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Diary of a Hospital Stay

Rating:; Genre=Non-fiction; Pages=11; Characters=22,150;
Contributed by ArmCast

Coping with a Hospital Stay

Sharon Carter & Judy Monnig

c. 1987 by The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc.

108 pages

Chapter XX

Diary of a Hospital Stay

Saturday evening

I've always said I wanted to be a writer and write world-famous books that make megabucks, so I guess this is going to be good practice. Like I've always heard it said, I might as well do something like this -- I can't dance. That's for sure! At least not for the next few months.

I'll start at the beginning. my name is David Lindsey. I'm sixteen years old and a junior in high school. And until a few days ago I lived what I guess you'd call a normal life, without very much excitement in it.

I sure didn't like the kind of excitement I got!

Last Wednesday afternoon I had to stay late at school to help decorate the gym for a dance, and Rodney Black offered me a ride home.

We were driving down the big hill from the high school, talking and listening to his radio, when I heard him yell as we went into the intersection on the highway.

I turned around to look over my shoulder and just got a glimpse of a truck coming right at me. All I could see was grille. I mean, man, like giant teeth or something.

The next thing I remembers is someone talking to me and telling me not to move, to try to be still.

It was a girl with long hair that kept blowing in her face, wearing some kind of a blue uniform. Not a police uniform, but a uniform of some kind.

I was kind of half in Rodney's car or what was left of Rodney's car, and there seemed to be a lot of people around me and a lot of noise. The main thing, though, was that I knew my legs were caught and that they hurt.

I found out later that it took almost an hour to cut me loose. They brought the thing the ambulance people call "Jaws." It's like a great big can opener and that's was it does to a car, just cuts it apart like a can. Rodney and the other people who saw it say it was really weird looking.

But I only remember parts of it -- people talking and screeching at me, and once seeing a TV camera looking almost into my face and the ambulance people getting mad about that. They put shin splints on both my legs and finally for me in the ambulance. I also remember hearing the sirens and being taken out at the hospital.

None of it is very clear, though. It's mainly just a blur of lights in my face and pain and noise and people around me.

The next thing I remember is waking up in a strange room with my right leg up in traction and a needle stuck in my arm and taped down and one of those bottles -- they call them intravenous or IV bottles -- hanging on this pole thing by the bed. There were wires on my chest that led to this thing they said was a heart monitor, and it made a beeping sound every time my heart beat.

It was all pretty weird, but just as I was starting to freak and trying to get loose from some of the stuff, I saw my parents were there and that calmed me down a lot.

Then a nurse came in and told my parents what all the things were that I was hooked up to. I was there, for sure, but it was all blurry. (Later I remembered it all very clearly, but right then I didn't.)

My parents said that a big truck, almost as big as an 18-wheeler, had run the light and hit us broadside. The jerk who was driving the truck (that wasn't even damaged very much) threw a big fit and kept saying "Did you see that! Stupid kids ran right through that light! It's sure not my fault!" You know how it goes -- when anything like that happens it's always the kid who's wrong. But a lot of people saw this and told the police it wasn't Rodney's fault, so I guess that's good.

Rod wasn't hurt that bad; he's more scratched and cut up than I am and has a broken arm. But the nurse said the ambulance people told her he thought I was dead, and he was more upset about than anything else. It made me feel really funny -- I mean, your best friend thinking you are dead! Then mom started to cry and Dad for all embarrassed and I wished the nurse had never mentioned it.

Anyway, I had a concussion and a broken leg. the nurse called it a fracture of the femur, the big bone they call the thigh bone. They took me from the emergency room to surgery, where they put a pin through the bone to hold it still while it's in traction.

Aboce and around the bed there's all this stuff -- rope pulls and weights, and tubes and wires and all sorts of things. I fell like I'm wired for sound or belong in the Houston Space Center or something.

I'll have to stay in bed with this traction thing for several weeks; then they'll take me back to surgery to fix it permanently, and then start teaching me to walk on crutches. Oh, great! Several Weeks!

So that explains how I got here, and this account I'm writing now is part of my school work for English. Maybe it will help me find out if I really can be a writer. I can't think of anything else to say now so I'll just continue every day and tell about what happened to me that day.

Sunday Night

Well, it's late, almost midnight. I've had company all day. Sunday must be the day everybody comes to visit sick people.

iI was glad to see a lot of the kids in my class, but they sure were loud. I was so tired after a while that I just wished everyone would go home, or at least be quiet.

