Wednesday, October 17, 2007

General(ly Speaking, You Could Call it a) Hospital

By now it seems like old news (to me anyway) to be going back and talking about my trip to the emergency room, but I couldn’t possibly tell the story of my September 7th car crash without capturing all the details of my first stay (in memory) at a hospital. And so the story continues…

As the firefighters/paramedics unloaded me at the hospital, I couldn’t help thinking about the episode of The Simpsons where Homer is loaded onto a stretcher and, as you would probably guess, continues to get knocked about and further injured. I told the firefighters they must love that episode. They smiled knowingly but didn’t comment. But firefighters are real people, and I’m sure they joke about the people whose lives they save from time to time. I’m sure they joke about tossing belligerent old ladies back into the flaming retirement homes. They joke about it, at least. Wouldn’t you? These are the kind of thoughts I have as they push me into the emergency room—my first time to an ER ever. I’ve never even watched an episode of the famed television program of the same name.

Once they’ve wheeled me into my particular ER room, I’m immediately asking for water. I’m incredibly thirsty. I wish I could have the Mountain Dew that was lost in the crash. Anything. A nurse tells me they’ll get me some water. Different people come in and do different things. I get my first IV. The word I keep hearing as they look at my foot is “shattered.” They’re baffled that my bone can be as crushed as it is. Everyone wants to know what exactly I hit my foot against during the crash. Did my side of the car get crumpled in and smash my foot? Did I hit it against the pedals? I have no answer. All I know is that my foot was dripping blood after the car stopped spinning. Sometimes I hear the word “ankle,” sometimes I hear the word “heel.” To this day, I’m slightly confused about the language the doctors used. One doctor made it sound like they refer to the whole back region of your foot as your ankle, such that even if you break your heel, you’ve suffered an injury to your ankle. I don’t know if that’s right or if I misunderstood something, but it was my calcaneus (heel) that got broken.

Never having suffered a broken bone, I’m a bit surprised when I’m told I’m going to be kept overnight in the hospital. I didn’t think broken bones required one to be admitted, but apparently they can. They tell me that this type of injury generally requires surgery and that I may be operated on that very day. I’m shocked that it’s so serious. They also tell me that I cannot eat or drink anything after all, since surgery is a possibility. Primarily because of my thirst, I find this news to be equally devastating. They clean up my foot. I get the first stitches of my life. Like the IV, this proves less painful than I expect and I find myself pleased by the fact. In fact, all things considered, I find myself feeling quite positive. As I lay there in the ER, there are moments when I feel truly happy. I consider myself so fortunate. The situation could have been so much worse so easily. But I am okay, and my family is okay, and I trust that everything will work out. I trust that my prayers are being heard and answered. I am grateful.

My positivity wanes a bit as time drags on. Eventually, I am told that the surgery will have to be scheduled for a later date. Initially, this seems like good news. I am told that I can eat something and that I will be given a dinner plate. Having been cleaned up, sutured, X-rayed, and drugged, I am then largely abandoned. I am left alone, without a call button or anything, for at least two hours. Gradually, the drugs are wearing off and I am getting more and more uncomfortable, not to mention hungry. When the occasional nurse does appear, I am again promised a food plate. The nurse then disappears and no food ever comes. As it turns out, I will spend a total of 27 hours in the hospital and never once be given food, even though I will be told several times that I will be fed. Hard to believe, but true. Luckily, there are friends and family who come to the rescue with Chick-Fil-A and McDonald’s during those 27 hours.

But I digress. As I lay there in the ER, my pain is on the rise. After several hours of primarily being alone, I am told that I will be moved upstairs into a normal hospital room to be kept overnight. I am told that the room is just being prepped and I’ll be moved up shortly. I ask about painkillers. I am told that once I am moved upstairs, my attending nurse will get me some drugs. Another hour or more goes by before I am moved upstairs. I ask the person that wheels me upstairs for some medication. He also tells me that my attending nurse will get me the drugs and that she’ll be in shortly. It’s 30 minutes before I see anyone. I ask for drugs again. My nurse tells me she will get them for me. Another half hour passes and my nurse reappears to ask if I’m allergic to anything. This is the one question I have probably answered more than any other since being brought to the hospital. No, I tell her. She informs me that she did not have this information on record, so now she has to process something before she can get me the drugs. I’m waiting yet again. When the nurse reappears, it is not to offer me the morphine I have been longing for. Instead it is to take my vitals. She tells me the drugs are on their way.

