April 06, 2010

Mel, Pneumonia and the Hospital

Most of you know that Mel was in the Hospital for Pneumonia a little while back, and due to the hospital's flaky WiFi and some other BS (more on that later), I wasn't able to get word out. So the following is my day-by-day journal of the experience, starting when I realized that we'd be there long enough to warrant an entry.

I think today is Thursday.  Not quite sure, the days sort of run together.  BONES and Law and Order show in blocks most nights on TNT apparently,  so it is hard to tell. 

How we got here: We were going to use the Tuesday doctor appointment to get Mel caught up on her immunizations,  but she spiked a fever out of her garden-variety cold on Monday night and we had to make it a check for pneumonia.  Sure enough,  her breathing was labored and shallow and her lungs sounded bad. We had to check into the hospital and get checked out for Pneumonia. 

The nurse walked us to the new Gwinnett Medical Duluth Hospital that was next door,  which we did not know was there.  And that was something, because Melissa and I, we know hospitals. There was a segment on TV a few days ago about doctors' reaction to the new Healthcare Bill, and Melissa and I immediately recognized the backdrop of the scene as the ICU at Emory University Hospital in Decatur.  We used to joke that instead of the Disney Vacation Club,  someone should start a Hospital Vacation Club,  where for a nominal fee,  you can bank your points for stays in all the best hospitals in the country.  “Seven hundred points buys you a week stay in the famous Mount Bethel Hospital,  which was used in filming blah blah blah.”

Having a nurse from the medical offices check us in helped expedite things, and we were in for a chest X-Ray in 20 minutes. 40 minutes later, we had a bed in the ER. They needed to get some blood work on Melissa, and give her IV fluids and Antibiotics, but Mel's body was having none of that. It's always been difficult to find a vein with her, so much so that she's earned the nickname “turnip” because it's impossible to get blood from her. For the next 2 hours, six different techs stuck needles in no fewer than nine places on her body, including her feet, before striking paydirt with a vein on her neck. After stick number six, I was worried that she'd walk home with Stigmata.

I think we're going to find another Pulmonologist, since our current one decided that he didn't want to drive the 15 minutes from the Gwinnett Medical Center in Lawrenceville to come and see us here. So because of that, we had to wait for a shift Pulminologist to review the X-Ray and Admit us into the hospital proper. We waited from six until 11:30 PM for her to show up, and we didn't get to our room until 1:30 AM.  Then the happy folks at the ICU started their welcome parade. Hi! We need your vitals! Hi! We need your blood! Hi! We need to do a breathing treatment. Just a constant stream of people from 2 AM until 6:30 AM when the shift changed. We slept from 7 AM to 10:30,  only briefly interrupted by a visit from our pastor,  Father Bill.  He found me dead-out in the two-in-one,  but not enough of either,  recliner slash bed, trying to stay warm underneath those criminally thin  hospital blankets. He stayed just a moment to tell us that the parish had us in their prayers and let us sleep.

The rest is a sort of blur.  I had to call into work and tell them that I would not be returning until later in the week,  and my boss said she would assume I'll be back Monday,  and anything earlier would be a pleasant surprise all around.  Mel's parents brought in care packages for us each night,  usually two or three things from the house,  a change of clothes and some food.  They had some sort of guest wi-fi in the hospital,  but it would only load half of a page before giving up after five minutes,  and my Yahoo mail was totally unreachable.  So with few of the usual signs of time passing,  and little to do but wait for the drugs to take effect,  the time went by unremarkably.

UNTIL...  This morning. (Possibly Thursday) The doctor told us that her white blood cell count was normal again,  which is good,  but the x-ray wasn't improved, so there is a slight chance that this might be TB.  And because there was that chance,  we had to remain in isolation (Read: "quarantine") for three days while they run the TB tests on Melissa.  No visitors,  and all the nurses had to scrub up and wear masks and gloves to even enter the room now.  Yeah,  we were panicking a little bit.  Not thinking we actually HAD it,  but that we would have to stay in this room for three more days.  At least. 

Mel has been sleeping fitfully,  but I have been left to pass the short periods in between.  Looking outside as the parking lot fills up and empties again.  Wondering about the lives people go home to after a shift here.  About what they are having for dinner.  The only good omen we've had is the appearance of a half dozen ladybugs in the room.  One is even reversed—-black with red spots.  I have taken to whispering to them like Gandalf to his moths...  Speaking plans of escape from our tower.

