Going to the Hospital? Read This First!


I learned a lot of interesting things this time when I was in the hospital. I spent a week there, and that’s a long time to be away from home, from your own bed, from your own bathroom and from your pets and family. I was lucky, since this hospital had free wireless internet. I mean, for me, the internet is life. Unfortunately, I slept so much and was subjected to so many tests and procedures that I didn’t have a lot of time to be on the internet. I felt a bit disconnected. Too tired to talk on the phone. With the IV stuck in my left thumb, it was nearly impossible to type. The last three days I was there, they did manage to get the IV put in a different location, near my wrist, which wasn’t comfortable and I had to be careful not to bend my wrist and lose the IV or poke it through my skin, but it did allow me to type a little bit.


So my first piece of advice is about the IV. If you have to have one–and you should know that almost all in patients will be required to have one / hospitals do this now because it’s easier to already have IV access if you need it for an emergency than to have to stop and find a vein and get it in during an emergency–if you are not a hard stick, then choose the location of your IV carefully. Most nurses or phlebotimists who will start an IV will listen to you if you ask them to find a location that is convenient for what you need to do. If you are going to type a lot, having an IV at the wrist or the actual bend of the arm might not be best. Go instead for the long flat inside of the arm. Did you know they’ll even put the IV in your leg if you want them to? I couldn’t do that because of the swelling, but they will consider it if you want to try to keep your hands free.


Okay, this one is a bit of a joke, but it’s true too. If you’re in the ER and you’re not getting seen fast enough, tell them you have chest pain! I say this, because when I came into the ER, I was in a wheelchair, wearing a long, heavy cloth nightgown with buttons up  the front, my red fuzzy slippers, my hair piled on my head, my feet swollen, face flushed and red, breathing erratic, hooked up to oxygen, looking miserable, could barely talk.

They called me over, asked me why I was there, I started to talk and they looked up my file in their system and then I said, “Well, I started to have this pain, right here…” and the lady turned around and looked at me and asked, “Where?” I showed her where on my chest it was hurting, and she clicked two buttons on her computer, said, “We have chest pain!”

Next thing I know, the lady at the desk next to her was wheeling me away, with Lynn following behind me wondering where we were going and carrying the oxygen tank while trying to keep up with their fast pace. Next thing I know, they are wheeling me into a glass encased examining room, saying to the nurses and docs at the station, “We’ve got chest pain in 108!”

I had a nurse jump on me the minute they turned the wheelchair around, pushing and putting leads on my chest and another one poking around on my arm looking for veins while a doctor started asking me questions and pressing on the fluid on my feet. I didn’t even have time to breathe or blink or thing before they were hooking me up to things. In one respect it was a bit scary and in another respect I was amazed. They simply weren’t taking any chances. I truly believe that had I been in distress, been in a true heart attack crisis in that moment, they would have saved me life right then and there, that’s how fast, professional and organized they were. While it’s tough when you’re scared and not sure what all those people are doing to you, it’s sort of comforting to see them jump to task so professionally. I was impressed, at least, after the fact.

But wow… what a difference something as simple as saying, “I have a pain in my chest…” can make.


Okay, I mean, if you’re in distress, if it’s an emergency, you go no matter what, but for us, the most they could do was keep me stable until Monday morning when they could actually perform all the tests they wanted to perform on me. So while they were able to start treatment with heparin and hydrocortisone and such, which helped save my life, I truly wish I had gone in the day before or even a couple of days before, because they could have gotten the tests done during the weekday and then the weekend would have just been relaxing and waiting for the treatment to work. If I can avoid a weekend admit to the hospital again, I most definitely will do so.


This is going to sound so silly to some of you, but there was one thing that was the hardest for me during the entire hospital stay: I wasn’t allowed to take a shower.

