Thursday, May 11, 2006


In Which We All Have Our Hospital Stories...

A short while back, I mentioned that my Dad tore the hell out of his rotator cuff and was scheduled to undergo surgery for it around the middle of this month.

Well, one morning last week Dad got a call from the office of the Harvard surgical god who would be doing the reconstruction of the old man's shoulder. There was a cancellation and therefore an unexpected opening in the surgeon's schedule. Could Dad stop eating right now and prepare himself to be in Boston the next day for a 4 PM operation?

Within the hour, my folks were on the road.

The good news is, the surgery was a textbook success, even though the surgeon said it took twice as long as usual to perform the operation, the damage was that extensive. But it has been repaired and as I write this, Dad's at home in the recliner, alternating between snoozing and watching the Weather Channel or John Wayne movies.

The bad news was, during his hospital stay the general anesthetic left him pretty screwed up and his post-op pain was just awful. And for someone like Dad--who has driven huge splinters into his hand and ruptured himself holding 800 pounds of pipe without uttering so much as an "Ouch!" it had to be pretty bad. In the end, he finally consented to a morphine pump after a long talk with the doctor and his old AA sponsor, who both felt that this was a medical necessity--when the body overloads on pain signals it actually impedes the healing process--and that it would not in any way compromise his 20 years of sobriety ("Still," he told me later. "It felt like being drunk again and that scared the living shit out of me.").

And, of course, there was The Incident.

The men in my family have the oddest experiences if we're luckless enough to end up in the hospital. Some time back, I told you what happened to my Uncle David the first time he died from a heart attack (he's died one or two other times since, but he's always made it back). His first death happened at a hospital, in the middle of a stress test. And though he was only dead for a few minutes, his resurrection left him confused enough that he punched out a male nurse who he thought was manhandling his wife.

When my Big Brother was hospitalized after shooting himself in the foot (no, really!) he started out being a very lucky guy, insofar as the surgeon on call for our little town's ER that night just happened to have served in a MASH unit in Vietnam and knew all about handling gunshot wounds.

But then his luck began to follow in the family tradition. First, he ended up sharing a room with an aging diabetic who also had a lower-leg-and-foot injury and who sat around all day and night moaning and bitching about it. Then the morphine pump they hooked BB up to was leaking, or at least not delivering morphine to him. When they did fix the pump, BB finally started getting some decent sleep. Almost too much sleep.

Because one morning, he stirred from his drug-induced stupor just long enough to realize he was in an ambulance on the way to Concord. He overheard one of the EMTs say, "I thought it was his left leg that's going to be amputated, but it's his right that's all bandaged."

That woke my brother right up. See, it was his hospital roommate who was supposed to be getting the leg removed--that was what he'd been crying and moaning about all the time. The hospital had the wrong guy. When BB conveyed this in no uncertain terms to the ambulance staff, they called back to the hospital, confirmed the mistake, and made a quick U-turn. But the whole way back they grumbled to each other and completely ignored my brother, like it was his fault they were within an hour of cutting a leg off the wrong guy.

And of course, there's me, although I must admit that my weird experience in the hospital was pretty sedate by comparison. I mean, all I did was hallucinate that my dead grandfather was visiting me.

My Dad didn't hallucinate, but his first night in the hospital, with plenty of general anesthesia still coursing through his body, he wasn't having the best of evenings. He couldn't get comfortable. He could barely sleep. When he did close his eyes, he experienced bed spins, which gave him unfortunate flashbacks to his drinking days.

On top of this, it's probably worth mentioning that my Dad does not have the best hearing in the world. Years of working around loud, heavy construction equipment without the benefit of earplugs has a way of doing that to you. My mom says it's a selective condition, and where she's involved, that may be true.

At any rate, all of these factors came to an odd confluence in the middle of the night when one of the nurse's aides on shift came in to check my Dad's IV lines. This happened when I was in the hospital too, and I found that the aides usually introduced themselves, even if it meant waking you up.

So into my dad's room came the nice young man. He saw my dad thrashing around in some discomfort and assumed he was awake.

"Hi," the young man said softly. "Sorry to bother you. Just going to check your IV."

My dad stirred more fully awake at this. "Huh? Who're you? Where's the nurse?" he asked groggily.

The man smiled. He said: "You've got a new aide. I'm Jim. I'm here to check your IV."

But what my Dad heard was: "I've got AIDS. I'm Jim. I'm here to give you H.I.V."

And as he reached for the tubes, my Dad sat bolt upright, shouting as much from pain as in rage as he reached across the bed and grabbed the man's arm in his vise-like right hand. "Sonofabtich!" he cried. "Don't you goddamn touch those tubes!!"

Well, it caused quite the ruckus as you can guess, and eventually it took four nurses and the aide to calm him down. By morning, when my mom came in to see him, everyone at the nurse's desk was laughing about the incident, especially over the fact that my dad had no recollection of the event whatsoever.

