In Sickness and in Health.
I would say that my husband got the short end of the stick on this vow. He was very patient during the childbearing years. During 4 pregnancies I had
morning all-day sickness. I experienced pre-eclampsia with two of them. I was in labor 54 hours with Caitlyn. During my diagnosis of Lupus three years ago, he helped me stay focused on staying healthy and making the best of all situations. As the kids and I transitioned to a Gluten-Free diet, he was a good sport in all of our baking adventures and cooking catastrophes.
So here we are. October 2011. Almost 15 years into marriage and for the FIRST time since I have known him, he was in enough pain to actually go to the Emergency Room. I am serious. Unless something is broken in half or hanging off, it is hard to get him to a Doctor, and that would only be after he tried to remedy the situation himself with Duct Tape. His agreement to go to the hospital had me worried.
Okay. Before I go much further I am going to give a few things away.
I couldn’t possibly write our humorous hospital adventure until I knew that we were safely on the other side of this experience. Since I don’t intend to break too many HIPPA laws, nor will I get into gory medical details, I will sum up the basics: stomach pain / enlarged gallbladder / gall stones / blocked duct / removal of gallbladder.
Thanks to our current locale, we lived through Island Time – the hospital version. A procedure that is outpatient for most, was 5 days for us. And so the story goes:
The Emergency Room was easily the most entertaining stage for me. While I whisked our little kiddies to school, the Med Tech from my husband’s squadron drove him to the ER and acted as his translator and advocate until I could get there. Vitals, blood tests, a sonogram and an exam and the Doctor offered Good News and Bad News. The patient accepted the Bad News first: “Gallstones and you won’t leave the hospital until we take your Gallbladder out.” It turns out, there was no Good News.
I arrive and we wait. Lets be honest, there are long waits in ER’s all over the world. Having to sit around for a few hours is expected. Sitting around for a few days, well, that is another story.
Island Time is the saying for the nonchalant attitude toward schedules, appointments, restaurant service, store hours, etc. It is part of the laid-back attitude of Island living. When lingering over a good meal or taking a siesta on the beach I thoroughly enjoy it. Whilst waiting for an unavoidable surgery to alleviate excruciating pain, it’s not so fun.
Thankfully some good pain medication put the patient in a much more agreeable mood and we took in the scene.
Patient in his agreeable mood
Oh where do I begin? Let me set the scene. In the above photo you can see that the rooms are pretty simple. As in, no equipment. Perhaps I have seen too many television shows like ER or Grey’s Anatomy – but even in every hospital that I have ever really been in, there has been equipment.
Here the IV fluids hang from a hook on the ceiling.
There is a # differentiating each bed. (See #10 in photo.) I would suggest to the ER that the # should somehow correlate to the clipboards of medical information about each patient.” As I was sitting next to bed #10, I was asked to sign off on a procedure for another patient – it’s a good thing that I noticed that Jonathan was not my husband. Who knows what they would have removed from my patient had I not been paying attention?
Anyway, back to the lack of life saving tools. Where were the paddles to bring someone back to life? The EKG Machines? The oxygen? For goodness sakes, show me a stethoscope or a thermometer at least.
And, speaking of lack of stuff. We had some good laughs as everyone we saw appeared to be on their way to a slumber party. Sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, bags of chips, soda, etc. I actually thought the little old lady in the next cot was a homeless woman picked up right off the street with all her belongings. Turns out the joke was on us. The hospital does not provide any supplies. Nothing. My next visit included a bag of towels, a washcloth, soap, pillows, a blanket – who’s going to the sleep-over now?
I can’t describe our ER friends without showing you the lay of the land. So here is a little sketch
As you can see, there are 8 beds, with just a curtain between each set of 4 beds. The beds on either side of the curtains are practically touching. Remember this. It will be important later. Also, I am pretty sure that my sketch makes the space look much more roomy than reality.
All 8 beds were full, each patient with a various number of visitors.
Enter from the hallway.
Bed to the left had a young man (mid 20s) screaming and writhing in pain. His stomach appeared to be inhabited with a small army of aliens. He rolled around and moaned for at least 20 minutes without any one checking in on him. Eight minutes in and I was about ready to plug his symptoms into webmd and treat him myself. With him, was a tiny, very pregnant woman. Perhaps she was in her twenties, but she was the size of an 11-year-old. She appeared to be 13 months pregnant. Every time he groaned she held onto her belly. I was pretty sure that something was going to come screaming out of someone before the night was over.
Bed to the right was the lady that appeared to be homeless. I can’t say that I ever saw more than the top of her head. She was curled up, asleep under a mound of old, worn blankets. She never made a peep. She had three visitors, one of which seemed to have had a head transplant. I know it isn’t possible. He just reminded me of the funny books that little kids have where you can mix and match different heads and bodies. His did NOT match each other.
Next Bed to the Left is our own dear patient.
Next Bed to the Right started out as a quiet woman in her 70s who was wheeled out smiling, replaced by a young woman (maybe 20) who drank a soda, ate a bag of chips and curled up in her sleeping bag and went promptly to sleep. Neither had visitors.
Through the curtain was a mystery. I didn’t get a good look at any of them. The visitors were endless. Every one of them with a bag laden with sleeping paraphernalia, snacks and a cooler of drinks. They laughed. Cracked open a bunch of cans. I was a little jealous that I was invited back.
While I didn’t get a good look at the patients beyond the curtain, my dear husband did. Just beside his bed was a little, old woman. She kept pulling the curtain so that she could see him. He kept pulling it closed. Every now and again she called out for “Pedro.” Her son? Her long passed husband? Her Golden Retriever?
By 10pm it was apparent that the Surgeon was NOT dropping by.
My husband was on the list to be admitted and prepped for surgery the next day. (There were only 10 people ahead of him.)
He was finally allowed to eat. They offered him Jello. He asked if they had any with steak chunks floating in it.
It was time for me to head home to our sleeping children and prepare for school the next day, surgery for the patient and then a post-op homecoming. With a kiss goodbye, I made my way to the Parking Garage.
As mentioned in earlier posts, I don’t love driving in Puerto Rico. Driving at night is worse. All the people your parents warned you about are out. My drive home was more of an obstacle course. I made my way around stray animals roaming for food, ladies of the evening, and street pharmacists selling their wares.
I had a brief conversation with our Heavenly Father. “God, this would NOT be the ideal time for a flat. Amen.”
Just as I pulled into our parking spot, I looked down to see a text from my husband:
“The old lady just reached around the curtain and is rubbing my head.”
I couldn’t have made that up if I tried.
Check back tomorrow for more of Laughter is the Best Medicine.