Monthly Archives: June 2011

Hospitals — a world of stories

Writing is a solitary endeavor.  Even when spending vast amounts of time with people comes easily, the actual writing is done one on one, writer with paper or screen.  And so many writers are solitary people by  nature, spending much of their lives in worlds of their own creation.

Hospitals are filled with people.  All kinds of people.  Sick people, well people, strange people and hard working people.  People with hard jobs and great responsibilities, people bearing burdens they’re not quite ready to share.  Mix writers with hospitals, and you have an overload of ideas and characters waiting to be woven into a story.  There might not be enough energy to spend more than a few minutes at one time in front of the computer, but the stories take root and grow behind the scenes.

Sleep deprivation is a classic form of torture, often experienced by patients in ICU.  The nurses have a name for it: ICU Delusions.  Blinking lights and the constant noise of machines keeps patients from deep sleep, and they can fall into a fantasy world of their own creation but beyond their control.  In this world the people in the hallways are enemies, ready to sneak up and attack.  Patient’s thoughts turn to defense and escape, and they might call their family demanding protection and immediate removal from the hospital, or at least that particular ward.  Fortunately once they have been moved to a quieter, darker area they have little memory of their demands.

And there are the nurses.  Nurses can be very good,not so good, or any level in between.  The very good ones are phenomenal, the not so good ones are still pretty darned amazing.  Chocolate chip cookies are a great bribe, and all of them appreciate a thank you from time to time.  They work under great pressure, faced with intense emotions and demands.  It’s not a job I could do.

After more than a month watching people in the hospital while visiting with my husband and talking to doctors, it looks like the story gathering days will soon be over.  Having beaten the odds on the Whipple procedure, then overcoming pneumonia when he aspirated bile, it looks like my husband will be leaving ICU for the second time and, we hope, moving from the hospital to a rehab facility where he will relearn how to stand up and walk around.   I don’t know that I would ever write a story about hospitals, but I can write about hope, and about the power of thinking only positive thoughts.

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It’s a Long Long Road

I’ve been wrapped up in life and haven’t shared for more than a week.  In that time, my husband’s blockage was identified as a tumor, and we were given options, none of which sounded pleasant.  The days of doctors patting your hand and not explaining what’s really going on are long past.  Our options were do nothing, with an obvious negative outcome, use chemo, with the same outcome but painful, or take a chance on what’s called a Whipple procedure, where the tumor is removed along with a portion of the pancreas and intestines, then everything is reconnected.  We were given statistics of survival, and potential reasons for failure.  As I pointed out to the surgeon, there wasn’t one person in the hospital who wouldn’t die at some point, and if the options were failure or limited success, we couldn’t see much of a choice.  My husband decided in the beginning to fight, and as long as he felt that way, we’d do whatever it took.

My husband reconnected with his brother, who flew in to help the day we called him, and was there on surgery day.  With three of us there in pre-op, it was a tag team comedy act right up until they wheeled him away, and the waiting started.  Seven hours later the surgeon came out to tell us he felt good about the surgery, and reminded us about the potential road blocks to recovery.  The anesthesiologist reminded us that road to recovery was going to be long and difficult.

In the past several days we’ve learned about the complexities of modern medicine, and the value of a great nursing staff.  We can’t say enough good things about this hospital and about his two nurses, both very experienced in this procedure, and both generous with their time and knowledge.  We’ve learned about ICU delusions, which seem so very real to the patient trying to reconnect with his world and establish some kind of control over his life.  Most of all, we’ve learned the value of friendships shared without strings.

Yes, it’s a long, long road but that’s far better than a road block

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