Friday, December 21, 2007

I’ve been admitted (I wrote this in the hospital)

A while back, I came down with a cold, the normal sniffles and coughing, no big deal till about a week ago; I woke up in the middle of night in a coughing fit which felt like my lungs were covered in slime. I bent over the side of the bed and coughed it all up into a trash can and felt fine. I turned on the light and the trash can was covered in blood. Yuck.

But there were no other symptoms so I went into work the next day and told them in my understated way that I had coughed up some blood in the night. Thinking maybe it was a bloody nose or such. You know us medical guys, unless we’re really hurt, we usually don’t worry about it. No problems or coughing that night and my cold had been cured (somehow the blood in my lungs had cleaned out the cold is my theory).

The next night, I got a tickle in my lungs and coughed up another couple of teaspoons of blood. Each night was like that, my lungs would get gargly and I would hack up a couple of tablespoons of blood. Thursday, I gave myself a PPD test (test for tuberculosis to you non medical types) and talked to a few of my doctors (I’m working with 8 during this training).

I told them it wasn’t a big deal, get an X-ray on Monday and follow up with someone in San Diego when I got back. Well Saturday rolls around and I had an attack that morning and coughed up about a half cup of blood into the trash can. The PPD was negative at least. Clearly, this had my doctors concerned and we debated about going into urgent care, I told them to hold off and we could handle it on Monday morning. Maybe that would be the only attack that day, I went home after lunch, was doing my laundry and coughed up another half cup.

Mildly shaken by the loss of so much blood in a day, I finished my laundry and called the doc who was covering that shift and told her, "Yeah, I think it’s time for a visit to the emergency room". I caught a ride there checking in at 3 and was put into a room, they gave me a emesis basin which I immediately filled to the 100ml spot with blood and had a new EMT stick me for an IV (which I ended up using for my entire stay). Now I had something to count how much blood I’ve been coughing up, by the end of the night I had filled 4 basins to the 100 mark. They drew 10 or so tubes of blood, then did an EKG, a chest X-Ray, filled a bottle with pee.

Being the leading enlisted medical dude and nice guy I am, I’ve had tons of visitors and well wishers. In fact, a group of my folk came by late last night and serenaded me to sleep (a very tipsy group of doctors and corpsman, it was Saturday nigh). How can you beat that?

At one that morning they decide that they’re going to admit me and I’m to have a CT scan the next day and I can’t eat solid food and eventually stick a camera in my lungs. Our theory so far is that I’ve broken a blood vessel in my lungs and every time I do anything strenuous it breaks open and blood leaks down.

Update #1

Today my boss came by with the book I wanted to buy and later (when I can eat again) is coming by to give me a carnie asada burrito. My biggest complaint right now is that I’m starving, haven’t had anything solid to eat since yesterday morning for breakfast and am eagerly awaiting a yummy monster burrito. They came in this morning to tell me I can’t eat anything at all. I’m beginning to get why people complain about hospital gowns, trying to keep myself covered while moving around seems to occupy a fair portion of my ambulatory time.
It is a bit worrying coughing up blood and being on the other side of the medical profession. I think this is the longest time I’ve ever been in the hospital. Well hopefully I have something that can be fixed. Well I’m going to take a nap till someone comes to tell me to do something.

Update #3 Sunday afternoon

Just had my first CT scan, let me share the experience with you. They set you on this sliding bench that goes into a donut, I’m sure there are pictures of them online. It pulls you in and this female voice says "take a deep breath and hold it" and you slide out. The second time it pulls you in, all of this machinery starts spinning around and it feels like you’re in a time machine. Once more you hear, "take.." and you slide out.

Before the third time, the tech comes out and says she’s going to inject you with iodine dye and the common side affects are your whole body feels warm, feel like you’re going to pee, you get a funny taste in your mouth, pain in your arm or nothing at all. She hooks it up, runs behind the barrier and power drives half of a soda can’s worth of this evil fluid into my arm, I can see the vein change color and immediately I go hot and it feels like there’s molten lead in my veins, my groin feels hot like someone poured a cup of hot pee on me. The machine has slide me in and says "take a deep breath and hold it", I do with difficulty because the funny taste that I got in my mouth was one of my mouth watering which is a precursor to hurling. The tech come out and I ask, "is that all?", she says yes and tell her I’m about to vomit. She grabs a trash can and I throw up the 2 containers of Jell-O I had for breakfast and dry heave a bit more, this causes me to go into another bloody coughing fit.

Bleh, CT scans are for the birds, hope they found something.

(Doc brought me the carnie asada burrito from a place called Burrito King and Paul, they’re not all that, the burrito was huge but I’ve had better)

Update #4 Monday night at 11

The nurse comes in and tells me the doc can fit me in for the Bronchscopy sometime in the morning and nothing by mouth after midnight. Meanwhile, I’m totally caught up in Kevin J. Anderson’s Metal Swarm. If you haven’t noticed, I don’t go crazy in boring lonely places, as long as I have a good book, everything is peachy (thanks Doc Davis for picking it up for me). I pushed because well, I’m dumb and couldn’t stop reading, it was 2 when I finished went to sleep (I was already in bed).

Update #5 Tuesday morning at 5:45

The lights go on and I imagine I’m back in boot camp again, a bright and shiny nurse comes in with the most cheerful voice says, the doctor can fit you in right now. I say wait a second, brush my fangs and use the restroom and a pair of orderlies comes in an wheel me away. We get down there and I’m talking to the respiratory therapy nurse, she belongs to the local Navy League. People are coming in, an X-Ray tech with a C-Clamp shaped X-Ray machine, there’s a craftsman tool box full of medical stuff, one of the techs gets a syringe and tells me its lidocane and squirts it into both nostrils. It goes in my left nostril and stops because that nose is stuffed up so I make sure to let him know to use the right one. Finally the doctor comes in and shakes my hand says good morning and the nurse is preparing a to shoot something into my line and I say "is this where I’m supposed to start counting backwards".

Then I’m talking to her again and everyone is gone. I look around and it’s like I time traveled and my throat and lungs are sore. I look around in bemusement and they wheel me back to my room and I finally take them up on the offer for morphine, well since they were offering, I don’t want them to think I don’t appreciate it. This is where I make a couple of phone calls and remind people I work with how to pack things and call relatives and friends. But I don’t remember doing any of it. Doc Davis visits I think but I’m not really sure about that but I do remember my mom and my sister Crystal visiting that afternoon. I’m flying high but not that high.

Update #6 Wednesday

Three of the local Chiefs come by for a visit while my mom and sister are there. One of my corpsman has packed up my room in the suburban in hopes that I’m going to be discharged. The Doctor comes in and tells me the TB test is negative from the stuff he collected from my lungs and that I could be discharged for follow up care in San Diego. Mom buys us lunch and I drive the Beast (I'm afraid to let other people drive her because she bucks) back to San Diego where I sleep in my own bed.

Things I did during my time there, I read The Road by Cormac McCarthy, a extremely well written post-apocalyptic book about a man and his son. I can relate, the man spends most of the book coughing up blood. It made me sad and miss my son, very bleak novel, I highly recommend it. I also asked each of my nurses for a sponge bath, sorry, I've always wanted to ask for one now I had lots of chances. No I didn't really get one, I had a private shower in my room and I wasn't having any problems with my walking.

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