January 29, 2021 – Bad Patient Syndrome

I hate to say it, but I’m a lousy patient. I’ve been in the hospital enough times to readily admit it. I just don’t like people poking around more than necessary or making promises they cannot keep. Whenever I’m admitted to the hospital, especially once a nurse has inserted an IV catheter into my arm or hand or jugular and it’s not so easy to ‘make a run for it’, I feel pretty vulnerable and helpless. I don’t like feeling that way. And it’s not just that, something happens to time when I spend greater than 30 minutes in or on or near a hospital bed. I think I’ve caught the minute hand actually going backwards when I’ve had to stay longer than an hour or two. Did they have a special clockmaker screw with the clock just to punish me for being a bad patient? It wouldn’t surprise me if they did! I mean, I give those poor doctors and nurses a run for their money. If they didn’t do something to retaliate, I would be mightily surprised!

My first surgery was at the age of ten. In fact, it was the same year I ran into a wall and busted my two front teeth. I developed appendicitis and it was p-r-e-t-t-y bad. My parents didn’t usually take us to the doctor unless we were at death’s door and when they saw this large shadowy figure enter our house wearing a black, hooded robe and carrying a menacing scythe, they decided the situation called for a trip to the hospital. Before I went to the emergency room, I distinctly remember standing hunched over in the livingroom, clutching my stomach in agony, and subsequently vomiting. Overall, the ordeal really wasn’t so bad and I actually was on my best behavior. After the surgery, I got the opportunity to eat as many sugary popsicles and Jell-O as I wanted. And one of my great-aunts came to visit during my hospital stay and brought me a toy panda. Aside from returning home a few days later with a sizable scar on my abdomen, those are the only memories that remain. At least there was an upside to the ordeal. With a kid, you cannot go wrong with sugar or toys and I scored both.

In the years between then and now, I’ve had a number of surgeries for different reasons. I’ve had a hernia repaired, a tubal ligation, an abdominoplasty (after losing weight), a deviated septum corrected, another abdominoplasty (after gaining the weight back and losing it again) and an organ transplant. I thought that was all of them but now I’m not so sure. Needless to say, with the exception of my most recent surgery, the one thing that ALWAYS happens when I’m given anesthesia is that they give me too much. So many times I’ve been assured that I was only coming in for day surgery or outpatient surgery and then it turns into an all-nighter. I’ve warned them enough times that you’d think they’d actually listen, but they usually don’t. “I’m really sensitive to medication and I have a difficult time waking up from anesthesia so please don’t give me as much as you ordinarily would,” is what I generally tell them. More often than not, they give me far too much and as a result, I don’t wake up until hours later or the following day.

Do you know how frustrating it is to continually have this happen after I make a point to inform the nursing staff beforehand? I can see them smiling and nodding while I’m speaking to them but I don’t think they ever actually listen. In their minds, while my mouth is moving, they’re likely thinking, “My God, would this woman just SHUT UP already? She keeps droning on and on and I’ve already been working 10 hours straight without a break and I just want to go home, have a glass of wine and go to bed.” I know, these folks do truly go above and beyond and I understand if they zone out while I’m blabbing away pre-surgery. But still! Anyway, once I ‘come to’, I generally don’t become fully ‘awake’ for at least 24 hours. I feel groggy and it’s difficult to even keep my eyes open. Not only that, my brain feels scrambled and I cannot form a complete sentence. If you come to visit and actually say something to me during that 24-hour window, I likely won’t remember it or you. Once I do ‘regain my faculties’ and discover once again that the anesthesiologist was a bit ‘generous’ with the ‘sleepy juice’, I tend to get a bit grumpy.

Right about now, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “She doesn’t seem like THAT bad of a patient. Maybe a little grumpy, but other than that her behavior seems perfectly reasonable.” Haha! Have I got you fooled! I haven’t even begun to talk about when I had my sinus surgery. To clarify, it wasn’t a rhinoplasty (as much as I’d love to have the ‘bump’ removed or repaired that I got when a softball hit me in the face), it was to fix my deviated septum and repair the cartilage in my sinus cavity. Why did I need sinus surgery and how did this all come about? It all started with a sleep study. I was having trouble sleeping so I went to one of those clinics where they monitor you overnight and determine if you suffer from a sleep disorder. Upon completion of the study, they determined that I had ‘something’. I cannot remember the clinical name for it but I had something that they felt required the use of a CPAP machine. Oh, yippee! You want to kill the romance in your marriage? Try wearing one of those at night. Such pleasant memories.

