Last Thursday while loading the dishwasher after dinner, I felt faint and dropped onto the machine. I stood up and hit my head on the faucet. Then I went backwards, like a felled pine, and hit my head on the tiles. Teddy said my eyes were rolling in my head and I could not communicate. He called 911 and within 5 minutes, the fire engine had arrived quickly followed by the ambulance. By then I was communicating and was aware of leaving the house on a stretcher with ALL the neighbors watching me. My husband followed in his car to the local hospital.
I remember the trip in the ambulance to the hospital, about 20 minutes away. Wryly, I recalled the last time I was in an ambulance, after a car accident, and the paramedic said that most people only travel in an ambulance once in their life. They took me straight to a room in ER and over the next few hours, checked my heart and head (nothing obviously wrong). My blood pressure had been very low and it’s normally lower than average. It stabilized and they put me on IV fluids and took a urine sample by catheter. ER was busy, noisy and I wondered why my husband wasn’t there. Sometime later another nurse told me that my husband’s heart had started to race in the waiting room and they admitted him to a room a few doors down. My tired response was, “Oh, for God’s Sake!” It made the nurses laugh and I hope will set the tenor of this post. There were many jokes about us having (a very expensive) date night in ER…
The nurses stopped his heart racing and reassured him that I was not dying or having a stroke. Around midnight, he came into my room with his heartbeat stabilized. We were laughing at my body shaking uncontrollably. First it was one leg, then the other. It reminded me of first dates when I was a teenager. I would get so excited that my teeth chattered or my body shook which made me laugh. It must have been rather alluring to those teenage boys who didn’t know how exciting they were. I told Teddy to go home because they were just waiting for a room for me in the main hospital. Then came the boredom and humor. A urinary infection was diagnosed and they gave me IV antibiotics. The poor, overworked, nurses had to dismantle my equipment and take me to the bathroom every hour since my bladder/brain refused to cooperate with a bedpan.
My head hurt and my scalp was bleeding. I hurt my right knee quite badly as I went down and inevitably my back was sore. They gave me a shot of morphine sometime after midnight. It didn’t help me sleep. There was an older man with memory issues in the room across from me. He had some kind of device like a portable Alexa or Siri that was on full volume. As I was dozing off, he said loudly, “What time is it?” “2.30 am” the machine boomed. At 2.39 am he asked the same question along with “Where am I?” The machine could not answer that question. Part of me wanted to soothe the old man and shout out where he was but I was trapped in bed with IVs. The other part of me wanted to scream – Shut the **** up!
Then there was the noisy extended family who thought it was okay to talk and laugh loudly at 4 am. Every 20 minutes a little old lady coughed extensively in the tiniest voice – think Minnie Mouse with Covid. After 4 am, I asked to go to the bathroom again. While I was in there, I vomited rather spectacularly and copiously. It was all over the bathroom and me, socks, nightdress, knickers and hair. Three staff had to help. I bet they wondered what I had eaten – it was a home-made organic sweet potato and cashew curry with carrots and cardamom pods. Agent Orange as far as the eye could see…
I rarely throw up so it was either concussion, anxiety or an infection. Now I had disposable panties and a hospital gown – the nurse noted that the panties were see through when I went to the bathroom endlessly. She kept trying to hide my nakedness but I DID NOT CARE!! I learned to walk with my back against the wall. They kept promising me a room but one was not available until about 11 am the next day. By this time, Teddy had turned up and brought some overnight stuff. By this stage my shaking had transmogrified into Tics so I looked like I had Tourette’s syndrome. Lord, it was so annoying and I now have so much sympathy for anyone who suffers from Tics. I tried to be nice to the staff but I was really grumpy – probably because I had missed my regular medication. Teddy thought it would have been even funnier if my Tics were accompanied by cursing…oh he is such a laugh.
Finally, the young man arrived with the wheelchair and took me to Tower 4 at breakneck speed. I was already feeling nauseous and dizzy. The staff greeted me in my room and told me all the rules! They needed a urine sample and had to observe me because of the fall risk. I tried to explain that I had an anxiety disorder and this would not work. They tried a bed-pan, then they strapped a belt around my chest like a dog’s halter and tried to transfer me in a purple chair/torture device. Teddy intervened and said, “this is not going to work”. To emphasize that, I recreated the Exorcist scene, and threw up everywhere, all over again. New gown, new panties, new socks. All of this happened with hilarious Tics and involuntary movements.
It was unclear if the new antibiotic was now out of my system or had caused the explosion, so they went old school with a penicillin for my urinary infection. In my new room, I was attached to even more equipment and most had to be disconnected for me to use my bathroom. My bed also had an alarm in case I took off with IVs attached. The next battle was getting them to give me my mental health medication. It was pretty obvious that I was ANXIOUS but not confused. I really needed a mental health advocate and suggested they phone my psychiatrist, to no avail. The nurses gave me a little privacy and it helped with the bathroom issues.
One of the pleasures was meeting staff from all over the world. There is a shortage of nurses after the Pandemic and the world was represented. The sweetest doctor was from Iraq, and the best nurse assistant from Togo. My modesty was being protected in my private room with only my husband to view me. They would desperately cover up the back of my gown but as I pointed out, “He has seen it all before and then some”. I haven’t got accustomed to the peculiar modesty that exists in the States. Is it just me, or does no one care about being naked when you are sick? They kept asking me if I was South African, Australian or English – thus the title. I was kept in for three days which was three days more than I wanted to be there and there was no real conclusion. The Iraqi doctor thought that it was an infection and perhaps not just my UTI.
The room service was amusing. I had to phone and request each meal. All I wanted was oatmeal and yogurt. That wasn’t available but there were only two choices at each meal. Perhaps not even as good as the NHS in the UK. I couldn’t complain about most of the staff. What a thankless and tiring job. Teddy was communicating with most of our cul de sac about my progress. In the last few weeks there have been 7 visits to ER in our cul de sac alone – we should be getting a street discount. My mum was a terrible patient in ICU, pulling out IVs and telling everyone that the man across from her was brain dead. He was not, but his family panicked. I now understand that it is the lack of control that patients struggle with.
It has been a week since my discharge and I am much recovered. I still feel dizzy at times and my knee gives way on occasion. My mood is much better to Teddy’s relief. He is good, too. We had planned a little trip away but now it’s all about recovery and improving my stamina. At least it’s stopped me whining about retirement…
PS: 10 points to anyone who knows what the giant green prophylactic is on the table.