WEDNESDAY, MAY 5, 2010 7:13 AM, CDT
Right Choice #4
A fleeting view of my surgeon danced across my eyes. He glanced my way, from the foot of my bed and asked the nurses a few questions that I couldn’t hear. I think he told me what he had done to my intestines, though the mix of pain, medication, language barrier and rush left me more confused than before as to how I was doing.
His visit didn’t change the routine in the ICU, however. Twice a day ‘Sisters’ (the title nurses are given in hospitals) would come to scrub my body, carefully rolling me side-to-side. While cleaning me, the bed sheets were changed beneath me. Sometimes this was a comforting, nurturing time of the day, other times it was cold and mechanical. My experience was left up to the personality of the Sister in charge of my bath.
My next need to choose came during the endless second night in ICU. The day had passed in a relative haze of post-anesthesia and pain medicine confusion. At times I would patiently ask a Sister to clean my skin before she injecting medicine. Once the IV tubing dragged on the floor, and I refused to have it replaced in my arm until it had been sterilized. Having tended to Kevin’s IV central line for eight months last year, I felt fortunate to know that I must watch out for myself. Roishin, my foreign trained physiotherapist confirmed for me the need for vigilance during our twice-daily walks. She encouraged me to use my own knowledge and resources to help the well meaning, yet perhaps undereducated, nurses to keep me well.
Late into the second night in ICU, her reminder became crucial. Amid the screams and moans, the snores and wheezes an insistent ‘Beep’ woke me from my medically induced sleep. I lay still, working out in my mind the origin on the noise. Quickly it became apparent that the culprit was my infusion pump. The system that delivered hydration, nutrition and medicine to my body was not happy about something. I followed the tubing from the machine to my arm and noticed the section next to my wrist where the needle fed in was quite bloated and very sore.
Running though the IV checklist I had used hundreds of times while tending to my ill son, Kevin, I realized that most likely my vein had collapsed. Not good, but almost predictable based on the small wrist vein the nurses had chosen as my life support access. Knowing it was a simple matter of resetting the IV in a better vein, I pushed the Sister call button. Over she came and looked at the situation. Shaking her head at the mal-functioning infusion pump and my bloated arm, she reached over, patted my head, turned off the pump and walked away. I thought perhaps she was going to get another IV line. After awhile I thought she had gone to find a more experienced Sister to help her reset the IV.
As one hour turned to six, and, it became obvious that her solution to the problem was to turn off the pump until the next set of nurses arrived in the morning. I slept restlessly, reminding myself that I had enough hydration and medicine to make it through to morning. But I did make a choice to get myself out of ICU as quickly as possible.
When the bright lights were turned on at 5:30 signaling the start of the ICU day, I was relieved when a crisp, young, British speaking Sister introduced herself as that day’s caregiver. Up front she apologized for the fever she was running, as well as for the cough and sore throat she had. She should be home resting, she noted, but she needed the money more. With the language barrier stripped away, I was able to explain my hygiene concerns, and my need to get my IV started once again. I also asked her if she would help me escape ICU. Though sick, she assured me that she was up to the task.
It was hard to find another vein due to the mass of bruises on the back of my hands. Sisters had traumatized my vein access by trying time and again to draw blood or set a line. Finally, I offered up what looked to be a nice juice vein just inside my right wrist. A new IV was set, hydration was flowing and pain medicine once again found its mark.
Hours later the surgeon conducted his fly-by, noting from afar that I was a healthy pink. My British-speaking nurse suggested that I was well enough to be released to the ward. After a 48 hour ICU sentence, I was to be released to the surgical ward in the hospital. Once again, I had made the right choice. It was time to get out of the ICU.