I dissolved into a big heap. Husband and I were already on edge. His truck blew up while I was in the hospital and I thought it could wait to be fixed until I was at home and he could use my car. He did not. I was stressed from everything going on with my body; he was stressed worrying about fixing vehicles and paying for it. Then I came home and we tried to deal a huge, painful open wound together with almost no instruction. It didn’t mix. My parents and oldest son have gone south to their second home. My sister is on an island working. I called another cousin, an RN who worked in home care. Blessedly, she took charge.
Again, in five days, I had gone through 100 pads soaking up fluid from this wound. It was swollen, painful, huge and I couldn’t see it. Cousin was appalled when she saw what I was dealing with, that I had no sterile supplies and was alone. She got on the phone with both the doctor’s office and a home health care agency. It took more than one phone call and arguing with a PA over my need for home care but by the end of the day, I was set up with an intake appointment for the next morning.
When the intake nurse came out the following morning, I was never so relieved. We still had to do packing changes but we had some help. Husband still tried to help me, but it was just too painful and we were both so frustrated. I ended up doing the packing changes myself, by feel.
As the days went by I continued to get weaker. My heart rate got higher. I started running a low grade fever off and on. I reported it but the fever never got over 101, the required number to be “sick”. The home care nurse was worried and thought I should be seen by a doctor. I didn’t have the energy. Finally, the nurse insisted and called my GP for an appointment the following morning. I couldn’t wear pants, clothes hurt, but I had couple maxi dresses. My son had to help me to the car then put me in a wheelchair because I was so weak. The GP took my vitals, then told my son he was calling the hospital and to drive me straight back to the ER. I groaned. It was the last thing I wanted to do.
We picked up husband and my hospital bag and headed to the ER. By the time we got there and they put me in another hard wheelchair, I was in so much pain from sitting, I begged them to get me out of the chair and stick me in any corner. They took my vitals and told me I was a direct admit and headed straight to a room. This is when I discovered the Acute Care Transition unit, not quite intensive care, not quite regular care. By the time they got me to the unit and a bed I didn’t care where they put me. I was in so much pain and so weak, I just wanted to get in a bed, on my side and off my behind.
My white count was sky high, indicating infection. Doctors ordered another CT scan right away. I was up all night with tests. Besides showing that now I had a pelvic abscess, there was something that looked like a cotton swab in my pelvis. They started asking me how I had been packing this wound and if anything could have gotten in it. Oh, no! I knew what it was immediately! That mushroom drain they had shoved in the stitches and sewn to my cheek! I thought the surgeon removed it when I was in the office and she was picking and poking before she packed the wound. There was some problem with hospital records and some electronic records were blank in the files, including mine. The resident who sent me home, my surgeon, and the doctor treating me now had no idea the drain had ever been put in.
Of course it was the weekend. The nurses told me it was some surgical head, a big deal in the hospital, that came to see me. He had an entourage and was dressed in a suit, not a lab coat. First, he asked me to tell me him about this drain. I did. Then he asked his entourage to get him this and that. The next thing I knew, I was on my side and he was digging that drain out. Right there, in the room, in the acute care transition unit, no anesthesia, not even a local. A resident said I was “handling it well.” What choice did I have?
My 16 year old son was sitting across the room in front of me. Husband had gotten us settled in the night before and gone home. I couldn’t ask him to hold my hand where he might see was going on. I couldn’t scream and yell and scare him senseless. I was too scared to move a muscle, it already hurt enough. This was barbaric. When it was over, I was really in pain. My Barbie butt had turned into GI Jane after an IED. I mean no disrespect to our veterans, I don’t know of any other thing to make a comparison.
They ran a ton of antibiotics and fluids through me and kept packing the wound. When my white count was down some the next day, it was decided I could continue antibiotics at home. Another round in the afternoon by IV, then I could go home again, continue with the home care and keep the appointment I had with the surgeon.
Husband came to get us and we got antibiotics to take home and more supplies. The last time I left the surgeon’s office I felt dismissed. This time after being in the hospital, I felt deserted. It was a very unpleasant experience and I wanted someone there with me, to tell it was okay, to be strong for me, to let me cry. Instead, I painted my nails, smiled and got on with trying to get better as best I could.