|A good ride spoiled -- November 25, 2010|
Some of you already know that I spent Thanksgiving in the hospital.
It was a fluke, a frightening moment that turned into a 24-hour - oops - make that a 23-hour stay. It was the first (and last) time I've ever been wheeled into an emergency room feet up, head down.
This was also the first time I've been an empowered patient in the age of social media.
What a difference technology makes. Instant access to my Twitter feed, #HCSM and #Livestrong friends added an entirely new spin to the displacement of being well one minute and riding in an ambulance in the next. Within moments of tweeting that "something weird happened," my inbox filled with virtual hugs and messages of concern from. People truly do care.
Here's what happened.
As it was getting light that morning I cycled to town for the annual "Run Through the Woods" event. For years we've volunteered with the Woodlands Cycling Club to escort the runners, from pro-ams to families out on a healthy-holiday jog. We have a great time supporting them, then cycle another 20 - 30 miles so we can enjoy our Thanksgiving with (some) caloric impunity. On our way over to the starting point my tire slipped into an expansion joint and I toppled straight over and landed right on my knee cap.
In typical fashion I hopped back on my bike and started pedaling. This is what you do when you fall down in front of a crowd of people who are now staring at you as though you've sprouted another arm. You pop up like a jack-in the-box. And smile. Your biggest, most charming, No, I’m not really the idiot I appear to be smile.
But by the time I reached our group and stopped I went from feeling stupid, to feeling unwell, to feeling lousy, to losing it, all in less than five seconds. It was like an underground sprinkler system broke. Water started dripping from me. Nausea came on like a freight train. The next thing I knew I was sitting on the curb near the stoplight, a medic on each side. They seem to have beamed down for the occasion. One was taking my blood pressure and watching me with the intense, odd concentration of someone who can’t hear anything going on in your veins.
What trilled across my mind was an appointment two days earlier with my internist. Right before I was left she came back with my EKG reading. She said something about a "poor r-wave progression" and ordered a nuclear stress test. That was a “what?” moment. While I know now this phrase doesn't mean much if you're heart is healthy, I did not know this Thanksgiving day. So when the medics were adamant about doing an EKG I agreed. It wasn't long before I was on my way to the hospital. Until the ambulance left I didn’t even know that the competitive run had been delayed until we cleared the intersection.
You see how all the pieces came together now, don't you? What an awful day.
Having my Blackberry was almost as good as having my own pillow. I became my own paparazzi. Taking horrible photos from my phone somehow helped the worry. Click. Look, there’s a photo of my helmet! Wow! Click. Look, there’s a great picture of Steve’s bike! Click. Click. Click. My Blackberry became another way of telling the story. Still, as cool as smart phones, social media and online communites are there are some things about being in a hospital that haven’t changed:
1) Any pain you're experiencing will inevitably be worse lying in a hospital bed;
2) Not knowing a test result or the cause of symptoms you’re experiencing will bring into play up all the bad things that COULD be wrong despite the fact you were healthy until this happened;
3) Social media and chatting with Twitter pals does not change the fact that the longer you stare at the IV needle in the crook of your arm the more that sucker is bound to hurt;
4) Experienced nurses are much more forthcoming and fun to be around than a freshly minted one who may view you as a potential rehabilitation project. The older nurse brought in a portable computer, had a super laugh, and read all the test results to us as they arrived. We talked about her ex-husband (who we agreed, did not deserve this awesome woman), cancer, stress, sudden death and holidays. The new graduate, on the other hand, started citing studies on red yeast rice instead of telling me my cholesterol readings. Party pooper.
5) Survivors missing lymph nodes are given bright pink bracelets lovingly titled "AFFECTED LIMB. NO PUNCTURES." You can still expect at least one tech to start to take blood pressure from the arm regardless. Slap them. They won’t know the difference.
6) Meals will still provide you and your loving family member (LFM) with a five-minute laugh break. Start a 'name the entree'' contest. The one who dares to take the first bite gets dibs on #7.
|Fried foot? Oh, it's fish. Who knew?|
7) As a seasoned survivor you already know how to take care of yourself. The good food is always in a small room off the nurses’ station. That’s where they hide the Diet Dr. Pepper and Blue Bell ice cream. Send your LFM on a raid.
8) If you are admitted through the emergency room for 23-hour observation, an on-site physician called a "hospitalist" will be your new best friend. This is probably outstanding if you can understand them. Two different physicians visited. I tried dear readers, yes I did. Go back to awesome #4 nurse. She will explain what’s going on, and why. Besides, you already know what’s going on, don’t you? I did.
9) There’s still no easy way to manage IV’s, wounds and a bath from the sink. Still, after all these years.
10) Something surprising will happen. After talking through everything with me the next morning the consulting cardiologist says suddenly, “oh, you had a vasovagal response to falling.”
Cool. Leave it to me.
Even though I scrubbed our Thanksgiving this year, the next time I fall? I’m grabbing the smelling salts on the way down.
Note: I actually did learn a lot from this experience. Surviving cancer doesn’t leave us immune to other problems associated with the A-word (aging). Heart disease is still the number one killer of women in the United States. My thanks to journalist Mary Knudson, author of Living Well with Heart Failure, for her friendship, input, and advocacy on behalf of women with coronary illnesses. Mary blogs at http://heartsenseblog.com/