As a junior in high school, I had a serious medical issue with a non-cancerous tumor growing in and outside my sinuses. The surgery to remove it took 5 hours and lots of transfused blood. It occurred at the UCLA Medical Center. UCLA did a wonderful job as evidenced by the fact that later the USAF allowed me into pilot training.
We didn’t have much money to begin with, so my Mom was very worried about finances on top of everything else. UCLA deferred most of the cost; due to the rare nature of the tumor I was the perfect teaching prop.
With the cost less in terms of dollars, there was still a certain other cost that could be tallied by the example on one occasion of every doctor-student getting to put their fingers in my mouth. Being a fairly private person, this was not something I was used to. Other minor indignities occurred, but nothing that overrode my gratitude that the burden on my Mother was less.
In the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) after surgery, lots of drugs ensured a comfortable recovery. After a day or two I realized that I couldn’t really have been watching “Wagon Train” the whole time, as ICU did not have any TVs in it.
However, this blog is not about that surgery.
During an associated surgery later, I awoke in my hospital bed with the strong feeling of needing to pee. The drugs must have been equally good, as I really couldn’t remember anything about anything. My main though was finding a bathroom.
After a bit of groggy visual searching, my eyes focused on the door a few feet from the foot of my bed. It appeared to have a toilet in it. Just the thing!!
I sat up and put my legs over the side of the bed while focusing on the bathroom door. As I got up on unsteady feet and made my way over, I felt a tug at my arm. What nonsense!! Someone had tied some plastic tubes to my arm!! Jerks! A swift pull from my other hand and that problem was solved.
While peeing in the bathroom, standing of course, I noticed a pool of blood forming near the toilet. Why, that’s odd, I thought.
Then after awhile I noticed the pool was getting bigger because drops were falling into it. Done peeing by now, I focused my full attention on this strange phenomenon. After another little while I concluded that if I were to follow the drops up, I could see where they were coming from. (These were really good drugs!)
Epiphany! The drops of blood appeared to be coming FROM MY OWN ARM! How interesting!!
After another little while, as the pool of blood on the restroom floor increased, two things occurred to me. One, there was no bathtub in this bathroom; it was a restroom in my room in a hospital. And therefore, two, there were probably people that would be interested in my blood. This was about it. I really didn’t have any other conclusions or thoughts. If someone had asked me my name at this point, it would have take awhile for it to come to mind. OK, one other thing, I realized I was done peeing.
I flushed the toilet and wandered over to the door of my hospital room. It was probably something like two in the morning based on what I pieced together later. Things were quiet. Things were dark. There was an improbably long corridor out my hospital room door with a nurse at the end of it. It was kind of like looking through binoculars the wrong way.
Ah! There is someone who may be interested! I thought.
I waved my bloody arm at her and pointed at it. It turns out she WAS very interested. I think she actually jumped a little.
She must have sprinted down to me. I only knew at the time that she covered that “vast” distance in an amazingly short amount of time. She urged me back into bed, very worried as she told me later, that I might have a piece of the needle roaming around my circulatory system.
After seeing that the tube had separated correctly at the break away point, she was reassured that this might not be a large emergency. She very professionally reattached and redirected the fluid back to my arm.
This, in fact, resulted in a huge amount of pain. The pain overrode the wonderful drugs and suddenly there was complete clarity on why I was there what was was happening — which is probably why I remember all this.
Don’t do drugs kids! Not without your own hospital room and attending nurse!
[Photo from pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/221450506648658869/]