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Nothing Makes You Feel Better Like A Scolding

, , , | Healthy | July 2, 2021

I was admitted to the hospital for a life-threatening illness. The doctors were amazing and saved my life. Because my recovery was critical, I was put in a private room and monitored closely by the nurses. Of course, my room had a sink in the bathroom, and in addition, it also had a sink close to my bed to serve the nurses and the constant bandage changes, etc. All the drugs and antibiotics they were giving made me nauseous all the time. The nurses were also great; if I had to go to the bathroom or throw up, they would help me to the bathroom and stay with me if needed.

One day, I was feeling pretty good, and then suddenly, I had to throw up. No warning, it just came rushing up my throat into my mouth. I clamped my mouth shut, slipped painfully out of bed, stumbled two feet, and grabbed the edge of that sink and up it all came. The nurse came and helped me, cleaned me up, and put me back in bed.

She called one of the nurse’s aides and asked her to clean up the sink. As I lay back down in bed and the nurse left, the nurse’s aide began scolding me for making a mess in the sink. What did she want me to do? Just lean over and blow chunks on the floor? Because that’s easier — mopping and cleaning the floor. If cleaning a mess in a sink is your limit, then you need to find a whole other career real fast!

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Paying Your Bills Should Be A Priority, But… Yikes

, , , , , | Healthy | June 28, 2021

I work in the accounts billable department of one of the two major hospitals in Iowa City. It’s my job, essentially, to explain to clients why the amount they have been billed isn’t what they expected.

I’m the low peon on the totem pole, being the newest hire. That means I get to deal with the clients face to face across the billing counter.

One lady is yelling at me about her bill, when suddenly she makes a very strange, strangled sound. I figure she’s having some sort of medical event, so I immediately press the emergency medical event call button.

This turns out to be a very good idea. The lady is wearing a fairly short-skirted pantsuit, so I can see her legs. Specifically, I can see the stitches on her right leg coming undone. First, the top stitch pops, then the next one, and then the next, faster and faster until she’s got an open gash from her garters to her ankles.

Despite this, and despite her collapsing almost immediately like a puppet with her strings cut, the client continues to weakly try to discuss her billing with me, even as the orderlies pick her up and transfer her to a stretcher to carry her right back into surgery.

Still in shock from this whole affair, I stare at the massive puddle of blood in the middle of the floor, and I make the mistake of asking my coworker who’s responsible for cleaning it up.

Turned out it was me.

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Anchors Aweigh… And Aweigh, And Aweigh…

, , , , , , , , | Healthy | June 26, 2021

I was a new sailor, getting ready to report to my first ship. My wife and I had driven all the way across the country to the base where my ship was home-ported, so we were totally unfamiliar with the area. We got a hotel room while we looked for apartments, but the next day I got really sick. Two of my teeth on my upper jaw hurt so much I couldn’t sleep, so we grabbed my medical and dental records — this was a long time ago, when sailors hand-carried their records between assignments — and managed to find our way to the local Navy hospital. I checked into the dental office, and they got me in very quickly because I was obviously in a lot of pain.

The dentist, a Navy Lieutenant, poked and prodded a bit, had an x-ray taken, and then told me there was nothing wrong with my teeth. She said I probably had a raging sinus infection and had one of the nurses take me to the emergency room on the ground floor.

An hour or so later, I was diagnosed with a sinus infection, given a paper prescription, and sent to the on-site pharmacy. I grabbed a number and waited, still dazed by the constant pain in my face from the infection. My wife had to tell me when they called my number, and she escorted me to the pharmacy window. The pharmacy tech rattled off a bunch of stuff about the medicines I wasn’t coherent enough to follow, but I did make out that I needed to start taking them right away.

Fine. No problem. We sat back down and I read the labels. The largest bottle said I had to take four pills right away. I staggered to the water fountain in the lobby and swallowed one of everything, plus four of the pills from the big bottle. I walked back to where my wife was sitting, and she started putting the bottles of pills in her purse, giving each bottle a quick look to see if any needed to be refrigerated. Then, she paused and said, “Oh, f***!”

She dragged me up to the prescription drop-off window and hollered for help. An older man came to see what was wrong, and my wife showed him the large bottle and my ID card. The pharmacy tech turned white as a sheet and said, “Oh, f***!”, and then called for a gurney and a doctor.

