good fun and well worth it

Well, Gentle Reader, when last we put paw to keyboard there wasn’t enough time to tell the story.  I must say my recent experiences have plunged me into an angry despair unlike anything I’ve ever experienced which is saying quite a bit.

Part the first.  So, it turns out I’ve had chronic gallbladder problems which were always diagnosed by my regular doctor as being in my head.  Strange, since that isn’t where the gallbladder is located.

Part the second.  Finally the long suffering Partner takes me to the ER in the only hospital we can use, being poor and all.  After a lot of fun in the waiting room, saying over and over between pukes that no, I have not been to West Africa,  continuously vomiting and mostly missing the opening of the tiny bag they grudgingly gave me, I went in to the treatment area.  My veins were apparently collapsed from dehydration and in their efforts to get a line in me I ended up looking like someone beat the snot out of me, as my ex-Marine postman remarked in horror.  Amazingly a diagnosis was quickly made.  I was told this procedure is essentially outpatient, laparoscopic surgery, no big deal.  This is, of course, true if you have what is referred to as “good insurance”, something I now think of as being in the same category as “good hair” if you know what I mean.  Since I did not have good insurance I instead was put in a bed, no food or water, for 48 hours.  The surgeon’s instructions were that I was to get pain meds every two hours.  The nurses decided that they didn’t really need to bother with being timely with that, with the result that I found myself screaming at one point and being roundly chastised by said nurse.  Lucky for her that by that time I couldn’t speak.  The extra fun part of all this is that I’m allergic to opiates and two days of them put me on Mars.  Plus all the other unknown substances they were pumping into me via IV.

Part the WTF.  At long last I get wheeled into surgery.  I told the anesthesiologist from hell that I’d never been in the hospital, never had surgery, never took drugs, and also have a heck of a gag reflex.  He made a few sexist remarks which he capped off with “I’ll make you fall in love with me- I’m going to give you that stuff Michael Jackson took!”.  Knowing that it was in his power to kill me with this concoction I imagine I attempted a smile.   That was at about 3:30 p.m. on,I think, Tuesday.

Part the way beyond WTF.  I woke up at 1 am, I guess on Wednesday.  Restrained and catheterized and staring into a bright light with three people in the room looking at me like avenging angels.  When at last they removed the restraints and yanked out the catheter I noticed that both hands looked like chopped liver and I couldn’t move my legs due to the tender mercy with which they’d inserted the catheter. They’d pulled the 20 gauge needles out of one hand and jammed a 40 gauge into the other which felt as though it was in a state of permanent crucifixion.  There was  a large divot missing from my lip which was both numb and painful.  They had also hooked me up to a portable heart monitor (with a special sticky right under my boob which developed an infected scratch therefrom.  Extra fun.) and I was literally entombed in wires and tubes.  “You had to be restrained” they said, looking at me like I was Charles Manson.  WHY, I said.  Then even in my miserable state I realized they weren’t about to fess up to giving me a massive drug overdose so I said I had to call my husband.  This being a Catholic hospital there’s just a lot they don’t get so it was easier.  I wasn’t really aware of what time it was, but he answered on the second ring.  He was crying.  He briefly told me what happened, cried some more, told me he loved me and this had been too awful to talk about but nonetheless he was glad I wasn’t dead and he didn’t have to come and blow the damn place to smithereens. We hung up.

In which the fun continues.  So, OK.  I was relieved to see they had indeed done laparoscopy and not a major gutting and tried to content myself with that.  An endless stream of respiratory therapists and people thrusting potassium on me to drink- my heart stopped during all the fun, apparently, and hourly further blood draws ensued.  The first phlebotomist decided it was just too hard to figure out how to get my blood out so she jabbed a needle on the inside of my wrist- right where you’d slit it if you wanted to sit in a warm bath and kiss it all goodbye.  I said, please use a butterfly.  She said, I never use those.   Another huge glass of potassium in plain water which tastes like drano.  Orange juice makes it palatable but I guess since I was a bad dog having to be restrained and all I didn’t merit that consideration.  And let us not forget that by this time I had had neither food nor water for five days.  The drano concoction was the first liquid I’d had.  So, so great. Delicioso indeed.  There was also a veritable endless stream of people coming in to stare at the Person Who’d Had to Be Restrained, as though I’d developed 86 heads.

