Sunday, April 24, 2011

The 2nd One -- Part III -- I'm Angry

I've been working on a chronological series of posts about Marty's two strokes.  These are links to previous posts on the 2nd stroke.  Thanks to all for reading and following.

The 2nd One -- Part I --
The 2nd One -- Part II -- Pneumonia

When they came and got her it was a surprise, we weren’t expecting the move. They came after visiting hours and it was dumb luck that I was there at the time. They moved her from ICU to a surgical recovery area which was really no more than a hallway because there was no room in the inn and they desperately needed the room in the ICU. Apparently the hospital is a very popular place at the first of the year.

Marty had been in the ICU for about ten days. We were just a few days removed from pneumonia, an allergic reaction to antibiotics and precipitously low blood pressure. She had started to recover as much as one can from the assault of a stroke and it was time to move to a regular room.

Instead, they moved Marty and her hospital bed to the corner of a little alcove in the recovery area just outside of the operating rooms in front of a nurse’s station; it was like she was in a darkened hall. She had two companion patients, two sleeping men right beside her with just barely enough room to pass between the beds. . The nurse saw he pissy side of Marty’s husband. It wasn’t her fault, she clearly drew the short straw and was charged with caring for these three displaced patients, but I needed an outlet for all of the angst, anger and emotional trauma of the last two weeks and I had found it, Providence Hospital.

Marty, even in her drug and stroke haze, could see me seething. She mouthed and whispered the words, “It’s okay, I’m okay here,” as she tried to assuage my roiling anger. I kept saying to the nurse, “This is simply not acceptable, this is third world, this is absurd,” thinking if I could phrase the complaint just right she would correct this idiocy. I apparently didn’t find the right phrase.

I am a wonderful complainer and crusader when necessary. I found it necessary and was in the administration office of Providence Hospital at first light the following day. I started with the nursing manager in pursuit of a goal to talk with the CEO of the hospital. As I said, I found a focus for all of this pent up rage and fear I had been collecting for two weeks and I was a man on a mission.

I started at the bottom and ended up, not with the CEO, but with the Chief Operating Officer, Otis. By the time I met Otis the COO we were in Marty’s regular hospital room, out of the surgery holding area. Otis came by Marty’s room and tried to explain to a distraught husband why this good hospital would shuffle a patient away for storage as they had my wife.

As I talked to Otis, extracting my pound of flesh, I realized most of my anger of the night before was initiated by a feeling of failure, a failure to protect and care for Marty. I knew I was doing everything I could to help her yet I couldn’t make sure she didn’t spend the night in the hall with three strangers. I felt like I had failed, I felt incapable of doing the one job I had in this deal, ensure Marty’s comfort and safety. The hospital’s overcrowding had removed one more level of my control.

All of us are imbued with the instinct to protect. Whether it’s to care for your spouse or protect your child or watch over an aged parent, our instinct it to stand in front of our most vulnerable and ward off danger. I was following my instinct; I was frustrated in my most basic need and instinct to care for Marty. She wasn’t in any real danger, but the move and how it was handled pricked the very essence of my maleness.

In retrospect I realize the people in the hospital were truly between a rock and a hard place. They had done a lousy job of communicating and preparing, but it was cold and flu season and the place was full of flu and elective surgeries which had been put off in celebration of the holidays. In retrospect I know I hadn’t failed Marty and any sense of control over our situation was really no more than a relic of our past, the time before the strokes. The truth is control in the medical milieu is nothing more than a hope and rarely a reality.

That day I did what I needed to do, purge the emotional bile in my system. Marty was safe, or as safe as one can get in any hospital recovering from a near death experience. Her words, “I’m okay here,” suggested her perspective was much better than mine, I just couldn’t hear anyone at the time.

We stayed in that room one night and in the afternoon of the next day Big John came to pick Marty up and start us on the next part of our journey, St. Catherine’s Sub-Acute Care Center.

No comments: