Seriously, is that your question???

The first four days of my hospital stay were torturous as I lay paralyzed with very little help. My visit was like living in the movie Groundhog Day, as each day was the same, though the staff changed every twelve hours. Accomplishing tasks like bathing, brushing my teeth, and eating hot food while paralyzed was a rarity, to say the least. So let me tell you some of my specific situations that show why this was such an awful hospital experience to avoid in the future.

Although I always had a jovial disposition and sought laughter from everyone I interacted with, most nurse visits were brief and strictly medical. Nurse Jackie, who came in and talked for a few minutes, surprised me with what seemed like bragging that the Hospital had a two-star rating. It perplexed her why they did not have a better rating, as if there was nothing of inferior quality. This talk was the first lengthy conversation with a nurse I had in several days, and it was the beginning of her shift, so I said nothing to oppose her theory. However, I did not see the rainbows and butterflies she saw in this medical facility, as there was more wrong than right in this environment.

On the twelfth day of my fourteen-day stay, there was still no insinuation, inference, or even implication regarding my departure date. So when Dr. Benes, my doctor of twelve days, entered the room, I perked my ears to hear any of her words of wisdom. I listened intently to what she had to say, hoping to pick up a reason for my issues and when I could head home. However, after hearing her following words, I was speechless as her question was, “what brought you here to the hospital again?” I was stunned at the ignorance of such a query from my doctor that it put me in a quandary.

Day thirteen: My worst experience with a nurse at this medical facility was with Night shift nurse Nikki, who was only interested in being in command. Health aide Amanda, a fantastic person, helped me into the chair next to my bed in the morning to help avoid bedsores. After dinner, Amanda reminded me she would help get me back into bed before her shift ended, as no one else would help. When I told Nikki that Amanda said she would help me get back into bed before she left, Nikki quickly said that Amanda was gone for the day. Then I told Nurse Ratched, I mean nurse Nikki, that I could hear Amanda’s unmistakable voice. I was not trying to call her a liar, but maybe I should have because I did not think Amanda left, but Nikki fervently reiterated Amanda was gone. I lay uncomfortably in the chair and waited until 1 a.m. when the only person who could help me get back into bed did. 

Later, nurse Nikki came to give me medication in an IV port when I told her the previous nurse shared that the port clogged. This statement let Nikki know she needed to insert a new IV somewhere else and remove the clogged one from my arm. Nikki replied that she would have absolutely no problem with the IV, as the other nurse obviously must have been new. Unfortunately, she had three failed attempts using the clogged port, but luckily did not blow my veins trying to prove she knew better than all others.

Every nurse and phlebotomist had told me my veins were perfect, yet night nurse Nikki would push my pain tolerance too far. I did not know how terrible things would go when Nikki tried to insert an IV and how badly it would hurt. Her first attempt was a vein on top of my left wrist, although apparently too complicated. She repeated four times in total that something did not go right and to let her try again. Blinded by the pain, it would have been nice to hear her say she was sorry because it felt like she was digging with both hands and a hacksaw. Empathy and kindness go a long way toward making the terrible treatment tolerable, but I received no apologetic words. 

When the left wrist did not work, Nikki moved to the top of the right forearm and found a tiny vein to chisel into. I felt scared because the previous vein was more prominent, yet her attempt to use it was extraordinarily torturous and unsuccessful. Typically, when giving blood, I am told I will feel a slight pinch, yet I think Nikki used a jagged pipe. I am a Marine, so I have quite an extensive and colorful verbal dictionary that I rarely used trying to better myself. However, her excruciatingly painful skills brought out a venomous vocabulary that I did not direct at her, nor did I raise my voice, but they understood the sentiment.

So the question is, can I or should I avoid this two-star maniacal mayhem medical facility in the future? Although, to be fair, I have heard many horror stories about most of the emergency rooms and hospitals around town. The next bit of chaos in my life was that when I left the hospital, they sent me to a Rehabilitation Center and it was not pretty either.

Pain and strength are not mutually exclusive. 

Gentlemen, start your engines…

I am reposting one of my earlier blogs in the blog series about my move to Florida because life is unexpected. I have had many unforeseen things that needed to be dealt with immediately, not medical. These situations have caused my writing to slip to the back burner of my to-do list, slowing my writing. So please enjoy this flashback from the blog series about my move from Ohio to Florida and its trials, tribulations, and even a few triumphs.  

Gentlemen, start your engines…

Someone told me I am too honest and share things I should not because they are personal and embarrassing. However, not only do I believe in total honesty in life, but those reading my blogs with multiple sclerosis know that what I am saying is true. In addition, the anonymity of the internet means no one knows who I am except for my name because very few people I know read my blog. That said, the big bad Marine in me is terrified of flight day, like a schoolgirl watching a horror movie.