The Afternoon of the Morning After.  The Partner appeared, we were both sobbing and whatnot. A bitch from hell Valkyrie Nurse’s Assistant appeared, yanked my blanket off, yanked my hospital gown up, and said- No dwainage.  Gut, in a ruminating sort of way.  Still a bit out of my mind I made it all even better by asking her if the thing next to her non-existent nametag was a charm to avert the evil eye: It definitely looked like one of those blue eyeball things you see all over the…oh, dear.  Middle East.  She reared back and made what came to be a consistent theme of hissing and furtive sign of the cross.  No, she said.  At least she finally, at about 3:oo pm, brought me some WATER.  Thank you, Jesus, I said.  Then the osteopath came in.  That went well too, because I said, Oh, you’re an osteopath.  Not an MD but who cares at this point.  Have you read that text Palpatory Literacy?  Literacy, he said???? I said, it’s a basic text for osteopaths and involves training your hands to “read” musculature for dysfunction.  I do it, I said.  Oh, he said, with a minimal hiss and cross making. NO. I DON’T DO THAT ANYMORE.  He did at least partially cop to the fact that they’d almost killed me with the saline/dilaudid combo, saturating my tissues to the point of serious problem.  Next up was a cheery Hospital Administrator, who told us that one of the Great Things About this Hospital is it’s part of a network, so patients who can’t get what they need at one can be taken to another for treatment.  I wondered why they hadn’t done that with me.  (Further notes of interest on this were at the “post op” visit with the surgeon where I had to remove my own bandages and clean my own wounds. His nurse told me when she’d had the same situation he’d worked her into the schedule on the same day.)  Next up another respiratory therapist who I was, at this point, able to ask as to whether or not what they were fuming into my lungs was a steroid.  I’m allergic to steroids.  He said this wasn’t a steroid of course.  Let’s just say that I haven’t been able to breathe for several days and my lungs are just now uncrunching ten days later.  Apparently I’d aspirated a lot of blood as well, so it was just an overall….disaster.

The last two nurses.  OMG.  Honestly I don’t think you should be a med/surg nurse if you don’t understand what pain is.  In any event, Nurse from Hell Ms. S., the one who told me she wasn’t giving me the pain meds because they didn’t seem to help me and I was crying, turned the wheel over to another Nurse S, whom she told about my having to be restrained and nothing else.  So, FINE.  JUST HISS AND GET IT OVER WITH- YOU’LL FEEL BETTER.  After three blood draws, four vital checks and four respiratory therapies, I fall asleep at 3:45 am.  At 4 am?  New Nurse S comes in, shakes me awake, and says, your guard rail is down! That’s against hospital policy!  You’ll have to sign a release form! Put it up yourself, I said. She of course couldn’t do that, and also said she had to put compression hose back on me.  Well, that didn’t happen because the former compression hose came to a grisly end after the combo of stool softener and IV Lasix hit me like a ton of bricks.  Lasix, you may remember, is that stuff they can’t give to race horses anymore to avoid drug detection.  Anyway, I said I’d sign the release when the sun came up.  Ha ha I am so funny that way.  I’d just closed my eyes when back she came, triumphant, waving a release form around.  I found it! So, fine.  I couldn’t even see it but signed it, whereupon she looked at me and said, wow.  That’s pretty good.  Don’t you use your right hand?  Given that it had the ginormous IV needle in it, not right now but I am left handed I said.  Throwing caution to the wind what with the 86 head reputation I was maintaining, I said to her, if there’s nothing else? GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME.

Finally after five days they let me out.  The nurse of the last day who’d been ignoring me came in and handed me a scrip for MORE OPIATES.  No, I said, NO.  I don’t take this stuff even if all my neighbors do and I could sell this shit and take a vacation.  I don’t want it.  Well, she said.  You HAVE TO TAKE IT.  I HAVE TO GIVE IT TO YOU.  It’s the LAW.  You don’t have to get it filled if you don’t want to.  We’ve phoned in the stool softener prescription for you too.  I’m sorry, I said, but I’m really confused.  If you smoke marijuana they’ll arrest you and the light of day will be a dim memory.  If you sell heroin, same thing.  But the entire thrust of the medical industry seems to be getting you addicted to these bloody pills.  She clucked and backed out hastily.

In the end.  In the end, this experience connected me with an anger and rage I’d never experienced.  I have pretty much dedicated my life to helping others and doing no harm, and to be veritably mutilated in this manner…well.  It made me think about all the prisoners who are thrown in the SHU, all those who are subject to Rendition, all the people in Africa who are sick and dying, and the incredible, monstrous greed of a system where money is all that matters.  They can pretend they care, pretend they’re doing something, but unless there’s a stream of money in it for them- and often even then- it’s all a big, fat lie.  Whether you live or die is simply the luck of the draw once you get into such clutches.  The good part about it is this anger has liberated me from a great deal of fear.  There really, in fact, is no room for fear in our minds.  Especially now when it is largely an implant geared to keeping people powerless.  It has been really challenging to attempt to reconcile my desire to perform an orchidectomy on the anesthesiologist with dirty garden shears in a busy intersection, and leave him there after kicking in his ribs, with the reality of who I am, which is still someone who apologizes to the moths for swatting them.  I’ve read Buddhist texts, I’ve read Elaine Pagels, I’ve prayed and breathed deeply.  The Partner assures me that just because I have these thoughts doesn’t change who I am.   I’m just trying to figure out how to proceed now, knowing what I know.

Back in the real world. Meanwhile, in just a few days! I’ve gotten overdue on all my bills and found that I can no longer do online banking because my 2008 laptop doesn’t have the “right OS” and thus the browsers suggested cannot be downloaded.   I’ve told the Partner to keep the gardening shears away from me for a while.

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