Post-hospital Stress Disorder

I miss my night nurses who sneak in under cover of the hallway lighting and administer my evening IV doses, all while I sleep away, no break in my warped hospital dreams. Last night, with no nurse to save me, I turned off my 4 a.m. wake up call and went back to bed, screwing up my antibiotic schedule for the day.

Mycin, the IV-antibiotic groundhog, saw his shadow at my post-hospital appointment this week, and I’m continuing home IVs for 7 more days. Oh, yay. Seven more days of no shower and limited sleep.

Yo, chump, you get 7 more days of IV antibiotics not because I didn't see my shadow but because I had to look at your ugly mug. © Vladimir Melnik - Fotolia.com

Yo, chump, you get 7 more days of IV antibiotics not because I saw my shadow but because I saw your ugly mug. © Vladimir Melnik – Fotolia.com

I must give a shout out to the CF Team. They’re fantastic and a bright spot of humanity. They’re people who care about others in a world full of . . . well, fill in the blank with your own opinion. It takes a great team to survive this disease.

My O2 isn’t back to normal. And I have a bad attitude, along with a craving for Jersey Mike’s meatball & cheese sub sandwiches, which I’ve eaten almost every day since coming home.

I’m back at work, and grumpy about it. If a hospital stay, daily fevers and the continuing erosion of my lung function shine a revealing light on anything, it’s the bullshit of the trivial aspects of my job. The politics, the positioning, the posturing, the game, and most importantly, the work that does and doesn’t matter. I don’t know how much more I can take of feeling like I’m not doing something valuable with my remaining time. Designing PowerPoint presentations makes me want to stand in front of a MetroRail train.

I know it’s a cliché, but some days, “one day at a time,” really does save my ass. It’s my immediate ticket to not thinking about all the bad things that can and may happen. It works. 

One day at a time. One day at a time. One day at a time.

A bad week sends me to the ER

Last week picked me up like a rag doll and slapped me against the ground hard.

It started with neighbor problems during Memorial Day weekend that led to emails and conversations with the police during the week. Then our yellow lab tore her ACL and went in for a $5,000 surgery for her knee. A rough week at work rocked my equilibrium in the way only work can do, and Saturday morning my heart lost its rhythm and off to the emergency room I went.

Home sweet home.

That’s the executive summary. Here’s the full scoop.

Our neighbor problems continue. Based on my complaint and other neighbors’ complaints, the police visited the parents to let them know the neighborhood was stressed about their daughter. I’m not sure how much it helped. The email from the officer stated the parents understood, but were “not appreciative of all the complaints.”

If we were renting our house, we’d be gone. Owning a home is overrated. My advice is to own a mobile home instead. I wish we did.

Now I spend every night looking at Realtor.com and every available house in our price range. No luck. There’s limited inventory these days. And something about having to move because of uncaring neighbors really upsets me. We may have to move, but it’s not going to be a fast process.

Our six-year-old lab hurt her knee last year. We went to the vet and he took x-rays. He saw a small speck, but felt it was nothing because she was walking okay. But our dog grew more bothered by the knee, so we went back and he gave us the name of a specialist, who diagnosed a torn ACL. In she went in for surgery the very next day. And now our bank account is light almost 5K. We love our dogs in this family. Or I should say we love the yellow lab because we got her when my daughter turned four. She and my daughter have a bond. I can’t explain it. It exists. And my wife loves the dog too.

I may work for one of the top 100 best companies to work for, but that doesn’t mean every day rains gummi bears and I spend half my day at the beach. The term “work/life balance” makes us laugh daily when we talk about the workload. I am going to write more about this in a future post. All I know is that both my wife and I work for large companies and I’m thinking it’s time they started hiring more people to do the work.

Welcome to the ER.

All of this led to my heart going into Atrial Fibrillation Saturday morning and an ER visit. It’s interesting because I thought a heart with no steady rhythm would be a big deal when I got there. It felt like a big deal to me. But despite the my pulse jumping from 60 to 160 and back again, they didn’t exactly rush to help me. I guess if I’d said I was having chest pain, first class service would’ve kicked in. It felt that serious to me. Eventually, they got around to doing something. They gave me a shot of ativan, an aspirin, and a large IV bag of fluid and my normal rhythm returned. But I wonder which came first, the panic attack or the crazy heart rate? I’ll never know.

