Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Adventures in Medicine - Part 1

Friday, July 30
While I was at summer camp, I strained a muscle in my leg. A month later, the muscle is still sore and swollen and I'm hurting, so I follow the advice of concerned family and friends, and make a 9:00 appointment with my orthopedic doctor.  The doctor tells me I've definitely strained and probably even torn the muscle. He schedules me for a venous doppler (ultrasound) to make sure that I don't have any blood clots in my leg, and tells me that he doesn't expect they will find anything.

I arrive at radiology half an hour early for my 1:30 appointment.  Good thing, since the nurse has sent me to the wrong place. I am directed to the cardio-pulmonary unit... at the other end of the hospital.  No problem - walking helps stretch that sore muscle. Cardio sends me to the registration desk, where I learn that the doctor's office has not yet sent any orders. A few phone calls takes care of the problem and I am registered as an out-patient. I arrive back at the cardio-pulmonary unit... exactly on time.

After only five minutes in the waiting room, I am led to the exam room.  The scan takes only a few minutes. The results take a bit longer. Fortunately this hospital firmly believes in a TV for every room, so I watch and wait. The tech returns with the news... "You are positive for DVT (deep vein thrombosis)." I am stunned.

I am no longer allowed to walk. The tech and her student assistant load me into a wheelchair and take me to the emergency room. (Next door to radiology, where I started). I wait while they try to contact my doctor - who has left for the weekend. I start making phone calls to notify family, friends and work. After an hour or so, a nurse tells me that they are going to admit me. A tech will take me to registration.

We arrive back at registration and, again, they do not have any orders. We learn that I should have been registered at the ER registration desk, not the outpatient desk. No worries - paperwork is faxed and the registration is completed. I am given an armband and taken to my room on the fourth floor. 

I am greeted by my day nurse, who has a list of questions for me, and my technician. The interview process is lengthy and peppered with amusing comments and laughter. I am instantly at ease with this fiesty lady from New York. After all the questions have been answered and my vitals have been checked, I call Mike (my husband) with my room number and a list of things to bring from home.

Mike and Jimmy (my son) arrive with my necessities (laptop) and we discuss all that has happened. They leave briefly for dinner. My own dinner is delivered - typical hospital food. Fortunately, I don't have much of an appetite. I get a chest x-ray while sitting in bed (didn't expect that!) and a new nurse and tech. I also get my meds - Coumadin and Lovenox, which is delivered by injection - in the abdomen - twice a day. Ouch!

Mike and Jimmy return quickly followed by the phlebotomist, who collects 13 blood samples - enough to allow for all the tests that might be ordered.

After my family leaves for the evening, I keep myself entertained with e-mail, Facebook and Twitter until I learn that I have been scheduled for a CT scan. I get an IV line and take a wheelchair ride to radiology. The radiology tech is handsome and gentle. He'd fit right in on Grey's Anatomy. (I am later berated by a single friend for not doing a wedding ring check.) I have never had a CT scan before, so he tells me what to expect and warns me of some of the strange sensations that I might experience. The scan only takes a few minutes and I am on my way back to my room.

At midnight, I turn off the light and try to sleep. My bed has an air mattress and is designed to aleviate pressure points. It is contantly adjusting - inflating and deflating - and it's noisy. At 3:00, my nurse unplugs the bed so I can sleep. She is certain that it will not fully deflate. I wake up an hour later on a flat mattress. She plugs the bed back in. Between hourly checks, I try to nap, without bending my left arm, until morning.