Reepicheep’s Adventures in Medical Land or what not to do when sick.

I worked last weekend, as I do every other weekend and several days during the week, in a data center kept at 63 degrees Fahrenheit so the computers won’t overheat. As you may guess, my team spends as much time fighting colds and flu as malicious code.

So, when on Sunday morning I started feeling sick I was not surprised. By Tuesday morning I could not swallow anything but warm liquids, hot tea with honey and lemon being the thing that felt best. This is a problem because I am diabetic and therefore could not take my meds (3 pills - not insulin shots) because I simply couldn’t swallow them, and the honey was doing nasty things to my blood sugar. Tuesday night I worked, with everyone filling me in on the horror stories of how they and their families had this before Thanksgiving, and I would be flat on my back only able to stagger to the toilet to cough up phlegm for 5 days. At the end of the shift I left email and voice mail for my boss saying I would not be in on Wednesday night, and waited for my doctor’s office to open.

My doctor’s office agreed with my coworkers that I had what everyone else had before Thanksgiving (I’m a late bloomer); that I would feel rundown, my throat would hurt badly, my cough would get worse before it got better, why the hell was I drinking honey in my tea (because it’s comfort food), yada, yada, yada. They took blood, gave me prescriptions for liquid antibiotics and liquid cough meds, and told me to go forth and breathe on no one for 4 days. So, I took my new meds, had half a bowl of hot and sour soup (with my diabetes pills in one spoonful), coughed on the cats, and tried to sleep.

At 8:01 Thursday morning my doctor’s office called me. I know because the phone woke me up from the first sleep of more than 40 minutes not disturbed by coughing. My hemoglobin (red blood count) was at 5.7; normal people’s hemoglobin is between 12 and 16. I am to go to the hospital and have a transfusion. WTH, I gave blood in October and my hemoglobin was at 12.8. I know this because I have to fight low red blood count, so I always check when I give blood. I take iron and eat spinach or broccoli daily to keep my red count up. So, after talking to the nurse at my insurance company (5.7 why aren’t you already passed out), and being told no I can’t just take some more iron and have a large spinach salad, I go to the emergency room, where I proceed to disobey my doctor’s office and breath on lots of people.

I must say that the emergency room is not a fun place to hang out. There are inane TV shows on in each part of the waiting rooms, that I could not either turn off (what is wrong with one room with quiet) or change channels (yes I tried both); no one is happy to be there; everyone is impatient; small children scream and not so small adults groan, swear, mumble and argue; figuring out where you are in the triage queue is next to impossible because the ambulances keep bringing new people that you can’t see to tell if they will be taken before you. However, I and several hundred other people could not find anything more pressing to do then spend most of Thursday there.

I got there at 10, now it is 6:30, I have given blood to have my hemoglobin check (5.5 now), had two very undignified internal exams, been asked if I was a user due to the scar tissue near my vein (no I’m a 9 gallon blood donor) been prodded and poked, and I am now sitting in the drafty backless gown without any underwear, because only the staff is allowed to have underwear on in the exam rooms. I am finally talking to a doctor, having gone through 3 medical students, 2 nursing students, 3 real nurses and 5 physicians’ assistants for the various pokings and proddings. None of them have the drafty gown, all of them have underwear, and I have breathed on all of them. The doctor tells me that it is his considered medical opinion that I get a transfusion of two units of whole blood. I say yes, getting a transfusion was why I made the trip to their charming establishment, and the nurse at my insurance company told me over the phone this morning it would probably be two units, so I am to be admitted as soon as they can find me a bed, since it will take about 7 hours to do the transfusion (there is no answer to why we all could not have done this, at say 2:00).

It’s now 7:45 and I have a room, a bed, and though still in the backless drafty gown most important to me, underwear. My bed has a problem, when I put the back up, since lying down means coughing more; there is a sag in the middle. The nurses promise a new bed later, this one without the overhead attachment that normal sick people use to help them turn over or help pull themselves into a sitting position. I, on the other hand, have managed to hit myself in the head with it 3 times.

My roommate is Mrs. Darling, who is there getting something done with her bone marrow and she is very cold all the time, so she has the heat up and 5 blankets on. It is now time for the transfusion and we, 2 nurses and I, check the name and number on my wristband against the numbers on the blood, they don’t match. This is a good thing since the unit of blood said A Positive and I am B Positive. The nurses confer with each other in medicaleze (the numbers don’t match, the names wrong, this is not the right blood) and take the blood away, leaving me to talk to Mrs. Darling who proceeds to tell me about her children and grandchildren, who have all married people Mrs. Darling does not approve of.

