“Hey, how’s it going?”
Such an innocuous set of words aren’t they? We ask them casually to friends, family, acquaintances alike. We expect the same answer, or variations thereof: “It’s going okay.”
Guess what. It’s not okay. I’m not okay. I am ‘stick a fork in me’ done. This is My Own Little Soapbox after all, so you’re just gonna have to listen to me vent, kvetch, or as my Dutch grandparents or in-laws would have said, “brommen” (grumble, growl, drone, mutter). My grandfather’s usual context was to tell us to “Quit your brommen.”
A month ago our youngest nearly died. She was dying, actually, and her body was shutting down. She spent five days in the hospital, most of that in ICU. In medical terms she was mildly hypothermic, hypovolemic, in septic shock, and suffering severe DKA. In terms we all can understand she was cold, like under 90 degrees cold, severely dehydrated, and had a rare strep infection in her blood. The DKA is a complication of diabetes wherein your body burns fat for energy instead of glucose, and the fat-turned-energy leaves an acid called ketones in your blood. Too many ketones and your body pH drops and you become acidotic. Her pH was 6.8. A nurse said they have a little saying about low body pH: Under 7, they’re going to heaven.
She had lots of fluids, IV antibiotics, lots of electrolytes, insulin, sodium bicarbonate — at one point there were EIGHT IV infusion pumps running at once and she was intubated to keep her body from quitting completely.
That was April 5. She pulled through and came home.
Last week Sunday we went to the emergency room because she has a spot on her leg from an intraosseous needle inserted into her shin — yes, straight through the bone into the marrow — that wasn’t healing very well. She had one in each leg, by the way. I thought it may be a little infected. I called an Urgent Care and they said if she needed IV antibiotics they would send us to Emergency since they can’t administer those. Okay, ER it was.
The PA-C and a doctor both looked at her leg. Both determined it was ugly, slow to heal, but not infected. Now can we address the severe belly pain she’s had for nearly 2 weeks? A routine urinalysis showed she had a UTI and bladder infection. I am my daughter’s Patient Advocate. She doesn’t like to make a big deal of things, even when it’s a big deal. She was downplaying the pain, and I knew it. She was in tears. I requested an ultrasound just to rule out any other problems. (I was thinking appendix or ovarian cyst.) My request was ignored. We were sent home with 7 days’ of oral antibiotics for the UTI.
Wednesday evening comes and the belly pain had not let up, and was actually worse than before, she said. It was after 9:30 pm, so back to Emergency we go. I was thinking they’d give her a prescription for some stronger pain meds and we’d be on our way.
Did you know that Emergency departments of larger hospitals have different rooms for different levels of “emergency”? When our girl was brought in a month ago, she was in a Level 1 Trauma Room. They are huge to make room for all the staff that needs to be on hand to save a patient’s life. There are Observation rooms. These are decent sized spaces, and away from the noise of the rest of the ER. Patients who need to be watched for a few hours come here. For example: sudden onset of pain after surgery or chemo, or other procedure, a runner needing hydration after race. They need help, but won’t be admitted.
Then there are the “you’re not bleeding, dying, broken, shot, stabbed, and otherwise look pretty good, and we wonder why you’re here” rooms. The “Let’s read all of War and Peace while we wait” rooms. That’s where we were taken Wednesday night. O, I failed to mention they are not private in any way, shape, or form. This room was semi-private so we could listen to the other fella in the bed next to hers have conversations with his friend who brought him, the staff, and hear the multiple episodes of Law & Order he watched. Yes, multiple — remember, the theme of these rooms is “hurry up and wait, and… wait.”
Around 12:30 am it was decided that she should have a CT scan. FINALLY! Also by this point they decided she was going to be admitted for DKA — and we didn’t even come in for that! What seemed like ages pass and they take her down. No, they don’t know how long it will take to get results. At 2:24 am Thursday morning she is finally brought up to the ICU — again.
Neither of us was prepared for an inpatient stay. We’ve learned to pack a hospital bag in 10 minutes at home before coming to the ER just in case she gets admitted. We didn’t have blankets, comfy pants, phone chargers, my tablet and headphones, eye mask, or earplugs — nothing!
Around 4 am all the staff finally leaves the room so we can get some rest. It takes that long to get IVs started, meds ordered and brought up, vitals taken (again), EKG monitor pads affixed, the same questions asked with the same answers given, the IV infusion pumps attached to pole, set and running. And my girl is still in pain because they haven’t given her much to control it.
Daylight comes bringing a shift change, more questions and the results from the CT scan. It shows she has a kidney infection with a possible abscess on it. She will be staying for a couple more days, at least 2, until they can scan the kidney again to check on the “spot.”
This news induces a wave of tears, anxiety, stress and fear. I’m too exhausted to feel all the rage I want to knowing we could have been 3 days ahead on healing if they had just listened to her mother on Sunday!
What brought me to tell all y’all about this? Thanks for asking. I was supposed to join my friends for a group run Saturday (yesterday) morning. I fell asleep in the recliner in the hospital and didn’t make it. It turned out that wasn’t so bad after all. She got discharged and we left the building around noon. If I had been running I would not have been able to take her home. Sidenote: I slept all 3 nights in the hospital with her, if you can call what I did “sleeping.”
My plan was to run today. I’m training for a 25K that is next weekend, and a marathon the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. My plan was 22 miles. My goal was to be out of the house around 2 pm. That came and went. I ate, drank water, started getting my gear together. I wandered around because I can’t focus. My head just wasn’t in it today, certainly not my heart. The straw that broke the camel’s back? I couldn’t find my headphones, and I couldn’t remember where I had put them. I couldn’t find my new bottle of electrolyte capsules either. I would need both to survive 22 miles on my feet. It was now 4:45 pm and I called it. “Uncle!” I said to my husband. I just can’t today. And now you know why I am ‘stick a fork in me’ done.
Tomorrow is another day.
As for more tomorrows, our daughter is now a legal adult. She has over $30,000 in existing medical debt. These last two inpatient hospital stays have not been added to that total. Please read her story, and consider a generous contribution to help save her future before it has a chance to really start.