Now I have to go see a psychiatrist. I know I have a problem with anxiety and need to manage it better than taking an occasional Xanax Skittle. The A Fib episode gave me a scare. I don’t want to go through it again.

And I should add this. I’ve had time to think about the week and what caused the stress. Yes, all of the above happened. And all of the above contributed to the problem. However, it was really the fear of what might happen in the future that pushed me over the edge. What if the neighbor retaliates and hurts my wife or daughter? What if I can’t negotiate my way through the politics of this project? What if I lose my job? My insurance? It really comes down to worrying about the unknown.

I don’t believe in God, but that doesn’t mean I don’t speak to her sometimes as if she existed. And I asked her for a sign. Something to show me I should continue and not give up. To continue to put up with the challenges of life. And she delivered one of my favorite songs, “Blackbird.” Interesting choice. I guess it’s like a dream – it’s my interpretation that matters most, not the dream or the song. And though I thought about not mentioning this part because it feels embarrassing, I’m leaving it in. It is what it is. And it happened.

Hospital stays are like snowflakes

The master escape artist

I escaped.

Once again.

Yes, once again, I lived to tell about my journey to the Hospital California. And I wonder if it’s how Houdini felt when he escaped his self-made devices. Until he didn’t.

One day, I won’t, but I’m hoping that day is a long time coming.

But I do feel like I know what it’s like to hang upside down in a straight jacket and chains staring down at the ground and swelling crowd, which in my world is filled with doctors and nurses.

They look up at me, an oddity, dangling, and wish for a single link to snap, to give into the weight, and bring me down to earth. Splat. Now this is something they’ve seen in a medical textbook. Page 898, not unlike an egg hitting the floor.

Once again the experience was unique and unlike any other hospital stay. They’re never the same. New nurses, doctors, personalities, dosages, drugs, tests, sounds, smells – mistakes. Every day a new challenge. Every day a new result. You never leave the same person.

This time, like many others, I left feeling worse than when I went in thanks to C diff. I didn’t escape unscathed. My stomach is wrecked.

Obviously, the antibiotics harm the good bacteria in my gut, but I counter it with probiotics, which have worked in the past. This time the fridge was set to “high” before I noticed. I didn’t know a small fridge could get Alaska cold. So, I’m wondering if the freezing temperature ruined my stock of probiotics. Or if I didn’t take enough. I don’t know. But I do know I’m in for two weeks of vanco, a blowtorch of a drug.

I’ll be dropping pounds in the coming weeks.

You want to know the fastest way to loose weight? It’s not Jenny f**king Craig. It’s c diff. It strips the weight off fast. And you can eat all you want. Doesn’t matter. Shove it all in. Go to a buffet, run behind the counter and protective glass and stick your face in each tray. Eat like a horse. Go mad. Scream out, “I can eat anything I want and you assholes can’t stop me.”  The scale won’t care. It’s magic and never goes up.

I do wonder, and I had this thought in the hospital, too, if it’s not best at some point not do everything right. Not to eat right. Not to do treatments. Not to exercise. But rather, to adopt the Rock Star lifestyle of excess. I wonder. It sounds appealing at times, but not realistic for a long life span.

And as mine may come to an end soon – let’s hope not – I feel more pressure than ever to create something memorable to leave behind. To do something different with the time I have. I’m not sure what it is. Just something satisfying. A good use of my time. Because, god knows, I’m misused what I’ve had over the years.

The pressure of creative success never goes away. It’s a ghost that haunts.

Eating wet dynamite while the universe shoots me in the groin

Gunshot #1: I’ll be saying goodbye to a tooth soon. It’s fractured and needs to come out. Gunshot #2: I have big clot in my neck from my four-month old port. Thank you, universe, for the double tap to my groin. It hurts so good.