Back with new blood, that does match my wristband, we start the transfusion. Mrs. Darling tells me about her middle son’s wife (the whore) and her oldest granddaughter’s husband (the con man) in excruciating detail (which, being hearsay, I will not share). I don’t really need to answer because I am coughing often enough that she knows I am still there. At about 11:00 Mrs. Darling turns on the TV to the food channel and dozes on and off, while complaining of being too cold and asking for more blankest, through holiday fare, cakes, more holiday fare, and lots more holiday fare. The kind nurses have switched my saggy bed for a new one, so I can sit in relative comfort. I finished my first book, started on the second (Patricia Brigg’s Dragon’s Bones and Dragon’s Blood helped me keep what is left of my sanity on this little excursion), got a fan because the room was so hot, and wandered up and down the hallway pushing my blood and IV drip, while trying not to cough on the other 3 people wandering the hallways pushing their IV drips. The four of us agreed that; while each of us might be wonderful people, we never wanted to meet again in a hospital hallway, after 2am, pushing IV drips; none of us can sleep due to the things dripping into our arms; that we all have strange roommates, but the nurses won’t let us switch rooms to confuse these strange people; and that the last USF game was well played (I smiled and coughed).

A little after 4:30 I finish my last unit of blood (which did match my wristband); I’m told I have a slow absorption rate, that’s why it took so long. Sleep is out since I’m told I will be tested for hemoglobin within the next 1 ½ hours. At 5:30 my blood is drawn for hemoglobin testing, and the results are in at 6:20. 8.3 is my new hemoglobin count, well over increase of 2 they wanted to see. I eagerly await the doctor doing his rounds so he can release me. To celebrate I get out of the drafty gown and put on real clothes. I want to be home as early as I can this Friday.

At 8:30 my mom called to see how things were going. I told her the good news about my red blood count being up, and that I expected the doctor to release me between 10:00 – 11:00, which is when the nurses said he normally did his rounds. 11:30, no doctor, Ok I’m disappointed but not despondent that I won’t be home for lunch. I ask the nurse to call the doctor and ask if I can be released. 1:00 and still no doctor, now I’m getting rather PO’ed, I know I am being charged for staying in the room and I really want to go home. My mom has called again and we have vented to each other about the long wait. I start bugging the nurse to call the doctor again and ask if I can go home. 2:45 the nurse comes in the take the assimilation tubes, ahh blood intake thingy out of my arm, the doctor has finally called back (more than 7 hours after the test results were in), to say I can leave. By 4:00 the discharge papers are written and FREEDOM, I go home and feed the cats.

Understatement of the year. That was one of the worst things about my visit to the emergency room earlier this year. It was a Friday night and the ER was packed. Another was the raging incompetence of everyone there except the MDs–for just one example, the doctors took the nurses’ word that I had had blood drawn for testing, and waited for the test results for hours and hours until one nurse thought to actually ask me if I had had blood drawn. The other irritating thing was not being able to piss for a long-ass time–when I finally got attended to, they told me they couldn’t take me to the bathroom, so they gave me a jug to relieve myself in, but every time I was just about to get a flow going, a nurse threw open the curtain and walked in, because walking through my room was the most convenient way to get from one place to the other. I swear every single fucking nurse in the ER threw the curtain open and walked through at least once when I was just about to find my release. I finally just gave up in frustration.

What a story, BTW!

Yowza! What a lousy few days. Here’s hoping you are feeling much better - a purring cat poultice should help.

Meh. That’s warmer than I keep my house much of the winter. No reason why low temperatures should lead to more colds and flu.

Now working at a data center with keyboards that have had other people’s hands all over them would do the trick.

Bummer of an “adventure.” And if you’re in the US, that means no donating blood for a year… That would bum me out, too. I had to wait a year after my surgery to donate, and I didn’t like it.

Very beautifully written; thank you. Hope you recover and feel much better soon.

I can give you a tip on how to get the discharge paperwork done in a flash.


Seriously. Get dressed and leave. My FIL was being discharged from the hospital, and due to a misunderstanding, we thought everything was taken care of, so we got him dressed, out of the room, down the hall, through the elevator, and were loading him into the car when the nurse comes running out.

It turns out the paperwork was not finished, so we had to get him back to the room, where everything was accomplished in about five minutes.

You know, typing in a cold room increases your risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Just thought you’d wanna know.

That’s complete and utter bullshit. You can keep your underwear on under the gown if you really want. If you’re a male then they can just pull your undwear down to perform an “internal exam” then pull it back up when they’re done.