The Great Escape

I succeeded with NaNoWriMo, writing a 50k-word novel in 30 days.  Woo-hoo!  Didn’t think I could do it, but lots of friends cheering me on sure helped.  Today I thought I’d finish up the story about my hospital stay this past summer…

Getting Out Of A Hospital Ain’t Easy

Please, somebody, save me from myself.  If I’m ever in a hospital again, and there isn’t anything too terribly wrong with me, I hope my head clears long enough so I can run for the nearest exit.  If I hear the words, “We’d like to keep you overnight for observation,” I pray to God there will be someone with me with enough bravado to yank me by the collar and drag me out.  I want to hear my friend’s cry of victory calling back as the doors open, “We’ll see you in the morning!”

But such was not my fortune at a recent hospital encounter up in New York.  What is it about health care professionals that lull us into the submissive fetal position, bobbing our heads, muttering “Yes, OK.”  Is it the white smock adorned with a stethoscope?  Or is it the way they clutch your file like a top secret government project…and don’t dare let you see?  I admit it, I caved and said, “Yes, OK.”

I’ve already written about my overnight experience with “the Borg,” and how I was almost completely assimilated like my poor roommate, DeeDee.  But now I must tell you about my escape, for that’s truly what it turned out to be.

Don’t get me wrong, though.  I know that hospitals do a lot of good and do save lives.  It’s just that mine didn’t need saving at this particular time.  So my story comes from the perspective of someone just making sure there wasn’t something seriously wrong…and truly, I thank God for the care and attention I received from the good health care professionals…just to make sure I was OK.  Still, it wasn’t a picnic.  As with any challenging experience, if I can’t find something humorous in it, I’m a complaining, miserable wreck.  So here’s my story…told in a spirit of reverence, but with a little…shall I say…fun-spirited irreverence?

Now, if there’s anything a hospital is really good at, it’s making you wait around for the next thing to happen…the kinds of things they promise they’re going to do to you, only they neglect to tell you when.  So you wait and wait, and wait some more.

First thing in the morning, they attempt to give me a heart attack on a treadmill.  I kid you not.  Funny thing is, I was in there for chest pains.  Who thinks up this stuff?  Let’s see, she’s having chest pains, so let’s take it up a notch and see how much her ticker can take before she yells “Uncle!”

No, I take that back.  It wasn’t first thing in the morning.  It was after a lot of waiting around.  Some guy in blue scrubs comes into my room with a wheelchair.

“Can you unhook me from this I.V.?” I ask him.  “It really hurts.”  I think back to all the pain I endured through the night, because a nurse put the Heparin Lock right into the inside crook of my elbow.  I later ask another nurse who comes into the room to move it or remove it and she replies, “Just don’t bend your arm and you’ll be fine.”  Hello!  What do you want to do when they tell you not to bend your arm?  Bend it, of course.  And I’m supposed to tell my arm to stay straight while I sleep, right?

Then when I finally fall asleep, I’m awakened by two people talking over my bed.  They turn on the bright fluorescent light and start grabbing the wires that are snapped to my body, and hooking them up to this big machine they just wheeled in.  The first thing I hear is a woman’s voice saying to her fellow nurse, “Oh gee, look where they put her Hep-Lock.”

You know just what to say to put a girl into the right frame of mind, lady. Now I know that I’m suffering unnecessarily at the hands of someone’s poor judgment.  Not a comforting thought at two in the morning in a hospital bed.

As they get their readings and write more on my secret chart, I wonder how anyone ever gets better in a hospital.  No wonder they sedate people so they can sleep.  There’s no other way it’s going to happen.

So now it’s morning and we’re back to the guy in blue scrubs with the wheelchair.  He unhooks me from the I.V. stand.

“Can you take out this Hep-Lock?  It really hurts.”

“No, I can’t do that.  Let me go get a nurse.”

He leaves the room.  I’m sitting on the bed waiting.  And waiting.  He finally returns.

“No, you need to keep that in.  Let’s get you in this wheelchair so I can take you for your stress test.”

