Thursday, March 29, 2012

Reflections on my Hospital Experience

I have felt that my PTSD episodes have diminished greatly since my move however, there were two instances in the hospital that made me realize there is still some residue left when I get stressed to the limit and having no control.

One night in extreme shoulder pain and wearing a full leg splint that dug into my skin, I totally lost it. I was so frustrated by being constantly entangled with all the blankets, elasticized sheets, socks, the IV tubes and unable to find any comfort that I just picked up everything on my bed and threw it on the floor at the end of my bed. So out of character for me and recognized my level of distress and called for the nurse. She talked me down and remade my bed. By the way, that never happened (making my bed) on a regular basis unless there was a reason to. How things have changed since my first hospital visit in the early '70's. Back then our beds were changed every morning, we were washed, our feet were massaged with a lotion as were our backs at bedtime. We were coddled and the healing process nurtured. Along with having decent food hygiene. Today none of those little acts of comfort are provided. A hospital stay today is not based on anything but the bare essentials in order to provide pain relief and some mobility. The sooner you go home the better. As patients that is our desire as well and after my previous 3 surgeries, I never spent more than 2 days. A month is almost unheard of unless some major cause and I guess I was one of those cases.

The second time was when I was again encumbered by the leg splint that was so painful. I had been in bed for a few days (third week) and just couldn't stand being so confined any longer. I asked the nurse if I could leave the ward and go downstairs and outside for a walk. Her reply was, "We can't stop you but I wouldn't recommend it". That was all I needed to hear and put on a sweater and grabbed my Pole Pal (IV pole) and went out for some much needed fresh air and a few puffs. I would have gone regardless of the answer as I was on the verge of a panic attack.

The air in the hospital was unbelievably dry and I was constantly in a state of itching and a dry nose. I had to ask them every night to leave the door open to allow for some air circulation. The room itself was always very cold and why a need for so many blankets and warm socks. During the month I spent in the Hosp. I smoked less than half a package and really didn't miss them except when I had a need for fresh air and then had the opportunity to smoke.

My observation about the hygiene of a hospital room versus the old days, is that it is disgustingly dirty and why there are so many germs and infections being spread around. Cleaning of the rooms occurs when a new bed is brought it and then it is a brief wipe with some damp cloth, a lick and a promise. I saw the same stains on the bathroom floor for the month I was there although I mentioned it. I also had to call over a gal to clean all the IV spills and drips next to my bed. To be brief, the place was a lethal mix of germs, fluids and anything else you can think of. Not an environment that would promote healing and with such gross food, what is direly needed for the body to recover, the less time one can spend there, the better. I heard on the news last week that 137,000 death are attributed to hospital infections in the USA. I am not surprised and expect Canada is not much safer based on my observations.

In remembrance of a few of my fellow roommates some are more outstanding than others. Did I mention I probably had over 40, so difficult to recall them all. Some are more memorable than others.

Two middle aged female pedestrians with back and leg injuries. One, a Japanese woman and it was very enlightening to see how graceful, humble and accepting she was. A true example to me of the difference between cultures. Truly admired this woman versus the other pedestrian who was constantly complaining and demanding.

A fellow who had fallen off his bike and broke his leg and collar bone. Chatty but delightful.

A demented woman with a great sense of humour who laughed after everything she said, with a hip fracture. Talked all night. Eventually transferred to another facility.

A native woman who had multiple leg injuries and a history of many previous surgeries. Always smiling even when asked what caused her fall and laughingly admitted she was drunk. She was delightful as well but not sad when she was transferred as I found her too chatty.

Another demented 92 year old woman with a hip fracture with the sweetest middle aged son who came to visit daily. We had long chats. She was so terrified at night because she didn't know where she was, would pull out her tubes and bleed all over the place and then in the middle of the night, would scream at the top of her lungs. I had no idea a 92 year old had that lung capacity. Not sure I have. I felt so sorry for her since she must have been so afraid. They had to move her into the hallway with enough meds to get her to settle down to allow the rest of us to sleep.
Her son told me that when she received Hydrocodone?, she would get into this state and that it was due to the meds. Have witnessed what Morphine did to my Mom and how delusional she became. She thought the nurses were trying to kill her. So out of character. I think that making the elderly so fearful and psychotic is (don't even know what term to use), unconscionable and unwarranted.

