This morning, coffee in hand, of course, I cannot help but laugh. The nightmarish things that have happened over the course of the past month or so are really, quite hilarious. So, I figured I would share the wealth and then you can see that I simply cannot make this shit up when it comes to my life.
It all started over the holidays. I left my tropical oasis turned new hometown of West Palm Beach for the frozen arctic that was Massachusetts. Let me stress that I am not exaggerating with my use of descriptive words. I traded in daylight until 5pm where a light jacket is sufficient enough to keep me warm for the semi-frozen tundra where the sun sets at 3pm. Yes, I know what you’re thinking,
“Hey, Kristen. Didn’t you grow up there?”
Yes, yes I did. However, when I was living in MA year round, I wasn’t hobbling around with the assistance of two metal sticks and internal scaffolding making up most of my skeletal structure from the shoulder blades down. You do the math… I WAS FREEZING.
If I wasn’t curled up on the little rollaway counch with my heating pad or in front of my parents’ woodstove in the living room, then I was lost and cold and severely in need of an IV drip of anti-freeze. You get it? I am now a woman of the tropics and require temperatures above freezing to function normally.
Traveling was, well, per the usual. Jump in a wheelchair, skip to the head of the security line only to sit and wait for the lucky individual who got to pat me down, trace my little soul suit with their fancy magic wand, test my crutches for gunpowder residue and swipe my shoes. If I was lucky, they would find something suuuuuper suspicious in my carry-on requiring a full on search where they so politely take EVERYTHING out of the bag I had so perfectly packed like a Tetris game. When the search ended without finding anything worth their while, they then handed my unpacked bag back to me while I’m in my wheelchair trying to finagle my laptop back in my suitcase, and my ID back in my wallet while juggling two crutches and my purse. And my shoes, I needed to get those back on too. So, SURE! Hand me back my unpacked bag because that is EXACTLY what I needed in that moment. TSA, you’re my absolute favorite.
As with any major medical procedure, you typically need clearance from your PCP. Sounds pretty simple, right? Yeah, I thought so too. With the new year, I had to sign on to a new health insurance policy. In doing so, they automatically assigned me to a primary care. How thoughtful! Usually I would insist on looking over this new doctor and potentially do a switcheroo but this was literally days prior to my surgery and I really didn’t have time to mess around. The office was conveniently located across the street from St. Mary’s… on my short drive there, I was trying to figure out what the building looked like. My GPS led me to a very suspicious looking complex with ZERO signage. At that point, I should have known something was up. After driving around the building at least twice and not seeing a sign for a medical center or primary care facility, I pulled into a handicapped spot in front of a walkway that led to what could definitely be a doctors office. So, I unload myself and my metal sticks that make walking possible and crutch to the door. Upon walking in, I see a security guard and another woman sitting at the desk. Both of them look at me with a what in the world are you doing in this kind of place look. I asked where the medical center was and both said, “the what?” I explained that I had a doctors appointment and apparently that made more sense. They pointed me in the right direction and said that it was through the door at the end of the building. I walked out, loaded myself back in the car and drove to this door at the end of the building… except there wasn’t one. I ended up around the back of the building at a goodwill drop-off.
WHAT IS HAPPENING!? At this point, it was 1pm and I was late for my appointment. Being on time or late instills a feeling of intense panic in my veins. I’m always early.
Panic stricken, I poke around the drop-off site in search of another human who might be able to help. That was unsuccessful. I got back in my car and drove back around to the front of the building. Thats when I noticed a small path from the sidewalk that led to a very small door. Not your average, welcoming door to a doctor’s office. Was this it? Once again, I parked my car, unloaded myself and strolled up to the door which weighed 1,493lbs and took me another 7 minutes to open so now I was MOST DEFINITELY late. Walking in, I immediately took note of the lackluster walls, uncomfortable and stark seating arrangements and abrasive atmosphere. Not to mention the lack of desk presence.
WHERE AM I!?
There was one other person in the waiting room and she looked far from sober… what substance(s) she was on, I could not be sure but if there was wine in her backpack, I was on the verge of asking for some. Since there was no one in the front office, I stood at the window and made as much noise as I possibly could; clanging my crutches together as I put them up against the wall, clearing my throat at least twice, throwing in a wee cough and then playing the alarm on my phone until FINALLY a woman came from God-knows-where, talking on her cell phone and holding her finger up to me signaling that she needed a minute. I mean, really?! 10 minutes later, she hung up the phone and asked why I was there. When I told her I had a doctor’s appointment she looked a little confused, took my license and insurance card and told me to sit again. Another 10 minutes or so went by and then the medical assistant called for me in a back room. When I sat down, she too looked at me funny.
