A nurse wheeled me into Room 11 on the fourth floor of Overlake to begin my second bout in the hospital. Remembering my room right after intestinal-abdominal surgery on October 23rd, I was curious to see what this room would look like.
Post surgery, my single room resembled a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel, complete with couch, reclining chair, desk, private bathroom, and a killer view of entire downtown Bellevue, WA, lighting up the night in a twinkling star scape.
But now, my shared Room 11 on the fourth floor looked like something from the One Season Hotel. I wasn’t even lucky enough to get the window seat. My bed, surrounded by a brown curtain, faced a beige-colored wall, complete with white board, clock and TV. I was next to the sink and toilet – no view, no natural light, depressing!
Upon entering, I approached my roommate who had the TV turned way up.
“I won’t be able to tolerate that TV,” I said.
I know, not much of a warm greeting, but, I was really sick and didn’t want to look at or hear television.
“But my two favorite shows are on tonight,” she replied.
These two faves were on from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. How would I survive! Then she lowered the volume to where it was almost bearable.
My roommate, a 41-year old, vivacious gal, was in for gall bladder surgery the next day. I was in for recovery of dilated bowels with obstruction and to have a PICC line inserted to give me some nutrients, as I hadn’t eaten anything in weeks.
Two specifically qualified nurses inserted the PICC line through a catheter, which would hang above the heart – a most sterile procedure. Then an X-ray was taken to see that the line was in place. I lived with this bag of nutrition dripping into my veins for several days.
However, I also had to try to eat and walk the halls dragging the pole along with me. Apparently, I walked the halls more than anyone there, which exempted me from the plastic socks which massage your lower legs and keep you awake all night long. However, the walks didn’t exempt me from the twice daily heparin shots in the belly…all in the name of preventing blood clots!
Following my roommate’s surgery, she had a meltdown, cried, and had a whole lot of concerns.
“Let’s unmuddle your head,” I said through the partitioned curtain.
“We’ll take one issue at a time.”
“What is your Number One priority at this time?” I asked, knowing my organizational abilities might play a major part in her peace of mind.
Following one of my walks, I heard her on the phone talking to her mother.
“Mom, my roommate saved me from an emotional breakdown,” she said.
I, the elder, was happy to be of service.
After several days of staring at the beige wall, sick of all the blood draws and heparin shots, the nurse announced I had to have four blood sugar tests a day – i.e. finger pricks – because I was on a PICC line and my blood sugar levels were at risk of rising.
The nurse the night before said I needed only two finger pricks per day. I was angry, hurting, and not tolerating much by this time. I know nurses have to follow procedures. The last thing they want is for their licenses to be revoked. They work hard and have a lot at stake.
After pleading with the nurse, she showed me the “new” guidelines for patients on a PICC line regarding blood sugar tests. I argued every point until she said some magic words I’ll always be thankful for:
“You can always refuse.”
From behind the curtain rang out my roommate’s voice loud and clear, “SHE REFUSES!”
At this point, I laughed so hard the tears streamed down my face. I couldn’t stop.
I looked up at the nurse and said, between tears and belly rolls, “I refuse.”
By this time, we two unlikely roommates were on a roll with our laughter now bellowing into the hallway.
To add to the mood, roommate then hobbled over to my chalkboard and wrote in big letters, “PATIENT REFUSES ALL INJECTIONS!”
Another set of uncontrollable laughs, which lasted well into the evening! The stress rolled off forming a cloud of heffer dust, flying away, never to return again.
From then on, this duo of taller-older-wiser and shorter-younger-emotional walked the halls together, dragging our I.V poles with us, as the nurses noted, “Room 11 is on the move again.”
A Mutt ‘n Jeff team in appearance and personality, we survived our five-day stay on Floor 4, Room 11, Beds A and B.