Yes, me, the shower queen–and I do mean, I love, love, love showers!–was not allowed to take a shower for over a week. But that wasn’t really the worst of it. The worst of it is that one of the symptoms that PEs can cause as well as congestive heart failure, both of which I had in the hospital, is excessive sweating. And it’s a strange type of sweat, like small little beads of a very fine sweat that build all over the skin, not just in the sweat gland places, and it’s a strange smelling, sickly sweet scent, almost a chemical smell. I was drenched, daily. Every time they would move me, every time they made me move around for a procedure or a test, I would literally be so drenched in sweat I looked like I had taken a shower. But they wouldn’t let me take a shower.

It would have been hard for me to shower, because moving was hard, and breathing was hard, but I felt just nasty. By the second day, Lynn had my family bring me wet wipes, and I would rub myself down each night with them very good, and then use them during the day when I was sweating. Between that and the washcloths, I managed to stay clean enough to feel mostly human, but one of the very first things I did when I got home was to get in the shower chair gotten just for me and I sat under the water for a long, long time. God, it felt so good.

So yes, if you’re going into the hospital, know they might not let you bathe, but even if they do, having wet wipes handy surely won’t hurt any, and it’s much easier to clean up with wet wipes than with washcloths and soap and sponge or bath stuff. Even you guys can use wet wipes, ’cause they have some that are unscented or man scented!


While I was allowed to have pain pills while in the hospital (I took Vicoprofen at home when the back pain and such was bad), they couldn’t let me have Vicoprofen in the hospital,

Yes, this is my lumbar spine.

because I was on blood thinners, and apparently, ibuprofen can cause bleeding, and Vicorpofen has ibuprofen in it. So I asked for something else, and they said they’d ask the doctor, but the doctor didn’t know what I was taking the pills for, so he wouldn’t prescribe any until he talked to me, but he wouldn’t come talk to me… the point, it was a pain to get them to give me pain meds. I did finally have a nurse take pity on me and she managed to get a PA on duty to let me have some 600mg Tylenol. It’s not the same as Vicoprofen, but it was better than nothing.

So for the first few days, I had no pain pills, and let me tell you, the hospital bed was bad, bad, bad on my back. Fortunately, the nurses took pity on me. They brought me a foam egg crate topper and put it on the bed for me, and another nurse brought me a water infused heating pad that circulated hot water through the pad and I used it on my back. They did everything they could, non-medicine, to help my pain. If you’re hurting, ask them what they can do for you, because I was truly impressed with how much they were willing to help me. You can’t know if you don’t ask, right? The heating pad they gave me was amazing! I want one like it at home!

I did finally get some Vicodin, with Tylenol instead of Ibuprofen, but I also sneaked in a little contraband — I’m not going to get a bleeding ulcer from taking a Vicoprofen once in a while, so don’t tell anyone, k? Until the new docs trust I’m not trying to be a drug addict with the pain pills, I need something for when I am hurting, and they don’t seem too eager to give me the same prescription strength or amount my old doc gave me. It’s okay. We’ll work it out. They did give me more muscle relaxers — that’s good, and they help a lot and don’t make me loopy!


Prior to them trying to put the PICC line in, I was not allowed to eat breakfast. They gave me nothing to eat, no water, no nothing, but then they waited until nearly noon to try to put the line in. I had no food before that, and then missed lunch, and by the time I was back at the room, I was hungry. Then on another night, I slept through dinner, literally slept right through it. Another night, I puked up dinner. Also, they serve dinner around 5 in the evening, which means I’m starving by about 10 or so when I’m still up and can’t sleep. Every time I’ve stayed in the hospital, the nurses have told me they have stuff for patients who are hungry after hours. This place had nice boxed sandwiches, with a fruit, a juice and a sammich. They were gooooood sammiches too! The hospital back home I stayed in a while back had sandwiches (not quite so good) and cheese and fruit and juices. They both had crackers too. If you’re not diabetic (and I’m not!), they had some cookies and sodas as well.


