Tuesday, August 7, 2012

When the nurse wears the hospital gown

I could win the crown for most obnoxious/paranoid mother in the world.  My pediatrician loves me because I pay him a lot of money but hates me because I am a pediatric nurse so I worry about everything.  But when it comes to me, I usually don't follow any medical advice I've ever received or read.  I am the worst patient ever.  Like today for example.  I've been having horrible heartburn/epigastric pain for a week or two now.  Do you think that motivates me to see my doctor and get my Protonix refilled?  Absolutely not.  Do you think it even gets me off my butt to get the Protonix that's in my medicine cabinet?  Definitely not.  I'm a glutton for punishment.  The Hubs gets so mad at me for this.  But I have to thank him for dragging me to the ER last year, practically kicking and screaming because I ended up admitted for 6 days, scanned/scoped almost from head to toe, with a trip to the OR mixed in.

This is a long one....sorry!

It was almost exactly a year ago, the last week of August to be exact, on a Monday.  I had been feeling kinda crappy.  I was having horrible stomach pains that were coming in waves. I couldn't keep anything down.  I just felt like garbage.  I had called out of work, even though I didn't want to and I felt bad doing so (I think someone had called out right before me).  I would call the Hubs pretty much crying because I hurt so much but that wasn't enough to make me go to the ER.  I finally called my doctor to see if I could come in.  I go to a doctor who I absolutely adore but they try their best to keep infectious stuff out of the office.  There's tons of old people that go there. So my doctor ended up calling me back to go over my symptoms.  It was either my gallbladder (my guess) or a wicked stomach virus which meant I had more fun to look forward to.  We decided that if the pain got worse or if I couldn't keep anything down after 4 hours of being NPO (nothing by mouth), that I'd have to head to the ER to get checked out.  So I managed about 30 minutes longer before the Hubs came home from work and brought me right to the ER.  We went to the local ER only because if I got admitted, I wanted my doctor to be my attending. {Side note.....I worked at this hospital when I was in nursing school.  I pretty much despise it and really try to avoid going there at all costs.  But I love my doc so I went there.  Plus she promised me that she'd consult the good surgeons for me if it turned out to be my gallbladder}  I get to the ER puking my brains out, with a mild temp, and a doctor who says it's definitely my gallbladder.  I get introduced to the lovely creation known as Dilaudid and we threw in a little Zofran for good measures.  But guess what???  My US shows that it's not my gallbladder.  So the doc admits me overnight to figure out where my pain is coming from.

Overnight turned into 5 more days. I was pretty much living on IV fluids, Dilaudid, and Zofran for that entire week. I had the lovely opportunity to drink a gallon of disgusting contrast for my CT scan.  I even bribed my nurse to let me stop.  I now understand why our patients put up such a fight to drink the contrast.  It's HORRIBLE.  My CT was normal.  I met my surgeon who is the most amazing surgeon in the world.  He was convinced it was my gallbladder but obviously had to rule everything out first.  I had a HIDA scan that showed my gallbladder wasn't functioning properly but it wasn't working poorly enough to take it out just yet.  I met a crazy GI doctor who wanted to see my entire insides from top to bottom.  I got to test out the effectiveness of Mag Citrate (it doesn't work for me) and the always pleasurable bowel prep for a colonoscopy.  All to come back just fine.  Well my EGD did show that I have GERD/gastritis but we already knew that. So on Thursday afternoon, my surgeon decided he would take me to the OR the next day to see if he could find anything.  But regardless of what he found, I was going to wake up without a gallbladder. So I woke up Friday, so excited at the potential of getting out of the hospital, just to sit and wait. All. Day. Long. Finally, and this is why my surgeon is the most amazing man ever, after eating dinner with his family and tucking his kids into bed, he came back to the hospital and took me to the OR.  At 9:45 at night.  It was unbelievable.  This man went above and beyond for me, because he knew that I'd been in the hospital for so long, accomplishing nothing, and would be there through the weekend if I didn't have surgery on that day.  So into the OR I went and I got discharged by 10am the next morning.  Without my gallbladder.  Which we later learned actually had multiple stones in it.  I guess they were invisible stones since they didn't show up on ANY scan I had.  Oh well.  It was out.  I was discharged.  And I was happy.

During my hospital stay I went through 5 IVs.  I turned into a crazed druggie when I was in pain and my nurse wouldn't give me pain meds because my blood pressure was too low.  {In retrospect, 80s/50s wasn't the best time to give someone Dilaudid but in that moment, I did threaten to make her night a living hell if she didn't give it to me.  Ironically enough I didn't see her the rest of the night after that Dilaudid dose}  I discovered I am allergic to Cipro, even if my nurse thought my IV was just blowing {hello you don't break out in hives and start itching when your IV blows.  It's an allergic reaction, friend.} I can testify that Versed really does make you not remember a damn thing, no matter how hard you try to remember. I also learned a valuable lesson that sending work emails while on Dilaudid is not the best idea. {yes I really did that} I hung over the bucket, dry heaving my brains out, every time I got Dilaudid and for about 15 minutes after but endured it because Dilaudid was the only thing that made me feel better.  I was the perfect patient to have in the nurse's assignment because I was NPO, could take care of myself, only called out for pain meds and zofran, only had IV fluids running and only 1 medication (at night).  I was the dream patient to have.

Being on the other side of the bed was definitely eye opening.  I had amazing nurses who took time out of their day just to talk to me.  It meant the world to me because I was alone most of the time and separated from my kids and my husband.  I looked forward to my nightly visits from my family but it was so painful to see them leave.  I had amazing friends who would visit or call/text/email to check on me.  But it was this week that I spent in the hospital that made me realize the impact that I might have on my patients.  If they could make me feel this much better while I was in the hospital, for something as little as a gallbladder flare, then maybe I do that for our families who are dealing with a more horrible diagnosis.  I wrote about this more eloquently here, right before I was discharged.  It truly touches on the up/down side to being the one stuck in the bed and having a complete understanding of why things are playing out like they did.  The Hubs was so frustrated through the entire experience, as was I, but I was the one who got it.  I knew why they couldn't just go digging in my stomach without ruling everything out first.  You should definitely read that post.
And if you want to read any of the crazy I wrote while on pain meds (it's actually not as bad as I say but I did update every day while doped up) read it here, here, and here.


  1. Hoping your feeling better. I had my gallbladder removed too. It was awful and all of my tests never showed stones either. Weird!

  2. That all sounds like such a mess. But you're definitely right that nurses make such a huge difference!

  3. Jessica, wow. I'm glad they went ahead and just pulled your gallbladder out! invisible stones?! so cool. 5 IVs sucks. But you DO sound like a dream patient. :) heck, i'd take you! But you wouldn't want to be on my unit, because that would mean it was your heart acting up, not your gallbladder.
    And you're sweet husband, if you guys made it through that, you'll make it through anything!
    I hope whatever you're experiencing now gets better! (although it won't magically fix itself, take your pills girl!!!)
    and thanks for linking up! :D