Last month I got another new belly button. I was in the hospital. For 17 consecutive days, I was tortured, strangled, bled, beaten, starved, hobbled, weighed like cattle, sleep deprived, and connected to more machinery than the Large Hadron Collider. My bowels were monitored like the CIA monitors Putin. Yes, and I was given yet another new belly-button. I don't know why.
What the heck? Although the exact date of my injury is not certain, officially, I suffered from a hernia and bowel obstruction. So how on earth did this happen? I don't know. I am blaming a gardening accident. Why not? I was gardening in the world's tiniest garden.
Here's what I remember. At the beginning of June I'm not feeling well and I (a) call my daughter, and (b go to the hospital and I say "I have horrible heartburn symptoms similar to a heart attack I once had," and the hospital says, "take some antacids and pay this bill for $3,545 and go pay your primary physician another $350. " Okay. I take the antacids, and that doesn't work, so I (a) call my daughter, and (b go back to the hospital and say "I think I'm having a heart attack." And the hospital says, "doesn't look like it, but pay this bill for $7,322, and go pay your cardiologist some more money." And then the third time I (a) call my daughter, and (b I go to the hospital and I say "I think I have a hernia?" and they say "Well you DO have a hernia and we are performing EMERGENCY SURGERY TONIGHT and then we will keep you in the hospital for a month in the cardiac unit and the bill will be about as much as the national debt." Ready, set, go.
Dear Santas. I can tell by reading your blogs and entries on Facebook that an awful lot of you have health problems - - a lot of them major. Of course, many of you suffer from diabetes, obesity, heart problems, and other day to day ailments of the aging populace who may not be taking as good of care of themselves as possible.
Personally, I've had breast cancer (twice) mastectomies, reconstruction surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, bone disease, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and just general after effects of being a human medical test subject, or as we like to say in super med-code, participating in free "clinical trials." Don't you want to try the latest drug unapproved by anyone? Don't you want to help humanity? Uhm, no.
I tell you my friends, beware of sepia toned illustrative booklets called "Reconstruction and your Femininity" or "This is your Heart." Please run if your surgeon pulls out a black Sharpie and starts drawing on your skin! Your belly button is in danger.
Going to the hospital is not for pansies. Common sense goes out the window at the hospital parking lot. The things we know absolutely without argument that are good for us - - a good night's sleep (or other rest), fresh air (the windows are sealed), good food (Oh, let me go on!), a warm shower, privacy in the bathroom . . . these are things that will be denied to you the entire time you are in residence at the hospital. Even standard nursing care is not what it once was. My nurses spent so much time trying to keep my major i.v. pole ( which I named T-Rex because of it's large and unruly size) from making loud alarm noises and trying to unwrap medication while wearing plastic gloves, they didn't have time to give me enough cord to get out of my chair to pee.
I'm worried what the bill will be - - because the price of wrapping a Pepcid A-C in 17 layers of plastic wrap is expensive - - and then there's the labeling, tracking, scanning, unwrapping, and serving it in an individual paper/plastic mini cup …
Yes, there is one good thing - - I have a morphine pump. When it runs out, (and after a loud alarm sounds for fifteen minutes) it takes three RNs and a special key to change it out to make sure that no nurse has access to any of it. It even has a "suck proof" plastic tube that runs the entire 19" from the machine to my arm. Apparently, tube-sucking hospital workers are a giant threat in the medical world.
I also have a heart monitor with a plastic thingy that goes on my finger. There are certain things I cannot do with a plastic thingy on my finger, and so I occasionally take it off. This causes the heart monitor commandos to storm my room and demand that I reattach the plastic finger thingy immediately. I cannot lock them out of the bathroom because the door doesn't close. I can still hit, though.
The hospital has provided me with an adjustable bed, and an adjustable chair. After a couple of days of being forced into a fetal position in the middle of the jack-knifed bed, I move to the semi comfortable adjustable chair. If I pile the pillows in a certain way, I can make a sort of nest/pallet on which to try to doze from time to time in between being tortured. This is usually between 2-4 in the afternoon when the floor lights are dimmed and everyone watches General Hospital on T.V. It is much more interesting than the real hospital.
