It’s been almost a month since my last entry but today is the first opportunity I’ve had to actually sit down and write this post so grab some liquid refreshment, head for your most comfy chair, and prepare for an unbelievable story.
On March 28th I went into ICU for an out-patient cardioversion. I was put under, “paddled”, and awakened to hear “100% successful” — my heart had re-set to normal rhythm. No more fibrillation/fluttering. I felt fine. After a rest and breakfast in bed I was sent home. Walking around the apartment I tried to identify just why I felt so good and finally just accepted it. Over the next two days, I continued to feel different…good. On the 31st all that changed and I began to feel symptomatic; ie, chest heaviness, shortness of breath, back and jaw pain. I called 9.1.1 and was taken to emergency where I was transferred from stretcher to emergency bed, using a sliding board. The transfer wasn’t smooth and I felt a sudden pain in my lower back. Familiar pain followed, shooting down the right leg. A disc had moved ever so slightly and was now irritating the sciatic nerve. Just what I didn’t need.
I was hooked up to the monitor tracking my blood pressure and heart rate. By this time it was 6pm. Some dinner came but I was in too much pain to eat (and that, my friend, is a LOT of pain!, even though hospital food is easy to pass up). Soon came word that I would have to sleep in emerg; no room at the inn. Another day, another night in emerg. On day 3 they found a temporary bed for me in ICU. Once I arrived in my private room with a temperpedic bed, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It was bliss. By this time I was on steady morphine for my pain. The calendar turned from March to April as I remained in “morphine fog”, completely unaware and out of it for days.
On April 5th I was taken by ambulance to Vancouver General for my angiogram; however, there was another patient in the ambulance who was headed to a different hospital and they would drop him off first. Five and a half hours later I arrived at Vancouver General. A bumpy, uncomfortable ride aggravated an already painful body. I tried to concentrate on the angiogram and the opportunity to see my heart in action on the huge monitor, viewing whatever arteries might be blocked. To my shock I was sedated and woke up AFTER the procedure. Again, drugged and out of it. I wasn’t a happy camper. The 3.5 rush hour traffic ride back didn’t help my disposition.
My daughter, Kat, and her husband Drew were by my side, helpful and supportive. I didn’t recall a great foot rub Kat gave me but I’m sure my body remembers! Without her daily orange/banana contribution I would have become more malnourished. A heart/gluten free diet leaves very little on the tray. On my last day in ICU I woke up from my fog and found blood bags hanging next to my bed. I was being transfused; my red blood cells were too low and my blood pressure had dropped significantly. Normally, I would have been quite concerned, asking questions, etc., but Mr. Morphine said “relax, no problem; just go back to sleep”. Lordy, I wouldn’t do well as an addict. I can’t imagine living in that condition day after day.
My haven in ICU ended abruptly and I was moved to a semi-private medical floor with an elderly man in the next bed to me! I used to work in a hospital in the 80s when men and women had separate wards. Frankly, I didn’t know that had changed and most of the time I felt very uncomfortable.
The side effects of immobility and lack of nutrition were mounting. No one ever got me out of bed and it was almost impossible for me to get up without help. Other internal plumbing parts were sorely in need of, well…..you get the picture I’m sure. Hemoglobin test results showed that I was bleeding somewhere internally. A second transfusion was ordered.
My discharge didn’t come without a fight. After one day and no transfusion, my red blood cells had begun to climb on their own and my heart was back to normal rhythm. There was no reason for me to stay. I didn’t vocalize this but I felt like if I didn’t get OUT of hospital I would deteriorate. There was nothing I couldn’t do at home that I did there…and do it better and with more comfort. Home meant my own bed, my own bathroom, my own stuff close by, and no strange male close by. The doctor agreed and I got my discharge papers. Kat and Drew came to get me and we sped back to my apartment. I was emotional, of course. “There’s no place like home, Auntie Em“.
Friends bearing food came and went. Drivers to follow-up appointments became available. Day by day I gained some strength. I was so, so weak; my condition scared me. I booked a physio appointment and began with exercises and am now incorporating the decompression (traction) table for my back. I can now put on a sock on the right foot! For days I could not reach my foot due to my leg contraction. This was a big milestone, belive me. It’s hard to find sock attendants when you need them!
O day two, there was a knock at my door. A neighbour came bearing food….a hot, whole chickenwith ‘taters! He also took off the mechanism on my door which makes it impossible to open and navigate one’s wobbly self in/out. So, a two’fer: food and freedom! But, who was that masked man? I don’t even know his name but he was my hero that night.
So endeth the first half of the drama. Yes, there is a second part coming soon.