Saturday, May 12, 2007

"I need you to open your bowels for me Kevin"

As a little back story to this post, I have had asthma since I was three, when I had whooping cough. I have never needed to go to hospital - I would usually go to the Emergency Department, have a ventolin Nebuliser and that would fix me.
Last Thursday though I had a full-on mega asthma attack. 8 days in hospital later, I'm home. This is my sorry tale....
Last Tuesday I went with Sarah for her ultrasound appointment for bub number 2 (yay!), so that I could Rohan-wrangle while she had the scan. About two hours after we got home, I had a bit of a runny nose, so I took some olive leaf extract and some echinacea and waited to get better. Wednesday morning I was pretty crap, and I ended up sleeping all day in an attempt to be ready for work on Thursday. Because I had slept all day, I did not realise just how low I was on Ventolin. I ran out about 1am. I spent most of the night looking through my room for old dodgy ventolins, eventually just decided to wait until the chemist opened in the morning. Bad move. By morning my breathing was so bad I could only talk in short sentences and couldn't walk. After some grumping I agreed to let mum take me to the ED at Maroondah Hospital.
When I went to the triage desk, my Oxygen Saturations (O2 Sats) were in the mid 80s (should be 95-100%), so they put me straight onto a ventolin nebuliser (neb). They tried me for a while in the paeds sections, because this is where all the asthma equipment is. After I did not improve, they moved me to one of the resus beds in the ED - the "serious" beds.
They kept giving me neb after neb, and I was not improving - at best my O2 sats stayed on 93%, even while having a neb. They also started giving me IV ventolin. After a couple of hours of this, I started to freak out - why wasn't I getting batter dammit!! I started to panic, and the ED staff decided that I was just being anxious, so they reduced the ventolin and gave me valium. Surprisingly, I got worse.
The next step was a CPAP machine which suctions onto your face and forces O2 down your airways. Very strange, claustrophobic feeling. They had me on that for a while and I was going ok, but then they decided that I needed to have a CT scan to see if I had a pulmonary embolism. This meant lying on my back, still, holding my breath. This is not really possible when you can't breath. They also put me onto a portable CPAP machine that had a delay when I breathed in, feeling like I couldn't get air. Surprisingly I had another panic attack in the CT room, and my O2 stas dropped to 70%. The staff were all yelling at me, but there was not a lot I could do about it - I was freaking out! All up I was in the ED for almost 8 hours, although it felt like about one - all I remember is a bunch of different people all asking me the same thing - "Are you allergic to anything?"
Once I had finished at CT, I was admitted to the Critical Care Unit (CCU) - the closest thing Maroondah has to an ICU. The ED nurse handed over my details in front of me and said "bit of asthma, VERY anxious". Mole.
Being in the CCU meant I was on a bed with my vital signs constantly being monitored - resps, heart rate, O2 sats, hourly BP and so on. I had two drips in, and constant heated humidified oxygen being pumped in - they had decided I didn't need to CPAP machine anymore, which was a relief. Now, in restrospect I know how sick I was, but at the time I was too sick to notice!!!
My first night in the CCU gave me another first - my first ever sponge bath! Now I know I was dirty - I had been too sick to shower for 24 hours, and I sleep with poodles, but the nurse kept sighing and groaning and decided that the poodles were the cause of my problems - she even handed that over to the next nurse on shift! Mole!
The CCU was essentially a long corridor with beds and curtains - why is it that people in hospital think that curtains are sound proof?
The CCU began testing me for various infections - Legionella was one that I heard bandied around - or as the Nurse in Charge pronouced it "Regionerra". This is also when they mentioned that I had patches of collapsed lung.
Most of the nurses in the CCU were brilliant. There were occasional issues - like the fact that they only had one toilet, and I had to be taken by chair to it, so I was often waiting up to three hours to go to the toilet. My bladder may never be the same! There was also the nurse who ripped out my IV while trying to remove some tape. That hurt. A lot. I bled. A lot. Getting an IV put in isn't fun, but having one ripped out is a lot worse.
After six days in the CCU I was going nuts - unlike a normal ward there is no telephone, no TV, no newspapers, just medicine. I had magazines and puzzle books, but I really just needed mindless entertainment. Finally they transferred me to 2 North. The only down side to this was that I was the youngest person in the room by 40+ years. The guy next to me had COAD and was a lovely guy, but the other two weren't really on our planet anymore. That's where the title of this blog has come from - one of the first things a nurse said to one of my room-mates - "I need to you open your bowels for me Kevin". Enough said. Kevin kept trying to put himself back in bed, and Diane next to him, kept trying to get out of bed, even though she didn't know where she was. Thank God for TV.
Oh, and hospital food sucks dogs balls, although I have probably lost 10 kilos. The best thing they had was custard in little tubs.
So after two more days in hospital, they finally let me go home. I am still not right - short of breath, a bit light headed - but I am so much better than I was. My arms also feel like the veins have been sewed up with fishing wire - they are all tight when I move. One of the CCU nurses kept telling me how close I was to being intubated. I try not to think about it.
It has given me a better perspective about what the patients at work go through as well - waiting for doctors, anticipating your meals so much, because that is all you have to look forward to. My empathy factor has increased ten fold.
It's been very scary - for me and everyone around me. I need to take this as a wake up call, and start looking after myself better. I'll let you know how I go!