From Room 232

The frustration with hospitals is that they are in the business of treating patients instead of people and those closest to the front lines, nurses and technicians, get caught in the political middle … but the body that pays is the one strapped to a bed completely dependent upon those around him.

FRIDAY late afternoon:  Our surgeon said he wanted Hook to be moved from the bed to a chair and that he “will make a note of it to the nurses.”  He said that the longer Hook stays immobile, the harder it will be for him to get moving.

SATURDAY 12:26PM:  The doctor ‘on call’ tells Kelly Scott (my stand-in) that Hook will remain in ICU until Monday.  This is longer than expected.  Later in the evening, long after I return to the hospital, I learn that the extended stay in ICU was due to some issue with Hook’s lungs.

SATURDAY 3:00PM Kelly Scott leaves to go pick up pizza to thank the ICU staff for taking care of Hook.  We find out later that Nurse Michael was off for the day, Nurse Stephanie wasn’t in yet, and Hook was going to be moved from ICU in a couple of hours.  So unfortunately an unknown team got thanked but I’m sure they earned it with someone else.  Note to self:  scratch future suggestions of pizza.

SATURDAY 5:00PM  I mention to Hook’s new day nurse, Norma, that he was supposed to be moved from the bed to a chair per the surgeon’s orders yesterday.  She says she will look for the orders.  Instead, two technicians come in and adjust the bed into a full sitting position.  This works for now but all of Hook’s limbs are swollen and our surgeon said it was important that by day 3 he be physically up and off the bed.

SATURDAY 6:00PM-8:00PM Hook waits in limbo to be assigned out of ICU and into IMC (Intermediate Care) because someone worse off than him needs to be in the ICU.  All of a sudden the ‘lung problem’ is “okay.”  Neither Norma nor Stephanie is allowed to claim Hook as their patient so I have no GO TO person to go to for help.   I ask again about getting Hook up and out of the bed to anyone who will listen and I’m told I have to wait until a new nurse is assigned which we are told will be Vance, oh wait, no, that is the technician not the nurse, but wait some more, it won’t be Vance but Mark or Kyle or some other random name.  Our new tech does not end up being any of those people.

SATURDAY 8:00PM The ICU floor nurse barks at me to give them space in the room because a team of 4 have entered to prepare Hook to be moved to a new bed. I’m actually okay with this because it means someone is in charge now.   I don’t leave the room as Nurse Ratched demands because not one of the people in the room has been someone who has been attending to Hook for the past 72 hours.  They’re asking each other questions that sound like they hope someone in the room knows the answer.  I helicopter the entire process with a watchful eye as they wheel Hook to his new room:  232.

SATURDAY/SUNDAY 8:00PM-4:00AM Nurse Daniel introduces himself as our new night nurse.   Throughout the night, I whisper stories to Daniel about Hook:  who he is, why he’s here, what he does for a living.  When Hook is awake, Daniel shares why he decided to be a nurse:  “I wanted to help people,” he said.  “I know that sounds trite, but I really enjoy it.  The first time I saw a cranium being cut into, I was hooked.”  I hope Daniel is not a fan of Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

SUNDAY 5:00AM  I introduce Nurse Daniel to the infamous Elton John song, Daniel.  Hook has a Norman Thayer moment when he grumbles, “How can you not know the song, Daniel?  You know Elton John dontcha?”   I intervene with a rub to Hook’s head, “He’s from a different generation, honey,” and Nurse Daniel responds, “Oh, is it an old song?”    I glance at Hook and give him the squinted eye that says he’s not to respond, but he mumbles something about Bernie Taupin and what’s the world coming to when people don’t know Elton John songs.  My baby is back!

Correction:  Nurse Daniel knew who Elton John was.  He just hadn’t heard the song, Daniel, before.   

SUNDAY 6:00AM-8:00AM Nurse Kate introduced herself as our day nurse.   She has a master’s in nurse administration, is interested in training, and she teaches from time to time at Austin Community College.    After Daniel brings her up to date on the stats, I bring her up-to-date on what needs to happen:  get Hook up and out of the bed.   Kate said she can’t do that without a doctor’s order and I run through how the order should have been put through 24 hours ago and if it wasn’t, will she please call the surgeon and get the order.  Kate seems sweet but hesitant to pick up the phone and call the surgeon.   I can’t have a nurse who’s afraid to call the doctors.

