Musings from an Intensive Care Unit

The first words Hook spoke to me when I saw him in ICU were, “I guess I made it.”  As I rubbed his little, bald head, I whispered, “Of course you did.”   That was the last lucid conversation Hook had with me until this afternoon.

Yesterday, the nurses were kind enough to allow me to spend the night and I’ll stay again tonight.  Kelly Scott relieved me from watchful wife duty from 8-10pm while I rushed home, ate, showered, and returned to the hospital.  But I was in denial about the reality of getting a full night’s rest in an intensive care unit.  The ICU sounds loud because of the way noise travels down the long ICU corridor.  Then there are the hourly checks of vitals and tubes and around the clock patient monitoring which means that sometimes in the middle of the night, the light in the room has to be turned on which feels like megawatts to the eyeballs.  The ICU is also not the most comfortable of places so the night nurse made sure a comfortable lounge chair that folds out was brought into Hook’s room so I could stretch out long instead of being bunched up like a pretzel in a regular hospital chair.

Hook’s Nursing Staff

Hook’s day nurse is Michael and his night nurse is Stephanie.  Michael changed careers a few years ago and went from managing restaurants to managing people’s health.  He’s great aboHDU_goodoctorgreatnurseut updating me on what he’s doing, why he’s doing it, and constantly asking Hook how he feels.  Michael seems to enjoy hearing about Hook’s wasp work and he wants details on how many times Hook has been stung, the names of the -hooki bugs, and how he chose entomology as a career.  I think Michael asks Hook questions as much out of curiosity as he does to make sure Hook understands what’s going on around him.  Nurse Michael was recently stung by a wasp and discovered he’s allergic to them.  What are the odds that someone deathly afraid of wasps is caring for someone so intrigued with them?

Nurse Stephanie is just as engaging and she’s firm with Hook which I like.  It was Stephanie who had to introduce Hook to this breathing contraption that measures how well his lungs are expanding (and by default, keeping them fluid free), a task made difficult for Hook because it forces him to use his lower abdominal muscles (ouch!).  Allan is not hooked up to the plastic lung monster rather he randomly decides when to blow into it.  But it’s Stephanie who stays on top of him with reminders, “Are you blowing?  You have to blow.  I know it hurts so I’m going to give you a system to use that will make it easier.”  When Stephanie’s not here, I still leverage her by saying, “Stephanie said you have to do it.”  This way it doesn’t seem like it’s just me torturing Hook.

I’ve learned over the years to trust nurses as much as you would doctors, sometimes even more.  Nurses are the ones who experience the hour-by-hour progress or decline of a patient in a way doctors aren’t able to.  But it’s still our surgeon who has the final say as to whether Hook stays in ICU, and for now, although Hook is progressing better than expected, the surgeon wants him to remain for at least one more night in intensive care.

Staying Out of Pain for Now

Hook understands what’s happening around him and he can respond to questions when asked, he just doesn’t always remember once he falls into a new round of sleep.  So I’m prepared to spend the night again as I do my best not to pester my husband.  If I don’t hear him talk every few hours, I’ll be tempted to wake him to ask if he’s thirsty or to ask if he needs anything or perhaps to hold a mirror under his nose to make sure he’s still breathing.

Closet hysteria is my specialty and as much as I respect and appreciate nurses, I realize they’re only human and they can’t possibly be as tightly wired to the pain of a loved one like a family member can.  And even though Hook is able to self-medicate via his finger clicker, I’m familiar enough with hospitals to know that eventually his finger clicker isn’t going to be enough, and real pain is going to hit.  I only hope that when that happens, either Michael or Stephanie will be in the room.  I’d feel bad if I had a Terms of Endearment moment with the staff.

Reporting live from ICU Room #7 at St. David’s Hospital in Austin, Texas.

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16 thoughts on “Musings from an Intensive Care Unit

  1. Great News Alan. I always knew you pull through. Our prayers are stil out there. Looking forward to the day when we can ahve a cold one again.

  2. Still praying in Saginaw…your updates are great. You’ve been able to capture the progression and make us feel like we’re there with you even though we’ re not. We’re certainly with you & Hook in spirit all the way. Hopefully you’re getting some rest too and remember to eat:-) Sending wishes of Love & Comfort.

  3. RMG – Mrs/Dr. Hook, Thanks for your daily (or hourly) posts. I feel like by you writing to all of us you are also receiving the energy and love that we are sending your way. Plus, I’m sure, in a weird way, it’s therapy for you. Please know that I’m there with you guys in spirit. Give Fish a big smack from me…. Hope to come by on Friday (next week). JAG

  4. We are continuing the prayers for Allan and for you. Sounds like he is in good hands. Get some sleep tonight so you don’t wear yourself out. Mike called yesterday and sends his love too.

  5. Thank you for the summary. I am not sure where you are finding the time to be able to write us, but it is greatly appreciated!!! Hang in there and please tell Al that we are all thinking about him (and you)!!!!

  6. Dear Hooks,   Don just spent 2 weeks in the same ICU #7 while he struggled with Congestive Heart Failure.  I think #7 is good luck, since Don bounced back and is now at home complaining about all the walking he has to do for physical therapy!  Here’s good luck for you too.   Brenda and Don

  7. Dear Rosemary, I was so glad to get your ICU post. I think the first 24 hours after surgery is the worst. Hopefully Allan will feel a little better tomorrow. I think you are doing an amazing job of holding up under major stress. I believe that nurses are some of the most Christ-like, caring people ever. Our prayers are with you both. Love, Claire

  8. Your stories make me feel like I’m there. I’ll try not to tell any jokes in my emails if Allan is having difficulties with his abdomen. Of course, this is my default,

  9. Very good to hear he is coming around! The ICU is not a fun place to be. Hang in there. Let yourself get some rest.

  10. Still praying and thinking about you, Hook, the nurses and the surgeon as post opp continues…Sounds like y’all have a pair of entertaining and caring nurses on your hands–thank you…they will be here all night. Until the next update my friend…


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