A Patient Point Of View

So it has been awhile since I last wrote anything. I meant to start back sooner, but the more time that went by, the harder it became. A bad case of writer’s block. Also, I thought after a wait so long, that the first post back should be something either very funny, odd or profound, though, oddly, I don’t think people think of me as very funny or profound. My mental jury is still out on the odd part. But then I had the sort of fluke experience that offers  insight and a new appreciation and empathy for what people often go through.

It began with a trip to the emergency room Sunday night at 3 a.m. with a hugely distorted swollen face and neck, difficulty swallowing and a fear of eventually not being able to breathe. I was fortunate that our sleepy hamlet’s hospital’s ER was empty, but everyone who worked in the ER came in to see me because, as one nurse put it, “We’ve never seen anything like this before.”

The nurses discussed my white blood count in tones that made me a little afraid. (My count was 19 and 10.5 is considered the high end of normal.) After the results of a CT scan came back, the ER doctor (a short man with thick, longish silver hair) came bounding into the room with what seemed to be giddy excitement and said, “This is beyond our capabilities. We don’t have an ENT that can handle this, but we’ve called Shands and talked to the ENT in the ER and we will be transferring you there.”

Shands is a teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Florida located in Gainesville. Gainesville is about an hour and a half drive from where we were. The ER doctor told me I had to go by ambulance because he was afraid I might begin to have difficulty breathing and need to intubated. The EMT would be monitoring my vitals throughout the ride.

I arrived at Shands’ ER at 8 a.m. and within three hours, a procedure was done with local anesthesia. I was admitted to the hospital and put in an isolation room because I was septic with an elevated heart rate and they needed to determine the exact type of bacteria that had caused the infection. I can’t say enough about the level of care I got at Shands or what I learned about bacterial infections except “outstanding” on the former and “enlightening” on the latter.  I may go into more detail in another post.

I have a new appreciation for what people with physical deformities must go through as I could see the looks on people’s faces as I was wheeled through the emergency room and taken to what I started calling my little cell. I also have a new appreciation for what people with chronic pain experience. I was in pain before I got to the first ER and it just seemed to get more intense as time went on. When pain is significant, it is hard to focus on other things. They started me on morphine shortly after I arrived at Shands and I was told I could have more every two hours, as needed.

I am a person who rarely gets sick and can’t remember the last time I sought out a doctor because of an illness. I have visited friends and relatives in the hospital over the years, but you really can’t appreciate what they’re going through. It looks much different from a hospital bed. And it is a scary feeling especially when it takes a couple of days to determine exactly what is wrong. The last time I was a patient in a hospital was almost 50 years ago when my tonsils were removed. Come to think of it, it was a scary experience then, too.

Since I was a three hour roundtrip from where I lived, I knew visitors would be few and far between. But what I think made a tremendous difference is the friends that responded with texts and calls and even a visit when I reached out to them. It helped keep my spirits up and even though it was difficult to talk (and eat) and we tended to talk about what had happened to me, it eased my fears and made me realized how loved I am.

While I have tried to thank everyone personally, I really must tell the world how great you are. Thanks to Kevin and Jean for coming to visit that first afternoon and Jean for calling each day to check on me. A huge thank you to Gwen who came with Kevin and Jean and drove my sleep deprived, surely frightened 82 year old mom home, and then brought her to visit me on Wednesday and for all of the texts and calls. (As a side note it took my mother almost five hours to drive to Shands because she got lost several times in Gainesville and was a bit overwhelmed by the “big city” traffic.)  Also, many thanks to Ronnie, James, Susan, Kim, DJ, Scott and Tom for your texts and calls. You guys rock!

It is good to be back home. And that shower shortly after I arrived home (the first since Sunday morning and the first opportunity to wash my hair) never felt better. The swelling is almost gone and the pain is barely noticeable. I’m still bandaged and on the antibiotic for eight more days.

I will never again hesitate to visit a friend in the hospital. I know firsthand the emotional benefit. Life can be random and sometimes difficult but knowing you are loved and cared for can make the difference.

I’ll close with a picture of the sign the girls in my tap class made when they learned why I wasn’t there on Tuesday night. When I finally got home Thursday afternoon and checked my email, their picture brought a smile to my face. It was also the only time I ever regretted not having a smartphone as I wasn’t able to see it sooner.

Thanks again to all the special people in my life. And thank you for reading.

My dancing peeps, Emily, Katie and Liz. (Rachel was absent that night)

My dancing peeps, Emily, Katie and Liz. (Rachel was absent that night)