A month ago I started having pain in one of my back teeth. I grind a lot and have been too busy to get a fancy nightguard to prevent it. I ate through the last one. Along with the pain, I noticed a lump on the gum that would fill up with blood and pop and repeat the process.

The first dentist called it a fistula, which made me think of Dr. Nanos’s research cows that still cause me nightmares. The third dentist, a periodontist, told me I fractured the tooth and it needed to come out. Oh, and better yet, I have very dense bone and the tooth is quite attached to its current location. No rusty pliers and go-go juice will pull this one out. Bring in the power grinder and drill.

Yet, that wasn’t the best surprise of the week. Tuesday during my treatments I felt pain in the right side of my neck and trap. I had been to the chiropractor the day before and thought the neck adjustment must have injured something. But in the back of my mind I thought that it felt like clot pain.

Wednesday, the pain was still there on and off. When it started throbbing on Thursday, I went to the mirror and looked at my neck and there was a large golf ball bulge behind my collar bone. When I pressed on it, a pulse of fluid shot up my neck.

What hellish medical practical joke is this, Universe?

This is the Urgent Care television. Why do they even have it on the wall? I felt like ripping it down.

The doctor at urgent care took one look at the bulge and told me to go to the emergency room because they had a scanner for clots.

Off to the ER, my favorite place in the entire world. What a joy. And the visit didn’t disappoint.

I was lucky enough to draw the doctor who watched too much of the TV show E.R. and longed for the drama of patients with fence posts through their heads and fifty gunshot wounds to the torso – not patients with bulging necks.

“Urgent Care sent you here?” she asked, letting me know my case wasn’t worthy of a visit and that she’d never seen a clot in the vein that was swollen. Clearly, I was a douche bag to her at that point and an interruption to her day of more interesting patients who needed their heads sewn back on.

She called for the scanner, reluctantly. The scanner scanned me and found nothing, which brought about relief on my part. No clot. Doctor Thrill Seeker hated me even more and couldn’t explain (didn’t care) why I had pain and a pulsating lump in my neck. Go away, uninteresting patient. Come back when a gang banger has put a cap in your ass and your blood is spraying like a Yosemite geyser. Then I’ll be interested in helping you.

Ah, the joys of the random ER doc. Wonderful and delightful. But luckily, I have a good CF doc who agreed to take a look at it the next day at the hospital, even though there was no clinic.

After he looked at it, he ordered another scan. The result: a clot at the point the port enters my vein. The ER didn’t scan low enough by a fraction of an inch. I couldn’t believe it. Instant depression in a cup. This meant more Lovenox shots, of which I’ve done over a 1,000 for past clots. And being prone to coughing up blood, the shots are the equivalent to me eating wet dynamite. It’s not if my lungs are going explode like a dragon spitting fire, it’s when and where

So, that’s where I’m at right now. 5 Lovenex shots down. Who knows how many to go. The banging sound you hear right now is my head hitting the wall.

Or, is it the sound of irony since I got my port to avoid the clots the PICCs gave me?

Stay clot-free.

I am Jenga Man

This is me years ago. I have a six pack and a block missing upstairs.

After 15 days of the greatest fun I could ever imagine, I’m home from my vacation in the hospital. I have the deepest Tobra tan ever on my kidneys. Too bad they don’t show.

I’m surprised I survived this jaunt. I am, really. When my multi-resistant bacteria fire up, they do a number on me. And my bonus of premature appendix surgery, puppet hands, two blood clots and medium-well-done kidneys made the stay memorable.

And then there’s the prize I won behind door number 3: a big piece of plastic implanted in my chest and jugular.

Is it too late to trade it in for the cash? Why do they bother to color it? Am I supposed to feel better about it because I know it’s purple? Why can’t I have one in Home Depot orange?

I can’t say I’m in great shape today, or that we knocked the bugs down like we’ve done in the past. I feel discombobulated and am still coughing up more than I normally do after two weeks of go-go juice. I’m doing my best to stay optimistic but I wouldn’t be surprised if I make a return visit soon.

Work today ≠ Fun.

This is me now. Hey, somebody give me a hand here. I am missing blocks thanks to my crazy pal, CF.

