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Hardcore Party Weekends

15 May

Its funny, I was just thinking about how long I’d been out of hospital recently, and BOOM! I’m back.

There are some fantastic advantages to living in a small town, but as a ‘sickie’ I’ve worked out what is most important to me.

The hospital.

The hospital is wonderful. They might not be set up to perform emergency surgery, but its small, quiet, and the staff learn who you are. In Perth, you can go to the same hospital twice a week and never see the same staff member. Here, as soon as I am brought through the doors, someone will call out, “I know this girl!”

And what an incredible time saver that is.

Just a few sticks- 1, 2, 3, 4. The fourth one she doesn’t warn me about, and I am trying to switch to a new vomit bag. I jump a little from the surprise, and I actually feel that one. Things start to fade, the room goes dark, and the next thing I remember is being asked to crawl over to the bed in the warm. I’m so cold. A nurse brings in another two blankets, heated from the machine, and puts them on me. One is almost touching my chin- I reach to grasp it, soothed by its warmth. She smiles, and says, “I thought you might like that.”

I remember when I first began to get sick. Mum would drive us to Armadale-Kelmscott Hospital, and the triage nurse would look bored and ask her questions, that my Mum would answer because I was too busy vomiting and trying to breathe in gasps in between the bile I was choking out of my mouth. The triage nurse would then ask us to go take a seat, and we would be seen when it was possible.

Back in the day, we used to wait at home to see if the vomiting and diarrhea would eventually pass on its own. Mum would be constantly swapping my spew containers so she could empty and disinfect them. The smell of toilet cleaner will for me, always be a reminder.

Eventually she’d sigh,You’re just getting too dehydrated,’ and I’d feebly pack a bag and climb into the car for the trip.

I remember lying on the floor of the emergency waiting room, because I couldn’t hold my body up from exhaustion. I would lay with my head on the cold lino, my whole body shuddering as I heaved over and over again into a bag.

A nurse comes over,You can’t lay on the floor.

My mum nearly had a fit, “Well, it’s not like you have a bed for her to lay on, obviously.”

When I finally was given a bed, they would spend a long time discussing the best form of action- which medication, how should it be delivered.

Meanwhile, I am in agony, and wish I could just die. It may sound weak, but when you are constantly too-ing and fro-ing from the hospital, when the pain is agonising, when you are just trying to establish a regular sleeping pattern. When you wait 3 hours in the waiting room because there was a car accident, and then another 2 hours waiting for someone to treat you.

You try to not cry, because crying will only make you feel worse, and make it harder to breathe while you are vomiting.

When each time it happens, your first thought is,Well, it was only a matter of time.” That feeling, that you will never escape the pain that defines you.

Listening to the doctors explain that your body is making an attempt to empty itself, preparing for death. Waiting for your body to finally give up, to not be willing to suffer through this anymore.

Four hours into treatment, and your cannula is blocked- the vein has collapsed. Doctor orders a new one immediately, and within the next half an hour, a free nurse will quickly whip out the old and often tender plastic tube, and start looking for a new vein. She calls for another nurse- together, they search for a healthy, pumping vein.

They ask again, “Do you use?
I remember the first time I was asked this, I replied,Use what?” Of course, no ones veins should all have collapsed just from previous cannulas. Time passes and they agree they’d better call the doctor back. Doctor is of course, not pleased. He requests an ultrasound machine be used to find a vein. Nurse asks him if we should do a drug screening.

A handsome young man comes with the ultrasound machine. He snaps on some gloves and makes cheerful conversation while he smears gel all over your arms, hands and even legs, searching with this miracle wand; connected to a machine that can see so much better than the naked human eye. He manages to find a vein hiding away, and uses the magic wand to help guide him in.

Success,” he smiles. I smile back weakly, but wonder how long it will be until I need another done- will this man still be around, working his machine the next time? Of course not. They’ll just keep stabbing and stabbing until they manage to get in somehow.

Mum is brought in and is tired, the only answer she wants to hear is how much better I feel. I manage to convince her to go home and get some rest, have something real to eatI’m fine.

Another four hours later, and just about every other patient in emergency is different from the ones who were there when you entered.

The mothers; resting on the bed, cuddling their young babies to their chest, grateful to have someone to help deal with the body wracking cough.

The 6 year old who hasn’t been to the toilet for 5 days, here with his grandmother.

The lady who had a fall, surrounded by her adult children.

The gentleman who had a stroke, whose wife sat lovingly by him and covered his hand with hers.

And the guy with the severely infected foot injury, one of the others in my lonely club of those with no company.

They have all moved on, either to a ward or home. There haven’t been any emergency codes, everything has run relatively smoothly. Every 20 minutes a nurse checks does your obs, asks you to score your pain out of ten and continues on to the next patient. Unfortunately the pain medication isn’t quite enough to completely block it all out. I frequently stumble to the bathroom if I am strong enough; its much less embarrassing than having a special wheelchair next to your bed fitted with a bedpan, and having the ring the bell for a nurse to empty it each time you go.

You are moved to a ward when you are stable enough. Since you have always been tall for your age, you are put in the adult ward 95% of the time; always in a private room so as not to infect any other patients with this mysterious ailment.

The gastroenterologist comes to see you, you discuss having more tests- but since the last four came back blank, there doesn’t seem much point. Each hospital admission is the same- same symptoms, same slow recovery. Why should the tests show anything different?

Food comes and goes. The portions are huge, even though you ticked the ‘small’ box. So much food is hard to even face, let alone stuff into your body.