I think the nurses were a little mad because the guys were talking loud and acting silly and the girls were squealing and giggling and some of the kids tried to sit on my bed. Bouncing the bed hurt, and bumping my leg really hurt. I tried to tell them that, but they just ignored it. And with all the crowd, the nurses were having trouble getting in and out so they could give me my medicine and take care of my roommate.

Hospital food isn't very good, so a bunch of the kids went out and brought in hamburgers and pizza. It tasted great, but boy, what a mess when everybody left. There was stuff piled up everywhere that the nurse had to clean up. I could tell she wasn't happy with me, and I was embarrassed for myself and embarrassed for my friends, acting like that.

Well, things weren't going that great, but when some of the kids who had to work that evening tried to sneak in after visiting hours, the nurse got really mad. She didn't say very much, but she didn't have to say very much! I've got to set some of the guys straight.

I was so beat I went right to sleep and forgot to do this writing assignment. Now I'm awake again, and I decided to do it before trying to go back to sleep.

Monday Morning

One thing is for sure, everything starts early in a hospital. They woke me up before 7 a.m. to check my temperature, blood pressure, and heart. I told them it was too early, that my heart hadn't started yet, but they did it anyway.

Next came the breakfast trays. I haven't mentioned it, but it's pretty weird laying flat on you back and trying to eat. I usually manage to spill something, and it usually goes down my neck. But I'm getting better at it.

My bed has buttons to push that can raise the head of the bed a little to make things easier. I can't raise it very much, because that messes up the angle of the traction on my leg.

Once breakfast is over, the next delight of my day is a bed bath. If I thought eating meals in bed was weird, it's nothing to compare with having a nursing assistant give me a bath in bed. They set a plastic pan of water on the bedside tray and let me wash off with a washcloth as far as I can reach; then they finish washing the parts of me that I can't get to because I can't sit up.

Next they change the sheets on my bed -- with me in it. This involves several nurses coming in and just lifting me a few inches to pull out the dirty sheet and push a clean one under me, and then pulling it tight and tucking it in place.

It's really strange. I thought nurses just took your pulse and gave shots and things like that. But they have to do stuff I never even thought of. But I guess it's nothing new to them.

Today was kind of a bumper. It probably sounds silly, but it's the first time the whole thing has seemed real. I mean, the first few days I was sort of out of it, and then the weekend was busy and I had a lot of visitors and everything, but today it's quiet and I think about people going back to work and back to school and it really hit me, like, wow, I'm stuck! I'm going to be in this place for weeks.

I guess I was snappish and crabby to the nurses, because one of them sat down and talked to me for a little while. She said she understood how I felt, because everyone felt the same way at first, but don't take it out on the people around me.

Felt like a work after that. I mean, these nurses work their buns off, and I'm acting like that. I swear I do not intend to do it again!

Tuesday afternoon

It's after lunch now and there's not much on TV except soap operas. Ugh! Wish I could go to a movie or just get out of bed to anything at all. Lying still like this is boring. It's deadly. My back hurts from lying on it like this. I even wish I was back in school. Not I know I'm sick!

My leg has been hurting a lot today, and I had to ask for some pain medicine. It was a shot. I've had to have quite a few shots, and they switch between putting them in my arms and in the thigh of my left leg. They try not to put them in the same places to keep them from getting sore, but every place is getting sore now.

After the shots I get real sleepy, and sometimes I sleep through meals. The nurse today told me they would change me to pills so I could be awake more. I'm afraid of shots, but wonder if the pills will keep my leg from hurting.

Wednesday night

My parent brought me some books and magazines today and some posters for my wall. There's not much room, but it's nice to have something to look at and it makes it more like home.

I've had three different roommates since I've been here, and tonight the other bed is empty. They were all in for minor things and usually were up and running around. I didn't see much of them, so it's been almost like being by myself.

Some of the guys came by after school today, and I was glad to see them. Guess I've really been missing out on a lot at school right now. They said one of the teachers was going to come up tomorrow and bring me assignments and homework and everything .

I've been here one week now and it sure seems like a long time. I didn't know how much difference a week would make, but they brought me pictures of Rod's car, and seeing it I just started to shake. Of the guys got so uptight he called a nurse!

I can tell you, I feel pretty lucky right now!

