Monday, February 27, 2012

The Hospital Routine

It says something about your life’s circumstances when you consider a hospital stay routine.  Two years ago Marty went to the hospital for what was, to us, a fairly routine visit to get a dose of IV antibiotics for a urinary tract infection.  Routine, maybe not so much.

We checked into dear old Providence Hospital on Sunday afternoon thanks to the good grace of one Great and Wise.  He had been following the requisite samples to discover said infection and the appropriate antibiotics.  We had to go to the hospital because we needed IV antibiotics and the good doctor is a good enough man to meet at the hospital on his day off to check us in after church.

It was to be routine, three or four days of good drugs and home we would go, Marty peeing pain free.
It had been several months since Marty had last been in the hospital for an infection, but we had been there enough to establish a routine.  We knew what to bring, what Marty would need, what the hospital needed and we checked in, moved to Marty’s room and I started my spiel with the charge nurse about who she was, why we were there, what her medicines were and that someone would be with her all of the time.  They remembered us and knew we were fairly low maintenance for patients, it was routine.

As per routine, Nikkie, Marty’s caregiver came in about 6 p.m. to spend the night with her.  She set herself up and I stayed until after Marty’s supper and then went home to eat supper, feed the dog and get some sleep before returning the next morning before Great and Wise’s early morning rounds.

I had just settled in to sleep when the ringing phone jerked me from the tentative first steps of sleep.   The telephone ringing at midnight when your wife is in the hospital is never, ever good and I immediately was full on awake and on point.  Nikkie was on the phone and she told me, haltingly, tensely, slowly that Marty had just had a major seizure and wasn’t responding to them.  I didn’t ask any more questions as I was already putting my legs in my jeans and walking to the car.

Waco is not big and we live close to the hospital.  I was standing beside Marty’s bed less than 20 minutes after the phone rang.  Marty was in the bed, with a nasal cannula flowing oxygen to her as she breathing shallow and fast.  He eyes were fixed and not really focusing and as I bent down to get closer to her she didn’t acknowledge me.  She was confused and clearly suffering from the brain turmoil that is the aftermath of a major seizure.

Marty had two other major seizures, both a couple of years before, both related to an asthma medicine.  Seeing them happen is one of the most heart wrenching frightening things I have ever seen.  Even so, we had decided, to the chagrin of her neurologist, to take her off of her seizure medicine because it made her really sleepy and unresponsive and was affecting her blood chemistry.  She had made a lot of cognitive improvements after the seizure meds were discontinued, but, as I stood beside her bed I regretted the decision.

As the clock advanced Marty slowly started to recover awareness as her brain recovered from the neurological shock of the seizure.  She was leaning back in the hospital bed, breathing easier, looking around as we quizzed her with Marty responding in her normal fashion, we seemed to be headed back to routine.  Her only complaint was her right shoulder pain; she said her right arm really hurt.  I thought she must have really strained her bicep.  About 4 a.m. I went home to sleep for a couple of hours.  This routine hospital visit wasn’t.

A long story shortened, a story already written, Marty recovered from the seizure and an EEG did not show on-going seizures.  It took us all day and a call for a Great and Wise intervention and the X-Rays showed Marty had broken her right arm, her good arm, her only arm.  It was a compound fracture of the humerus, just below the shoulder.  The muscles in the right arm had tightened so suddenly and rigidly they had snapped her brittle bone in her strong right arm.

I can remember at the time being inordinately pissed off at God about the whole thing. As a believer, as one who strives to believe in a benevolent, higher power, it felt as if this higher power was pulling the wings off of a fly for sport, taking the good arm from my already damaged wife.  I’m still not quite done with that anger and disappointment.

We decided after much consternation, discussion and soul-searching not to have orthopedic surgery on the arm.  It was just too risky for too little benefit.  I talked to Marty, I talked to Great and Wise, I talked to our children and anyone else who would listen.  Ultimately, I had to make the decision, a decision I am comfortable with two years later, a decision that was excruciating to make at the time because of the symbolic acceptance of Marty’s terminal brokenness, because it clearly showed that the brokenness of Marty’s life could not be repaired.  It was a jolt of reality.

All of that was two years ago.  Two years is a long time in our life, at one point in time I didn’t think Marty would last two years.  In those two years since that routine hospital visit Marty has gained some use of her right arm, she can now feed herself, hold her beloved Diet Coke, and use her arm in other limited ways.  It hurts her if she or I move it wrong, but I still believe, and she agrees, we made the right decision regarding the surgery.

Marty’s neurologist prevailed and she has been on anti-seizure medicine for these past two years.  We have found the right medicine, we administer it at night and she has become accustomed to the side effects.  There have been no seizures since that night two years ago, for which I am eternally grateful, knock on wood.

Today, we are home, feeling fat and happy and rejoicing that Marty hasn’t spent one night in the hospital since that event, two years ago.   I didn’t think that was possible in her life time. There have been no seizures, very few infections and no infections that required IV antibiotics.  

That end of February, first of March hospital stay was the last time Marty has seen the inside a hospital room, except to see her new grand-babies.  Visiting babies beats the hell out of even the most routine of hospital stays. 

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