The beginning of a story about the complications of surgery and the medical establishment
|“Who am I?”
I stared at the surgeon I’d seen twice before letting him open my chest cavity to replace a thickening heart valve. His accent was heavy, his eyes dark , and his wavy hair thick and jet black. I knew him, but his name was lost in the maze of cobwebs clouding my mind as well as my vision.
“Who am I?” he persisted.
“Doctor.” I mumbled in a voice I didn’t recognize. The effort of that word revealed the searing pain in my throat and parched dryness of my mouth. Dear Lord, I don’t remember being this sore or fuzzy after surgery. I must still be half under from the anesthesia.
“Dr. who?” He was relentless. “Do you know where you are?”
“Hospital…dry.” I tried to raise my hand to my throat to signal my dilemma, but the blood pressure cuff on one arm and IV tubing attached to the other seemed made of lead. I could barely lift my hands off the mattress. Was I in restraints? Why? And why am I not sitting up in the chair, out of bed as he said I’d be on the afternoon of surgery. This was my first hint that something had not gone according to plan.
“Ice chips,” I croaked. Where are they? There were always ice chips to sooth and refresh after surgery, but there were none to be seen in my limited field of vision, and no strength in my body to turn towards the bedside table that might have held the precious relief.
“What? I can’t understand you. I’m Doctor Fannah and this is Forum Hospital. You had your surgery and now I’m going to listen to your heart.”
He held the stethoscope in place for what seemed a long time, then turned to leave.
“Ice chips,” I mumbled, but he was gone and I drifted off to wherever I had been for the past few weeks.
Healthcare associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a sneaky little ‘super-bug’ causing major complications for unsuspecting patients who entrust their well-being to the hospital system. You may get off easy, developing a boil that is recognized and treated with specific antibiotics early enough to avoid systemic complications. On the other hand, if your luck or karma isn’t working for you, you may seem to be ‘coming along fine’ (as I’m told I was} and suddenly, a day or two after surgery, slip into a systemic infection attacking multiple organs and requiring extreme levels of support and treatment. For me, that included being put on a ventilator(lungs not working), finger sticks every few hours for blood sugar (pancreas taking a break), intravenous fluids with strict watch on output (kidneys trying to shut down), and a cocktail of heavy-duty antibiotics with side effects nearly as dangerous as the condition you’re struggling to conquer. Oh, and did I mention MRSA likes to go after heart valves? Although I kid about Luck and Karma, I am well aware that only Divine Providence and the power of prayer delivered me from the ravages of this nasty germ. That God was nearby was clear to me, even during the worst moments of my illness.
…the kids had gotten into trouble in Las Vegas and Andrew went to get them out of it, but got entangled himself, so I needed to go do something…
…my husband had to sell the house to try and pay the hospital, but was going to rent a place half a block away from a kindly doctor. .. only, then I stopped hearing from him and feared he’d been kidnapped…
…I found myself on the floor of a filthy clinic in a foreign land. Too weak to move, I did manage to use my cell phone and call a church friend who came and prepared tea for the staff in order to win my release…and the people were praying for me…
…then I was back in the ICU room, trying to use their computer and my credit cards to pay off the bill so I could be released, only my legs were tied down and I couldn’t keep the keyboard close enough to work… Call my brother in New York, I kept telling them, he’ll take care of everything.
Then I simply let go. The nurses wanted the valve I’d received for a co-worker who suddenly needed it. I could see that none of the hands on the wall clock were connected anymore, which meant the valve wasn’t working for me. I could feel the presence of God, strong, peaceful and reassuring. I could choose to be with Him and let the rest go – and that was the choice I made. My girls wouldn’t come in to be with me because they were angry that I’d given up. That hurt as I drifted off… when I woke up, I was still there in the bed, with a clear message in my mind – It’s not time yet, you still have things to do. When it is time, the peace will be waiting there.
The wanderings of a sick mind, I realized as I began returning to the land of the living. Who’d believe I have so many weird fears and ideas running loose in my subconscious? But even as I started sorting out delusion from reality, there were some things that seemed so real. It was hard to let them go. My oldest daughter was with me, and when I convinced her I didn’t want any more pain medicine, she went to bat for me. But at the same visit I continued to insist that she let my granddaughter have a frosty from one of the machines on the wall. Later, when I had my glasses and a much lower level of drugs in my system, I could make out the blue box of disposable gloves, the red box for disposable syringes, and the white med cabinet – all attached to the wall I faced from my ICU bed.