While taking my vitals, another nurse appears and asks if he can take me down to get a CT scan. My nurse asks him if he can wait ten minutes. He agitatedly informs her that nobody will be available to take me down in ten minutes. My nurse then asks me if I can handle doing the CT scan before I get my meds. “How long will it take?” I ask her. “Not long,” is her reply. I try to get something more specific out of her. “It won’t be long,” is the only reply I can get. Finally, I oblige. Feeling miserable at this point, I am wheeled down to the CT scan room. I am third in line. By the time I am finished and wheeled back to my room, an additional 90 minutes will have passed. By the time I am administered painkillers—painkillers that I was originally told I could take every four hours—I will have been requesting them for no less than six hours. I kid you not.

There isn’t much to say about my stay in the hospital (once I was actually up in bed and appropriately drugged up). It wasn’t as dismal an experience as I thought it could be, but I only had to be there for one day. The fact that I was never fed and that it took six hours to get pain medication did not impress me very much. It concerned me that I would be returning to this same hospital within a few weeks to have surgery. Would they remember to feed me next time? Would they remember to anesthetize me before operating? My confidence was not improved when, on a follow up visit to my podiatrist, my doctor was shocked that the hospital hadn’t sent me home with a prescription for antibiotics. As he put it, foot injuries are some of the most dangerous, and if you get infected, the risk of amputation is very real. Gee thanks, hospital. Don’t they know it’s supposed to be a bad pun when you say these types of surgeries cost you an arm and a leg?

So that’s my hospital story. I did return and have surgery at that same establishment, and so far I still have a foot. So far, so good. But those are tales yet to come. Until then…


  1. I'm surprised that after you'd asked for drugs so many times that they didn't chalk you up as a drug seeker and refuse to give you anything but Tylenol. When I had my first baby the nurses messed up on my pain medication schedule and I ended up having to go six hours without a pain killer. When I asked for one they made me feel like I was a drug seeker, like I'd had a baby just so I could have some drugs. Fortunately I had my second baby at a different hospital and the nurses there were so much nicer and more on top of things.
    I can't wait to hear the rest of the story. Chad and I are very concerned about you and your little family. Even though we are thousands of miles away, if there is anything we can do for you, let us know.

  2. Wow! Benny, I'm so glad your foot is still attached (did I just ruin the ending for other people? I saw pics on Mel's blog :) What an experience. I wonder if there is a comment box or something you could let them know how bad the stay was? Seriously, when mom and/or dad were in the hospital, I noticed boxes like that. I wonder if anyone would really care? And after Sparkle's comment, I'm scared of going to a hospital! Drug seeker? When you just went through labor!?!?!?! That's horrible. I'm sorry for both of you. Does anyone know how to "research" a hospital like before you have a baby? I guess you have no choice in an emergency. Scary stuff.
    Anyway, so glad to see you posting. Love you!

  3. Please take care. I'm glad that the baby is well.

    I've got a good hospital story too. I'll have to tell it one of these days.

  4. Ben, very sorry to hear that you were injured in an accident. Worse, that you became a medical object in the process.

    --H.T. Bicknell

  5. Glad to see you back. I'm not very surprised about the hospital. Two years of university clinicals pretty much made me positive that I NEVER want to be in a hospital for anything ever.

    Even just as a nursing student there were days I had too many patients -- there is not enough staff. I was late with meds all the time but it was because I was given too much work. Plus, I saw mistakes happen at the hospital that no doctors should be making. So, overall I'm glad you got in; had some issues but nothing too insane, and got out to rest at home.

    Also, sorry about your 'running man' it's annoying to change sleep positions.

    So glad you're doing better :)

  6. Jak; hospitals are the worst place to have a baby -- look into birthing centers or a home birth.

  7. What a journey. Now I get to read the next post since I am so behind...