I guess my point to all this is, while I was in the hospital, it wasn’t a great experience, but it was the best hospital experience I’d ever had, and it was because the people there were very professional, kind and listened to me. I advocated for myself. I paid attention to the medications they gave me, made sure they were given right, paid attention to the blood work they did and what they were taking and drawing it for so I could avoid unnecessary draws. I even had to tell a pleb at one point that she hadn’t brought the right tubes in with her, and she didn’t listen to me and got really pissy when she found out from the doctor *I* was right.

YOU are more important that putting a nurse out or making a phleb a little embarrassed. They’ll get over it, but your health and your life and your comfort is more important than that. So don’t be afraid to ask medical people to make you more comfortable. You have that right.

I’m pretty certain my days of being in the hospital are not over yet. I’ll write more about that later. I would imagine I’ll be going back for some other stuff. I plan to be better prepared next time.

Oh, and one last piece of advice: If you want to get someone to your room really fast and they’ve put the telemetry stuff on your chest? Simply remove the leads… those paramedic guys who monitor that thing run fast when that happens.

Love and stuff,


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4 Responses to “Going to the Hospital? Read This First!”

  1. Raiscara says:

    I snickered, I snorted, and I nodded my head in agreement. While sad that you had to be there in the first place, it’s wonderful to see the humorous spin on it. 🙂

  2. AnnaB says:

    If I have to go back to the hospital I think I want to go to the one you went to. It sounds a lot more professional than the one I’ve had a lot more visits to, than I care to admit.
    I hope you are feeling better soon. And are all the way healthy soon.
    Some of the things you’ve posted about though scare me a little because I was just diagnosed this past summer with Hashimontoes, and the doctor wants to basically let my thyroid burn out,
    I feel horrible most days already, and I’ve been doing a little research, and according to what I’ve read the doctor could be treating me and prevent a lot of problems down the road.
    Also I’ve got a lot of other minor problems that I can’t seem to get treated correctly.
    I went to the er here not too long ago because I am having a problem with my back and my shoulder (I have spinal arthrits, scolios, multiple slipped disks, and basically there is a reason my back is hurting it’s not my imagination I’ve got x-rays to prove it)
    Well the doctor at the er did not want to do any x-rays (the x-rays I have are from a walk-in clinic) he also wanted to give me a pain medication that I am allergic to and have had a reactiion to, (granted the reaction was twenty years or so ago, but still it was pretty bad) well he wanted to give me that instead of the only pain medication I know that I can take safely. He stated it was that one or none, so I left with nothing,
    I still have not been able to get a doctor, when I went to the doctor earlier this summer I had no insurance but now I have insurance (we just got insurance a few weeks ago, so I am hoping this means that I can get a doctor who will listen to me.
    I don’t even like medicine well enough to be a drug addict, and the er doctor was acting like he thought I just wanted that one pain medicine to abuse, he kind of got on my nerves a lot.
    Anyway’s I am glad you have found good care, that is something that can be very hard to find.

  3. I was impressed with the reaction at my home-town hospital when I went in with chest pains, but I don’t think they reacted as quickly as yours did.

    Know exactly what you mean about placement of the IV and not being able to take showers. I was in for 9 days a few years ago with a nasty infection (allergic to penicillin, so it gets complicated). Couldn’t shower because every time my leg got lower than the rest of my body, I passed out. My skin is still a little oily (yes, even at my advanced age), and my hair got really gross. Finally figured out how to hang my head over the foot of the bed so my husband could wash it in the little washtub they provide.

    One thing I *really* like about my hospital is that patients order from a menu and let the kitchen know when they want to eat, so it doesn’t really matter when you want your meal–within certain limits of course–about 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

    Hope you continue to improve and find out exactly what is wrong and how to fix it.

  4. Beth says:

    All sorts of good advice here…and I KNEW it wouldn’t take you too long before you turned your experience into a writing topic. See, you’re still you. ;O)

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