Thursday, April 16, 2009
If you’ve ever been admitted to a hospital, you know the drill: endless questions from the minute you wake up until the minute you go to sleep. Sometimes they even wake you up to ask questions. And the big joke about waking you up to ask how you’re sleeping? Not a joke. Seriously. They do that. I was not amused.
Granted, the nurse had woken me up to take vitals so it wasn’t like she did it out of the blue but that didn’t change the fact it was 2:45 a.m. and I had just managed to fall asleep in the first place. And I was hooked up to a heart monitor so if anything had been amiss, it would have set off all sorts of bells and alarms at the nurses’ station. But she woke me up anyway to take my blood pressure. Then she asked me how I was sleeping. I wonder how accurate that reading was.
Medical folks are much like journalists in the respect they must gather information in order to do their job. Journalists, however, do not continue to ask the same question over and over unless they are Ed Bradley on “60 Minutes” and suspect the person they are questioning is a big fat liar.
Hospitals have favorite questions. I think the top three were “How do you feel?” “How is your pain?” and “Are you allergic to latex?”
Let’s start with “How do you feel?” This appeared to be a largely rhetorical question because the fact I felt absolutely fine did not seem to matter to anyone but me. (Sorry, the staff at St. Luke’s in CR was really great and I’m sorry I was such a cranky patient.) After arriving in the ER, I spent a lot of time telling anyone who would listen how fine I felt. Honestly, after Sara the paramedic gave me a chemical defibrillation (I LOVE that term, thanks Kira, for adding it to my vocabulary) in the ambulance, I really did feel fine. By the time we arrived in the ER, my heart rate and rhythm were normal, my blood pressure was normal and I was feeling like this had all been a giant misunderstanding. Could I just go home now? I’ve got an attention and heeling class to teach tonight!
I didn’t have anything to complain about (now there’s a first). No dizziness, no shortness of breath, no difficulty breathing, no faintness, no pain in my arm or jaw, no nausea, no sweating. No nothing. See? I’m fine. Lemme go.
Not a chance.
The pain issue was clearly one the hospital staff took very seriously. They were constantly questioning me about pain. Never mind that I didn’t have any. “How was my pain?” “Was my pain better or worse?” “How would I rate my pain on a scale of 0 to 10?” They were so concerned about my pain that I soon started feeling guilty that I didn’t have any. Given that I am a total and absolute weenie when it comes to pain in any form, I found this nothing short of miraculous. (I learned later that many atrial fibrillation patients DO have a lot of pain. Leave it to me to be abnormal.)
Running in third place behind “How do you feel?” and “How is your pain?” was “Are you allergic to latex?” No. I’m not. But that didn’t stop them from asking about every two hours, possibly in anticipation my answer might change. I wasn’t allergic to latex when you asked me at 6 p.m. so chances are I am not allergic to it now at 8 p.m., nor will I become allergic to it by 10 p.m. Sigh.
In a previous post I mentioned the inane question, “Do you live at home?” I never did figure that one out. Where did they think I lived? Under a bridge? In a barn? If I did live there, wouldn’t that technically be “home”? Granted, I do live in a tent occasionally and I’ve been known to sleep in my van sometimes at trials but I wasn’t even going to go there. I’d already tried to explain agility and obedience training while discussing my “lifestyle” and “exercise habits” and the nurses and doctor clearly didn’t get it.
The strangest question, however, was “Do you feel safe in your home?” It’s a sad commentary on our society that medical professionals have to ask that. Apparently it’s limited to women. None of the guys I’ve talked to who have been hospitalized or seen doctors for any kind of treatment had ever been asked that. I assured the nurse, yes, barring an F5 tornado or a rabid skunk or any large hairy spiders, I feel safe in my home.
Now here’s the kicker. The night before I went to the hospital, I’d been playing tug with Phoenix during agility class. Phoenix is a wonderful boy but he plays rough. So at class, I released his tug (“Let the Malinois win . . .”) and he jammed it back at me for more, hitting me on the inner thigh. When I didn’t grab the tug fast enough, he grabbed it . . . only he grabbed more than just the rope attached to the tennis ball . . . his teeth went right through my jeans.
So 24 hours later when the nurse taking the fourth medical history of the night asked, “Do you feel safe in your home?” I subtly crossed my legs under the blankets and made it my number one goal for the remainder of my stay in the hospital not to let anyone see the pretty purple bruise with neat little incisor marks that had blossomed on my inner thigh. There was no way I was going to be able to explain THAT. “Safe” is largely a matter of interpretation.