Monday, October 27, 2008

What I've got

With four surgeries on my right knee in a month's time, 3 hospital stays totaling 12 days in a "Craftmatic" adjustable bed, and now three antibiotics intravenously entering my body for 11 hours a day, I've picked up a few things.

First of all, I've picked up an infection, and not just any, infection, a persistent, mysterious, booger of an infection, an infection, without which, I would not have been able to acquire all the things I will soon mention. This infection came as unexpectedly and stealthily as it was improbable. No one knows who let it into the original operating room. I certainly did not invite it. It was not a "special guest" of the surgical staff. It was rather a stowaway hiding somewhere in the vicinity of the soon to be surgical incisions. Whether he was dressed in a full-bodied radiation suit or was merely a super tough guy who held his breath as the surgical site was cleaned pre-surgery we still do not know. As of today, we still don't know much of this original bacteria guy and all the friends he invited over. We THINK it wasn't an MRSA strand, since the original culture never grew, but because the original course of treatment didn't work, we wonder if it was merely a Staph strand. After treating with the two big "gram-positive" antibiotics, Vanco and Zyvox, and STILL having some recalcitrant traces of these bad guys, a THIRD antibiotic, Zosyn, was added to treat any possible "gram-negative" strain. Today, we finally feel like we are making successful strides at excommunicating these microscopic peronsa-non-grata . . . whoever they are.

Other things I have acquired because of this ordeal is some great friends at the hospital. I have had some really great nurses, nurse's aides, lab techs, chaplains, housekeepers, and lost visitors looking for the room next door during my stay, each with a different, but friendly and helpful, warmth about them. Needless to say, I'm on a first-name basis with many of the scrub-wearers on the 2nd floor surgical unit. The nurses like me because not only am I the friendliest patient they have, but they say I'm "independent," meaning I'm not a nagging guy who's trigger happy with the "nurse call" button. They also like the "smiley face" cookies I share with them. They bring me smiles through the pain meds they administer me, and I give them smiles through baked goods. It's the least thing I can do for them emptying my urnial several times a day.

Speaking of urinals, I've picked up three now. Although they are really handy for an immobile, male patient with a full bladder, I'm not sure what use they could be at home. I hate to throw such perfectly flawless pieces of moled plastic away, especially with their graduated markings on the side, but my wife says this is one collection we will be recycling.

The three "handsomely decorated" insulated 32-ounce beverage mugs, complete with the hospital logo and corrugated bendy straw with the versatility of inserting on two different sides of the perfectly formed lid, will be a welcomed addition to my coffe mug collection. It was only withing the last few months that I began using my two hospital mugs from 4 years ago for coffee, since coffee tends to stain the inside, making them undesirable for future, non-coffee beverages, and since the mugs ended up costing close to $20 each (we found out later on the itemized hospital bill.) With inflation over the last 4 years, I cannot imagine what the cost of these "newly designed" upgraded mugs will be, but I'm guessing I've got a set of 3 worth $100. If they don't sell on e-bay, I'll savor every sip of hot coffee out of them and raise the "Christus Santarosa" logo high into the air as a mark of my courageous bout with bacteria and extremely uncomfortable hospital beds. If they DO sell on e-bay, I'll be trying to auction off the 3 urnials next.

Addittionally, I've acquired my share of odds and ends that the hospital gives to each patient without asking (that is "sells" to each patient unsolicitly.) I've got three "barf bags" that I think will fit nicely into the glove compartment of our vehicles for those regurgitation emergencies. I've also got two sets of slipper-sock thingies with sticky treads on the bottom. One set is size XL and works like a charm when I move around the dirty, cold hospital floors, the other is size "medium" and doesn't fit around my heel. My daughter is looking forward to wearing them this winter. Having only 2 pair from 3 visits, I'm guessing that I either failed to get them upon my first visit, or they were size "super small" and I just missed them. Sometimes I think it is more about the "billing" rather than the "necessity" or "wishes" of the patient. We'll be checking the itemized bill very closely once again to make sure they aren't frivilously charging us for more shampoo caps or "4 by 4" gauze pads than we actually used.

Another thing I have acquired throughout this ordeal is an entire drawer of white compression hose. Called, "TED" hose (name-brand), "anti-embolism" hose, or "sexy white tights," I have awoke after each of my four surgeries wearing a brand-new pair of them. My surgeon is of the professionaly opinion that wearing the hose helps keep post-surgical swelling down, helps prevent blood clots in the legs, and helps everyone around me get a good chuckle. Hey, laughter is good medicine, even if it comes at my expense. Just a few minutes before writing this blog, my doctor removed the drainage tube from my knee, wrapped it back up with the aforementioned "4 by 4" guaze pads (I counted how many" and then was dully impressed as I pulled my hose back up over the top without disturbing the pads on the knees, with the adepteness of a seasoned, veteran Rockette getting ready for a show. He WASN'T impressed when I started putting on lipstick . . . Anyway, I don't know If I'm going to be able to break this "hose habit" I've been forced to acquire. The unilateral support and comfort give me confidence and added warmth and stability. Granted, they don't look good with shorts, but perhaps, just perhaps, I may "sneak" them on in the future beneath my slacks. Just kidding. They itch, and they constantly slip down my thighs. I'll be glad to quit wearing them, but throw them away I won't, since I'm sure they cost me an arm and a leg (or two.)

Finally, I've acquired some major bills. Bills upon bills. Bills I don't even want to look at. As she did before, my wife will play accountant and auditor on this one as the insurance EOBs and bills start coming in. Did you know that the original ER doctor sent us a bill for $300. I saw him twice: once when he popped his head in the room and said, "What's wrong?" after which I told him my knee was infected, I knew it was, I've had experience with this before, and that the on-call surgeon was waiting for him to call him to the hospital so that he could do surgery. The next and last time I saw him was when he poked his head in the room and said, "I've called the on-call surgeon." I never even got his name. He never even touched me. He charged me $300 for a phone call! But what do you do? It won't be fun trying to figure out the finances, billing, rebilling, overbilling, and payment options on this one, but then again, none of this has really been fun.

As I was just told that I must spend ANOTHER day in the hospital, hoping to go home today, I guess the last thing I've acquired in all this was the opportunity to truly appreciate all the things I actually had before all this, things like a great, supportive family (moms, dads, kids, aunts, uncles, . . .), personal strength, patience, and faith, super, considerate students and colleagues, an irreplaceable, unselfish network of friends, and finally, an amazing, patient, amazing wife, a woman I have been exceedly proud to have listed in recent weeks as my "next of kin."

No one likes bad times, but it's time like these that make us take a step back and reprioritize what really matters in our lives. The excess falls away, leaving the meaningful core, and this core is them something that gives us a firm foundation upon which to rebuild.


Anonymous said...

You should keep at least one urinal. You never know....

Bernie still has his from his hospital stay after the motorcycle accident.

I'm sorry you have to stay another day, but it's probably a good idea.

Tomorrow is 'Super Hero' dress up day for our red ribbon week. I guess I should dress up as Shealynn. She is amazing.

Take care.

kwkorpi said...

wow, what a nice compliment about Shealynn. Sometimes I wonder wear she hides her cape.

Thank you