Reluctantly, I submit and bob my head, “Yes, OK.”

He wheels me down to the elevator and then to another hall.

“Just wait there,” he says as he parks me against a wall.  “I’ll be right back.”

As if I have any other option than to wait?  Let’s see, if I make a break for it, I can wheel my way to the cafeteria and see if they have any real coffee down there. When you’re in the hospital for chest pains, no way are they going to give you anything but decaf.  Never mind the splitting headache that ensues because of your caffeine addiction.

But I set aside these rambling thoughts and submissively wait.

The guy in blue scrubs finally returns.  He takes me to another elevator and down another hall.  We arrive at the door to a room and he says, “Here ya go.  They’ll take it from here.”

Before I can utter the obvious, “Who?” he’s gone.  I’m alone, with not so much as an old, outdated tattered magazine to pass the time, and I wait.

After a while, a nurse wheels me into the room.

“Can you remove this Hep-Lock?” I ask.

“Sure, honey.  But I need to put another one into your hand.”

Score! Anything is better than keeping that needle in my arm.

She takes all my vitals, snaps more wires to me, tells me to sit on the table and—you guessed it—wait.  My eye catches a couple magazines under a stand.  Neither is what I’d call my cup of tea, but I choose the high-end, hotsy-totsy home décor magazine over golf.  I’m mindlessly pouring over really bizarre furniture and interior design, reading about the artsy homeowners…and waiting.

The nurse returns with a doctor, who instructs me to walk as fast as I can, for as long as I can.  They will gradually make the treadmill go faster, with an increasing incline.  No sweat, I can do this.

After a few minutes of trying to act like it isn’t killing me, I ask, “So how long do you want me to do this?”

“At least twelve minutes, but fifteen would be better.”

Better for who? My heart’s pounding, my hands are sweating, and I can’t hide my heavy breathing anymore.  I strain to compose myself and ask them to stop at twelve.  If I’m going to have a heart attack, right now would be the time.

But no, now’s the time for the nuclear injection.  You heard that right.  They inject it into my hand and tell me to keep walking at top speed uphill.  One minute of radioactive fluid coursing through my popping, throbbing veins.  Can this be healthy?

The nurse helps me back into the wheelchair, and rolls me to the room next door.  What now? You guessed it again…wait.

A technician eventually emerges and wheels me over to an extraordinarily large machine.

“All right,” he says, “just step up onto this table.”

“All the way up there?”  It’s only about six feet off the floor.  Not an easy feat, especially after a night of sleep-deprivation, and lethargically lying in a bed or sitting in a wheel chair.  I muster up the strength and climb the contraption.

“OK,” he says.  “Now lie down and hold onto these bars, but keep your elbows in so they don’t get hit.”

Get hit?  What on earth is going on?  Nobody told me about this!  What the heck is happening?

Before I know it, the table is moving backward, and I’m desperately trying not to let my elbows get hit…on what, I don’t know.  I’m going into a small tunnel.

“Now don’t move.”

Move?  Are you kidding?  Where could I possibly go?

I don’t know what they’re doing to me, but I want it to be over—real soon.

After another round of sliding out, turning, and going back into the tunnel, I’m about ready for my hospital bed.  Anything is better than this.  I’m finally allowed to climb down from the table and back into the wheelchair.  I glance over at what the technician is looking at on a screen.  How cool!  That’s my heart—in full, living color. Now that’s something I’d like to stay around and look at.  But no, the guy in blue scrubs whisks me out of the room, into the hall, and then leaves me.  Gee, buddy, couldn’t you at least let me do my waiting in there with the cool video? Happily, I find my magazine tucked into the wheelchair.  I’ve read just about every word in it, but it’s better than sitting and staring at blank, white walls.

The guy in blue returns and takes me back to my room.  Ah, breakfast is on my night stand.  Scrambled eggs, toast and a fresh apple.  Not too shabby, for hospital food.

After finishing up, I wait—for what I haven’t a clue.

Finally a pretty, tall Physician’s Assistant shows up.  “Everything looks fine,” she says cheerfully.

