Riding in an ambulance, the E.R. and stuck in the hospital

by grace on June 8, 2022

I wrote the stuff below last week and I can’t for the life of me remember when I wrote it. I know I wrote about Stan dying on June 1st, and all the hospital horrors started the next evening, so I’m pretty sure I wrote this stuff on that very day.

So here’s what I had to say last Thursday, June 2nd:

I truly think I must have been out of my mind in Seattle, taking more videos than I’ve ever taken. I wanted Kevin to see everything I saw so I just kept recording and sending them, but as I’ve mentioned here, he quit watching because there were so many. Plus, of course, when I post videos on here, the only way anybody watches them is if it’s a stupid video that I made for Bev about making a cheesecake that wouldn’t set and then burned but I slathered it in lemon curd and served it anyway. That dumb little post has 1.3K views I believe, because obviously people are obsessed with cheesecake videos, as opposed to ones I felt were much more interesting, like hiking in Wales. Oh Well.

However, of course I’ll keep posting the videos because I guess I’m always optimistic that eventually, someday, somebody will spend a precious 32 seconds or maybe even eighteen seconds out of their very very busy days to watch.

Meanwhile…I had my gallbladder out last Friday, May 27th. I’m still not feeling so great, but I’m getting better. It’s a little disturbing that I never had any kind of surgery before, and then last June I had to have my torn meniscus repaired, and less than a year later I was anesthetized again.

But this time they removed an organ, and it seems like a bigger deal. I have twice as many incisions, for one thing, and I’m just to fatigued and lacking strength. It was a huge deal to try to open a glass door and I had to have Kevin open our hall closet sliding door because I just couldn’t do it. Ditto closing the bathroom window.

My strength/energy is slowing returning, but I thought it would happen faster.

Ok, that was last Thursday. And then things went to hell…

On Wednesday evening I’d had some stomach pain and jokingly told Kevin, “you have to stay awake til I feel better in case you have to take me to the ER.”

I took…something? Advil? And got relief, but the pain was back Thursday morning, but then it went away.

Thursday night we were watching TV and the stomach pain suddenly got bad and I quickly took Advil. By 10:00 or so it wasn’t better and I took half a Norco, the pain medicine my surgeon has prescribed for the gallbladder surgery after-effects.

And then I was kneeling on the floor in back of the couch, in more agony than I’ve ever experienced and started panting because I couldn’t get my breath and the pain just kept on and I started gasping “you need to call an ambulance.” And that’s just what Kevin did, and quickly, although it felt like a million hours, and then about four or five firefighters were surrounding me there in back of the couch, saying soothing things and ushering me onto a gurney that had appeared in the front hall.

It was painful to get wheeled out of the house down the tiny step onto the porch and into the driveway. “I don’t have my shoes,” I said. They assured me it didn’t matter.

And then it was just me and one EMT in the ambulance while the other EMT drove us to the hospital. He put an IV into the inside of my left elbow and pumped in some fentanyl and suddenly I wasn’t feeling as wretched. I remember telling him all about what had happened, and I certainly should have not have done so much talking because from that point, I wouldn’t get one drop of water til the next afternoon and my mouth was already dry as all dryness.

I was taken into the E.R., where people were lying in beds all around the halls, just as I’d been last March when I almost fainted and my doctor told me to go to the E.R. and I had all kinds of tests which proved nothing.

But if you arrive in an ambulance I think you get special treatment. I was in a room, but there were two of us in there, only separated by a curtain. Four different people occupied the next bed during my time there and I heard almost every bit of everything going on with all of them.

Kevin hadn’t been allowed to ride in the ambulance, but he was there in the room with me, all night long. No sleep for either of us. The fentanyl started wearing off and the pain was coming back so they gave me morphine. Two units. After a while this didn’t work so then they gave me four.

I can’t tell you exactly what happened except that they wheeled me down the hall for some kind of tests, and the bizarre thing is that when I was wheeled past an old lady lying in the hall she said “good luck, Mrs. Hughes.” Maybe the people in the hall could hear everything going on in the rooms.

It’s weird how little I remember of that, except that I was pretty delirious. They did an ultrasound which was agonizing because it was painful to lie flat with my arm over my head, and then I was lying in the ultrasound room for what seemed like forever until the transporter person took me back. Then I had a CT scan which wasn’t as bad.

More drugs, more pain, and I remember lying there moaning/softly weeping while poor Kevin was looking at me but his eyes kept closing as he fought to stay awake but was asleep sitting up.

A couple of surgeons came to see me sometime in the early morning and I got a covid test, which made me think that I was going to have to stay. And sure enough, they said they were admitting me, although they couldn’t find the source of the pain. The floated the possibility of me having exploratory surgery to try to find out what the problem was, and one of the surgeons said I’d be in a room “in an hour.”

But they let me walk to the bathroom by myself and I asked a nurse about that and she said she had patients who were waiting for rooms for five hours. I told Kevin this and said he should go home and sleep, which he did.

And then what? Waiting and waiting and pain, I guess. I didn’t get out of the E.R. until about 2:30 on Friday afternoon.

Every other person who arrived at the other side of the curtain begged for water, or ice chips, or anything, but I knew they would be denied.

The first person wasn’t around very long and I remember the nurses saying something about cancer and I feel they were getting treated and had some kind of setback? The second person sounded like a sweet guy and when they asked his pain level from 1-10 he said “6” and I wanted to say “dude, you’re way more than a 6,” but of course everybody interprets their pain differently. He had tried to drive himself to the hospital but only got to the police station in Chatham and I feel that he said he had to crawl into the station, where they took him in an ambulance.