Rod came up tonight just before visiting hours were over. (They took him to a different hospital after the wreck.) He acted kind of like he was afraid I would blame him. I told him of course I didn't blame him. I saw the light and that it was green as clearly as he did. It wasn't our fault the trucker was asleep at the wheel or whatever was wrong with him.

Rod's face is all cut and scratched and scraped, and we can't figure out how that could have happened. But it did.

Forgot to mention -- I have gotten a lot of nice flowers and tons of get-well cards. And everybody who could get hold of a cartoon of a patient with his leg in traction has sent me one! Never would have thought there could be so many. But it's kind of nice, too.

Very late Wednesday night

Hospitals are spooky at night. I work up and the TV was off -- I mean the channels were off, and there was only something on the one that stays on all night. I thought of calling the nurse and asking for a sleeping pill, but I didn't. I just lay there and thought how different it all was -- all the lights dim, and the place quiet -- and I started thinking about other people who are here. People with things that aren't like broken bones that you know will get all right.

For some reason I got to thinking about a girl in my sixth grade class, who had leukemia. Funny -- I hadn't thought of her in years. I didn't know her well or anything; she'd just started in my school that year. She was there a few weeks and then gone and then back again, and then we heard she was in a hospital. She died that summer and we'd hardly seen her, she'd hardly been to school at all.

Funny to be thinking about that. I felt on edge, tense, like I was waiting for something to snap, break, I don't know. There was something like electricity in the air.

Then, just as I was making myself relax, the PA system came on and said, "Code Blue. Code Blue Six East." The PA system hardly ever comes on at night, and it really startled me. But the next second the hall was full of people running and equipment carts and things.

I could see the guy in the room across the hall come to the door, holding his "air conditioned special" around him, trying to see what was going on.

Everyone went into a room at the end of the hall, and even though they were quiet about it, you knew it was something bad.

It seemed like a long time, and then I heard them moving something big down the hall, it clinked and rattled and seemed to be moving fast, and when they passed my door I could see a lot of people in white moving a whole bed, with IV bottles and stuff. They weren't running, but they were moving pretty fast.

I couldn't see the person in the bed, just that whoever it was had dark hair. You could tell by the way the people looked that whatever had happened wasn't good.

I lay there a long time thinking about that, and about myself, and what I'm going to do in life and everything. I feel different about things. Maybe being in here has made me grow up a little. Be more mature.

Didn't think I'd get back to sleep, but I'm starting to nod off now. Can just see the first hint of daylight outside.

Thursday morning

I'm getting used to the pin through my leg now, and moving doesn't seem to bother me as much now. I'm also getting used to the baths and changing of the sheets, but there's one thing I'll never get used to.

I thought eating in bed and taking a bath in bed were pretty weird, but they're nothing compared to using a -- you guessed it! -- bedpan.

I guess this isn't a great subject for a school assignment, but it's part of being in the hospital so I'll mention it without going into gruesome details.

All of us take very much for granted being able to walk into a bathroom and do what we have to do in private. Well, I've found there's very little privacy and not too much modesty left when you can't get out of bed. So when it gets to be the time of day when nature calls, I have to call for help. The nursing assistant brings me a plastic, oblong flat pan known -- not very affectionately -- as a bedpan, and then the ordeal proceeds.

I'll leave it to the imagination how it all works, but it does work, and I'll simply say it is not fun.

Friday night

today has been long and kind of scary. Late last night they brought in a new roommate. I don't think I should use names here, so I'll call him Mr. X.

I guess he got sick and had to come to the hospital, because he had an operation on his stomach. He was put in my room after the operation, and his wife was sitting with him. He had tubes from his nose that went to a machine that made sucking noises all night pulling liquid out of his stomach. The nurses kept coming in every few minutes to check on him, taking his blood pressure, and then I think he started getting worse.

They gave him a lot of medicine and several doctors came in to see him, and then they rolled him out to take him back to surgery. His wife was crying and I felt bad, but I didn't know what to say or do.

I don't know what happened to him, but he didn't come back here. I felt bad that I didn't try to talk to his wife. I really felt like a kid -- I mean six years old with my thumb in my mouth -- lying here and watching them and not having any idea what to do or say. I guess that's what they mean, getting hit with the real world.

I've been awfully surprised at one thing about being in the hospital -- it affects your mind, not just your body. I won't be the same person when I go home.

The nurses laugh and tease me a lot, but there sure do seem to know when something is wrong. They knew I was on edge about Mr. X today, and that helped me handle it.

