Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My life exploded (Part III).

Day 2
"E, I need you to wake up." I look up and Dr. Nolan is standing over my bed in green OR scrubs. "Did anyone from behavioral health come to evaluate you last night?"
"No." I reply.
"How are you feeling?"
"Do you still feel like hurting yourself?"
"Okay. Well, I think Dr. Martin, one of the psychiatrists, will be over soon for a consult later this morning. After that we'll go from there."

New nurse, Sarah. She comes in and explains that Dr. Nolan wants to run an IV antibiotic for the infection. I talk to her for a few minutes as she sets up the antibiotic, and then she leaves. I lay in bed for a minute, and then glance at the IV tubing hanging from the pump and realize that it was never connected to me and is creating a puddle on the floor. I laugh. I guess if anyone has shock-value and could distract a good nurse, it would be me.

Sarah walks back in sheepishly, and examines the bag which is now totally empty. A while later, a second bag arrives from pharmacy and she hangs a new bag of antibiotics.

I go back to sleep. I don't remember if I was tired by this point or if I just didn't want to deal with being awake.

I wake up to MiniMan and my husband standing in the doorway. MiniMan is scared. I didn't expect him to be. He's been to the ICU many, many times. He knows most of the nurses, who adore him and his curly blond hair. He knows where we keep the graham crackers and who will give him toys and stickers. I guess he knew something wasn't right when he saw me in bed instead of walking around, wearing scrubs.

I ask my husband to bring him over, let him sit in the bed, but MiniMan shakes his head and clings to my husband tightly. He starts to cry. He doesn't want anything to do with me.

"Has the psychiatrist come yet?" My husband asks.
"I talked to your nurse on the phone two hours ago and she told me he was on his way over."
"I don't know.. I haven't seen him, maybe something came up. I'm sure I'm not a very emergent patient."

My husband explains that he has to go, that he has to drop MiniMan off with his mom, that he would be back. I hug him, pull the covers up around my neck, and fall back asleep.

Dr. Martin knocks on the glass door.
"Hi, I'm Dr. Martin. I'm one of the psychiatrists."
"I know." I remember seeing you at the hospital coffee stand flirting with nurses and telling them that all women should really take the time to treat themselves to a facial more often. Probably not all women, however, have your salary.

"So.. can you tell me what happened?"
I sit up and try not to act upset. "I had been taking some classes at the big state university: physics and chemistry to complete my premedical prereqs. I was also working full time doing overnights here as an aide. It ended up being kind of tough because a lot of nights I just didn't get to sleep. I'd go to school all day and then work all night and go back to school. I recently learned from my physics professor that we were going to have three exams over the course of the semester (not finals) that were going to be at 9:00 p.m. on Monday nights (this wasn't in his syllabus). I had e-mailed the professor telling him that I had a conflict, that it would be insane for me to take my two-year old son to daycare there, then drive him home when the daycare ends at five, and then turn around and drive back to school (1.5 hours each way) and then drive home again. My only other option would be to hire a babysitter on campus (or nearby) to watch him until ten, who would have to put him to bed, and then I'd have to wake him up, put him in the car, and then wake him up and put him to bed again. This just didn't seem fair to my son.. Anyway, my professor e-mailed me back and told me that he was sorry, but that he couldn't help me and that it would be impossible for them to proctor three exams for me, that I'd have to figure out a way to make it work... When I got the e-mail I just sort of lost it. It was early in the morning, I was getting ready to go to class. I was so upset I just got back into bed and cried. My husband couldn't figure out what was wrong, he couldn't calm me down. I told him that I just wanted to sleep and he forced me to get up and I couldn't calm down so I took a lorazepam that my GP had prescribed PRN for anxiety. I barely ever take them. My husband wouldn't let me go back to sleep and I don't know. I just took the whole bottle. I didn't think about it, I just did it. I wanted to sleep.
"You work in this unit, right?"
I nod.
"Do you see a lot of patients who overdose?"
I pause. I guess we see a lot of patients who overdose, but if you think that I had some kind of scheme have a vacation in the hospital, let me tell you, having your coworkers undress you while you are unconscious is far from therapeutic. "Probably more than many other units in the hospital."
"Do you think you might harm yourself again?"
"Do you think you would benefit from spending some time on our unit?"
"I don't really think so. I've floated to the mental health unit before and I don't think I would really be very comfortable there. I don't really feel like this is still an acute situation and I'd like to get out of here as soon as possible to get back on top of my coursework."
"Okay.. Is your husband still here?"
"He had to drop off our son."
"All right. Well, when he gets back, have have your nurse call my unit. I'd like to talk to him as well."

My husband is back, minus MiniMan. He meets with Dr. Martin, who agrees that it would be okay for me to go home without getting locked in the psych unit. I silently rejoice. I would get getting out. Dr. Martin leaves, then my husband, who is going to stop at home and bring me some clothes and shoes. It will take a while to get the discharge paperwork together.

My legs are killing me. My nurse, Sarah stops in my room to take out my IVs.
"My legs are really achy."
"Might just be from staying in bed so long." She walks out to complete some paperwork.