Mom simply said, "Now imagine having to live with that for 40 years."

So...anyone else got a weird hospital story they want to share?

From Somewhere on the Masthead

Wow. I'm glad to hear the surgery went well and they got him in a bit sooner for it. I know he's been coping with the injury a long time now. Send him my best for a speedy recovery.

I haven't ever had to stay over in a hospital, and I don't know of any weird stories from the fam, but I'll start thinking about writing up my ER trips.
Ha. I just had outpatient surgery Friday, and I am thrilled to say I have no freaky stories, thanks. I will say though, that I hated the morphine too. Good luck to your dad!
Weird stuff - got a couple hospital and surgery stories. Not me, but one with my dad, and a few with my husband.
Weird thing happened in high school went dad was admitted to hospital for chest pains. I was at a road game for basketball. My friend's parents took me to the hospital to see him when our bus returned us to the school. I had showered and put my Swatch watch on only to notice it stopped around 6:20 p.m. - the time my dad was admitted.
My husband's stories aren't so much weird as they are funny.
While I have hospital stories I could share, they pale in comparison to "I have AIDS and I'm here to give you HIV." How I would've loved to have been a fly on the wall for that one. ;-)
Many years ago I had surgery to repair a badly broken arm. I was 9 years old. Apparently during recovery, I cursed and swore like a drunken sailor. The good Catholic nursing staff were, for the most part, horrified, although the Doctors were mainly amused.

My father and uncles got a stern talking to by my mother and aunts about proper language in front of the children.

Not that it did any good. ;)
Woa! Big Brother had an experience that couldn't have been scarier. Almost out of Brazil.
My story isn't really that weird...but it did wake me right up after my last (and only) surgery.

I had only arranged for a friend to drive me home post-operation, but not to stay with me overnight. Evidently my anaesthesiologist disagreed with my surgeon over whether I could spend the night alone or not, and told me that I'd have to spend the night in the hospital. So, I called and cancelled my ride before I went under the knife (or laser, in my case.)

When I woke up afterwards, the post-op nurse told me I'd be going home that night according to my surgeon and that I wasn't going to be allowed to stay in the hospital this point the person who was originally going to drive me home was already at THEIR home, which was over 20 miles away.

This news pissed me off so much I sat up right away and started calling my doctor's office to complain up a storm. I was initially going to switch doctors permanently, but after arguing for a while with the office staff at my doctor's practice, the hospital agreed that I could in fact spend the night (which I later found was included in the cost of my surgery. I think someone at the hospital was trying to save money) and it all worked out in the end. But there's nothing like feeling screwed over to cause the anaesthesia groggery to go away.
When I was doing my OB rotation in nursing school, my first night my preceptor and I went into our assigned room and spent the first couple of seconds trying to figure out who our patient was. There were two women in the room, could have been identical twins, both very pregnant (duh!) but only one was in a hospital gown.

Turns out they were sisters (but not twins) -- the younger there to deliver, the older due in just over a month. Our patient had a difficult labor, and by the monitor it looked like the baby was having a difficult time as well. After some pallor-inducing decelerations in the baby's heart rate, we rushed her to the OR for a stat C-section. They couldn't get enough anesthetic coverage on her already placed epidural to do surgery with, so she wound up under general anesthesia (more dangerous for mom and baby both, and usually leaves you feeling sick as a dog when you come out of it).

Turns out the baby was in a face presentation -- instead of having it's head nicely tucked to come out top-of-the-head first, she was apparently trying to see where she was going -- thus heading face-first down the birth canal. Unfortunately, if you try to go that way you don't fit.

All came out healthy and well, and apart from some pain management issues for mom (who's epidural didn't give her any post-op relief either) both were none the worse for wear.

My last night in that rotation, there was another stat section from the same room -- It was our patient's sister. Her baby had presented face as well. And she had problems with her epidural and needed general anesthesia. Both mom and baby came out of that section all right as well, and her younger sister was there waiting for her in the recovery room.
I'll tell mine on my blog.

AKA, this is my shameless attempt to get you to read my blog.

That's the ticket.
I was so banged up from my car accident, with my pelvis broken in two places and my left humerus (upper arm bone) broken in half, that when I told them that every time I moved my foot back and forth something went kerplunk, kerplunk, they actually brought in a portable x-ray machine rather than move me. They then realized that the (tibia?) smaller bone behind my left shin bone was also broken. So my third day there, an orderly comes in and tells me I have to get off the bed so she can change the sheets. I said, "You must be insane, I can't get off the bed." We argued back and forth and finally I yelled something like, "I don't change my sheeets at home every three days and I"M NOT GETTING OUT OF THIS BED!" She finally caught on to the fact that the sheets were not being changed that day. She actually came back the next day and we went at it again. Same results and I don't think I ever saw her again although I was there for two weeks. If she had really wanted to be helpful she could have helped with picking glass out of my scalp.
i got circumcised at the ripe age of 23.
it was as fun as it sounds.

yay me.
The Daily Planet: The Story of Summer '04
sorry for shamelessly plugging my blog.
oh.. and sorry for the TMI.

