Tuesday, July 22, 2008

New Hospital Adventures: Day 3

Before I can fully explain Tuesday night at the hospital, I have to tell you a few things.

First, something that a few people reading this know: I have long had the ability to sleep—easily and completely—anywhere. And I mean anywhere. In the past I've slept across three rickety chairs barely suitable for sitting, in a rickety bus travelling on a road that even pothole-hardened Montrealers would find daunting, and on an abandoned tennis court in the Adirondacks. (Last year I even fell asleep standing up, but I think those circumstances were a little extreme.) Honestly, the only person who can match me in this area is my mother. It's a great asset for travelling.

Second, as others reading this can attest, I can sleep through anything. Once I'm asleep, I'm asleep, and no amount of sirens, shouting, or room-shaking loud music can wake me. This is why that whole incident back in February with the disoriented hospital roomie who was shouting at the top of his lungs for help didn't affect me at all.

Third, sleep itself is more difficult these days. Between my chest catheter (it's no fun rolling onto the clamps' pointier ends) and my injured shoulder, it's hard to find a comfortable position to sleep in—never mind the need to keep my fat left foot elevated, on top of that. Add to that my night sweats, which are getting worse along with my body's decreasing ability to manage its temperature, and, well, you get the picture.

All of these things came to a head on Tuesday night. When we talking about that night, the first thing my mother mentions is the poor disoriented woman who was screaming for two hours. That was the least of my concerns, as I was able to sleep through a fair bit of it. The problem was getting comfortable enough to get to sleep and stay asleep. Not only was I sleeping on a narrow gurney, it was cold in emergency (at least to me), which made it hard to balance my need for cover with my need for ventilation to keep the sweats at bay. Being attached to an IV pump and the newly minted upper back pain made it worse. When I could get to sleep, I couldn't stay asleep. When I came back from the bathroom in the middle of the night at one point, I thought, "That damn gurney might actually have beaten me." Late I woke up gasping after a particularly bad attack of the night sweats, changed my clothes, and came to the realization that i was actually afraid to try to go back to sleep.

I eventually did, and despite one minor sweat incident, managed to sleep in two two-hour chunks. But although I felt better in the morning (good enough to navigate the hallways and elevators and pay my hematologist a visit), I didn't really have a good night's sleep and tried to avoid lying in the gurney. When I got ready for bed at home later that night, I actually said, "Thank God, a bed"—something I have never uttered in my entire life.

It would be nice if this story had a happy ending. It kind of does, as I was released with five days' worth of look-at-the-size-of-those-things antibiotic tablets, and the pain in my back went away. But sleep is still increasingly problematic. It has nothing to do with the hospital stay, but it's a nightly reminder. And that's just no fun.

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