I’m a clumsy person, so hospitals are not unfamiliar to me. Between breaking seven bones and going through two lateral release knee surgeries, hospitals are a part of my life. I’ve had some interesting experiences at hospitals, like the time I had a messy IV insertion when visiting an Ann Arbor hospital for a broken wrist.
An IV is a flexible catheter inserted into a vein to allow fluids and medication to drip into the bloodstream. This flexible catheter surrounds a needle. Once the needle is inserted into the patient, the catheter is pushed into the vein, and the needle is pulled out. (This means that you do not have a needle in your arm the entire time you have an IV.) You then have the ports, piggybacks, lines, and all that attached to the catheter. However, in my case, the catheter was not clamped off, which caused my blood to shoot through the catheter and all over my lap. Basically, I looked like I had been slaughtered. The poor guy who was giving me the IV apologized all over the place. Lucky for him, I thought this was hilarious. (PS – if you need to get out blood stains, pour peroxide over the fabric. Not only does it remove the stain, but it fizzes wherever there is blood, which makes it a fun science experiment.)
Not all of my hospital experiences have been good. February 2011 was by far my worst experience. DH and I had been married for about 7 months, and I was in my first month of student teaching at a high school. Like most new teachers, I got sick. I thought, No big deal. Throw it all up; get it out of my system. Then rest and go back to work in a day or two. I was so wrong.
After over 24 hours of absolutely no fluids staying down and dry heaving every few minutes, I told DH I needed help. He drove me to the hospital that evening. He needed to help me through the parking lot because I was unable to walk through the snow. The ER was packed with people, and there was quite a line. I don’t really remember registration, but I sure do remember triage. They had DH wait in the waiting room, and I sat in the triage chair so they could get my vitals and start an IV while I waited for a room. The nurse couldn’t get the IV in my vein. (This is rare for me; every nurse tells me how amazing my veins are.) She told me my veins were collapsing from severe dehydration. I started dry heaving uncontrollably again, and she started screaming – literally screaming – for help. Of course, that made me think I was dying. Two male nurses came. One held me still while I gagged, and the other got the IV in. Then they gave me an injection of Zofran for nausea, a heated blanket, and wheeled me into the waiting room until a bed opened up.
Despite the heated blanket, I was freezing and shivering uncontrollably. Despite the IV, I was not feeling any better. In fact, I started hallucinating and talking about how English grammar is a lot like algebra. (Clearly, student teaching had consumed my thoughts even in illness.) After about an hour of waiting, I was finally given a room. I don’t remember much except sobbing about how thirsty I was. My mouth was so dry. I felt like I had sand in my mouth. But when you’re that nauseated, the rule is to not have anything put into your stomach – and that includes sucking on ice chips. After a second IV bag and as many doses of Zofran they could give me, my vitals finally stabilized, and they sent me home. It took two weeks to get my appetite back. One thing I unfortunately gained from this experience was an intense fear of throwing up.
What made this visit so bad? First, the nurse freaking out completely freaked me out. Second, I was very sick, weak, and had unstable vitals but no access to a room. Third, I was very nauseated, and Zofran wasn’t helping, but they kept pumping more into me rather than trying something else.
My best hospital experience happened this past weekend. Friday night, DH had to work at a church in the next city for a youth lock-in. This meant I was home alone all night for the first time since moving here. I spent most of my evening doing some research, and then I headed for bed around 10pm. I felt nauseated, but passed it off as anxiety and tried to sleep. After an hour of reading, tossing, and turning, I gave up. I took a dose of Emetrol, moved to the couch, and started watching an episode of “Psych.” I then spent the next several hours dry heaving. I texted DH to let him know I was really struggling with anxiety. He came home for a couple hours, and I finally threw up. Feeling better but exhausted, I went to bed, and DH went back to the lock-in.
I managed to eat a slice of toast and drink a glass of water Saturday afternoon. I gagged, but kept it down. DH brought me some Pedialyte (my favorite way to rehydrate when sick). By 9pm, I was throwing up again. I was beginning to get the symptoms I had in February 2011 – intense dry mouth, fierce thirst, and the beginnings of mild confusion. We decided it was time for the hospital.
We only waited a few minutes for registration. From there, we only waited a few minutes for a room. I was actually feeling better, since I had recently thrown up. We told the nurse about the February 2011 incident, said we just didn’t want a repeat, so we were here to get my stomach calm and to get rehydrated. My nurse got my vitals (all normal this time), got my IV started, took 4 vials of blood, and gave me an injection of Zofran. My stomach calmed down, so I tried to just relax. My anxiety slowly began to fade.
It wasn’t meant to last. About 30 minutes later, I was dry heaving again. I was given a second dose of Zofran, but I only got worse. My dehydration headache went from a dull pain in my forehead to an acute, stabbing pain in my jaw, teeth, and eye – all on the left side. The lights were suddenly blinding. I knew what that meant – migraine.
We were waiting on the blood test results before deciding what to do to treat the headache since there was a good chance I was pregnant. In the time it took for the blood test to be run and the results to come in, the migraine got what I suspect is the worst a migraine can get. I felt like my face was breaking. I was on my hands and knees, holding the bucket for dear life, rocking, writhing, gagging, sobbing. I remember wailing, “My head, my head!” I was punching the mattress. I felt like the pain was coursing through my whole body, and it needed an outlet in some way. Punching the mattress felt appropriate.
The door flew open, my nurse rushed to my bed, and said, “The pregnancy test is negative” (I have never been so happy for a negative pregnancy test). Then the nurse said, “I have some morphine for you. Have you ever had morphine before?”
“No,” I said, but I was thinking, Morphine? That’s intense. That’s for war wounds and such. I don’t have a war wound!
Too late. The drug was injected into my IV. My nurse said, “You’re going to feel confused and tired. Morphine is a narcotic. But it works quickly, and the pain should go away.”
Ten minutes later, the pain had decreased enough so that I could lay still rather than thrash around. By that point, I was upside down in bed (which DH thought was amusing and snapped a picture of me). I was able to function well enough to hold an ice pack to my jaw, where the pain was the worst. My nurse asked what my pain level was. I told her, “Five.” I felt like this was a huge success, and I was pretty thankful to be at a five. My nurse wasn’t so satisfied; she wanted to hear “Zero.” She said she was going to inject me with a migraine cocktail. She explained, “a cocktail is a mixture of drugs, and the mixing of them makes for a better drink.” She injected me with Phenergan (for nausea), Benedryl (for nausea), and Toradol (an anti-inflammatory for pain). I felt that mixture start burning in my arm right away, like I had been injected with acid. Thankfully, this lasted for only a minute because then the drugs kicked in. My body went limp in complete relaxation, and I realized my nurse was so right; a zero is significantly better than a five. I don’t think I’ve ever been so pain-free in my life.
Nurses and doctors kept checking on me, but all I wanted was to sleep. Once my IV bag was empty, they unhooked me and sent me home with a prescription for Phenergan. I was so happy I could have cried, but I was too tired.
Between the Zofran, Phenergan, Benedryl, Toradol, and Morphine, I have spent the past couple days in a haze. But I am eating and hydrated and happy.
Why was this my best hospital experience? My nurse. She was an angel. She was persistent in getting the blood test results back – so persistent, that she stopped checking other patients and sat at the doctor’s desk so she wouldn’t miss the doctor. The moment she got the results, the medicine was in hand. While I was writhing in pain, she sat next to me with her hand on my shoulder, coaching me through it. Once I was better, she gave me some advice on migraines and wrote it down. She has no idea how much this means to me.