Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Spiritual Gift of Sarcasm

All was not gloom and doom at the hospital.

Yeah, okay, I'm not buying it, either. For most of the stay, I vacillated back and forth between various states of fear and boredom. That's a screwed up Venn Diagram, let me tell you. Every single doctor who visited me had a different diagnosis and worse, a suspected prognosis. It was frustrating, to say the least. One doctor comes in and says, "We don't know what you have, or how long you're going to be here." The next day, the surgeon comes in and says, "This wound site looks fine. I don't think you'll need a PICC line or a port. You may be able to go home today." Then the infectious disease specialist visits the day after and says, "You will need constant care for a minimum of four weeks." This multiple choice kind of diagnosis always happened before noon, insuring that I'd have the rest of the day to ponder every decision that may have led to my groin exploding in a fountain of goo.

On the other hand, I did have a captive audience by way of the nurses. None of them had heard any of my scrotal edema jokes, so I got a tight five minute set out of every new nurse that came to visit. After a while, they were just sending new nurses in from other floors. That kept me busy for about two days. After that, I started eyeing the window for a quick exit.

Don't let this selfie fool you. I'm having a ball.
It was weird, because after they got my vitals stabilized, I felt fine. And once the horribleness stopped pouring out of my groin, I felt 100%. All of the waiting was for the labs to come back. Labs. That's nurse-talk for, "We're going to draw enough blood out of you to fill a Slurpee cup." Well, they sure as hell tried their hardest. I don't think they ever got enough blood. And I don't know what they were testing for, but two days' wait just about did me in.

On Saturday, they admitted an elderly woman who was maybe two doors down from me. She was fine at first, with a lot of family around her, but not fifteen minutes after they left, she started wailing in a high, braying voice, "Can somebody Hay-elp Me? I need Hay-elp!" She had it timed so that every twelve seconds, she would repeat. Loud. Clear. Strong.

The nurses--every single one--tried over and over again to get her to push the big red button on the remote and just talk to them. It would be quiet for about thirty minutes, and then it would start up again. She refused to use the call button. She just screamed for help. For two days.

It was the worst during the first few hours, because I could hear all of the nurses, explaining over and over what to do. And then it would start again. "I need Hay-elp!" At the beginning of hour three, I snapped. She screamed out "Can Somebody Hay-elp Me?" and I yelled back, "Can you PLEASE use your Fucking Inside Voice?"

Not my finest hour, I know. And it was only later that I realized she had dementia and was calling out to people who weren't there. Now I felt like a sheep-killing dog, even as the head nurse on the floor called me her Spirit Animal and got me a Xanax to facilitate knocking me out so I could sleep and also make me way less interested in them drawing blood at midnight.

I was sympathetic to this woman for the rest of the weekend, even as she was waking me up in the middle of the night. It wasn't her fault; she was scared and alone. And in that, we had something in common.

I had a few visitors, which was deeply appreciated, as they showed up during the days when I was at my most agitated and ready to take a janitor hostage and fight my way out. I even got a visit from the chaplain, whilst in the middle of friends visiting me and Cathy, on Sunday. He was nice, but I'm always a little weirded out by hospital chaplains. Did they send you to me? What do you know that I don't know? Father Mulcahy only showed up on M.A.S.H. when someone was dying or dead. After he introduced himself, and me and Cathy are staring at him, along with our two friends, he asked me how my stay has been at the hospital. Uh, what? Something inside of me snapped.

"Well, this was not the room I booked for my vacation," I said. "And the pool hasn't been available all week. I don't know what kind of resort hotel you're running here, but..."

He cut me off, smiling. "I see you have the spiritual gift of sarcasm."

Much respect, Padre. Nicely played. He was sure to let me know if I needed him for anything, just call. I told him I would, knowing full well that I would not.

As I was finally getting discharged, they tried one last time to murder me. See, I need a daily treatment of antibiotics for four weeks, and maybe more. We'll see. But they had originally prescribed for me some serious stuff. The concierge nurse came in and said to me, "Okay, your insurance won't completely cover this treatment. Your out of pocket will be seventy dollars and mumble-mumble cents a day."

I will save you the scramble for your calculator app. That's two grand. For antibiotics.

I'm no doctor. I ain't got no PhD. But I do know this: antibiotics shouldn't cost seventy bucks a day. Not for an infection. If I'd picked up some rare, mutating disease in the Asiatic Seas, and tentacles were protruding out of my ass, then yes, seventy bucks is a bargain, please and thank you. But this wasn't no butt-tentacle disease. This was a bacterial infection, and we were talking about anti-frigging-biotics.

Not surprisingly, I balked. And when it became clear to the concierge that me and Cathy weren't made of money, she went away and spoke to the doctor and lo and behold! I now have two antibiotics I need to take for the next four weeks that won't have me living out of  a cardboard box. What do you know about that? Not sure if I'm more upset at the infectious disease specialist or the state of insurance overall. Probably a little of both.

There were a couple of perks to being the world's shittiest cyborg. Fun fact: anything you lick in the hospital, they let you keep! I got a digital thermometer, not one but two sippy cups, and an EKG machine, for free! All you have to do is put it in your mouth, and viola! It's yours.

Also, I am what is known in the business as a "deep stick." That is, in fact, NOT a sex thing. It means my veins are hard to get blood from. I don't care. It's my new gamer tag, no take-backs and I'm probably going to add it to my business card. "Mark Finn, Deep Stick."  Only a phlebotomist will know the truth, and how many of them am I going to meet in my lifetime?  


Unknown said...

I find that my sarcasm keeps me from killing people...and keeps me sane! Still praying for you and your beautiful wife. Love you both!!

Adventuresfantastic said...

"He cut me off, smiling. "I see you have the spiritual gift of sarcasm." "

The rest of us have known this for years. :)

I totally get the deep stick thing. The first time I made a blood plasma donation, they stuck me twice in both arms and never got the full amount. My veins aren't so much deep as they are narrow.

I used to be terrified of needles, too, but then my appendix ruptured in high school. After the second surgery (there were complications, let's just say) I kinda got used to them as the needle brought the medicine that made the pain go away. Now they don't bother me. Hopefully you won't be as bothered by them as you were when this whole situation started.

I'll keep praying for both you and Cathy until you each get a clean bill of health.

Jim Adcock said...

Oh, Mark, Mark - you uttered the phrase "how many [phlebotomists] am I going to meet in my lifetime?", thus guaranteeing you will meet WAAAAAAAY too many of them.

Have you never watched a movie, or a television show, or read a book?

Pooks said...

The padre must have been an Episcopal priest.

Anyway, I will picture him that way.

And yes, now that he put it that way, I do believe sarcasm is a spiritual gift.

Huzzahs to you for pushing back on the meds. I'm glad they found a combo that would do the job without digging the financial hole even deeper.

Heal well and prosper, Sir Mark of the Deep Stick

Randall Shepherd said...

That you can write such an entertaining piece about such tough circumstances let’s know you’re winning the fight amigo. I love a good nickname and you’re “deep stick” from now on :) keep on healing “deep stick”

Julia said...

Ask Dan sometime about how he handles needles.

I witnessed it on one of his hospital admissions this year (I think it was the first of 3, that one in January. 2 more after ConDFW. Not a fun winter for us at all.)

It's impressive.