Monday finally rolled around. Surprisingly, I was not restless lying there in my hospital bed in Allen. Anyone, who knows me knows that is unprecedented. It is hard for me to sit still.
At ten a.m., I was taken to the cath lab to begin the start of my journey. I got some drugs that put me in a twilight sleep. While in this dream like state, I vaguely remember seeing a bunch of monitors and heard people talking. It all went by pretty fast. I was blissfully unaware of what was going on. Even when I was sent to the ICU to recover, I hadn’t a clue as to what the result was of my cath. When I did find out it wasn’t good news.
Apparently, when the doctor read the results of my echocardiogram, the sonogram of my heart they did over the weekend, he felt my aortic valve stenosis was severe. Then when he took a look at my coronary arteries during the cath, he determined that what I needed done was too extensive for their small hospital. But what did they find? What exactly is too extensive? I don’t recall him giving me the details and I didn’t ask. I was still under the effects of the drugs.
Anyway, the bottom line was they were going to transfer me to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. And because they hoped I would be going soon, they left in the sheath that was inserted into my right femoral artery that allowed for the instruments and things to be threaded up to my heart. As a result, I needed to lay on my back and keep my right leg straight. I couldn’t sit. I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t roll over. Nothing. It was very important for me to remember to keep that leg straight or I could bleed out.
The worst of it was that I was not transferred to the other hospital that day. No, I didn’t leave till the following day, Tuesday. For 24 hours I laid on my back in the ICU, keeping my leg straight, getting the backache of the century, trying to shovel food in my mouth while lying down.
Many people came in to check on me while I was there but my main nurse was a young-looking blond who called herself the singing nurse. She called herself the singing nurse not because she sang but because she would recite music lyrics that popped into her head. She seemed impressed that I told her the song from which she quoted. Well, the singing nurse bustled around me with more energy than I could deal with checking my blood pressure, checking the site where the sheath was, asking me if I had any pain.
“I have to pee,” I told her at last wondering how they were going to manage that.
“I’ve got something for you,” she said.
She busied herself off to my left, unwrapping stuff, putting stuff together.
“Okay, this goes between your legs.”
She handed me an apparatus shaped like the front part of thong underwear. It was flexible and contoured..She helped me position it by my urethra. I looked up at her confused.
“Now, when your ready just go.”
“Yes, it will be alright. You shouldn’t get wet. The minute you start going a small will vacuum will your urine out and it will collect in this container over here.” She pointed to my left but I couldn’t see anything.”
Singing nurse left the room and I was supposed to do my thing. Yeah, right, like that was going to happen. Singing nurse swept back, “how’s it going.”
“Its not. I can’t go.”
“It will take some getting use to; just relax. It will work.”
She left again. I worked and worked at it and at last I was able to let a little come out. I heard a noise and felt a coolness. I let a little more out and finally I was able to completely let go. Ahhhh, okay, that felt better. One problem down. Now what was I going to do about my back ache. And when was I going to get out of there. Everytime some came in I asked when I was leaving.
“Haven’t heard anything yet.” was the answer.
1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock. No news. My back ache was becoming unbearable. I was told I could bend my left leg to ease myself. That didn’t even make a dent in the pain.
4 o’clock. Overwhelming grief overtook me. Tears rolled down my checks. Once the waterworks started I went into full-out crying but quietly so as not to disturb anyone, although I was in a room by myself. My stomach bounced up and down. I silently gasped. Mucus filled my nostrils. I choked on the mucus. I opened my mouth to let out a silent wail.
Singing nurse bounded into the room.
“Whats wrong,” she said. “You’re blood pressure is up.” Then she noticed my crying.
“Oh, Sweetie, what’s wrong?”
I was in no shape to object to the term of endearment. Although I did feel a little bit ruffled.
“My back.” I rolled my head back and forth.
“You have orders for Morphine. I can get you some morphine.”
I didn’t know what to say. Was morphine a little extreme? “Okay,” I finally choked out.
After she administer the morphine directly into my IV I felt a warmness spread over me. My back still hurt but I was more relaxed. I calmed down. My blood pressure came down. I was able to rest more comfortably. For like about a half an hour.
The singing nurse went off shift and on came the 7pm to 7 am shift nurse who I absolutely adored. She was gently, caring, attentive. She was from India and she was beautiful and an angel.
She was informed about my back so when I complained about it she asked me if I wanted morphine.
“Not really, that stuff doesn’t work the best. What if you gave me two Tylenol and a Benadryl then maybe I could get some sleep.”
She thought that over and then told me I had an order for a longer acting pain reliever. I think she said it was Oxycontin. So I tried that. She was right. I was much relieved all night and was able to get some sleep on and off.
The next morning Tuesday, I was still in the ICU in Allen, still had the sheath in, still lying on my back, still dealing with my back pain.
The day shift nurse who took over for my angel was also from India. I’ll call her Sras. I forget her name. I shouldn’t have she was the most helpful.
It was Sras who put a pair of hospital issue underwear on me to keep that urine vacuum machine in place. It was Sras who told me that the hold up with my being transferred was that I was classified intensive care and Texas Health Dallas didn’t have any intensive beds. It was Sras who told me that the doctors said my sheath could finally come out. It was too old to use at this point. It was Sras you took the sheath out and press down, hard and hold the pressure for at least 20 minutes on top of where the sheath came out to stop any bleeding.
Sras wasn’t alone taking out the sheath though. Another nurse needed to assist by feeling the pulses in my feet to make sure circulation wasn’t being cut off. After about 15 minutes Sras was shaking from maintaining the pressure. She said she couldn’t understand why she couldn’t hold the pressure. She usually didn’t have a problem. She was reluctant to give up but eventually she stepped back and allowed the other nurse to hold the pressure.
Finally it was all done. The sheath was out, The site did need to be monitored for bleeding and pus but things were looking up. I still needed to keep my leg straight for 5 hours which was downgraded from 8 because it had been in so long, lucky me.
Now that I was sheath free and no longer needing intensive care, a bed opened up at Dallas and at 4 o’clock an ambulance arrived to transfer me to Dallas. I was strapped into the imbalance gurney and wheeled down the hall. When I passed the nurses station I saw Sras sitting at the desk.
“Bye Sras,” I waved. “Thanks for everything. I’m going to miss you.” I smiled at her.
She looked up smiled, waved and said good-bye. I thought I saw a look of sadness at seeing me leave. While she took care of me we laughed and joked and really had a good time. I miss her. And I don’t even remember her name.
It was such an ordeal dealing with the sheath that I didn’t have time to think about what lay ahead for me at Dallas. I was just glad to know that once I got there I would be able to get up and move around. Small pleasures.
In retrospect, although I liked the cardiologist and the nurses, I wonder how much of that was necessary. If that sheath hadn’t been left in, I would have been at Dallas sooner and been spared much discomfort. But then I felt so nurtured by Sras, I can’t honestly get angry about it. Sras’s caring and even friendship overshadowed all that crap.
But the real crap was about to hit the fan once I was at Dallas.
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