SUNDAY 9:35AM  Kate has been in and out and she’s getting the basics in order.   Hook has been moved around on the bed but these are non-ICU beds so they cannot be manipulated into a full sitting position.   I’ll give Kate until 12Noon to pick up that phone and call the surgeon.  I have the surgeon’s cell number from his business card but I think it would be better for the nurse to call.

SUNDAY 10:00AM Kate has talked to the on call doctor and has gotten the approval to at least move Hook into a physical sitting position on the side of the bed.   If he doesn’t feel drowsy, he’ll be moved onto the recliner.

VISITING HOURS:    None in Room 232 and I would hold on sending any cards to this room either because Hook will only be here 2-3 days before he is moved again.  But if you send a card to the P.O. Box 151240, Austin, TX 78715-1240, I’ll be sure to pick up.

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9 thoughts on “From Room 232

  1. Em, OMG — it’s horrible. I sort of knew because of all the time my father has spent in the hospital over the last 10 years. Everyone keeps saying, “get rest, go home” as though I actually want to be at the hospital. I can’t think of any place I’d rather NOT be. But be absent from the room even just for a second and BAM, that’s when a critical piece of information gets lost in the transfer. Telling the patient who is on constant drug medication doesn’t help because they cannot retain the memory from one wake-up to the next. Oh geez, now I’m getting myself upset. Argh!!!! $#@*$# Well, I have made it home the last two nights and gotten good rest. I now have the nurses schedules down so I know when there *might* be some shake-ups in their schedules (shake-ups outside of their control) and when/if I need to start insisting on what I know to be the right thing for Hook versus what’s best for the hospital. xoxo Signed, Let’s do that lunch before you leave for Houston.

  2. Keep on being that squeaky wheel. After all, it is the squeaky wheel that get the grease, or ice chips,or pain meds, or a chair to sit in or whatever… Perhaps they will even give you what you need just to shut you up… At any rate, give the old man a big wet smooch from us.

  3. I am reading your entries to Riley as he drives is to a Christmas party. I made him wear a vest with snowmen on it because it’s an ugly sweater party. He chose a plaid shirt to wear it with. He sends his love and so do I. Good for Hook for razzing the nurse about Elton John. Good grief you have to know who Elton John is! You keep writing. We will keep reading. Thanks for good news

  4. Dear Rosemary, welcome to the world of doctor/nurse “communication”, also known as “my former life”. Sometime when you’re not otherwise pre-occupied, you might join me in my efforts to get U.S. EMR’s electronic medical records/notes more modernized. So frustrating when one nurse says one thing, a doctor says something else, and from shift to shift communication is terrible. Okay…I have vented (Smile). Aside from that….a big cheery HELLO to Hook.

  5. Life in the hospital can be really frustrating. Everyone has horror stories that they can relate—well maybe not horror stories but some are pretty close. That’s why it’s so important that someone is with a seriously ill patient at all times. Allan, I hope you are feeling a tiny bit better. You are both constantly in our thoughts. Love, Claire

  6. !!! You must be so frustrated! Hang in there and do not stop advocating for your guy! It is the only way things get done. You know better than anyone the plan. Reports happen between a tired nurse and a new nurse who hasn’t been in on the discussions with docs, the rounds with the team or the patient themselves.
    Sorry the pizza didn’t get to the right people. This is the reality of healthcare. Blink and the next minute it’s a whole new staff.
    Keep your guy on his incentive spirometer as much as possible (every hour if he can) to ward of the respiratory goblins.
    Hang in there!!! Thinking of you.

  7. Nice to hear Al is back to his old irascible self again! Let us know what we can do to help, and we “really cannot get by without seeing Al,” so let him know that some of his colleagues will be stopping by when we are able. Either that, or we are going to have to install a web cam in his hospital room!!! : ) Take care and keep up the good spirits!!!

  8. If one of the nurses tells you again they don’t know Elton John and Bernie Taupin from the Gershwin Brothers just point them to this song, “But these cuts I have they need love to help them heal”, it could be their anthem. ICU is a hard time and I’m glad that stage is behind us.

  9. Sounds like typical hospital run-around, especially on the weekend. My mom was in ICU for 4 weeks and it was like the place shut down on the weekends. Rosemary, glad you are watching after things and I’m very happy to hear Hook’s personality is already coming through! Kendra and I have been working on a card that has Hook written all over it (let’s just say Halmark won’t be picking it up as part of their line!). Continued quick healing.

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