Thursday, March 08, 2007

SICC -- the case of the bad neighbor

Was it only a week ago yesterday?

I found it amusing that at every step of the pre-surgery process, someone else was asking me to verify my name and address. Now I can understand that we would not want to amputate the left leg when it was the colon scheduled for surgery. And I heard they had 15 operating rooms up and running at my hospital the day of my surgery. So some verification that the person moving to OR4 was the right person for the procedure therein set up was certainly appropriate.

But they asked so many times! Did they think this was the ACT and I had sent someone in my stead to take the surgery for me?

(I don't think that this would work... but if you know differently, even though it's too late for me, please be sure to leave a comment....)

At one point I asked, "Aren't these the kinds of questions you should be asking me when I wake up?"

The surgeon stopped by, the anesthesiologist stopped by, nurses were introduced, a medical student introduced herself -- she'd asked to watch -- and I began to wonder if the room would be big enough to hold us all. And, of course, I got to greet these various well-wishers in a lovely purple paper gown that had openings where warm air hoses could be attached. I didn't notice how warm these made the gown until the air got shut off.

Then Long Suffering Spouse was told where she should go and wait; she could check in my clothes there. It was to be a long wait: We were told to expect a five hour surgery; it was not yet noon.

Maybe it was the comments that some of you left on earlier entries, but as I was wheeled into the OR, the first thing that I noticed were the cameras; something, presumably a recording camera of some sort, was suspended from the ceiling bearing the legend "DVD." So DVD's will be on sale in the lobby after the show, I asked?

Actually the cameras make it possible to tie in surgeons or medical students from around the world for an operation, even to the point of participating: After all, my laproscopic surgery was more "on screen" than down and dirty. But, alas, my colon was not sufficiently interesting to attract the attention of surgeons from around the world. So, in belated response to those who asked: There are no pictures to share.

Thank goodness!

The anesthesiologist said he was going to slip me a "Bahama Mama" before he started the epidural. That sounded interesting, I thought. I asked him to leave the recipe. Or I think I did....

...And I awoke in Recovery. Alone, as far as I could tell. But I could see a clock.

It said 6:35 pm. Roughly seven hours from when I was taken in -- not five.

Feel free to dispute this next part; the kids already have. But, as I recall them, my thoughts at this moment were these, in the following order:
  1. We're late: Long Suffering Spouse must be frantic;
  2. We're late -- something must have gone wrong. I may even have felt for a bag. I wasn't supposed to get a bag. But I may already be embellishing here; these were simple, quick thoughts.
  3. Ouch.

And if I was briefly alone, it was only briefly, because there were soon people commanding me, in no uncertain terms, to stop thrashing about. I wasn't in sharp or stabbing pain, but I was decidedly uncomfortable and I was shifting about for a comfortable position. At least, that's what I thought I was doing. But everything I did unplugged something or twisted something else that was better off plugged and untwisted.


I was eventually wheeled to the Surgical Intensive Care Center -- a 'step down' unit. Various explanations for my stay there were provided, namely, the surgeons were being cautious in my case because of the lengthy surgery or, alternatively, they had no other place to put me at the moment.

I tend to the latter explanation.

On the way to the SICC I heard someone call my name. It was Long Suffering Spouse; she'd been moved to a waiting area nearby in anticipation of my arrival. I made some visible acknowledgement -- I may have tried to lift my head or something futile as this -- so that the person pushing me asked, "Is that your wife?" Yeah, I said.

The SICC consisted of approximately six curtained off areas facing a nursing station. There was room, in my little cubicle, for a bed and a chair on either side, one being where Long Suffering Spouse set up camp and the other a recliner where I was supposed to transfer my flag just as soon as my strength permitted. There was a small TV that could be swung down in front of the bed so I could watch it.

I spent one night and nearly all the next day in that little area before a room was located. I did not have occasion to socialize with my neighbors.

I would not have wanted to socialize with the guy in the next cubicle in any event.

He spent a great deal of time issuing demands -- he wanted the name of the hospital president at one point. At other times he asked for his medications -- not those prescribed for him at the hospital but those which he'd left behind at home.

And another gentleman on the unit apparently passed away in the night -- just a couple of curtained cubicles over. I can appreciate that the hospital may not have been interested in disclosing to those of us in the vicinity that someone arguably similarly situated had embarked on a journey to the next dimension -- but I heard him termed "Code Blue" and even if I didn't have some sense of what that meant, I would have figured it out from the tones used by persons using the phones at the nursing station.

But back to my neighbor: Early in this crisis, as the group is laboring to pull someone from the edge of the precipice, men and women were calling out the dying man's name. Over and over. Trying to call him back. My neighbor was mocking them. "He's gone already. He's not here. Why don't you let the rest of us sleep?"

I cringed. Well, I was already cringing. I cringed more.

There's only one bit of good news about this guy, and I found it out from my wife this morning. It seems that, one time while I was asleep, my neighbor went on a rant about needing his cell phone. Cell phones weren't allowed because of the heart equipment on the unit; the proximity of each of us to each other wouldn't have recommended the usage of cell phones in any event. Undeterred at being told he couldn't get that, he wanted the phone number of the unit. He had big deals waiting for him. He had to check his accounts.

It seems he was a stockbroker.

No, that was the good news. I was so afraid he'd turn out to be another lawyer....


Heather said...

You're so funny, curmudgeon. I am glad you are back and better than ever. :-)

Linda said...

I am so glad that they left your sense of humor intact! Too bad there are no pictures, though, I bet you could have posted a video montage of them on YouTube!

cmhl said...

ohhhh, I was hoping you might have a nice shot for your next christmas card photo!

I think you need to coerce LSS into doing a guest post for you--- I'm thinking she might have amusing stories about everyone's favorite curmudgeon...

SQT said...

Dare I disclose that my LSS works for Merrill Lynch?

Seriously, I know that guy in the next bed, I'm sure of it.

sari said...

There's always a jackatron in the crowd, isn't there?

At least it wasn't you.

Mother Jones RN said...

Your bad neighbor is every nurse's worst nightmare. At least on my unit I can drug people into civility.


Amazing Gracie said...

What a horrible person! Regardless of his position in life. You sound just like your pre-surgery self! And, to quote Martha Stewart, "That's a good thing."

Anonymous said...

hospitals are not heavenly. especially for patients. you will get better faster at home...and i am praying you will soon be back to your usual routine, like nothing happened so to speak:)


Anonymous said...

They obviously wanted to take extra special care with you because of your legal background. I remember having a Bahama Mama once, maybe ours was different though.

landgirl said...

Dear Cur, I have been watching old ER episodes, and, my friend, it sounds as if you were in one!

Anonymous said...

I'd have been tempted to ask the Doctor " Now that you've removed my colon, can you finish the job and amputate that asshole from next to me?"

Why do people who think they're important in their office, also think they're important out in the real world as well? I would never be rude to people with the tools and the will to be able to rummage around inside of me...

On the plus side, it was an incentive for you to get out of there even quicker....

Shelby said...

wow - lotsa drama and humor! keep the stories coming, they're great!

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

selfish aren't we curmy? more funny stories! ha ha.... feel better my friend.

smiles, bee

Claire said...

I agree with E'bee, its selfish but you manage to put such a good spin on whats meant to be awful.
I really laughed at the 'felt for the bag' moment. Your have my great admiration for how you are dealing with this.

katherine. said...

cmhl has a good idea about LSS doing a guest post.

When Cam was in pediatric icu someone went "code blue" it was not fun. The nurses station was literally at the foot of his bed so we heard all the details.

Glad to hear you are doing well...and good to read you again.