Patient Six

If this is your first visit to this blog, you might want to read this first, although this is actually a good day to start reading because it marks the beginning of the second half of my hospitalization story. I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus resulting from a brain tumor on my pineal gland and admitted to the Neuro-ICU at Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, Ohio on May 3, 2012. I underwent a craniotomy to remove the tumor on May 8th and suffered a hemorrhagic stroke during surgery. I spent the following two weeks in a drug-hazed limbo. On May 22nd, a cebreal shunt was placed to drain the excess fluid and I began to become more lucid. I was transferred to a Step-Down Unit attached to the Neuro-ICU on the 23rd while waiting for a bed to open up in Rehab.

And so on May 25, 2012, I began my third day in the Step-Down unit, knowing I would be transferred to Rehab at some point that day. It was a Friday. The last day before Memorial Day weekend. My eldest had school. I’m assuming the younger two boys were with Matt most of the day. My aunt was still in town. They had been telling me for a day or two that I would be transferred on Friday, but I didn’t understand the timeline. I know I was waiting for a bed to open up.

In hindsight, I can comment more fully on what it takes to check out of the Rehab unit (which no longer exists, but that’s another story). It is not a fast process and patients rarely made it out before lunch. However, I didn’t know this then and I remember telling Matt that he’d better bring my aunt over sooner rather than later because I wasn’t sure when the transfer would take place. After my morning dose of Keppra and offer of Ativan (no thank you, I’m all done with that now), I anxiously awaited my transfer. Breakfast came and went. Lunch came and went. My aunt came and went. Matt and the kids came and went. Still no transfer. Maybe I didn’t make the cut after all? Maybe they ARE sending me to an island instead.

Dinner came and went. I dared to ask someone only to be assured that I was, indeed, being transferred. Finally, after dinner, a nurse arrived with a wheelchair. She introduced herself as Lydia and began to gather my things. I liked her immediately. She had that slight Southern Ohio/Northern Kentucky twang and a maternal manner that was extremely comforting. Within the first five minutes, she had started calling me Katie-girl and she had me. She could have asked me to walk through fire and, except for the small problem of not being able to walk, I would have. You will hear much more about Lydia in the coming days.

At some point during the day, someone must have helped me to change because I remember I was wearing my yellow university sweatshirt instead of a gown. My IV was removed (imagine a choir of angels singing here), leaving behind a massive amount of tape residue on my arm. “We’ll get that off later, Katie-girl, I bet you’d like a shower anyway.” Shower. When was the last time I had one of those?

Transferring me to a wheelchair required the paging of an extra set of hands. I heard Lydia say “two-person transfer.” What’s this? I’m not a big person. But then it was over and I was in the wheelchair, my small bag in my lap, being whisked out of the ICU at what felt like breakneck speed. I’m sure it wasn’t, but I actually hadn’t moved outside of my bed in more than two weeks. It was dizzying. By the time we got to the elevator, my butt was sore. Wow, these wheelchairs are uncomfortable. Riverside Methodist Hospital is a large hospital and I was being moved from the 8th floor of the Blue Zone to the 6th floor of the Orange Zone. It was a pretty long trip. So many people, what must I look like? Do I look like Frankenstein? My staples were still itching like mad, but I had more self control now and was no longer trying to rip them from my skull.

Finally, we went up another elevator and down some more hallways. Lydia began pointing things out like “where you eat breakfast” and “the therapy room” and then she took me all the way down to the end of one hallway where she stopped outside a room. There was a whiteboard by the door. She erased the name that was on it and wrote: Katie. Yay, I’m Katie again. I had been called “Katharine” for over three weeks. Being Katie again felt good except that then Lydia hit the call button and said something to the nurse’s station about “getting Patient Six settled” and could they send down a tech.

I’m Patient Six. So that’s how it works here. Visions of Hunger Games began to dance in my head once again. District 12. Patient Six. May the odds be ever in my favor.

The tech came and introduced herself. I don’t remember exactly which tech it was this first time, although I do remember most of the techs from Rehab in general. Lydia and the tech explained that it was almost shift change, so they were going to get me settled, but then they would be leaving. Don’t go!

Together, they lifted me from the wheelchair and placed me on the bed “Gosh, she’s tiny,” one of them remarked. Really? Two people have to move me? Then they stepped away and I immediately collapsed sideways onto the bed like a sack of potatoes. “Oops, sorry about that,” Lydia said as they righted me and I clung onto the rail with my right hand. I remember thinking how undignified that was, but that feeling of embarrassment was quickly swept away by an even greater one as I felt warm liquid spreading around me. Oh shit. Not this. I did NOT just wet the bed! Oh, yes I did.

I meekly called Lydia’s attention to the situation. “Don’t worry about it, Katie-girl, at least we know things work! You were on that catheter a long time. It might take a while for things to get back to normal.” Little did I know what an understatement that would be. She and the tech moved me back to the wheelchair and changed the sheets with a speed and efficiency only hospital workers know.

“Don’t think we can get you on the shower list tonight, but tomorrow night for sure.” There’s a list? “Our shift is over, but we can help you change into pajamas before we go.” Pajamas? Pretty sure I don’t have any of those. Lydia opened my bag and, sure enough, pulled out a t-shirt and some kind of pants that I recognized. “You’ll need to tell your husband to bring you some more clothes. You’ll be here a while and it’s hard for us to get things washed, although we’ll try,” said the tech. They changed me out of my pee-soaked clothes and I remember dimly thinking that they were doing an awful lot of the work and that I wasn’t contributing much to the process. This could be bad. Shouldn’t I be able to do more? Changing my shirt was an ordeal. My arm, plastered against my chest, would not move at all. They had to forcibly hold it away and maneuver it out of the sleeve and then get my shirt off of my shoulder. Then the process had to be reversed as they put on my new shirt. Finally, they tucked me into bed. Lydia assured me that the night nurse and tech would be by shortly “I’m not on again until Wednesday,” she said, “so you’ll be all settled in by the time I see you again.” It took me a long while to figure out why that was. Oh, Memorial Day weekend.

I must have called Matt and given him my new room number, he may even have come by for a brief visit to see my new digs if my Aunt Loura was still in town, which I think she was until the following morning. The night nurse came by. I think it was Chaltu. Chaltu was this lovely nurse from Ethiopia. I remember asking her where she was from and, as with Lydia, finding myself liking her immediately. I think I introduced her to Matt. She would have brought me my night meds. More Keppra, I refused the Ativan (maybe I even had her take it off the list at that point), but said okay to the Trazedone, which she offered as a “sleeping pill.” Wow, I just googled that to make sure I would spell it right. Wish I hadn’t. Sounds an awful like Ativan.

I lay in my bed and sometime before the Trazedone kicked in, I one-handedly typed my first Facebook status update via text since my craniotomy on my old slider cell phone (Matt had posted a few updates on my behalf while I was in the ICU). Thanks to my cousin Rachel who reposted it on my timeline this morning, I know what it was: IN REHAB HOPING TO DO BETTER THAN AMY WINEHOUSE DID. And so I leave you with this:

1 thought on “Patient Six

  1. Shari

    Hi Katie:

    I am so glad you are journaling this. You just do not know how many people you could be helping that you don’t know. I know your story has allowed me some perspective I had forgotten about.

    Thank you for writing!

    Shari

    Like

    Reply

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