Still in the emergency room

17 Oct

So, Joseph, my significant other and I, were in the emergency room seeking treatment for his “acute appendicitis.” Joseph was also bleeding from the injuries he had sustained when he misjudged a curb in his walk from the parking lot to the ER and fell flat on his face. Fortunately, when first aid was applied, it was revealed that Joseph did not seem to have any significant injuries from the fall. Despite a nasty cut on the bridge of his nose, he managed to avoid breaking it, and even though there was a cut on his lip, he did not chip a tooth during his concrete belly flop.

Because he also had a gash on his forehead, the hospital did a CT scan to make sure he didn’t have a head injury. He didn’t. Oh, good. Now we can focus on the appendix!

A surgeon came by to explain Joseph’s situation. I don’t know about you, but I always thought appendicitis was a pretty cut and dried (no pun intended) medical situation. I thought, you get appendicitis and the doctor removes it. The end. Apparently I was woefully misinformed.

The doctor who read the original CT scan told Joseph that he must have a very good immune system because his body was doing such a smashing job of fighting the appendicitis. That seemed like kind of good news. But as the surgeon explained, “you have chosen the more complicated path.”

Choosing the complicated path–that’s my Joseph! It’s just his nature to traverse the protracted way.

The doctor explained that Joseph’s appendix had ruptured and his body was fighting it. This created an abscess. Removing the appendix was too risky, as the abscess might spread throughout Joseph’s system. So, Joseph had to be admitted to the hospital so they could treat the abscess. Once that was under control, we would be able to revisit the surgery option.

And so, we waited for Joseph to be moved to a room.

Meanwhile,I swear 18 dozen people came and went. Someone took Joseph’s vital signs. Someone else hooked him up to a monitor tracking his blood pressure and his heart rate. Another person hooked him up to an IV. Yet someone else came in and took his temperature.
Some woman in a white coat came in, introduced herself as a physician’s assistant (which physician, she didn’t say) and asked us all sorts of questions. She asked me who I was. “I am the domestic partner,” I explained. “Oh, you are his ‘very good friend’!” she exclaimed, as if “domestic partner” wasn’t euphemism enough for her. “For insurance purposes, I am the domestic partner,” I said, “and that’s what you all care about most of all.” She sort of laughed. She asked about Joseph’s facial injuries and we told her the story of how he tripped in their parking lot. Then we explained we were really there because of the appendicitis. She soon left, never to be seen again.

For all I know, she is some loon who puts on a white coat and crashes emergency room exams for kicks.

This was a pattern that was repeated throughout Joseph’s hospital stay. People came and went. Their purpose was unclear and most of them were never seen again.

It made me wonder, how many people work in this hospital anyway?

At one point a nurse burst in and said, “why did you order Neosporin?” She looked straight at Joseph like she really wanted an explanation. “I didn’t order it,” he said. “Oh, I guess the doctor ordered it for your face and head!” she said. She then proceeded to fiddle with his blood pressure monitor and never introduced the subject of Neosporin again.

We waited in the ER for hours  for the hospital to assign Joseph to a room. Since the nurse’s station was right outside the curtained off area where Joseph was laying, I could hear the nurse on the phone and quickly ascertained that, although he had been assigned a room, the nurses on that floor weren’t prepared for him because they were understaffed and everyone was a little freaked out that Joseph’s blood pressure and heart rate had dipped dangerously low.

“Maybe we should have them turn that TV on to Fox News,” I suggested. “That’ll get your heart rate up.”

The nurses changed shifts. The night nurse came in and introduced himself. Joseph told him that he was starving and asked if he could bring him something to eat. He said he’d check. He soon came back and announced that Joseph’s doctor had ordered a clear liquid diet only, so he brought him some orange juice and Jello.

Thus began Joseph’s adventures in hospital cuisine.

Finally, somewhere after 9:30PM, Joseph was moved to critical care. Joseph urged me to go home and so I did.

Saturday, when I returned to the hospital, Joseph had been moved from critical care to a regular room, although his monitor showed his blood pressure and heart rate were still quite low. Joseph was in a mood over what they were feeding him. He said the nurse told him no one could figure out why his doctor had ordered a clear liquid diet, but she had no choice but to foist it off on him anyway.

Joseph stayed in the hospital Sunday as well. They had him hooked up to IV’s and constantly monitored his blood pressure which was still low, but better.

On Monday, I went to work. Around 3PM I spoke to Joseph and he told me that he had seen his doctor and his doctor said he could go home. When I arrived at the hospital Joseph was “in a mood.” There seemed to be some confusion. Now the nurses were telling him he couldn’t go home. I finally sorted it all out and learned that Joseph had had another abdominal CT scan. The surgeon had released him because the abscess was still too bad to operate. However, the infectious disease doctor (who neither Joseph nor I had ever met) did not want him to be released from the hospital just yet. This doctor had ordered the installation of a picc line–that’s a peripherally inserted central catheter for those of you not steeped in medical lingo–through which Joseph would have to receive out patient IV anti-biotic therapy for 2 weeks. Once the picc line was installed, he could go home.

The picc line was scheduled to be inserted on Tuesday. Joseph was a little confused what all that meant, but that was just as well. Joseph is so squeamish about medical things that he gets freaked out when someone puts a blood pressure monitor cuff on his arm.

Alas, that evening, we received a visit from the terribly cute night nurse, Andrew. This was the second evening I had seen Andrew and found him a most welcome diversion. “So, you’re getting a picc line tomorrow,” he said. “Yes,” Joseph replied, “I don’t know what that is.”

And then, in the spirit of being “helpful”, Andrew told him what it was. Exactly.

In case you don’t know, a picc line is a long tube inserted in a vein, then advanced through larger veins until the tip is close to the patient’s heart.

Andrew explained this to Joseph very clearly.

So, Joseph, being exhausted from this whole medical ordeal and beyond squeamish about having needles stuck in him, burst into tears.

Thanks, Andrew. Thanks a lot.

He was cute but, really, I wanted to kill Andrew. Andrew tried his best to calm Joseph down–explaining the picc line would mean he could go home, it wouldn’t hurt when they put it in, he’d never even feel it…

Joseph was pretty depressed by his medical situation and nothing Andrew said was helping. Finally, Andrew made his exit–promising to bring Joseph a Xanax soon.

During the next hour or so, I managed to talk Joseph off the ledge. He got sleepy and I went home, promising to come back in the morning to help him get through the next chapter of this seemingly endless medical ordeal.


5 Responses to “Still in the emergency room”

  1. Fred Lehman October 17, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    Sound exhausting. Sending live, Reiki, and prayers. Hope Joseph get better … soon.

  2. Fred Lehman October 17, 2011 at 9:40 am #

    That was supposed to read love, Reiki, and prayers. Lord I’m bad at typing.

  3. marianrhea October 17, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    Wow! Poor Joseph! What an ordeal he has gone through!

    I had to have a PICC line once and didn’t know what it was either. When it was explained to me I totally froze and they couldn’t get the line to move up my veins so had to do with ultra sound… It’s probably scarier sounding than it is!

    Good luck to Joseph!

  4. Pamela N Red October 17, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    So sorry you are having to endure this drama, hopefully your life will be back to normal soon.

    • Marko Traviko December 5, 2011 at 8:35 am #

      And I thought I had to deal with drama queens! Poor Billy!

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