Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas 2.0

When my son and his family decided to spend Christmas in Micronesia, I realized we would need to have two Christmas celebrations--one early with his family and one when my daughter was home on Christmas Day.  Unfortunately, my body did not cooperate for the latter celebration and I wound up having surgery to remove a large ovarian tumor on December 22.  Because the surgery was more extensive than I had hoped it would be,  I was hospitalized until the 27th and so spent Christmas in Cedars Sinai Medical Center.  I was pretty drugged up from having a difficult Christmas Eve so I only vaguely remember hearing the men's chorus singing Adeste Fideles a cappella in Latin and English in the hall midday.  Luckily since my husband is a true mensch, I had Paul's company all day in a dark and small hospital room while my daughter hang out with her grandmother.

My surgery caused me to lose blood and delayed my recovery a day while I had a blood transfusion on Wednesday.  Then on Thursday after I started drinking clear liquids again, I had another setback when my bowel refused to cooperate and pass the gas through.  Instead I belched and ultimately vomited on Christmas Eve.  I started shaking and asked the nurse for some help in an inartful way --asking if perhaps some of the meds were interacting badly with each other.  The nurse got real huffy and said essentially that I just had surgery that was all that was wrong and to just deal with it.  She stormed off and left me alone, scared and shaking.  The next day the resident took my complaint more seriously and prescribed some wonderful medication that helped with "motility" (great word) and allowed me to sleep soundly.  My sleep had been marred with nightmares the first few nights, touching on every fear I have from being fired (by the CEO himself), to attacks by insects, to violence and mayhem.  So the nightmare free sleep was quite welcome.

With the exception of the nurse on Christmas Eve, I had very nice nurses at the hospital.  Unfortunately the level of competence varied quite a bit and sometimes I got doses of meds too early or too late.  One of the nurse assistants did not know how to take blood pressure properly and thus recorded much lower BP levels for me than other nurses did when they took it properly.  As a result I did not take my BP meds in the hospital even though at the end they were probably warranted.

Even the doctors were not the best communicators.  CSMC is a teaching hospital so I was treated to residents, Grey's Anatomy style.  One of the attendings who was subbing for my doctor, showed up with an entourage of 5 residents on Christmas day to discuss my problems from the night before.  Words of wisdom from the attending: "Once you pass gas, the angels will sing and the heavens will open".   She was, of course, correct if not obvious.

One of the doctors, a young man who was assigned to my doctor and whose status was between resident and attending,  was always referred to as "The Fellow".  Never by name.  "I will discuss this with The Fellow."   "The Fellow will need to approve."  I started thinking of calling him "Jolly Good" or "JG" for short.  On the day after Christmas, I asked him his name and said I only knew him as The Fellow.  He showed me his name card which, of course, I could not see without my glasses.  So I asked again, explaining my vision limitations and he finally said his name out loud and brought his name tag closer.  It turned out he had an Arab surname, which one might speculate you would not want to shout out loud much in a Jewish hospital.  Or perhaps, as one of the residents explained, it was not an easy name to pronounce correctly and no one wanted to give offense.  I of course said thank you to him repeating his name out loud.  He smiled and seemed more human for the first time-- something all of these young doctors need to remember that their patients need and crave as much as the medical skill.

So now I am home and have had a proper turkey dinner.  We have opened presents.  Christmas 2.0 may have been interruptus but still was a pleasure to have at home after being in the hospital.

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