I had originally intended to share some of the (relatively few) humorous anecdotes that occurred during my 23 days of hospitalization. However now that I am home, I am finding that recalling details of my recent ordeal have been actually causing me a fair amount of anxiety.
Though we offhandedly think of the hospital as a place for cure and healing, the required practices one encounters there seem to contradict that very goal. Though I was fortunate to be attended by lot of very caring and professional staff, at other times I was forced to challenge people who appeared to be conducting procedures by rote and, seemingly, without any thought as to what they were doing. Take for example the nursing aid that, at 4:00 AM, I fortunately stopped from wrapping a blood pressure cuff around the arm in which my IV infusion was flowing.
There also appeared to be some undercurrent of professional controversy between a few of the many physicians on my case as to what treatments I should receive. One day I found myself being wheeled back into ICU to have my heart “restarted” when a different cardiologist intervened, suggesting the procedure was unnecessary. At another point I had been convinced by one cardiologist that I needed a pacemaker. Hell, if getting a pacemaker would get me home safe-and-sound, I was all for it. But that decision was overturned by a second cardiologist. Though I had little influence on the outcomes, I’m happy to say I did not come home with a pacemaker planted in my chest.
I was trying my best to remain informed and involved in my treatment. But I am not a doctor, I depend on getting the (consistently) best advice I possibly can. When the professional advice was contradictory, it caused me a lot of emotional stress. I wondered that if one were a cardiologist who specializes in pacemakers, wouldn’t you naturally be a biased advocate for their use? Like the saying goes – When you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
Any form of sleep is nearly impossible in a hospital, particularly if one does not have a private room. My nights were continually interrupted. There seemed no end of tasks, no reason too trivial, to motivate the staff to enter the room and disturb the patient. One night the door opened, the lights came on; an aid simply taped a piece of paper to the wall across from my bed. I often couldn’t see any purpose for the interruptions.
A number of different (noisy) roommates cycled through sharing my room; at least four of them had the television blaring Fox News 24/7. Often they slept through the din of noise pollution. One day I hadn’t noticed until Nancy came to visit that my roommate had long since been wheeled out of the room for some procedure – the TV blaring Fox with no one there to watch. I spent most nights wearing earplugs and a face mask to shade my eyes.
Naturally I did everything within my means to demonstrate to the physicians and staff that I could be released at the earliest; I walked, I assiduously performed my breathing exercises. It paid off – on the evening of March 20th, a Sunday, the wires and tubes were disconnected from my body and I was packed off for home. I was in pain, but I must confess… to sleep in my own bed next to my living wife was as close heaven as anything I can imagine.