Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Aftermath

     I know, I left the small band of you who kindly take the time to read my ramblings hanging after that last post. It wasn't intentional; there's just been so damn much going on around here in the past two weeks that I haven't been able to find the time to sit down at my computer. Well, that and the fact that my husband hasn't been home for the better part of a week and the basement, which is where my computer lives, creeps me right the hell out if I'm by myself at night. I wish I could say he's been away from home for some cool reason, like that he was interviewing for a fantastic job in another state, but it's not nearly so good a reason - he was in the damned hospital again. Before I get into that adventure, I really should finish recounting the last one, yes?

     As it turns out, the paramedics took my husband to the trauma section of the emergency room, which was the last part of the ER that we hadn't yet explored. I must have been a bit quicker than the nurse at the registration desk's information was updated, because when I walked in to inquire as to which room my husband had been taken to, I was told "Trauma 22, right" and given a name tag with my surname on it. Armed with this information, I pushed through the heavy double doors that separate the ER waiting room from the treatment area to find my husband. When I reached the correct room, I glanced in to see a rather small figure huddled under a blanket where I was told my husband should be. I hesitated, because while he's skinny, I knew he wasn't that damn skinny. Sure enough, when I worked up the nerve to walk up to the foot of the stretcher on which the patient was laying, I could see that it was clearly a youngish girl with hot pink running shoes. Definitely not my husband.

     I backed out quickly, before she woke up to find me creeping on her, and as I did, I saw the paramedics wheeling my husband around the corner down the hall. I didn't dare move to go to him, as the trauma unit is worlds away from the regular ER and I was doing my best to blend in with the wall. I personally have no experience in the medical world, but one of my best friends is a nurse and if I've learned anything from hanging around him, it's to get the hell out of the nurses' way when they're working. There weren't any rooms available at that moment, so my husband's stretcher was parked unceremoniously in the hallway right in front of where I was standing. He was immediately swarmed by no less than three nurses and a doctor, who started in with the questions right away.

     I recognized that the questions being asked were designed to evaluate how bad the damage suffered during what we assumed to be a tiny stroke was. I stood there, listening and watching, making sure that my husband didn't leave out any pertinent details, until the social worker-type person figured out that I was the wife and asked if I would sign the paperwork consenting to treatment on my husband's behalf. Of course I signed, but I felt weird about it. Even though we've talked about it more than the average couple probably does and I know that, as his legal spouse, I've got the final word when it comes to his medical care, should he become incapacitated, I've never actually had to exercise that power. I didn't like it.

     As the little Irish doctor doing the evaluation was able to eventually ascertain, the damage was virtually nonexistent. He was able to say with a pretty good amount of confidence that my husband had suffered a transient ischemic attack, or T.I.A. Basically, it's a tiny stroke that's usually the final warning shot before the big, potentially debilitating stroke. As soon as he said that, my husband and I looked at each other and knew right away what had probably happened. Remember when I said my husband was going off his blood thinners for a week in order to receive steroid injections in his spine? Yeah, about that. When they took his INR in the emergency room, he was sitting at 1.4. Normally, he needs to be between 2.5 and 3.5 to make everything work with his artificial valve, so that reading was less than good.

     Once the ER doctor had the full story about how my husband had been off his warfarin for the previous week and had only just picked it back up a few days before, he quickly put two and two together and told us that most likely, a blood clot had formed somewhere around that titanium valve and a tiny piece had broken off and made its way to my husband's brain, momentarily obstructing the blood flow. It was seriously only for the briefest moment in time, which is why there was no lasting damage. My husband had by this time regained about eighty percent of the use of his left side and his speech was normal again.

     Eventually, we moved out of the hallway and into a trauma room, where the same cognitive tests were performed on my husband every thirty minutes or so. There was no question that he was going to be admitted, but the staff wanted to make damn sure he was stable and not going to suffer another "neurological event" before moving him into a regular hospital room. Somewhere in all of this, the fire alarm went off and a prerecorded voice told us repeatedly to follow our nurse to the nearest escape route. No. Just no. Nobody else seemed excited about this, either, and one of the nurses came back to assure that the fire doors had been closed as a precaution, but that hospital security had assured her we were in no danger. By that point in the evening, I doubt very seriously if we'd be phased by something as random as dragons crashing through the ceiling.

      Once the battery of testing was finished for the time being, the small nurse released the brake on my husband's stretcher (no, really, those things have brakes, like a car, only it's a bed) and we started the trip to the eleventh floor. Can I just pause for a moment and say that I never really thought about how strong those nurses have to be just to do their jobs? I'm not talking about emotionally strong, though God knows they have to be, but physically strong. Those beds are huge and not light, especially with someone in them, but damned if she didn't maneuver him through the hallways and up a couple of ramps like it was nothing. Impressive.

     After my husband was settled on the floor, it was pretty standard procedure from that point on, really nothing we hadn't encountered before. The one exception was that every nurse and doctor who came in gave him the same "smile for me, BIG SMILE" test that I knew they were using to test for facial paralysis. Hell, we even settled in to watch the same show that we always watch in the hospital - "Chopped", on the Food Network. It's kind of become our ritual, one that relaxes us, as much as anyone can relax in that place. I eventually left, sometime after midnight, as I had to work the next day and begin the usual round of phone calls to Jean, my sister-in-law and Adam, my brother-in-law.

     I was able to take my husband home the next day, after he'd been inspected by what seemed like every neuro doctor in the place and pumped full of heparin to get his blood thinned out. We stopped at the nurses' station on the way out to thank them, because they really are wonderful people and we see them an awful lot. That night, laying next to him in our bed, I was just happy to have him home. I wasn't even thinking about the bullet we'd just dodged, though I probably should have, since the lingering complications from said dodged bullet would seriously ruin my day just a week later.

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