The next couple of hours were a blur of activity I don’t remember much about, ending with me admitted overnight for observation. It seems the pharmacy tech who’d handed me my pills had also grabbed a bottle intended for another patient — the large bottle. I had taken a quadruple dose of a major blood-pressure medication and my blood pressure was dangerously low by the time the ER managed to get me hooked up to an EKG.

Even in military medicine, almost killing the patients is generally contraindicated. I recovered fine, but there was a major investigation at the hospital, and the pharmacy tech who handed me the wrong pills ended up demoted or transferred someplace unpleasant — perhaps both. The pharmacy at that hospital changed their standard operating procedures to require careful verification of the name on every label and to cross-check every prescription issued with the patient’s medical record.

That’s how the US Navy nearly got me killed before I set foot aboard my first ship.

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These People Are Extra Good At Kindness

, , , , , , , | Healthy | June 25, 2021

About a year ago, I decided to become a non-directed kidney donor. I live alone — except a five-month-old husky puppy — with all of my family in other states a good 2,000 miles away from where I’d just moved a year prior. As the surgery date started to approach, I needed to get things in order. I tend to be both very independent and overly optimistic about what I can get done on my own. Due to their own life difficulties, none of my family would be coming out to stay with me pre- or post-surgery. The following is a brief summary of the many wonderful ways I was reminded of just how wonderful people are.

My puppy: my puppy was a rescue I had found by the side of the road at the start of the health crisis. I’d just started going to the dog park with him when the surgery got scheduled. The surgery came up in conversation, and three different strangers volunteered to come to pick him up and bring him for walks and to the dog park. Another new friend with a small baby and a puppy of their own offered, without being asked, to take him for the entire hospital stay. 

Homecare: while I was recovering from surgery, at least a dozen different people stopped by to clean my home, take my dog out, bring me meals, and help me get up to exercise. Several people also heard that I was not eating because of how bad I felt and made it a point to either bring me the only things I could stomach (variations on dry breads) or sit on the phone with me and go through menus until they said something that sounded edible. 

School: I am a graduate student and did not fully appreciate the impact it would have on my semester, nor how much my classmates and professors would care. Every single professor continuously checked up on me and went out of their way to accommodate me as much as possible. One even dropped off special homemade soup at my home. Several classmates were kind and patient enough to review and reteach me whole units because I was too doped up on drugs to properly understand them the first time. They gave me rides to the store, took me out walking, and just sat patiently with me while I was miserable. 

Possibly the sweetest was in the hospital. The night after the surgery was the worst. The anesthesia was finally wearing off and they had to double my pain meds, but the oxygen monitor kept going off every time I started to fall asleep. Apparently, I breathe shallowly when asleep. It was so awful and it was really late at night or early in the morning and I just felt so miserable and alone. I definitely was not rational and was extremely emotional. I proceeded to start going down my friend list on my phone calling people just to see if anyone was up and could keep me company. Every person I called answered. Half of them just read Jane Austen to me until I calmed down or would just talk so I could hear a familiar voice. The last person I called stayed on with me until the doctor came back around and was able to change the meds and get me off the oxygen so I could sleep. 

With the exception of the people on the phone, none of these people had known me for more than a few months, and I’d only met most of them a handful of times. I’m doing great now, as is the donee. I’m doing so well, in fact, that it is easy to forget that the experience even happened — except when I look down at my scars, and then I get the chance to remember how a group of near-strangers took care of me like I was their sister, daughter, granddaughter, and friend. 

People really are remarkable.

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“Ignore It Until It Goes Away” Doesn’t Work With Everything

, , , , | Healthy | June 17, 2021

I have mild chronic gastritis. I also have a slight deformation on my hip so I often feel pain in my lower back and hip. The pain I feel from those two conditions can be bad, but thankfully not often. I also have a high pain threshold because of them.

One day in late November, I started feeling discomfort in my stomach but I couldn’t really pinpoint where exactly. I disregarded it as just one of my two issues, so I started taking my usual medicine and kept an eye on my diet. The pain came and went for a full month. I didn’t really think about it since I was busy with a project and I had already bought a concert ticket. Project ended, concert attended, and the pain still lingered.

Finally, on New Year’s Eve, the pain was unbearable, so I told my sister who’s a doctor. She came by and did a quick check.

Sister: “Pack your bag, and I’ll call our parents to take you to the ER.”

It turned out that I had a swollen appendix. It was only hours away from rupturing. I ended up having to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks through a hospital window, with an IV drip and some stitches on my tummy.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a reminder to never ignore any pain you feel in your body.

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