Back in the day, hospitalizations were mellow events. The Doctor popped in for five minutes to make sure I was alive, and eventually kicked me loose to finish IVs on my own. We didn’t take blood or worry about my kidney function. I lifted weights and went about life.

When I needed to remove my PICC, I tied it to my dog’s tail, took a deep breath, and tossed a ball. Out with the line; back with the ball. Thanks, Nurse Chocolate Labrador. She was wired to assist.

Now hospitalizations are advanced Mensa-level problems straight from an episode of Star Trek. At some point, even Capt. Kirk would give up on me – too complex to solve.

The day the hospital doctor discharged me, he said he told his team that as long as he started his day with me, it was a good day.

Is that because I’m such a joy at 9 in morning – doubtful – or because I am so screwed up, he felt better about his day ahead and life? I didn’t ask. I was happy he released me.

Thank you for all of the comments and best wishes. As always, they made a difference, and I read each one twice – because I’m dimwitted and must.

Stay simple to solve.

DEFCON 2

Hipstamatic makes everything look cool, even a sign at a hospital

The virus, flu, whatever it is, took a big swipe at me last night. I rarely get fevers, but it was 101.6 on the radio dial, not that there are radio dials anymore.

Why does bad stuff always happen in the dark of night?

The fever came with chills and an elevated heart rate, SOB, and pulseox of 90, 91. Tylenol knocked down the chills, but not the temperature, and I got as close as you can get to going to the ER. The temperature settled down when I cooled off, letting me sleep for three or four hours. I woke up in a wet sweat. And nauseous, which is sometimes a sign of a collapsed lung for me.

I emailed the doctor and he ordered an x-ray. Three hours of my day burned going to, at, from the hospital. No pneumonia, no pneumothorax, no hospital stay – yet. Then home for a weekday nap, something I take every 5 years. Work got cancelled, too, which made me uncomfortable and behind on my projects.

It hurts to cough, which amazes me, as I cough all the time. Virus-aftermath coughing is different, more painful.

The question now is . . . will I move to DEFCON 1 and go to the hospital, or will I escape? I cannot think of any examples of escaping this strong of a virus in a long time. But who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky. I’m on oral cipro, Cayston, and inhaled Tobra. This trio of heavyweights better keep me out of jail, or I’ll be pissed.

When life attacks

I spent yesterday afternoon in the ER – as a visitor. My wife went there because she had the panic attack of all panic attacks and her blood pressure skyrocketed. I wished I could have changed places with her.

I felt terrible that life had overflowed her bucket with lice, my hemoptysis, her crazy workload, and upcoming trip. I realized I was seeing a version of me when I go through anxiety attacks. It scared me because she’s been bulletproof up till now.

What’s kind of nutty is that I had to take a Xanax when she went to the ER because I had a panic attack. It was amusing when the doctor gave her a dose, too, as I was there to drive her home. I smiled because my little pill had kicked in for my pharmaceutical joy ride to the heavens. Sure, Doc, I’ll drive her home. My rocket ship is parked outside and ready to blast off. Maybe we’ll stop at a bar on Mars and knock down a couple of Xanax chasers.

It’s amazing how life and work become so overwhelming and hard to keep up with some days. My sincere thanks to the corporations for ratcheting up worker productivity the last few years. Companies may be right that high productivity is profitable, but they fail to factor in the cost of increased health care expenses. Even my healthy co-workers have problems dealing with the load. Some of them make secret ER visits and numerous doctor visits for their possible stress-related illnesses.

Tomorrow, my wife leaves on a business trip.  I want her to go because it will be good for her. But I don’t want her to go because if I cough up a lot of blood, it’s going to be one crazy time taking care of my daughter. She’ll have to stay with friends or hang out with me in the hospital. “Daddy, let’s go over your symptoms again. From what I can tell you’re experiencing what’s known as a panic attack. Now get over it so I can go back to playing Pokemon?” Okay, I will for you, bossy little princess.

The next three days are going to be like walking around with wet dynamite in my chest, hoping I don’t jostle it. Wish me luck.