What it's Like to Have a Stroke (Part IV)


The first few days in the hospital were kind of the same: every couple of hours they came to take my vital signs (again: blood pressure, blood oxygen, temperature). Every four hours they came to take blood to test various levels (I haven't gotten those records yet). They initially said they would be testing my blood sugars but they stopped that pretty fast since I don't have diabetes and am not pre-diabetic even though it seems like everybody thinks I should be.

The view from my bed

The room was grim. I really understood why the modern patient rooms every new hospital I've worked on were so important. Looking up at this TV every day (I really don't watch TV, so I only once accidentally turned it on), it was depressing. As if I needed that.

What I needed to do was get up and walk and sit upright.

Walking was interesting because it was as if I were super super drunk, but with all my usual cognitive skills (quite unlike being actually drunk). The first time I walked down the hallway, I was being very careful about wobbling and we only went as far as the end of the corridor (about 20 feet). That time the nurse was holding the back of my gown closed with her hand and honestly? I wanted to shorten the walk because I found that too embarrassing. I could easily have walked much further.

The second time I went for a walk, the next day, they gave me a second gown to cover up my behind. By that point I had asked Noel to bring me some pajama pants (he'd already brought me some blessed changes of underpants). They arrived shortly after that walk and then I felt like I could go anywhere. I wanted to try running, actually. Even at my schlumpiest I try to fit in a brisk 20-minute walk every day.

This is what I saw when I looked up

From my room, right outside the nurses' station, I heard all the status reports and patient gossip. Nobody believed I'd had a stroke. I was in such good shape. In contrast, a 21-year-old came in with a massive stroke on my third day and was essentially immobile. Most of my fellow ward occupants were lying still in their beds. I was sitting up most of the day, awake and aware. The therapists told me a couple times that the more I sat up the better I would do, so I made a very serious effort at it.

I had my ebook reader with me (Noel brought me that the first day), but I found it hard to read because of the spinning room. I felt mildly carsick from reading, so I didn't get as much reading done as I would have liked. I had less patience for bad writing because it felt like reading was more precious.

Most of the nurses were great. They really cared about taking care of people and they wanted to help me stay clean and get around. I was really dependent on the nurses because I was attached to this IV pump full of Heparin, a blood thinner, and also because when I was lying down I was supposed to be wearing this leg compression system that prevents blood clots in your legs.

The alternating pressure of the leg system was actually very comforting. It felt a lot like Goldie lying on my legs at night, and I missed the animals intensely, so it helped. However, if I needed to go to the bathroom I had to be disconnected from that leg squeezy, my pump had to be unplugged, and I had to roll into the bathroom.

I was allowed to use the toilet in privacy (the very first day they discussed having me on a bedpan but all concerned decided that sucked and I had one bedside toilet experience). They were measuring and examining my pee, so I had to pee into something they called a "hat" -- a little plastic pan. I learned that I pee about 500 ml at a time. Useful to know, I guess?

Night and day kind of blended together. I slept when I could, which was mostly in the mornings when the morning nurse came on. I had one nurse, one horrible, horrible nurse, who actually ignored my use of the call button all night. I don't know what he was doing or where he was, but eventually I decided to just disconnect my leg thing and unplug Mr Pumpy all on my own, and go to the bathroom.

In the morning of that day the morning nurse got upset at me, and then really, really angry at the night nurse when I told her I waited an hour to be taken to the bathroom and I really could not hold it any longer. Twice.

But for the most part, people were wonderful to me. I just really really wanted to go home.

Mr Pumpy

Throughout my stay, we have problems with my IV pump. I called him Mr Pumpy, and he did a lot of yelling. He had one beep he did when his battery was bad -- my first pump was replaced with another because the battery just could not hold a charge, which was an issue when I needed to go to the bathroom or for a walk. He had another, longer and more complicated beep that he did when the IV bag was low. Or when he thought it was low. Somebody had to come and reassure him or whatever you do to make the beeping stop.

And look, I understand. I was easily the least critical patient on the ward and I'd rather the nurses were taking care of the guy who can't breathe next door, or dealing with the respirator problems for the lady down the hall. I don't demand prompt service or snappy responses, but Mr Pumpy would start beeping at 2 or 3am every day, and sometimes I would lie there in the dark listening to him for an hour or so, not able to sleep because the beeping was so loud and right next to me.

So mostly I slept in the mornings, and mostly the morning nurse was trying to get me to wake up and get moving because up and moving is good for recovery, and she didn't realize I'd been awake most of the night between sitting up in bed needing to pee and lying in bed listening to Mr Pumpy sing the song of his people.

In my next installment: the food. And how I learned to control my gag reflex for survival.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Ayse published on May 26, 2013 6:07 PM.

What it's Like to Have a Stroke (Part III) was the previous entry in this blog.

What it's Like to Have a Stroke (Part V) is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


Powered by Movable Type 4.12