The assassins had failed again.
I was in ICU, enduring incorrect meal orders, bouts of tedious questioning about how I was feeling (often including the assurance that I had been in great health before whatever they'd done to me during my toe repair surgery), breathing exercises and blood draws.
"No, I came here to get my broken toes fixed," I said, "not for symptoms of respiratory problems that I didn't have before the anesthesia procedure I asked not to be done."
Let's see, broke toes Tuesday night, surgery Wednesday evening, awake again Thursday, so it was Thursday when the orthopedist showed up in my ICU room. I liked him. He was an entertaining mix and usually managed to find a smile.
"Hey, you were one hundred percent right," he told me. "I heard about what happened after the surgery. We should not have put you under."
Did he know how to bring an apology, or what? Granted, not so hard when you're not to blame, but still a great apology.
"I'm sorry you're having trouble," he said, "but on the bright side, our part went great. How do your toes feel?"
For the toes, hey, no problem. There was no pain, no tingling, no numbness, and no discoloration. There was (and at this writing remain) a long steel pin extending from beyond the tip through to the base of each toe (the little piggy that had roast beef and the little piggy that had none; weeweewee is fine), but no pain. Based on people's poorly hidden reactions, I'm going to assume it's supposed to hurt. I'm quite content with not having that part of the experience. I'm not sure If that costs me experience points in this game, but I'm sure I took that into consideration when I created the character and I'm not going to start second-guessing myself this far into things.
I really felt like most of my inability to take a deep breath was more connected to the irritated feeling in my throat. It was less like a sore throat and more akin to sprinting in cold weather. Trying to breathe deeply would set off coughing after a couple of seconds. If that was due to the double intubation, it should heal, right. Of course, I was also coughing up bloody phlegm. No, I hadn't been doing that before. Someone actually asked me about how I normally dealt with these symptoms I was--Hey! Stop. Wearing a white coat doesn't make you smart. I don't normally deal with any of these things or have a primary care provider because I normally feel freaking awesome. I pay attention to what I eat, drink more than a gallon of water a day, exercise daily, and don't have to listen to doctors who make me feel worse than when I came to see them for a simple mechanical fix.
This patient's humors are out of balance! Time for another bloodletting!
There were a few bright spots to my stay in the hospital, with doctors, nurses, nurse assistants and even volunteers among them. There were also idiots who, sadly, probably don't know who they are because they failed to register either my sarcasm or my blunt honesty.
Saturday, my oxygen saturation maintaining at an acceptable level with supplemental oxygen, I was moved from ICU to a normal patient room. I was still being given antibiotics, a blood thinner, and not enough food. The hospital's idea of a normal diet was something I really wanted to use some of my free time to discuss with whoever was in charge of nutrition for the place. It consisted of far too many carbohydrates and not enough protein and so many things that I just wasn't going to eat.
The attending anesthesiologist came for a visit a few hours after I'd gotten to my new room. She claimed to be sympathetic, but also maintained that she would make the same decisions again. She also expressed one theory that I might have experienced a negative pressure pulmonary embolism, something that was known to occur in higher mass patients. I failed to see the logic in insisting on a procedure that was a known risk for a patient because of his body type when another options was available and requested. We failed to reach a point of agreement.
Sunday, I stopped using the supplemental oxygen. My tongue was still half-numb, which I found as bizarre as the fact that over two weeks later it still hasn't fully recovered all sensation. Regardless, I was and remain very dedicated to deep breathing. Blame it on all the years of martial arts training. It meant enduring a lot of coughing, but I was forcing more breath after each coughing fit so I persisted. I think I mentioned lots of free time, so I was back to notebook scribblings interrupted by bouts of exercise. I received a visit from another orthopedic doctor. I'd seen different people from orthopedics every day. This one seemed nervous. His voice was shaky and so was his handshake. The nurse and I decided he must've been one of the eight men who'd had to wrestle me after surgery.
My vital sign readings had gotten back to normal, for me, and there were rumors I might be discharged. Hooray! There was also talk of a chest CT scan. Much of Sunday was spent waiting on word of which event was going to happen. The scan won out and happened late that afternoon. *sigh* Chest X-rays before and after I was awake hadn't shown them anything conclusive, the doctor claiming that there was too much muscle to see through well, but that he didn't see anything of concern.
From the CT scan, they decided that I'd been left with a pulmonary embolism, blood clotting in each lung. I'd progressed to exclusively dry coughs, no blood, but the next step in the plan then was to be blood thinning therapy, dissolving the clots over the course of several months. That was also going to mean ongoing doctor visits for monitoring to make sure that my blood to poison ratio was kept at an appropriate level. To begin the process, it was also going to mean keeping me in the hospital where they could monitor me until they managed to achieve the desired level before releasing me back into the wild. That resulted in another week in the hospital, feeling well but trapped, futile pokings by people hunting for blood vessels, and a doctor who learned to deliver updates with an apology and on the run.
Nice guy, but he liked to stay out of arm's reach.
Now, home again and being mindful of my skewered toes, I've begun dealing with the inefficiencies and stupid questions of a primary care physician and waiting on lab work. I've yet to encounter any part of all this that's made me unhappy about having as little interaction with the medical profession as possible over the years, nor to make me think I won't resume that practice ASAP. It always seems to come back to bloodletting, doesn't it? The trappings have gotten prettier over the last seven hundred years, but a hospital's still a gilded cage at best and there's still so much guessing going on in there. I'm waiting for somebody to come at me with stone knives and bear skins, realizing that my theory about a voodoo doll likeness of me out there somewhere with sharp pains in its foot may not be so far fetched.
There's no place like home.