Thursday, March 01, 2012

A Pause in Tastings

Standing, front view -Sept 2011
I'll be out of action for a week or two... it's time to look after my left knee and a complete replacement is scheduled for February 29th.

My right knee was replaced in September 2006. After seventy-one years this was my first experience as a patient in an Ontario hospital - one I wouldn't want to repeat either for myself or any Hospital. But, with time, memories fade and optimism returns.  Besides, my left knee is 'hurting real baaad!'  A half century of paying into a Hospital plan was finally to show a benefit.

Back in 2006 I signed up for a semi-private room thinking I would have a quiet three day recovery for the extra $250 a day. The following is an account of my stay:

The operation went smoothly. All I remember was the distant sound of a mallet as the surgeon rammed the prosthetic home into the lower leg bone (Tibia) and fitted the mating prosthetic on to the Femur. I woke up from the anaesthetic with awareness but no pain and was in my room to meet my first roommate. His wife was visiting and told me, as a warning, that she had a judge's restraining order not to sleep in the same room with 'hubby'. His snoring had the volume of a World War I air raid alarm. Luckily I never heard the siren and he was released on the morning of my third day. That was the morning - about 3am -  of a rousing 'Code Blue'.

My second inmate was to be a DNR - for those that don't recognize it the acronym means Do Not Resuscitate - an elderly Greek gentleman with chronic emphysema and half comatose. A nurse fed, shaved, and accompanied him until I left the hospital. Quiet? Yes, except for the occasional heaving. Apprehensive? Yes, knowing at any moment he could exit this orb. 

Right, side view - Sept 2006
During the first couple of days I informed the caring staff of my pain level using a range of 1 through 10 - 1 being 'no pain' to 10, intolerable. As I was being weaned off the spinal followed by a morphine drip I gradually became an '8'.  I was then started on Percocet/Oxycontin, my first experience with heavy duty pain killers.

Outside my room I could hear the clip clop of staff as they tended to a busy ward. I also heard the movie sound track from DVD rentals in the public ward and the chug-a-chug of the copier as patient charts were replaced with blanks for the next day. For a semi-private it wasn't so private. I asked the second shift PSW to 'kindly close the door'. The reply was 'No, the staff were in and out so often it was best to leave the door open'. I was to become more insistent as the cacophony fed my drug saturated system over the next days of paranoia.

On the morning of the third day three dimensional writings, not in HighDef, appeared on the opposite wall. No matter how much I insisted my wife wasn't able to interpret their message. 

That same evening I attempted a trip to the loo and, in my delirium, neglected my walker.  Nurses quickly responded to the clatter as I passed out falling against the foot of the bed. I came to on a litter as interns returned me to my room from a quick trip to X-Ray. All was well. That night, around midnight, my wife was asked to come in to monitor me. The alternative were 'restraints'.

I'm not sure when the voices started. At first I imagined they were actors convening in the hall outside my room rehearsing a melodrama in the late evening. On a walkabout, with my walker this time, I asked Hospital Security, who was making his rounds, if he could hear the voices. Bad timing - the 'voices' were no longer there. (I later found out there was a ceiling speaker in the hall for one of the meeting rooms in our ward.)

The lead PSW for the night shift looked somewhat stunned when I whispered my concern that night staff were planning my demise - the melodrama had turned into an assassin plot. 'Weird stuff' he said and left. He failed to show up the next day and there was no explanation for his 'disappearance'.  I thought 'Weird stuff'!'

On the morning of the fourth day I found the door to the loo off its hinges. The senior PSW said I'd  have to use the washroom down the hall... FAT CHANCE!  I have difficulty with someone assuming an authoritarian stance when essentially I was the only one having a major stake in the outcome. That's my way saying I went about my business. 

On the night of the fourth day the resident doctor on call, after checking my vitals, convinced the Constable responding to my 911 call that I was delusional and should not be charged. By now I had become convinced I had to defend myself. Earlier, wanting to be cooperative, I had gone the extra mile asking the head warden if I could check myself out of the Hospital and into a nearby Motel. Adamant, she refused. I now knew she was part of the plot.

Left, side view -Sept 2011
That same evening I had heard footsteps and voices - there was a team of assassins coming toward my room. But I was prepared. I had stuffed pillows under the sheets and placed an empty water bottle for a 'head' in my own bed. Then hiding behind the second bed, empty waiting for the DNR, I dialed 911 when I heard them coming. My subterfuge would have worked except for one thing, there was a telephone panel in the nurses station showing when a call was placed from any of the rooms. A search by the head assassin found my stuffed bed followed quickly by her locating my hiding place. She called to the others, 'He's over here... the Bottlehead is here!'.  At that moment the Police arrived.

The next day, the delirium now subsided, I was able to convince the physiotherapist that I could negotiate 3 stairs up and 3 down. Much to the relief of the staff I was eligible for 'parole'. 

Now six years later the pain in my left knee has convinced me to chance another hospital experience. All being well I'll be back tasting and blogging in a few weeks...and No, I haven't signed up for semi-private. There's safety in numbers in a Public ward.

Bottlehead -- make that a Wine Bottle!

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