Listen, I know no hospital situation or scenario could ever qualify as “ideal” but I want to shed some light on this. I want to help and offer my services by making the best out of a bad situation. I have been in and out of hospital settings for various reasons all my life. I’ve been cut, prodded, and poked so many times it isn’t funny. But I am going to share my personal experiences in the hospital and what the staff have done to make my stay better, and in some cases, worse.
I’d like to start with the first medical procedure I can remember. I had my tonsils removed when I was in 8th grade. I had open heart surgery when I was 4 months old, but I don’t remember anything about it. Anyway, due to my underlying heart issues, I had to stay overnight in the hospital. It would have been uneventful if not for one thing: the breakfast they gave me the next morning. I was supposed to eat cold food for about a week until my throat healed. I saw chilled eggs on the hospital’s breakfast menu. So I ordered it. The eggs were scalding hot! Like what the Hell people?! Do these people not know the difference between hot and cold?!
Another procedure I had, again due to my heart problems, was a pacemaker. I had that installed in June of 2015. I was awake the whole time, which I hear is common for people who get pacemakers. I was numb but I could feel pulling and tugging while they installed the pacemaker. It didn’t hurt; it was just pressure and annoying. I was on Cloud 9 on whatever they gave me, but I do remember the nurses talking to me throughout the entire procedure.
Oh, the story going in to the pacemaker procedure is actually kind of funny. My procedure was supposed to be at 8am. Naturally, as with any medical procedure, I was not allowed to eat or drink anything after midnight. So I was hungry going in, but I thought they’d be on time and I’d be able to eat around 10 or so. Oh how wrong I was! Due to an emergency situation with another patient, my procedure got pushed back…WAY back! So 8:00 comes and goes; 9:00 comes and goes; 10:00 comes and goes…finally, no joke, at 4:30 in the afternoon they rolled me back to get my pacemaker installed. I was livid! OK, I was more pissed at the fact that I hadn’t eaten in almost 24 hours and all I could drink was water, but still pissed nonetheless.
So after my pacemaker, I again had to stay overnight for observation. My family was there with me right up until I was discharged, so it wasn’t too terribly bad. It’s just annoying as Hell when you’re trying to get comfortable and sleep on a rock-hard hospital bed and the medical staff come in every 2 hours to check my vital signs. Look, I get that’s their job and everything, but I am attached to a heart monitor. Piece of advice: If my machine is showing a pulse and I am not flat-lining, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD…LET ME SLEEP!
After I went home from my pacemaker, a day later, I was going to see Jurassic World with my sister. So being the genius idiot that I am, I get up on Cloud 9 on pain pills, to ask my sister if she is ready to leave. Well, as fate would have it, I got up too quickly. I got dizzy, blacked out, collapsed, and broke my arm. It turns out, I broke my funny bone. And for all you medically inclined people out there, breaking my funny bone was far from humerus. It hurt like Hell!
So after my sister realized what had happened, she called my dad. My dad tried to physically lift me under the arms to get me into the car. That was screaming agony! So my dad immediately called 911 and an ambulance came. Here’s where it starts to sound like a slapstick comedy skit. I had one veteran paramedic and one new guy who was still in training. Oh, joy… So the veteran paramedic kept telling the “new guy” to get equipment from the ambulance. I think he came back with the wrong thing twice and he took forever to get that stuff! So after finally getting me into the ambulance on a stretcher, they gave me morphine. That stuff works like a charm! Not a care in the world when I am on that stuff!
When I got to Union Memorial hospital, there was a long line of gurneys with people that I am sure had far more horrific injuries than mine. So they told me I’d have to wait my turn to be called back. I am usually one who can advocate for himself; it’s my job to do that. But I was in such pain and complete shock that I could not say anything. So my dad spoke up and told the staff that I have Autism and had just had a pacemaker installed two days prior. That changed everything! They took me back immediately! Here’s where I think Union Memorial could use some improvement. In the emergency room at Union Memorial, they only allow one visitor back at a time. So my dad was in the room with me for awhile. Unbeknownst to me, my mom was in the waiting room lobby losing her mind panicking. The moment I knew I was in a lot of medical trouble was when my mom barged into the room after my dad had left. The look on my mom’s face is one I hope to Christ I never have to see again. Just sheer pain and panic in my mom’s face.
The doctors told me that it was such a clean break, all they could do was let it heal of its own accord. They said that could take 8-12 weeks. That’s when the surgeon stepped in and said I was getting surgery on my arm the next day. That’s the one time in life I was happy to hear the word “Surgery”.
Now comes the “common Autism scenario” part. What I mean by that is that what happened to me is actually fairly common in people with Autism. The day of the surgery, the anesthesiologist put the oxygen mask over my face and told me to count backwards from 10-0 and that I would be asleep by the time I got to 1. It didn’t work. I don’t know if it was due to nerves, anxiety, fear that I might not wake up due to my heart issues, or the fact that I have Autism…or maybe I’m just that good. But at any rate, I made it to 0 the first time and was still conscious and able to communicate. It took two tries for me to fall asleep.
The surgery went fine. I stayed in the hospital for a few days for observation. The thing about Union Memorial was, they don’t allow visitors or family to stay with you overnight. They have visiting hours. So I got lonely at night. After I was released from the hospital, I was being rolled out of the room in a wheelchair. A nurse stops me and goes, “My nephew has the same heart issues that you do. Can I use you as a living success story?” That made me feel special and like I was helping a nurse out instead of the other way around. Not gonna lie…it was a good feeling.
The arm surgery culminated in my having a sheet of metal and screws in my arm. They are still there to this day. I had a total of 55 staples in my arm holding my incision together. When I got the staples removed a week later, the nurse made a mistake. I don’t know if any of you are familiar with the sound of metal hitting metal, but let me tell you it’s enough to drive you crazy! But that wasn’t the mistake. When the nurse put the steri-strips on my arm, she put one long piece of medical tape on longways running parallel to the wound. I don’t know the first thing about medical practice and even I know that’s a big no-no! My mom and I were in the elevator and the strip started peeling off. We did my bandaging ourselves thanks to medical strips from Rite-Aid.
I’ve talked about the negative aspects. Now I’d like to get to what I thought made my stays more bearable. I had one nurse who would come in and talk to me about everyday things and not just medical crap. She treated me like a “regular” person and not just as a patient. She made herself available to talk about whatever and I enjoyed that.
I did manage to have some fun with my arm wound though. When I returned to my agency after a few weeks, a job coach asked me “Did you actually break your arm or just injure it?” So I showed her a photo of the X-Ray. She looked like she was going to vomit. I had to laugh about that.
So that’s my perspective on what my experiences have been like in the hospital. Please feel free to comment and as always thanks for reading!