“So can I go home?”

“I don’t see why not.  We just need to wait for the doctor’s final OK to let you go.”

Yes!  I’m outa here!

I excitedly get up off the bed and get my clothes out of the closet.  Finally, I can get dressed.  But not so fast.  They’ve hooked me back up to that darn I.V. stand.  How can I possibly get dressed attached to that thing?

I sit and wait.  I don’t bother watching T.V. because I find daytime programming about as exciting as throwing up.  They actually charge extra for using the T.V. anyway.

After a lot of waiting, my doctor arrives.  “Yes,” he says, “you’re good to go.”

“Can you unhook me from this I.V.?”

“I’ll send the nurse in for that.”

I wait some more…and more.

The nurse pokes her head in and I’m quick to the draw.

“The doctor said I can leave.  Can you take out this I.V.?”

“I’ll have to check on that.  I’ll be right back.”

Like I haven’t heard that before.

She finally comes back, unhooks me and removes the Hep-Lock.  Yes!

I grab my clothes and get dressed in the bathroom, thrilled to be free at last.  I walk out into the hall.
“Excuse me?” asks a nurse.  “Where are you going?”

“The doctor said everything is fine and I can go home.”

“But we need to release you,” she explains.

“OK, then release me.”

“You need to wait here,” she says as she walks away.

Why do I have to wait? I want to go home!

I grab my cell phone and call the airport.  Yes, there’s a flight out this afternoon.  I can make it.  I call my sister-in-law and ask her to pick me up.

I walk over to the door of my room and stand there, waiting.  Anyone who walks by, I look them straight in the eye with a pathetic, longing look.

A guy walks by and asks, “May I help you?”

“Yes!  I need to fly back home to Florida, and I don’t know what I’m waiting for.”

“Just a second,” he says.  “I’ll go see what’s happening.”

I wait.  He returns.

“The nurse will be with you in a little while to release you,” he says.

“Well I hope it’s soon.  I need to be at the airport to catch a flight.”

“The nurse is eating lunch,” he explains, “but I’ll see if I can get her.”

I wait some more.

She shows up clutching one of those top-secret clipboards.  I meekly apologize for taking her from her lunch, but explain that I’ve got to leave for the airport.

She gives me departure instructions, like getting some prescriptions filled and having a follow-up visit with a doctor in Florida.

“Where are you going now?” she questions me.

“Down to the gift shop to meet my sister-in-law.”

“She’s on her way right now to pick you up?” she asks incredulously.

What is this lady’s problem?  Why do I feel like I’m making a prison break?

“Yes, she is,” I answer.

“Well, you’re supposed to wait for a wheelchair.  Can you make it down there OK?”

“Sure,” I answer calmly, while inside I’m screaming, “Yes, a thousand times YES!”

I walk toward the elevator, feeling like I’ve been released on parole.  I make it down to the gift shop and out the door.

I did it!  I escaped!  God bless hospitals, but keep me away from them!


7 Responses to “The Great Escape”

  1. Lori Latimer Says:

    OMG – you had me in stitches reading this! The sad part is that it is so dead on… but as long as you can keep your sense of humor, all is good.

    Glad it all turned out okay, and so happy to hear you finished your Nov. project – keep it going!


  2. Kathy Behm Says:

    I know this experience all too well. I have had many hospital experiences….I don’t plan on ever going back but I love your humor. Well done!!

  3. Tony Says:

    Oh dear! I’ve been in that kind of club med way too many times. What a great description of the reality of it all. Very happy to hear you are ok.

  4. June Haywood Says:

    I know exactly how you felt. I went through the same experience except I didn’t do the treadmill cause I almost passed out in the first two minutes, so they gave me a shot that made me feel like I was going to die. I like the way you wrote this. You made it soooo funny.
    Love a girl and keep the good stuff coming.

    • judyransom Says:

      Thanks, June! I think the only way to get through such ordeals is to ask, “What’s funny about this?” I’ve heard it’s the best way to get rid of stress. 🙂

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