In addition to the sleep study, I had an x-ray done of my head to see what was going on ‘inside’ after suffering from some gnarly headaches. That’s when the ear/nose/throat doctor was able to determine I had issues with my septum and sinus cavity. How it all started? That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Fast forward to the day of the surgery. I was told to show up at nine o’clock in the morning and that the surgery would take place at noon. If you have had surgery before, you know there is one thing that you are forbidden to do beforehand, and that is to eat. It’s a big ‘no no’. The surgeon doesn’t want you throwing up while you’re intubated so it makes sense. Gosh, just writing that made me feel nauseated. Bleck. Anyhow, to better help you understand why I started to ‘unravel’, just know that I can become a bit hostile when I get hungry. And when we arrived at the hospital in order to check in, I had fasted overnight so I was already hungry. All I was allowed to ‘consume’ was a ‘sip’ of water to hold me over.

Knowing that my surgery would be taking place at noon, and that I could probably get some nourishment around three o’clock in the afternoon or thereabouts, I figured I would be able to manage ok and I turned my focus to prepping for surgery. The first thing they had me do was go to a private room, undress, and put on a gown, a PAPER gown. Once I put on the gown, I climbed onto the hospital bed that was beside me, draped a thin blanket that was resting on the bed over the top of me, and awaited the nurse. When the nurse eventually turned up, she found a good vein in my arm, cleaned the area with alcohol, and then inserted the IV catheter. Yow! That sucker always hurts like a MOTHER! I don’t care how many times I’ve had it done, it never gets better. She then started me on an IV drip and once that was established, left the room to attend to others. Of course, several other medical personnel drifted in and out of the room for various purposes until I was cleared for surgery and a nurse came to wheel me away. Yay!

“Oh, good! Finally!” I thought to myself when she wheeled me down the hallway and towards the operating room. But she didn’t take me directly to the operating room, she took me to pre-op (the last stop before surgery). The room was vast and the only thing separating the patients were curtains. I believe it was around eleven in the morning when I finally arrived in pre-op but I was still in good spirits. I had an hour to go until surgery and then after the procedure was over, I would finally be able to eat! Several different nurses and doctors came to discuss things with me and ‘walk me through’ what to expect. And one thing they said was critical was that every 20 minutes, I would need to squirt a vile, bitter nasal spray into each nostril. The first time I did it, I almost gagged. It was nothing like the stuff I’d bought over the counter. But, hey, I was going in for surgery in under an hour, I could handle it. Maybe I’d only have to do it twice, three times at most? It wasn’t pleasant but it was certainly doable.

Twelve o’clock finally rolled around but nothing happened. Not a big deal. I know surgeries sometimes run long, so I didn’t get too worked up about it. I figured maybe I’d have to wait another 30 minutes to an hour and then they’d get started. But then twelve became one and one became two and I was starting to get a bit impatient with the process. I still hadn’t eaten and I was still required to shoot that vile spray up my nose every 20 minutes, not to mention the discomfort I was feeling wearing nothing but a cold, crunchy, paper gown. And as the day wore on, I became more disgruntled. I kept asking what was taking so long and all they could really tell me was that there had been an emergency (I think I heard ‘girl mauled by a dog’) and that I would have to wait. Ok, ok. I understand. But then two became three and three became four, and when four rolled around, I was absolutely not a happy camper. Exasperated, I told the main nurse that if five o’clock rolled around and they still hadn’t started the surgery, that I was going to go home.

What didn’t help matters is that the nurse was extremely patronizing. Her response? With a great big smirk on her face, she said, “Why don’t we give you something to calm down?” Ack! Who let Nurse Ratched into pre-op? I can still see that smirk! Calm down?! You try laying on a bed in a crunchy paper gown for hours, hangry and cold, while squirting that disgusting, gag-inducing nasal spray up your nose every 20 minutes! If you had seen my face at that very moment when she made that remark, it would have been the same shade as a beet (a red one not a golden one). My blood pressure was through the roof and I was moments away from yanking that IV catheter out of my arm and storming out of the place. My husband, fortunately, was by my side and tried to console me as best he could. He encouraged me to wait a little longer and to be patient. But when I said five o’clock, I wasn’t messing about. I meant it! And I kid you not, at about fifteen minutes to five, the nurse returned and wheeled me into the operating room.

Are you convinced now? I told you I was a bad patient. And that doesn’t even come anywhere near what happened when I had my kidney transplant. It makes what happened during my sinus surgery seem like ‘kids play’. But I will save that for another time, my friends. I’ve already shared far too much and you probably have lost total respect for me (if you had any for me to begin with). Of course, considering what I talked about yesterday, I didn’t have far to fall. Speaking of, I’ll try not to bring up ‘urine’ again for at least a couple of weeks. You’ve probably had your fill of it. Thank you so much for stopping by. For the folks that are ‘following’ me, I am grateful for you and the continued interest you have in reading about the variety of things I talk about each day. I love to write and I try to infuse humor into everything I do, especially when I write. And I hope I was able to make you smile, especially if you had a really crappy day. If all goes well and I haven’t run you off, I trust you will return tomorrow as will I.

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