Saturday Perhaps?  Slept maybe tens  minutes total the whole night,  Mel just could not get comfortable.  Woken up from said ten minutes at shift change with the bursting entrance of four nurses and the flipping on of lights.  GAAAAAH.  Nurse number one says yesterday's blood tests showed her hemoglobin much lower than it was four days ago when she arrived. 
"What does that mean,"  I ask
"That she may be bleeding internally. so she may need a transfusion. As her husband how do you feel about that?"
Blink. blink. at her.
"I am ALL FOR the idea of my wife being full of blood."
Blink, frown at me.
"Means I'm okay with the transfusion. A Blood Cell Count is not something to fall behind in now is it?" I explain patiently.

And of course, being a hospital, we are still waiting, three hours later to talk to the doctor or be taken for any scans or tests to see if she is, in fact, bleeding internally.


Later Saturday and we've finally seen that doctor. We told him about the nurse's speculation about internal bleeding and he got a weird look on his face. Then he plainly spoke "No. The body's bone marrow makes the red blood cells, and production slows down when you have a serious infection like Pneumonia. If you were having internal bleeding, your blood pressure wouldn't be this high, and it would need a place to go. And since you're not leaking blood everywhere, I think we're safe in that assumption."

Whew. Crisis averted. Unfortunately, the Pneumonia is still clinging to the floating doors of the titanic, so to speak, and we have to wait until another X-Ray on Monday for him to judge us healthy enough to leave. We are four days in and I'm going a little stir crazy. I can only imagine what I'll be like when I get back to work on Tuesday (Hopefully.)
Sunday. we're still in quarantine but it should be lifted today sometime and we can bring Matthew in to see us.  Being under contamination isolation,  with all the nurses wearing masks and plastic aprons whenever they come in,  and now with Resident Evil: Apocalypse playing on TBS,  I'm having visions of Mel suddenly waking up with zombie strength and biting me in the neck.

Movies on:
Resident Evil - Apocalypse
Resident Evil - Extinction

The once-hopeful ladybugs are dried up on the windowsill. They couldn't get out either.

Monday.  The pulmonologist's partner, a short Indian gentleman, came in around eleven am.  The x-ray of her lungs is not showing improvement.  She is hardly coughing at all though, and what she is coughing up is old stuff,  lungs just cleaning house.  He also said that the third and final TB sample was collected a little too early,  so to clear us from isolation, he needs to take and process another one. That last sample was taken on Saturday morning, and we waited this long for it to get processed.

When can we take her home, I ask. And his answer stuns me.
"What is your hurry?"
Must. Control. Fists. Of. Death.
"We've been here a week, just waiting around for test results of one sort or another," I begin. "We have pretty much every piece of equipment in this room, AT OUR HOUSE, save for the I.V. and the X-Ray. So just send us home with an oral antibiotic and we can wait it out like normal people."
He eventually agreed.  But we sent another sample to the lab to clear us of the TB isolation, just in case. Then more waiting.
Movies on AMC:
The Fugitive
Silence of the Lambs
The Queen
Tuesday. X-ray looks better. Buuuuut after Nurse Ratchet put in I.V. #12 in Mel's foot, it started turning red and swelling up. What the hell, this is a hospital, did she spit on it before she put it in or something? They have to roll in an ultrasound and check her leg for blood clots just to be safe. "It's a boy!" I tell Melissa, to calm her nerves.

After some last minute haggling, we are discharged. The TB test never did come back from the lab. I drive home cautiously, fearing that the little Indian guy is chasing us, insisting we come back. We were insanely happy to get home, and to see Matthew. Then we got upstairs to our room and found out the A/C was out. And the forecast was for 80-degree weather all week.

Present Day:
Melissa is doing better. She's still a bit under the weather, but her breathing is worlds better. The A/C is still out, a few fans are keeping it at a summer-y 80 degrees, rather than the tropical 95 that it was. The parts just came in, and with any luck, the A/C guy will fix it tomorrow.

No quippy reviews of hospital food this time, it was just a soul-sucking time-warp of a stay.

1 comment:

  1. Ah Chris, I love you guys so much. You are two of the loveliest brains I have ever come across. Soooo often I replay stuff both of you have said within my earshot (or in this case, eye-shot?). Glad you're home.