23?!? Oooog. Of course, I'm still pissed off they did me when I was a few days old.

Here's a hospital story:

(You might have to type out the address; don't know how it will come out here.)
I'm glad to hear your dad is doing well and that he has a good doc- It makes all the difference in the world.

After the birth (C-sec) of my daughter, I caught the bed on fire from moving the bed up and down so my stomach muscles would not get tight and I could go walk/go home. I kept smelling something burning and it turns out it was the motor... They put me in a room by myself after that.

Another- I had a tubal and was in a room recovering. I woke up and got up out of bed to throw-up. This aid said she had to go in the bathroom w/me. I told her no, she told me yes. (I like to throw up in private you see) I said a few ugly things to her, put on my clothes and walked out the door. Last words... I will just go home to throw-up then, and I did.

I dont think red-headed Irish woman make very good patients.
My Worst Accident

Glad your dad's gotten his surgery and that he's on the road to recovery!
I've had Arthritis for 28 years (diagnosed at age 6) and when I was 16 I had to have my first of many surgeries. It was to clean up some joint damage in my wrist.

For some reason I had it in my head that I was going to die on the operating table. I stayed up all night, writing letters to loved ones and lists of what belongings should go to whom.

I went into the surgery equally convinced I wouldn't wake up, and even said my goodbyes to my mother and sister.

When they put me under I remember I wanted so badly to have a good sense of humour about it and so when they said, "You're going to taste garlic" (from the anaesthetic) I groggily said, "It's okay, I'm Ukrainian...." and then I trailed off.

If you have any experience with being knocked out, it's like you close your eyes and a second later you open them, and in the time between, you've had a surgery but lost all the hours.

When I woke up I was in such pain but was so relieved, I couldn't stop crying (morphine makes some people cry too). The recovery room nurse came and bent over me, saying, "Oh, we're a little weepy, aren't we?"

An oddly deep devil voice came out of me and before I could even think about what I was going to say, I yelled, "FUUUUUUCK YOOOOUUUUU!"

She sucked in a surprised gasp and said, "I'll get you some more painkillers."

Darn tootin.
When I was about 17, I slipped and fell into a creek. Okay, I'd had a little too much to drink; but I never told my folks that.

Anyway, I had hair long enough to tie into a ponytail back then; and the doc refused to prescribe any narcotics to relieve the pain. His prescription was aspirin and an ace wrap for a deep bruise on my foot.

So there I was hobbling around on one foot trying to keep up with my friends for the rest of the summer. I still haven't forgiven that doc to this day.
Oh, in the spirit of shameless blog plugging, I thought I'd add a link to my Hospital Chronicles, which I recently indexed. LOTS of hospital tales there from car crashes, ski wipeouts, and assault by horse and golf club.
Well, one bad week back in June of 86, my father died, my sister's father-in-law died, and my mom had cancer surgery in the same small town hospital. When they wheeled my mom out of post-op to put her in a room, I recall my sister saying, "Can we put my mother in another room? That's the room where my father and father-in-law just died." Oy.

Same sister is a nurse. Her claim to fame: being the last woman with her hands on Cary Grant's chest before he expired after a massive coronary (Davenport, Iowa - they called the hospital "Grant's Tomb" for ages after that.)
hey ... everybody is linking to their blog ... :P

nah ... you just made mt day. Had a good laugh about the amputation story again ... :) ... BB is really one of my all time fav characters.

Am happy that your dad is getting better. nothing makes me feel better than seeing an old dog limp themselves back to health again. Gives me hope to face the days ahead.
after my first c-section, the hospital had me on some morphine, or some such meds that killed pain and made me loopy. Well Hubby is in the Navy, and so, as tradition, whenever a wife has a baby, the Captain of the boat will come to the hospital and visit the newest "crew member". I should also add that this captain was HATED by the crew and families for most of the enlisted crew...

I was in bed, chatting to my friend when the door opened and he walked in. I was so surprised, and started laughing. Then I said in most serious tone "Hello Sir. I have to warn you, they got me on some Goooood Drugs, so I can't be responsible for what comes out of my mouth. Thought you out to know."

My friend said I babbled on and on about stupid topics, and it freaked him out. I recall talking to him as politely as I could manage. I specifically recall trying to excercise as much decorum as possible....I do rememeber the embroidered blanket he gave me for the baby....

Needless to say, he didn't stay too long after that....hehe...
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