Each day I go down to the garden for half an hour. I look at the plants. I watch the people in the cafe, and the people walking the corridors. Eventually I drag myself back to my room; I encountered no one. The most interaction I have had was with the lady who cleaned my bathroom while I did nothing.

Eventually the tea cart stops coming into your room if your mum isn’t there- they know you don’t want a tea or coffee. Days are broken up by seated showers, blocks of terrible television, hospitals meals and trying to stretch my muscles.

Then the day when you are finally released. You must wait all morning for your doctor to do rounds; they love the final stamp of approval. If you need a prescription, you’d better be prepared to wait a few more hours.

You walk out of the hospital midday in your PJs, clutching a childhood toy in your hands and immediately the gaze of two fashionably dressed teenagers having a chat out the front falls onto you. You look at the ground, only glancing high enough to follow your mother’s footsteps, so you can’t see the girls. But they are silent, watching, until you are well passed, and hopefully for you, out of ear shot.

Mum grumbles about the shade having moved from where she parked when she arrived. You slide in the passenger seat of the car, feeling queasy and unsure you should have left.

You know that you could be back by next weekend, to go through it all again. You know that, once again, you will be put in the private room,just in case its actually gastro this time’ and have no one to talk to, no one to listen to or be distracted by. The nurses will be in and out to access the storage cupboards in that single room too, so you’ll learn to become a heavy sleeper.

There is a lady in the ward with me. She is kind, friendly, young and aboriginal. She has a severe chest infection, and she begins the day by cough cough coughing. The nurses run her nebulizer every four hours, even during the night. Her mother has just come in with her baby and her older daughter. Her baby, Lateesha, was born in this hospital.

They do not deliver babies here anymore, but Lateesha arrived in such a hurry that there wasn’t a choice. Even the nurses are excited to see Lateesha, she is the hospital’s ‘baby’ and they enjoy seeing her growing into a healthy bub. I feel left out, for this lovely young lady has her family surrounding her and plenty to talk about.

Roland came in earlier to bring me the laptop, my phone charger and some clean knickers. But he is always with me in the hospitals, always waiting. Last night when we came in, he didn’t leave when he wanted to, because he knew I was scared. He did most of the talking to the doctors and nurses, reminds them off all my allergies, and is able to answer their complicated questions. He runs off numbers, dates and names of medications, and does his best to keep out of the way of the working staff. He doesn’t get grumpy with me, he knows I am suffering enough.

This morning he brings my Ipod too, but forgets the headphones. Boys. He will come back later today with a book, toothbrush and toothpaste and maybe some other goodies, too. He tells me that the girls are missing me, that they aren’t the same as usual, they are distressed. Later when he comes back he tells me that Brandy still hasn’t gone to the toilet. He brings everything I asked, both kinds of soap for the shower, warm long sleeved shirts of his, since all my jumpers and winter pyjamas have been soaked in sweat. He takes away the still-wet clothes I had arrived in, now in a plastic blue ‘patient property’ bag. He also brought pictures of my fur babies. I look through them over and over again.

I wish we lived just 200 metres closer to the hospital, I could probably pick up the wireless from there.
I spent most of my time in the hospital asleep. I am never present when a meal arrives- I am usually woken up by the person who comes to take it away. I drink plenty of water, as I’m positive my cannula has collapsed, and do not want them to try to use it. One of the kitchen staff tells me off for not filling out my menu, and I try to explain to her that I can’t eat any of the foods listed for lunch or dinner- my diet is very specific. When she leaves I have a few tears; I’m so tired, can’t she see that I’m trying? One of my favourite nurses comes in and sees my tears. I believe she told the kitchen staff off, because next time that particular lady came in, she apologized and was very kind. I’m sure she didn’t mean to come across so harsh. Later that day I get a heat pack for my stomach. When I aska nurse to heat it up, I swear she brings it back the same temperature it left at.

Another great thing about country hospitals- free TV in the wards! Although I don’t usually use it much, its still nice to have the option and distraction available.
The lady and I chat randomly. They bring dinner while I am in the shower, and when I exit the bathroom she tells me that dinner is terrible, don’t even bother trying the salad. We giggle over each others stories and for a little while, we pretend we are just out, having a hot drink at the local cafe. We spent the weekend learning little bits and pieces of each others lives. She tells me I am brave and beautiful, and I thank her. I truly don’t get told I am brave very often, yet I always feel like I’m losing the war.
The morning we were due to leave, we both had blood work done.  This cannot be done on weekends. We are waiting at 11:30 when the doctor finally swings by. He tells me that I should come back if I don’t feel well. I’m ready to leave when a nurse announces she doesn’t have the results for the blood tests yet, nobody can leave. Roland has arrived to collect me, and together we wait 20 minutes. I expect the blood work to show nothing surprising, as usual, but apparently I have an infection. I ask for a copy of the results, to send to my sister, the naturopath. And then finally, after another reminder to come back if needed, I am free.
I see no one going to the car- no teenagers gawking at me in my tights and heavy jumper. We are quickly home, and the girls are going insane. I take them outside after just a minute of pats- and Brandy immediately finally goes to the toilet. She’d been holding on for far too long! When we go back inside I sit down of their bed and enjoy being jumped all over. Roland makes sure the fire is burning nicely before he goes back to work. I sit in front of the flames, wishing the warmth would reach my core. My bones feel cold. But I am home again. I am surrounded by my own things, I can prepare my own edible food.
My girls sit one my legs and their body warmth slowly makes its way through my jeans and to my skin. I pet Missy, and Brandy gets jealous and wants some pats too.
Things are normal again. At least for a little while.