ER + DAYS

Dear Rebecca,

As I told you, I thought you might take a professional interest in a patient’s
view report on a hospital stay. After a few lines (quite good, really), I saw my
careful words vanish into cyberspace. This time I shall type in Word Perfect
and learn to E-mail it.

Decided to inflict this also on progeny, nieces, and nephews. Forward to the
other Beloved Greats if you wish.

I think you know this, but brief review: went to ER with strange chest pain.
Tests launched, heart stuff okay, CT scan turned up pneumonia. Antibiotics
poured into the IV. Soon began the two most miserable days of my life. When
the docs caught on it was a drug reaction, they switched to a different
antibiotic and I gradually began to get better.

When life began to improve but I couldn’t read yet, I amused myself by making
up names for people whose name tags I couldn’t read. I gave up on non-
human staff; my constant companion, the IV rig, was cold and impersonal and
began loud beeping when I slept an hour; no C3PO or R2D2. The squeezy
machines wrapped around my legs, my pet boa constrictors, didn’t rate names;
I like my pets warm-blooded. The communication control, when I punched the
Nurse Call button, did contact the nurse’s station, but also turned on the TV, a
startling event at three AM.

I’ll begin with the pair of bewildered novice blood drawers. They were girls, but
somehow I kept thinking Moe and Curley.

The one and only angry and sullen person I met at St.Luke’s, who needed to
know my weight at 4:30 AM , found it a great nuisance to release and reattach
my leg irons, and left the light on and bedclothes in a heap. She’s Lisa. We
once had a page at Natural Bridge library...

Before my visit from Moe and Curley, I was fairly stoic, or at least adult, about
needle pricks. But I began to freak out at mention of the words "draw" and
"blood". So when the young woman deftly slipped the needle in, nailed it on
the first try, and was outta here before the others could have located a vein, I
tried to think of an angel’s name for her. No luck. Didn’t know any lady angels,
and few male ones, for that matter. There was the Angel Michael, who had this
tendency to appear before an old lady and joyfully proclaim "You will soon
bear a son for your husband!" (I don’t recall that it was ever a daughter). Go
away from me, Michael! Been there, done that. Then there’s Gabriel, who
blows horns a lot. Hey, Gabe, why don’t you just hang out with Michael, okay?
I finally called her Florence, though I don’t like the name much.

Later I was having a heartwarming conversation with Robbie when I heard the
dreaded words: "I need to draw blood". It was Florence; she said "Just move
the phone to the other hand." It was over in a minute; she aced it on the first
try and I hardly felt anything. I resolved that when she was not on duty I will
call Robbie when the vampire threatens.

One day, while I still couldn’t eat, the lunch tray sat beside my bed for several
hours. Tray Person would come in and see it, and say "I’ll be right back to get
that". The third time that happened I named her Alice. (None of you is old
enough to remember Alice the Goon) At six o’clock, when the rumble of supper
carts was heard in the land, Alice showed up. She picked up the slab of
strawberry cheesecake and said "I’ll leave a spoon for this." I said "No. I don’t
want it", but she left it anyway and took the lunch tray.

Then Clouseau brought the supper tray and set it upon the cheesecake.

The Boss of Housekeeping dropped in one day. "I just like to check on how we
are doing; are we keeping the room clean enough?" Dave and I gave glowing
reports about some of his staff, then I pointed to the curtains that hang
between the beds. "These red smears don’t bother me a bit because I know
what they are and how they got there," I said "but the next patient might be
grossed out, so I’d better tell you about it." Curtain Guy arrived in twenty
minutes.

By Sunday I felt lots better and hoped to go home the next day, but the
medical staff got upset about my blood tests. Platelets down to 28!! Monday
morning the doctor said "No way are you leaving here with a platelet count of
19!" They called in the head of Hematology, who said, "I think I may know
what the problem is; we’ll do another test (gulp), and I think I’ll have very good
news for you this afternoon."

I heard someone say "Lets get someone from the IV team to get the blood this
time." She arrived at an awkward time; I said ‘I’ll only be a minute". She said
That’s okay, I’ll come back in a little while" – But she didn’t. Time marched on.
Two other people each stuck me twice without success. Head of the IV team
finally returned and made a swift job of it, but by then I knew it was too late for
a lab report to get me home that night.

Morale plunged. At that point Shannon and Seth showed up bearing a little
vase of pretty daisies, and printouts of my cheerful E-mail. Pulled me right out
of the depths. I was glad I knew their names, because I had already flunked
out on angel names...

Earlier in the afternoon I had become aware of an altercation in the hall
outside my room. Voices were raised, but I caught only a word here and there:
Doctor — Hematology—it’s been hours—Raker—we ALWAYS—. I saw a man
nose-to-nose with someone. Got the impression of a guy backing up his staff.
Good for him! I always tried to do that at the library. I never actually met that
man, but I named him anyway. He’s Tony. (LaRussa chatting with an umpire
after being ejected from the game)

It’s a puzzlement. Here am I, a quiet, docile, cooperative, harmless old lady,
and I find myself in the role of troublemaker!

Doctor Blood came in Tuesday morning and explained platelets to me. It was
all a mistake, I was never in imminent danger of bleeding to death after all. (I
suspected that and wasn’t scared; after all, I had holes poked in me every few
hours and none of them bled too much.)All concerned were glad to release me
to come home.

Have been home several days now, and was surprised to find it wasn’t the
instant cure I expected. Still weak and wiped out, but every day is better, and I
have until the 19th to get strong. We have tickets to a dinner dance.

Some of this seems pretty funny now, though humor escaped me at the time.
You might note that in your research, Becca. You can tell patients "Some day
you’ll laugh about this"...

Love, Marge