Well in case all of you have noticed, I was in the hospital for eight days, from March 6th, until today. What happened was, I was having trouble with a umbilical hernia repair that I had done in September of 2007. I must have strained something at work, and the mesh that was holding the repair got infected. I didn’t notice any real problems until the 6th when I told Dan (my partner) on my way to work that I had some leakage from my umbilicus (that is the belly button.) He told me right then and there that I was going to the emergency room. So we stopped off at work and I told Richie (my shift supervisor) that I wouldn’t be able to work that night because of it.
The next eight days were hell for me. After being admitted, it was a matter of getting an IV line put in, shitloads of blood draws (and I FUCKING HATE needles,) and lots of poking and prodding to track down what was wrong with me. After a CT scan of my belly, it showed that there was a lot of fluid buildup around the belly button area, and the surgical resident (a really nice guy named Dr. Fahd Ali) made the call to remove the fluid under local anesthesia. Even with numerous shots of lidocaine, and 10mg of morphine IV, it was fucking painful, but it was found that the mesh that was used to repair the hernia was infected.
The next day, I was in the operating room. Once they got inside, they found that things were a little worse than expected. The plan was to remove or repair the mesh that was in there, but they found that the tissue used to anchor it was too weak to make an effective repair, and the infection was more widespread then anticipated. The decision was made to hold off on it, clear the infection up, and to install a device called a wound vacuum, which uses a vacuum pump to force the tissues together to aid in healing. (I sort of felt like a Cylon Baseship hybrid, given that the wound vacuum was anchored on my belly button, not to mention the constant IV line that I had in my arm for the saline and antibiotics that they were pumping into me. In addition, they had to put a catheter in for urine collection, which was very disturbing! Having a tube run up your dick is NOT pleasant at all!)
That wasn’t really the problem though…I knew all the therapies that they were doing was to get me back on my feet. Other problems cropped up which had the effect of testing my patience and sanity to the point where I was ready to snap. One of them was the patient in the next bed. This guy would NOT do what the nurses told him to do. He kept trying to get out of bed, kept removing a mask to aid his breathing (which in turn triggered an alarm,) and just making a nuisance of himself. I suffer from periods of insomnia, and when I am trying to sleep, any little disturbance disrupts my sleep patterns. Being in an unfamiliar surrounding doesn’t help matters either. The nurses were VERY sympathetic with me, even going so far as to giving me Benadryl intravenously to help put me out (under doctor’s orders.) Relief came from an unlikely source, which was me. The lab indicated (through the cultures on my infection) that there was gram-positive bacteria, and the protocol is to isolate the patient and follow contagion procedures. So they moved the pain-in-the-ass patient to another room and isolated me.
They also had to try another antibiotic to knock down the gram-positive bacteria (they were infusing piperacillin/taxo four times a day since I was admitted.) Apparently that did the trick, because they took the isolation off after two days.
The last days in the hospital were a study in frustration…I had a few visitors (Dan and family members, plus a friend I didn’t expect,) constant watching of CNN, USA Network (major overdosing of the Japan earthquake disaster, NCIS, and L&O: SVU and CI.) After they removed the catheter and discontinued the constant saline drip (I still had an IV port in my arm and they infused piperacillin four times a day,) I was able to take the wound vacuum, place it in a wheelchair (it had a battery pack) and walk around to exercise my legs. (For the first few days they had air-driven leggings on my calves to prevent deep-vein thrombosis, which is potentially fatal for people who are inactive for long periods of time.)
The plan was to release me from the hospital on March 11th, but due to bureaucratic snafus on the part of the hospital and Excellus Blue Cross/Blue Shield (my insurance carrier) they didn’t know if they could issue me a portable wound vacuum to use at home. So I was starting to show signs of anxiety. Fortunately, they were able to prescribe Xanax as needed to prevent anxiety attacks and help me get some rest. The whole thing was, I wanted to get the fuck out of the hospital…being restricted to a small space was not condusive to my mental well being. I missed my house, I missed Dan, Spike, and Gypsy. I WANTED OUT! Finally, this morning (after consultation) it was decided to let me go home, and instead of using a wound vacuum, I would be able to use a wet/dry packing to help manage the healing. So around 2:30 this afternoon, the surgical nurse/practitioner (a really nice guy named Marty) removed the port that was used for the wound vacuum and replaced it with the wet/dry packing. Once that was done, it was a matter of doing the paperwork, getting my prescriptions and after-care instructions, and getting my ass into the TrailBlazer and going home. (One side note…as Dan and I were leaving, we ran across Esther Zorn, the real estate agent who helped me and Dan get our house!)
I’m not saying that being in the hospital was a chamber of horrors, but I have never liked hospitals, and I am NOT a patient patient. But the nurses on 5A (the surgical floor) were very professional and they helped me a lot to get through all this bullshit that happened to me. Some of the things that helped me survive with my sanity intact were:
Dan, my partner: It helped that he works at the hospital that I was in, and he knew a lot of the people that were involved with my care.
My smartphone: At least I had a portal to the rest of the world, so I could keep up with what was happening elsewhere.
Facebook: I could interact with everyone (via my smartphone) and get a few laughs in the process.
My sister Missy, my niece Sheryl, my grand-niece Lexi (Sheryl’s daughter) and my nephew Andrew. Knowing that I have family who gives a shit about me really helped.
I was glad I was able to come out of this okay. But with all the shit that has happened in the world this past week, I count myself very lucky.