“What is your primary reason for coming in today?” she asked.
I told her that I needed to see a doctor for pre-op clearance.
“Ok. I am going to ask you a few questions and then get your medical history.”
She asked the usual name, date of birth, address, etc. and then says, “are you currently fighting any addictions?”
“Are you employed?”
“Are you homeless?”
NO I AM NOT HOMELESS
She then looks at me and half laughing asks, “Girl?! What on earth are you doing here then?!”
Thank you Blue Cross of Florida for assigning me a primary care provider at the local homeless shelter. Thank you, so very much.
No, I did not ask the woman in the waiting room if she had any wine. Yes, I immediately went to the store upon leaving my ‘appointment’ and bought multiple bottles for myself.
Fast-forward to my surgery day. (Yes, another, which in and of itself is a nightmare.) My overnight bag was packed, leg scrubbed down with Hibba Cleanse and hair braided to prevent a post-op rats nest situation.With all of my focus on the prep, I forgot to pop a Xanax prior to my water drinking cut-off. No liquids four hours prior to surgery. When I looked at the clock, it was 8:30 with surgery scheduled for 11:00. FAIL.
Bring on the anxiety.
My dear friend Katherine scooped me up to take me to the hospital. I insisted she just drop me off and she insisted that she come in and wait with me until I went back into pre-op holding. The day before when I did all of my paperwork, etc., I bargained with one of my favorite nurses who promised she would make an appearance for IV placement. Not long after putting my request in at the front desk, Flo appeared in the doorway to take me back with Katherine in tow. They always say, “don’t jinx it,” when stating your confidence in the nurse who is about to stick you. They are right. Just my simple declaration of excitement for Flo’s willingness to come out of the office and help a sista out got me in trouble. For whatever reason, pre-op ran out of beds. Of course they did. So Katherine and I sat in these wicked comfortable, solid plastic chairs in my little bay. Flo wheeled up a table and dropped all of the IV supplies onto in. Katherine shifted in her seat and then informs us that she likes to pass out whenever there are needles involved. Mind you, this woman is as much of a rebel as I am and has piercings and tattoos. Oh boy, this was going to be good. With my right arm on the table, juicy vein in view, my left hand was behind my back, clutching Katherine’s hand whose palm was already sweating and the torture hadn’t even started yet. If that isn’t love, then I’m not sure what is.
Inflicting pain on yourself is one thing, having someone else dig around in your arm with a very large needle only to have the juicy vein roll around and then blow is a completely different story. Attempt One = unsuccessful. Shit. With a deep sigh, I released Katherine’s grip, unsure who was squeezing who harder we got a solid laugh out of it, I rolled my shoulders back and held my right arm out again for Flo to tie the tourniquet back on. Vein #2 spotted. Reaching back around with my left hand, I search for the hand of my already squealing friend. Laughter caused me to move around too much so I attempted to stifle it as much as possible. As Flo picks up the needle, I squeeze my eyes closed and prepare for the pain. Let me tell you, the initial stick is fine and if my veins would cooperate, I’m sure the experience wouldn’t be as brutal. My veins hide and do not cooperate thus initiating a search within my arm and that is what kills me. Attempt Two = nada. Determined not to jinx any possibility of the third time being a charm, I said nothing out loud and kept the thought to myself. Praise Jesus, it worked. IV was in. Thank goodness because I know I wasn’t the only one becoming increasingly concerned for the little fairy who was holding my hand and potentially about to pass out.
After I was all hooked up to fluids, the pre-op staff were nice enough to find me a bed. I changed out of my clothes and into the 17 sizes too big gown. WildKat had to go to work so I bid her farewell and settled in until they took me back into the operating room which I figured would be shortly.
Three hours later, they finally came to get me. All I remember is laying in the brightly lit, sickly sterile smelling operating room, while they hooked me up to monitors etc., for an obnoxiously long time before they finally knocked me out. I mean, C’MON PEOPLE! Of all the opportunities to miss taking sedatives and this had to happen.
