mainly because I really don't remember much now that it's March 31st and I'm finishing this post--but it was great to see her again. She relieved mom from her babysitting duties and settled in as caretaker.
Everyone went home to see about Thanksgiving details while we two stayed behind. My brothers brought us Thanksgiving dinner all boxed up, I'd never seen April so happy in her life, she relished as she plated the food, the potatoes, stuffing, turkey, olives, it was all good. It wasn't how I was planning on spending Thanksgiving, but I was glad to have my buddy alongside me.

Now let me see if I can get this right without destroying the story. As I mentioned, I wrote this before and am only now getting around to finishing it!
At one point I was feeling really nauseated to the point where a nurse gave me a pill to knock it out. And it knocked me out in the process. April made the comment that what good is it to get rid of nausea if you're not awake to enjoy it? Agreed.
The main nurse (I believe this was Kim again) decided that 1 of 2 of my pain meds were probably making me sick, so she took me off of it and I seemed to do a little better but the nausea never seemed to fully leave until a million years later.
The other thing going on was my darned chest tube. It killed. It was the cause of most of my pain, we didn't know this of course. I had to pick up the box it was connected to and bring it with me whenever I needed to go to the bathroom. Oh and the bathroom was just a joy! They took out my catheter because they didn't want me to get an infection. This meant I got to use the glorified toilet seat! A chair with a bucket that you did your business on.

Folks, I'm not proud of this fact but it was a fact just the same: I had to have my buttocks wiped by other people. It was downright humiliating but I quickly got over it. It's like I turned off the switch to caring and put up mental blocks so I wouldn't be scarred for life. Even thinking back I'm kind of amazed that I survived such things. Now the nurses brought the toilet chair to you, the sink was way a million feet over on the other end of the room and I wasn't mobile (in fact I was doing good getting in and out of bed) so I couldn't wash my hands after my toilet visits. April and I, though, we had a system. I would use a little hand sanitizer after the fact then after the nurse left and I was tucked back in bed April would grab a washcloth with a little soap on it so I could have some semblance of cleanliness. Just about every day someone would come in and check the drainage from my chest tube to see if I could have it removed and every day they'd say "no". I was growing discouraged.
Just about every day someone would come in with an x-ray machine, jam a large square board underneath my back and take pictures of my chest.
I was supposed to have a physical therapist come every day but I'd only seen one or two in the space of my visit. I got one come in and she totally flipped out to this fact, she got me out of bed and put me in a chair and had me sit there for a good while. I never thought sitting would be exhausting, but it was. This therapist was cool, she gave me exercises and had a nice toughness about her that you couldn't help but like. I was starting to use the walker, another low point in life. A walker. That's old people equipment. I couldn't believe it.

Then, about a few days after April's arrival, these people come along with a bed and say they have to take a special x-ray of my hip in order for me to get permission to leave. They load me onto the bed and wheel me through the hospital, April stayed back in the room.
The x-ray technician introduced himself and told me I was getting an x-ray so rare he hadn't done it in years and had to look up how to do it. That didn't make me feel good. I had to have foam wedges placed under my hips so that I was at an angle, this was an uncomfortable for a broken pelvis but it was over quickly.
They brought me back and my buddy was there waiting for me like an obedient pet or something.
Then another physical therapist came along and had me practice crutches! Hallelujah! I walked out into the hall and then back to my room, I was a champ! I was so excited, you should have seen me. I was also sitting up in the chair more often.
One of my favorite nurses came in, his name was Skyler. Skylar? I don't remember the spelling. Either way, he was a favorite, he was nice, I liked him. That was... up until he pulled the staples out of my scar. I'd like to say I braved it like a Jedi or some sort of disciplined Samurai. But I didn't. I yelped like a 4 year old getting a band-aid taken off. It wasn't any walk in the park, mind you! It stung! But I think I made a bigger deal out of it than it was. I even told Skylar that I didn't like him anymore.

About the 2nd of December came about and the awesome Dr. (I think he was an assistant Dr. because I didn't see much of my two main Drs while I was there) came in to check out my chest tube. I had been expelling more liquid than they wanted but he just sat there and looked at the stats on a computer for what seemed to be ages. You should have seen my countenance rapidly drop as the minutes ticked by. Then he just said, "I'm pulling it." He didn't see why I should have it in there any longer. I couldn't believe it! I got back in bed and they got all the stuff required and the doctor came back in to pull it out of me. Now my mom told me that it hurt to get a tube pulled so I was freaked out about the pain. I had April's hand in the death grip of despair. The Dr. told me that when he pulled it out I had to breathe out until he had the bandage on because if I breathed in air would get in and that is bad. I latched onto that, took a deep breath and let it out. And when I say I let it out, I let it all out. Until my face turned purple. The Dr. said I could breathe and I realized it was done. No pain. In fact, none of the usual pain. In fact, I could breathe! The rib pain that had been needling me ever since the accident, the reason I would toss and turn and thrash at night, was gone! That confounded contraption was the cause of it all!! Unbelievable! But I could breathe, oh I could take *deep* breathes. Not just little tiny sips of air like a dying fish.
April said that when the Dr. pulled out the tube yummy, bodily fluids gushed out onto him. I wish I could have seen it.

This was all quite happy. I had another physical therapy come and snatch me away in a wheel chair, they had to get me to walk up and down stairs with crutches before they could even think about releasing me. This time I took April with me. Walking up three (or was it only two?) steps was a chore. A chore I tell you! And then I walked down the hall some but got too tired to get back to my room on my own and wheeled back. This was progress. On the 3rd of December I was having friends come, Michala and Laura, good little friends! I was glad to be seeing them. I was also in my chair, too! I was watching TV and just chilling out with April when a nurse walked in, "I've got release papers!"
I mean, I was told I *might* go home for Christmas. Not that I'd be home three weeks before! I was told I'd have to go off to some rehab place! I called my mom and told her the good news right as my friends arrived (and my lunch). I ate some and they helped pack my belongings and, would you believe it? I was out of there before I even realized what was happening. I was so excited I could have cried. Of course they had me sign an enormous amount of papers and I was supposed to have a ton of pills but I was going home. Home!!
Dear old Skylar saw me off into Jeff's jeep with mom and April and it was home-bound!
But home-bound meant driving. On the freeway even. I hadn't driven at all. Not in 13 days! This was a bit intense but I ignored it. I was going home.

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