I ring my call bell. One of the aides comes in. "I'm having these body aches. I really don't feel good." In retrospect, I probably should have been direct and just asked for Tylenol, but for whatever reason, it doesn't occur to me.

I'm lying in bed crying. The monitor is alarming because I'm tachypneic. Dr. Nolan walks in.
"Well, I didn't expect to see you like this." He remarks.
"My legs really ache. I don't know what's going on."
"I don't see how I can send you home like this. I'm going to talk to Dr. Martin again."
"I need to get out of here. I need to get back to school."
"No kind of school is worth dying for. Clearly you're not ready to go home."

Dr. Nolan comes back in, tells me that he's talked to Dr. Martin, that they have a bed for me in the psych ward. I start bawling hysterically, begging him to let me leave.
"I can't lose my license over you. I can't guarantee that you won't hurt yourself when you get out of here."

Sarah comes in with some Tylenol for the leg pain. My husband walks in behind her, tells me he's talked to Dr. Nolan, and reiterates that I won't be discharged -- that Dr. Nolan said my discomfort was "a cry for help."
"Have you had your Celexa?" My husband asks.
"Not since Monday."
My husband walks out of the room following my nurse.

"She hasn't had her antidepressant in three days," he says, following Sarah out to the nursing station.
"It wasn't ordered," she replied.

Sarah comes back in with the Celexa.
"Some nurses are going to be over from the mental health unit soon to walk you over," she says.

A male nurse and a pysch tech arrive. I walk through the halls of the hospital with them, hoping no one will see me.

My belongings are being checked by one of the nurses. "You'll have to have your husband take your sneakers home, they have laces." I now have no shoes. My pants have a drawstring and are also confiscated and replaced by faded elasticized scrub pants. I now am the stereotypical psych patient, I haven't showered in days and wander around in hospital pants and beige non-skid socks.

I am starting to feel really bad, again. My legs are aching and it's freezing in my room. I get under the covers but I just can't get warm. I finally get up and try to turn up my thermostat, but it can only be turned up with an allen wrench or something. I walk out to find one of the nurses, who comes back in and turns up the heat.

I still can't get warm. I wander out of my room and ask for another blanket. One of the nurses returns and throws it on my bed.

The blanket doesn't help. I decide to call my husband, see if he will bring me a sweatshirt and sweatpants. It's so cold here. I don't know how they can leave it like that. I wait in line to use the phone.

Some gaunt woman in black stretch pants is angrily gesticulating while she yells into the phone. She says some closing remarks, hangs up the phone, and then mutters "fuck you, you cunt," walking away.

I'm shivering. I ask one of the nurses for another blanket.

My husband arrives. I tell him how cold I've been. He puts his hand to my forehead.
"You're hot. Has anyone taken your temperature?"

He walks out, and comes back with one of the nurses who is carrying a thermometer. She takes my temperature. It's 103.2.


  1. wow, this is truly a riveting read.

    you are intelligent and beautiful and yet all this stuff is happening to you. sometimes it's tough to balance it all. have you looked into distance education at that university? i know some medical schools are still traditional but most universities are going in the direction of online courses in spite of that.

  2. K -- could you re-invite me to your blog? I think my validation expired!

  3. I hate to comment that mistaking your fever for a panic attack is classic internal medicine..... but it's classic internal medicine. Yay!

    Maybe one class (chem) would be easier than two. I don't think I'd have been able to handle two at a time with my full time job, and I didn't even have a child or much of a commute. It's ok if your pre-med odyssey takes a little longer. It's better to do a good job and take a little longer than make yourself ill.

  4. E, I am sorry for your struggles. I am overwhelmed by your post. Everyone has hard times and these are very hard times for you. And all of this will pass and time will heal. I hope you feel better soon. You're in my prayers, honey. I am anticipating more posts from you soon. :) Feel yourself hugged.

  5. OMDG -- More than anything, I'm just sort of amazed what it was like to be a patient. That part that was really nuts was that people I previously had great relationships with, were now dismissing my complaints because as a psych patient, I had lost any credibility. It was really difficult to be on this "other side."

    As for taking one class at a time, I'm not taking any classes right now. I'm also not working. I guess eventually I'll get around to that stuff. Things seem kind of bleak. I have thought about taking a lighter, longer route in the future, though.

  6. Hi E, I actually stopped blogging entirely :( so I just cancelled all readership, and I'm keeping it online just for my own reference down the road.

    I am still reachable by my blog email: and I'm still actively following blogs. :)

  7. I lost a colleague to an overdose a few years ago. He was a nice guy and a good veterinarian. He was under enormous stress and did not have a good support system. Take care of yourself.

  8. EG -- I see psychiatry in your future.....


    I really do hope you're doing better now. I don't know if you've completely abandoned the idea of med school, but I hope not. Just take things one step at a time, and you will get there eventually.

    Keep us posted.

  9. What an incredible read. First visit to your blog, and yet my heart aches for your experience. Best wishes and prayers to you and your family. Please keep writing, I'd love to read more.