If I complain loudly enough, I am allowed to get halfway into the shower while holding T-Rex outside the stall. Do not allow the CNA to "come back in a few minutes" to do this. They will never come back. It is like them saying "manana." For those of you who do not speak Spanish, manana does not mean "tomorrow" - - it means "not today." My shower requires several layers of saran wrap and water proof tape. Make sure to put a sign on the door, or the cleaning staff will think it is a superb time to disinfect the clock on your wall. (They will not empty the bucket of bile by your bed, because they do not have the right color uniform.) If you insist, someone may bring you "towels" - - a 4x4 loofa cloth to dab yourself dry.
On day 15 I was allowed to eat broth. Nurses say: If you want to EAT anything, we will give you another shot after you eat, so be sure to buzz us if you see any FOOD so we can do this HURT shot some more, okay?"
If you stay in the hospital day after day and night after sleepless night, you begin to learn certain things. The food people are not allowed to remove your food tray from your teeny-tiny room. The food people can only BRING you the tray. You should know that, you idiot.
The CNAs are allowed to take out the food trays IF they have time (this could be manana). They wear a different colored uniform from the RNs. Be sure to find out what the different colored uniforms mean, they are: White lab coat with optional stethoscope - probable doctor; dark blue - Registered Nurse; burgundy - Certified Nurse Assistant; Black pants and vest - food bringer; white uniform - visiting nurse (unable to help); khaki pants and white shirt - cleaning staff; Cleric's collar - holy person. You do not, generally, want to see the holy person - - it could mean "the end is near." Also, while colors may vary from hospital to hospital, the cleric collar is pretty standard.
I begged the nurses to dispose of the dialog they wished to accompany each and every shot that was administered day or night, whether or not I was awake or asleep "WAKE UP! Now, I'm going to be giving you a very stingy SHOT in your STOMACH (because there is not enough room in the 25 I.V.s you have running in both your arms). This will only HURT a little, and I am going to rub your stomach with alcohol and squeeze and bruise it so it doesn't HURT so much, and let me know - - where do you want me to give you this HURTY stingy shot?"
Silently, the nurse will muse "I will be sure to unwrap and display this shot right in front of your eyes, even if you do not want me to tell you about it. Look at the drippy medicine coming off the sharp needle. It HURTS."
I am a lady. I do not like to talk about poop. Not how it comes about. Not how we dispose of it. Not what it looks like, or smells like, or it's color, texture or size and shape. When I have to examine another's poop I gag. Whether the poop belongs to a small person in a diaper or a large dog, I gag. This is the only reason I do not own a dog. I love dogs. Dog Poop makes me gag - wretch - vomit. Also, my mom did a really good job. I can't poop unless it is in a safe, secure bathroom. Preferably, my own. Preferably with aroma therapy candles. The door must be locked and the acoustics silent to the outside. I do not camp, because I cannot poop in the woods. Therefore, after three days at a scenic lake side, I am uncomfortable, irritable, and likely to harm you with camping equipment. Does a Nana Bear poop in the woods? No.
Unfortunately, the entire dependence of my GOING HOME from the hospital, became linked to my poop. If I did not poop a certain amount, during a certain time period, under certain specifications, I would not be allowed to go home, and the torturing would continue. This was difficult for me to do, as stated above.
Finally, day 17 - - I poop. A bat signal goes out to the universe. Heraldry announces: The Queen has Pooped - - Long Live the Queen! Staples and i.v.s are removed. Bluebirds alight on my shoulders.
The emergency surgeon had promised me a tiny 1" incision on my abdomen. It turned into a 4" incision and a new belly button. That's okay. My old belly button (post 2nd mastectomy) was about two inches beneath my previous left breast. Now, it's lower and to the right. I still have no idea why anyone thinks I need one. I have never been consulted on this. This could make for a good sepia-toned illustration - - or perhaps a graphic novel. Travels of the Mystic Belly Button
I am not going to post a picture of my new belly button. I was tempted to post a picture of my stapled scar, and the tubes running in and out of me, and the giant equipment pole I called "T-Rex" - - but I have stopped myself. It is a rule I have about posting pictures from the hospital - - although I did finally break down on day 11 and announce on Facebook I was in the hospital. I needed sympathy and support.
Thanks to all that gave it! That's the other thing everyone needs to recover. Sympathy and support. Oh, and sushi - - but that's another story.
Be good, for goodness sake!