A gal who drove vehicles for film companies who broke her foot and was attached to her cell phone. She talked constantly in a very loud voice from the moment she was awake until she finally went to sleep at midnight. Fortunately she left the next day. I don't think people are aware of how disturbing this activity is for the rest of the population. Who wants to hear all their personal exchanges? Not me. She was so loud, I couldn't hear the TV wearing earphones. Speaking about the TV. I rediscovered 'All in the Family' and went to bed watching that every night. Is there anything better than going to bed with humour and laughter.

A fellow who had fallen off a barstool and broken his collar bone and shoulder. He had an addiction to ice cubes and would eat them by them handful all day. The nurses had to keep him supplied or he would ring the bell. I not only had to listen to his crunching ice all day but his very large burps and voluminous farts. Totally lacking in consideration for others. So relieved when he was sent home after 2 days.

A lovely lady who broke her leg as she was running down her hall alerting other tenants that there was a fire in the building. She lost everything. This was her second experience with a fire. Had a great attitude and very positive. Totally inspiring. How often do we encounter people who have been devastated by two fires.

An East Indian woman who had a leg injury and whose sons would bring in Curries for dinner every night. I salivated every night as a result of the delicious smells. She ate far better than the rest of us. I could barely eat anything, the food was so disgusting. What was fascinating about her and her family was that there was no conversation and they all looked totally miserable. She ate well and I was so envious.

A fellow who had a shoulder replacement but who told me that his ex-wife had put him on a hit list. $20,000. That W5 were doing a documentary on his story. Is that the truth or not, I don't know. He said there had been many articles on him in the papers and on the Web describing his situation. Now I can't remember his name.

A middle aged woman that I really bonded with. She was delightful and left too early for me. I loved her company but she did do me the favour of getting her mother to pick up a back scratcher. I couldn't live without mine now that I have such major shoulder problems. A godsend for sure.

I am sure there will be others who come to mind as I reflect on all those people. Some delightful and others a pain in the ass. A good cross section of the population I expect. Have just never been in contact with so many diverse people except in my last job 12 years ago when I worked in Emergency Admitting. I was also on an Orthopedic Ward so no really seriously ill patients.

To leave on a very positive note, I have to state that I had the most wonderful nurses. After spending a month in the same room, regardless of all the shift changes, we got to know each other very well in a short period of time. I bonded with most of them. They are what made my experience delightful on so many levels when all else was very negative. I was told by some that I was there favorite patient and I expect it was because we became familiar, shared personal stories and much laughter. Some would come to visit with me when they worked on other floors. When I left, some came and game me a huge hug. Loved that and brought me to tears.

I rediscovered through this stay, that my sense of humour is fully intact. That was reassuring and affirmed that this part of me is still available given the opportunity to be expressed. Humour is what brought Arch and I together and was the glue that kept us united and solidly together despite all our struggles until his death. I do believe that younger generations as we age become our lifeblood to re-experience the energy, vitality and promise of youth. For those who have their children living close by and grandchildren is a huge blessing. We need the younger generations to keep us youthful and up-to-date. I miss that more than I am willing to admit.

Bottom line is that this experience provided me with another avenue to learn more about myself. That in terms of my ability to interact with others in unusual circumstances whether surgeons, nurses, other patients, my patience, tolerance to others in my space and my pain tolerance. And am still somewhat intact and with a sense of humour.

I am truly impressed by myself and my inner strength. I don't say this coming from the ego but based on the mental state I lived in for the last 8 years. I have made a major transition and even though I am aware that PTSD has not entirely gone away, it has improved immensely and expect it will continue to. As long as I have some sense of control. It's a fine line I know and my fuse has become very short as I experienced with the blanket incidence. I just have to be aware that I always have options even if they are out of character. It is okay to have a fit or do the unexpected when I feel pushed to the edge. Of course I don't mean that if they would involve some other person.

Saw the Chiro yesterday and he helped with my shoulders but it will take time. Feeling hopeful and I continue to heal and get stronger.

~ Tutte ~