We couldn’t see each other but at some point I called out to him, and he said that his wife was at home with their child, and she’d been with him in the ER all night on Wednesday. He had kidney stones, and one of them passed on Wednesday, but they’d told him he had more, and while he was in the room with me, the other passed, hopefully all of them.

By the time he left I was moaning/crying, and as they took him out he called out “Good luck, Grace!” which was so nice.

The next guy sounded like he was about 100 years old but when they asked him when he was born he said “1962,” so he was just one year older than me. He kept telling them over and over about how he’d been throwing up since nine o’clock the night before, and then he proved it by wretching pretty regularly and it was quite horrible to listen to. I feel that maybe he did something that brought this on himself, but I can’t be certain.

By this time it was early afternoon on Friday, and good lord I was there a long time. I thought that the final couple behind the curtain was a gay couple but then realized that the partner of the patient kept saying “she did” this and that, so it was a husband with terrible hearing and his wife who had jaw cancer. How do I know that? Well, she had a hard time talking, and maybe the cancer was mentioned.

And almost the moment they got into the room, they turned on their TV, loud, to Fox News. They’d turn it down a little when a nurse would come in to talk to them, but I decided that this was too much to bear.

Meanwhile, Amy and Mom showed up and Amy roared into action, turning on music and other things that I can’t recall but right then, somebody came and took me to a room.

Whew.

I was in that room B407, from Friday afternoon until Monday at about 5:00 p.m. Weird, weird, weird. The pain wasn’t so bad when I got to the room, as far as I can remember, but it came back at about 6:00 p.m. and they gave me many, many drugs. So many drugs were pumped into me at that hospital, it’s alarming. On Friday night they used up all the pain options so the nurse had to contact the doctor to get more drugs, and I finally fell asleep.

On Saturday they tried giving me drugs all day long so that they’d be in my system but this was a fail, and the pain roared back at 11:00 p.m. Sunday, not so many drugs during the day and the highlight was when Mom came to visit in the early evening and we walked down to a courtyard and sat there for a few minutes.

I was hopeful that the pain wasn’t coming back but it hit at 1:45 a.m.

Enough already.

In the meantime, I’d been visited by surgeons and an awesome gynecologist and I had more and more tests and things and they still couldn’t figure out the source of the pain and they decided that opening me up again was a bad idea. On Thursday night I’d hoped they would and they’d find out what was wrong, but now I’m glad they didn’t.

The surgeon on call was the partner of my gallbladder surgeon, and he mostly kept saying that I needed to get the pain under control and out of the hospital. He also kept saying the pain must be from a fibroid on my uterus, but the gynecologist was pretty certain that wasn’t it. So that was alarming, that they were at odds about the problem.

I was going to have an MRI on Sunday, but then they couldn’t do it because there were too many emergencies, and then on Monday they said maybe it wouldn’t happen then, also. But my nurse said he’d call the MRI department and then the gynecologist called them, and lo and behold, they did the MRI.

Which found nothing.

The gynecologist called me on Monday, saying that I should go home, that there was nothing they could do for me, and then my gallbladder surgeon, Dr. High, showed up and asked if I wanted to go home. I didn’t want the pain to come back, and why wouldn’t it, but I agreed that I should leave.

All the doctors kept saying that you don’t want to be in the hospital and it’s important that you get out, and new, weird things started happening to my body and of course they were right. I was sent home with many drugs and when Kevin drove me home I was so relieved and exhausted.

I’m still pretty exhausted, but not so bad. The pain didn’t come back Monday night, and I didn’t even have to take the Norco. I slept for over eleven hours. Yesterday I mostly laid around, and took even fewer drugs last night. I had some trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep because it was the first night without the drugs.

I have high hopes for tonight.

Meanwhile…what happened to me? Will they ever figure it out? Will it come back? I feel that if it gets bad again I won’t go to the hospital, unless blood is squirting out of me from many places. Maybe my body is just very opposed to being operated on. Oh, and Dr. High told me that he wasn’t sure that there was really anything wrong with my gallbladder after all. It wasn’t working right, but maybe that wasn’t the thing which had caused pain before it was removed.

Whew.

Being in the hospital was such a surreal experience, like I was living in some alternate reality as life continued around me. I could see downtown from my window and kept thinking that I’d never get out again. I feel bad for my friend Toun, who has to be in the hospital several times a year. I now totally understand why she hates it and will do just about anything to not have to go. I called her after they said they were going to release me because I was freaking out about not getting lots of drugs when the pain came back, but she told me that every time she was in the hospital they always released her before she thought she should be and she ended up realizing it was the right thing.

Kevin got tickets for “Riverdance” in 2019 and they kept postponing it, and now the performance is tonight. We’re going, and hopefully I’ll be able to handle it, but as Amy says, we can always leave at intermission.

Whew. Again.

G.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Robert Dugger June 10, 2022 at 1:29 am

Hello Grace,

My wife and I read and enjoy your posts regularly. We want to send you our blessings and hope that you get well soon. I am in my early 70’s and had to go into the hospital twice last year here in Carbondale. I also have experienced many questionable experiences with doctors and feel the same insecurities as you might be experiencing right now. We’ll send prayers your way for your improving health and happiness.

Keep your chin up,
from friends in Carbondale, Robert and Darla Dugger

Reply

grace June 10, 2022 at 11:03 am

Thanks so much! I’m sorry you had to go to the hospital, and I have 100% more compassion for anybody who is subjected to it!

Reply

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