Take my breath away

Sorry, not sorry, for the ear-worm.

Two weeks ago, I walked into the local emergency department short of breath, the subsequent tests they ran on me were done as an In Patient. [Insert hospital food joke here]. However, I’m returning to Out Patients tomorrow after a few weeks off medical testing for good behaviour. I’m going to play with nuclear medicine this time, but I’ll tell you about that tomorrow when it’s done.

During my two day stay at one of Melbourne’s finest hospitals I had: two ECGs, a CT scan, four lots of blood tests (that’s nearly an armful), an ultrasound on my heart (ouch for boobies), two walking tests (walk as quick as you can before falling over, hint – wasn’t very far), four different respiratory function tests, an angioplasty and a right heart check (this does the blood pressure inside the heart).

The last two are done in theatre; you’ve probably seen them on TV, they insert a probe into an artery and a vein in your groin and run it up into your chest, inject dye and take lots of pictures.

I was going to be sent home after a few hours in A&E as the doctor there said ‘You look too well to be in here!’ Also, none of my markers indicated there was anything badly wrong, but then cardiology got wind of a 41 year old lady (ha!) who was struggling to breathe and came down to investigate. First test he did was the ultrasound; I got puffed getting undressed, it was then and there he decided to admit me. I was then moved round to the serious side of A&E, where I got trotted round the department at high speed until I nearly collapsed, from there I was moved up to the cardiology ward where I got told to rest up.

I do not recommend ‘resting’ in a cardiology ward. Particularly when your bed is right by the nurses station. In the morning, I was given breakfast and had my obs done early as we knew I was getting the angioplasty done at some point during the day. I also got visited first thing by the consultant; just after I’d dozed back off again, who stood at the end of my bed with her arms folding saying ‘I like a challenge!’

I was walked again briskly down to the end of the ward and back, the consultant chatting to me to gauge my breathlessness all the way. I then got popped back into bed, and read / dozed for most of the morning. We got a fifteen minute call to get me to theatre, my position on the ward was also being changed as I wasn’t being monitored, so I went from bed 15, to theatre, to bed 32.

I was given a mixture of tranquiliser and narcotic. I was so nervous I was chattering away as I lay on the bed; the surgeon peered round the screen at me and said ‘She needs some more’ I was given more of the G&T mix, of which I can highly recommend, and wafted quite happily after that. My heart looked great, no signs of thickening anywhere, heart disease or anything, which for someone in their 40s is unusual. I was taken round to recovery, everything was pulled out my groin (not a euphemism) and then I was lent on to stop the bleeding. For ten, long, solid minutes at a pressure that was so uncomfortable I could not talk. Didn’t stop her from opening the conversation with ‘So, what brings you here?’ I may have given a Paddington Bear stare. May. Two weeks later, I’m still bruised and swollen in my groin, when I bump into anything at that level (sink, worktop, small child) it hurts. Lots.

I went back to bed 32, I had a window view that I wasted as I was asleep for most of the afternoon, yay for drugs. Later in the evening, I was moved downstairs to the Spinal Ward. I was no longer classified as a cardiology patient, they’d had an emergency come in to the hospital and were playing musical beds to fit everyone in.

In the spinal ward, I had my own room. I’d had a shower before I came downstairs (more in a minute), so was able to get my obs done and head back off to sleep. I was woken at 2am for more obs, and panadol as I had a sore throat, more sleeping, then breakfast was delivered. I was allowed out of bed to get a coffee (frabjous joy) so I pottered downstairs, came back up and had another shower.

The showers at the hospital have to be used to be believed. They’re so powerful, the pressure is so great you can’t stand underneath them as they sting your skin. But the shower heads are not industrial enough to cope with this, so they’ve cracked and swing around in the holder thingy on the wall. After I’d finished my first shower and looked round the bathroom, the entire room was wet. The two other showers I had there, I was now aware of what was likely to happen, but despite my best efforts, both bathrooms again got wet.

Three showers, three bathrooms, three towels each time to mop up the water. Which as I was supposed to be on bed rest I got told off for doing. Friday morning I had to introduce myself to my next door neighbour after I’d showered, we shared a bathroom and I’d soaked his washing stuff on the hand basin. I said, ‘Try not to electrocute yourself when you shave,’ his razor was only wiped off, as I didn’t want to touch his stuff too much.  He laughed and said don’t worry.

Back to Friday morning on the spinal ward. For the rest of my life I will wish I had this on camera, but it’s firmly imprinted in my brain, so that will have to do. I’m standing by my bed towelling my hair with towel number four as I’d used the two I’d been given to mop up the bathroom, got back into my PJs, (damp), and grabbed another two towels to dry me off with. Two junior doctors on their rounds walk past the door, see me standing up and do a perfect, classic double-take. It was glorious.

I get dressed, get put into a wheelchair and am taken to the nurses station to get my notes, ready to head downstairs for some respiratory tests. Opposite the nurses station is a man, on a ventilator, visibly poorly, I’m doing my thing looking round and chatting to everyone, so I raise my hand in greeting and wave at him too. He nods at me. The nurse beside me behind the desk whispered ‘Thank you, so many people just stare at him’.

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