After a couple of weeks in hospital, and with no definitive timeframe set on my release, I had to adjust to living in hospital. Much of what happened in the course of my days was dictated not by my schedule but the schedules of the doctors, nurses, and the folks who bring the food trays around.
Mornings were start-and-stop affairs, with a nurse coming by to check my vital signs – blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature – at about 6 a.m. Once that was done I would try to get a little more sleep, until the doctors made their rounds at 7 a.m. and woke me again. After the little checkup from the doctors I would try to fall asleep again. My next alarm came from another nurse around 8 a.m., who would again check my vitals. The nursing shifts at Mount Sinai Hospital run from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., so my “night” nurse did the 6 a.m. checkup before my “day” nurse carried out the 8 a.m. checkup. It seemed pretty odd to me. I mean, how much could my temperature or blood pressure have changed in two hours, especially when I was just sleeping? Or at least, trying to sleep. After the 8 a.m. checkup, I would brush my teeth, shave, and wash my face. Breakfast arrived at about 8:45 a.m.
I enjoyed breakfast more than any other meal. It was always simple fare like cereal and milk, a biscuit or muffin or scone or slice of banana bread, and juice. I think I enjoyed breakfast most because it felt less like a hospital meal and more like the kind of meal you’d get on an airplane.
I would usually go for a walk around the floor after breakfast, just to feel a little active. Around 10 a.m. my day nurse would change my wound dressing. The bandage and Mesalt ribbon applied the day before were removed, the wound and surrounding skin were cleaned, and the wound would be packed and bandaged again. A couple of times a week, the nurse would also help me change my ostomy appliance. I really appreciated having some help the first few times I did the change. One good thing that came out of my extended hospital stay is that I became pretty good at changing the appliance, and by the time I was discharged I could handle a change on my own.
After the dressing/appliance change I’d have my “bath.” I would go to the bathroom and fill a plastic basin with hot water, then squeeze in two packets of liquid soap. I’d then swish the water around with a couple of facecloths. I rubbed the damp facecloths over my body and hair in a vain attempt to feel clean. After drying off I would put on a fresh pair of disposable underwear and a new hospital gown.
I’d pass the rest of my time in between meals (lunch at 12:45 p.m., dinner at 5:45 p.m.) by reading, going for walks around the floor, watching TV in the patient lounge, and fiddling with my iPad Mini. Just a word on that iPad Mini. One of my relatives bought it for me when he realized that I’d probably be in hospital for a while longer than expected. It was a generous, thoughtful, and sanity-preserving gift. I would have been bored as fuck if not for that gift. Granted, my dad could have brought my laptop to the hospital, but the iPad saved us the trouble, and was a perfect size for the circumstances. Thank you, Darius.
Of course I had visitors to help pass the time too. My dad came to visit me every day, and Jayee came almost every day. Other friends and relatives dropped by sporadically, and while they were quite tiring at first, they were more welcome towards the end of my stay, largely because I had more energy, and because it felt as though a release date was coming.
My day nurse would take my vitals again at 5 p.m., followed my night nurse doing the same around 8 p.m. I would try to get to bed around 9 or 10 p.m., but I never really had a good night’s sleep while I was in hospital. I’d usually sleep for an hour here, two hours there, but I’d wake a few times over the night. It was an effort just to change positions, as I’d have to move different tubes and bags before settling down.
All I could really do was try to pass the time, try to keep mildly active, and try to stay relatively clean until my condition improved. Luckily it did and I was able to rediscover the joys of showering and sleeping in my bed.
Image via UNE SimLog