Sunday night

Well, I had so much company yesterday that I didn't write anything, and almost as many kids came to see me today. I'm tired but wide awake now, even though it's after 11.

Just saying what I do everyday seems boring, because I do the same things over and over, so I'll write about the nurses. They work three shifts. Day shift is from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., evening shift is from 3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., and night shift is from 11 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.

The day nurses seem rushed and have a lot to do, giving baths and medicines and sending patients to X-ray and surgery and other places. That's when the doctors make their rounds to see their patients, too.

I've discovered that the doctors has to write down everything that I'm allowed to do, from medicine to what kind of food I get to eat. I can't have even so much as an aspirin for a headache unless he orders it. I guess the doctors are like the principals in school. Their word is law around here.

I'm getting tired now, so I'll continue with what the other shifts do later.

Monday afternoon

Really getting tired of this bed. I never knew how nice it is to be able to get up and walk around. The pin through my left it bothering me today. It looks like a big nail with silver tongs attached to each end where it comes out on either side. The tongs are tied to ropes that go over the end of the bed on pulley's and are fastened to weights that ban and move around when I move in bed or when somebody accidentally bumps them.

Three times a day the nurse cleans the areas of akin where the pins are and puts medicine on them to keep them from getting infected. At first I wouldn't even look oat them, but it doesn't bother me now.

Well, let me get back to what the evening shift nurses do. They care for the people back from surgery and other places, which takes a lot of time, because patients coming back from surgery aren't very awake so they have to be checked a lot.

There are usually a lot more visitors in the evening, especially on weekdays, and I guess that keeps the nurses busy, too. They give all the medicines, sleeping pills and things, and straightened out the beds so people can get comfortable and sleep. I guess they miss a lot of television, too. I wouldn't want to work the evenings.

The night nurses check on all the patients while they sleep and give all the medicine and whatever else needs to be done.

They used to wake me up coming in the room, and I asked why they did it all the time. They explained that a lot of the patients are really sick and need to be checked on frequently or see of they need anything.

I think they mean they need to make sure nobody dies while asleep, because they shine flashlights on patients to see if they are still breathing. It must be sort of crept. I wonder if they feel like burglars, walking so softly and looking all around a room with just a flashlight.

They do home and sleep in the daytime, which must be weird, but I guess they like it.

Tuesday night

Well, I got the big news today that I'm going to surgery in the morning to get the pin in my leg taken out and have a cast put on. I'm sure glad, because then in a few days I'll get out of bed. My doctor said I'm doing so well he's able to take out the pin a lot sooner than he thought.

It's almost 11 p.m., and I can't have any food or water after midnight because I might get sick to my stomach while they are giving me the anesthesia in surgery, and if I vomit it might go into my lungs.

Yuck!

THey said that could be dangerous, so I guess I'll just to thirsty. That's better than getting sick.

I'm kind of nervous about tomorrow, but it sure will feel good to get out of bed.

Thursday morning

Yayyy!! I'm actually sitting up in bed this morning and will get out of bed this afternoon! I'm a few pounds heavier with the cast on my leg. It goes all the way up my thigh and is just now getting dry. It was wet when they put it on, and the plastic dries slowly.

The physical therapy department is going to teach me to walk with crutches this afternoon, and then I can get up and around and maybe go home in a few more days.

Thursday night

Well, I'm mobile again. In a manner of speaking. It was like learning to walk all over again. Crutches aren't as easy to use as they look like they'd be. For one thing, you can't lean on them with the tops of your armpits. That can cause serious damage to the nerve that runs down into your arm. SO you direct the real strength down your arms into the hand grips. The physical therapist said it would build up my arm muscles and to think of it as pumping iron!

I sure never thought I'd be so dizzy and weak from being in bed just a few days. My muscles feel like rubber. I was sort of dizzy and kept wobbling around trying to get used to standing up and handling the weight of the cast. But I'm practicing again this evening and getting better at it.

Some guy from the next room came out in the hall and started to tell me what I was doing wrong and how to walk with crutches and everything -- just snapping orders at me. I felt like whacking him with a crutch, but figured it would make me fall down.

I told a nurse, back in my room, what a geek I thought he was. She didn't say anything, but she looked like she thought so, too.

Friday night

Well, this is the final entry!

I'm at home!

I ran round so well on the crutches that they let me out. Now I know what a paroled prisoner must feel like.

The hospital really wasn't that bad, and I learned a lot, especially about myself.

But it sure feels good to be home!

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