It’s a strange switch from being the caregiver to being the patient.
A bum knee has sidelined me for several months, necessitating medical equipment at home that I’d only made reference to for my patients use, not for me. Now I have rail guards in our apartment’s bathrooms and baby monitors in all the rooms so that my hearing-impaired husband would hear me call for any reason. Perhaps, settled with my knee elevated in the recliner, I might need something important like another dish of ice cream, or to please get me the TV remote from where I left it sitting on the computer ten feet away.
And I’d like to have a dollar for every time I reminded a patient to “Put your quad cane base squarely on the floor; don’t “carry” it up in the air like that!” The other day a physical therapist told me the same thing. I didn’t even realize I was holding it off the ground as I walked. My bad.
An arthroscopy was on my dance card this past week. NPO after midnight (excuse me- does that mean no coffee?); be at the hospital at an ungodly hour; remember your paperwork; and bring a wheeled walker. Oh, yes…that fancy, hot lavender-colored one I have that’s folded away in the closet?
Years ago I occasionally worked in my hospital’s pre-op area, but, by today’s standards the process back then was brief. Is the consent form signed? Did you have anything to eat or drink? Who’s with you and will they take you home? Let’s do your vital signs and then you can put on this gown that will not cover you completely no matter how you try to hold it together. However, 32 years later and in the 21st century, my assigned nurse asked me dozens of patient identity and medical history questions and asked if anyone had beaten me up lately or verbally abused me. Thirty minutes had gone by and I was still in street clothes.
I passed that test and we proceeded to the reason I was there; to repair my bum knee. My nurse gave me three packages of sterile antibacterial towels and specific instructions as to applying in proper sequence to the arms, legs, the body last, and then asked me to verbally repeat the sequence. And there was the flimsy gown waiting and exactly the same; snaps-at-the-shoulders and open at the back. Those skimpy gowns haven’t gotten any less revealing in thirty years. Once I was properly attired my surgeon came in, ostensibly to say hello, but really to ask me who I was (didn’t he remember me from our meeting together?), why I was there, and, lastly, which body part was he going to operate on? You’re kidding me, yes? When I gave the correct answer- my left knee- he was obviously so happy, and then he printed a YES on top of my left knee with a purple marker and handed it to me. So I printed a NO on my right knee.
An ecg, an interview with the anesthesiologist (he didn’t know who I was either and we went through the HIPPA thing again), an IV start, and we were finally ready: GO, team, GO!
The anesthesia was my most feared, but most favorite part- it seemed like only a moment before I woke up, feeling fresh as a daisy and ready for coffee. These new meds are amazing; no grogginess or hang-over effect: when I had my tonsils out as a kid I was sick as a dog for hours.
While in recovery the nurse brought my husband in to show him I was doing fine, all repaired and good as new. However, he doesn’t do well in medical situations and panics at the confusion of so much equipment and beeping machines. Right away he was overwhelmed by the vital sign monitor, telling me in alarm that my blood pressure was “only 80 over 20!” (my pulse and respirations). Then he complained to the nurse about how cold it was in the room and the next thing I know he’s been seated in a comfortable chair with a cozy heated blanket over him. This scene had become All About Him. Why was I not surprised?
My hero took me home and all evening carefully followed me around the house if I was on my feet for any reason. At one point he said he hated to ask, but did I have a urine catheter and was it supposed to be dragging on the floor? I wasn’t aware that my knee’s drainage tubing had slipped down the inside of my leg trouser and the fluid collection bulb was dragging along behind me. I got a big chuckle out of that.
All in all, my experience of being on The Other Side of the Bed was reassuring to me as the patient, because I am no Spring chicken and doubt this will be my only encounter. Staff accountability was evident, competent and caring nurses provided excellent care. And, as an extra bonus, my nurses had a sense of humor.
It was a good day.