Next thing I know, I’m awake. Groggy as hell in the recovery room AND suffering from yet another allergic reaction. I was so itchy that I was squirming uncontrollably in my bed. Bless the recovery room nurse who was wiping my arms and leg down with cold washcloths — and once the Benadryl kicked in, all was well with the world. And then I came to realize a true travesty… I was not hooked up to a PCA pump. No little joy stick for this woman. I was completely reliant on IV and oral pain meds which I usually have a difficult time with right out of the starting gate. And by night 2 that proved to be true. Thank God for nurses who are on my side and vouch for me with shit like this.
Enter, my pain pump allowing my first time out of bed to go smoothly. I was using the bedside commode like a kitten in a litter box. Hospital life was grand… until the following night. My arm the IV was is began to throb. Oh no, please God, no. Yep, it was happening. My IV was going bad. I tried to stand it as long as I possibly could and hope that I’d just had it in a bad position. Alas, I had to call my nurse in and sure enough, my vein had blown. SERIOUSLY?! It was 10pm or so. Andrea (my nurse) looked at me and said, “I am no sticking you.” Girl knew how bad my veins were.
After some convincing, two nurses from the PICU showed up. Oh boy, a party. They hoisted my bed halfway to the ceiling and tied tourniquets on each arm to begin the search. Mind you, phlebotomy had also been in to draw blood over the past two days so it was extremely slim pickins.
Convinced they found something to work with, the two gals snapped some gloves on and I held my breath and continued my plea bargain with The Universe. Their search for a vein with an 18 gauge needle in my right AC was a major fail and I was a brilliant shade of indigo from holding my breath.
Fast forward 3 unsuccessful attempts in both arms and I was hysterically crying… make that hyperventilating… and insisted that I was done being a human pincushion. One of the nurses was holding my left hand still looking for veins. The colorful array of allergy, fall risk and ID bracelets were in her way so grabbing a pair of the medical safety scissors, she went to cut them off.
You guys, SHE FREAKING CUT MY WRIST WITH THE SAFETY SCISSORS. I shit you not.
That was it. I started screaming for them to get out of my room. By now it was midnight. I was exhausted and overdue for pain relief. To top it all off, the physician assistant on call was requiring someone to get an IV in me because they didn’t think I could handle oral pain medicine. Seriously? If one more human came within a 12 inch radius with any type of needle, I was going to completely lose it requiring a bed in the psych ward. NOT HAPPENING. I demanded oral meds and to be left alone for the rest of the night until the next morning.
My body had no choice but to sleep after all the excitement. The following morning I was a true sight for sore eyes. One of my favorite PAs, Vera, was rounding. Since hearing about my treacherous evening she came bearing a gift.
“I have something for you,” she said as she grabbed the hem of her scrub top.
Whoa! Sista. For a hot second, I thought she was about to flash me. Catching the confused look on my face she said, “It’s not what you think, silly.” She lifted her green scrub top to reveal a t-shirt underneath with a little unicorn farting rainbows on it. Woman knows me all too well. I couldn’t help but giggle. And then my begging and pleading began for her to pull the drain out of my leg. Judging by the look on her face, I knew the answer was no. But whyyyyyyyyyyy?! In my mind I was thinking about how I could get Vera to accidentally remove it… “Can you come her for a sec?” I asked her.
When she got close enough I tried to clip my drain to her scrub pants so when she walked away it would get pulled out. Alas, I was caught red handed and we got another good laugh in.
Oh goodie, I was stuck in St. Mary’s yet another day/night. My body sank even lower into my bed as Vera walked out and closed the door behind her. The breakfast try that they left for me was making me nauseous. Hospital food is disgusting. I’d rather go explore a trash can for scraps. My saving grace that day was the same little fairy who held my hand in pre-op. WildKat came to visit a most pitiful patient and she came with food. When she walked in, all I could do was cry. I’d never wanted to be home so badly in all my life. K was confident that the following morning I would break free and if not, we would plan an escape.
And thank goodness, after 4 nights and 5 days too long, I did in fact escape the next morning. In the moment(s) above, life felt heavy and the clouds were dark. Looking back on everything is a concrete reminder that nothing is permanent. AND laughter is the best medicine. Sometimes we need to learn to simply laugh at our nightmares.