Let me be clear, I am not afraid to fly, as I have ridden in a big steel bird 30,000 feet in the sky many times. Side note; the first time in my life I ever rode in a plane was an excessively primitive propeller plane on my way to boot camp for the US Marine Corps. It was an exceptionally scary ride with a terrifying destination. However, I am afraid the MS symptoms I have dealt with in the past year could unexpectedly rear their ugly heads at any time of the day or flight. So I pondered my prolific problem, wondering how to help my fear and stress before they become an ulcer and ruin an otherwise positive move, so far anyway.

The stress of thinking about this trip all night made my time asleep in groups of minutes, not hours. My alarm went off at Zero Dark Thirty, or 3 a.m. to be precise, as I needed as much time as possible to get ready. This transition is a one thousand-mile move that started only a few months ago, and I am making the trip today. I knew my mom and stepdad would wake up early also for a family reunion and would leave shortly after me. That makes four bodies moving around, trying to duck and dodge each other in a relatively small house.

I had an aide named Carrie scheduled on the date of departure to come in to assist me in making this a smoother and proper preparation time. Carrie came in at 3:45 a.m., whispering a cheerful good morning while requesting directions on how she could help. I had a carry-on suitcase and a large piece of luggage for being checked into the belly of the plane. Most of her work upon arrival was to pack the bags with the things I could not until the last minute. The first hour was Carrie putting things where I requested them to go and her trying to make sure everything fit correctly.

My first task was to get breakfast out of the way, as I knew my parents would prepare in the kitchen for their gathering. It is essential to start the day with a substantial breakfast, so I was hoping for a two-egg omelet, bacon, and orange juice for this momentous occasion. However, in reality, I had a bowl of frosted Shredded Wheat with powdered milk and my vitamins and prescriptions to start the day off right. So far, things were moving smoothly, which scared me more because of the possibility of what would go wrong later. My MS life had not been rainbows and butterflies up to this point, and I was still fearful of any MS flare which would ruin this trip.

I can do the stuff Carrie is helping me with, but there is a need for speed, and I do not want to think about failure today. Her next task was to help me get dressed in the clothes I would wear to the airport, making sure everything was acceptable to the TSA. I have a key ring on my jean shorts zipper so I can hold it easily, and the last time I went through the TSA checkpoint, the guy grabbed it. He must have thought I was trying to smuggle something because he pulled on it like he had found a lost treasure. This time I would make sure I announced every little item and explain what they are before the start of the pat-down.

There was not much left to do after she helped me get dressed except assemble all the other last pieces. Search and rescue for a few lost last-minute items were essential but short-lived, as the house was pretty barren and packed for Florida. We both sat quietly in my bedroom, she on the bed and me on my chair as I tried to catch my breath as my nerves were shaking like heavy metal guitar strings. This morning seemed to run smoothly, which terrified me as it felt like it was the “calm before the storm,” which meant the storm would be at the airport. 

Fifteen minutes before the transport was supposed to arrive, Carrie left, leaving a conversation between my parents and me. As Carrie stepped out the door, she turned back and let us know the transport vehicle was here early. My heart began pounding at galloping thoroughbred speed, and at that point, my parents grabbed my luggage to walk me to my transportation. I opened the garage door, looked out at the van, and whispered, “Okay, Scott, there is no turning back now.” Right then, I felt like a little kid dragged to school for the first time, and the torturous trepidation sank in. Goodbye, Columbus, Ohio. I have lived within your borders for 46 years and will always have fond memories of my childhood.

Every journey starts with one step.

The wonderful world of…what???

I woke up many times at about 1 a.m. by my calculations, although total guesswork would be a better descriptor. The gurney was still extremely uncomfortable as I lay in the hallway waiting for them to take me to my next destination. It felt like they were playing three-card Monte, getting moved so much, hiding me from someone. But who would they hide me from would be the question? I spent several hours in this hallway and a few more in that room as they shifted me time and time again like a giant game of whack-a-mole.

Startled from my slumber, they rolled me down the hallway, into an elevator, and to the fourth floor. I briefly sat in another hallway and was eventually taken into a room of my own where everything looked dated and well-worn. The phrase putting lipstick on a pig came to mind as I looked around; the room had extreme wear and tear on everything. However, they tried unsuccessfully to make the room look acceptable and presentable. I commented on the relatively small TV, which seemed like 40 inches, and they told me it was one of the larger TVs in any of the rooms, which was kind of sad.

Medical assistant Janet came in first, introducing herself and explaining that she would take my vitals. Minutes later, nurse Cindy had the prescriptions I brought, a few required medications, and still zero information or insights on my illness. It disappointed me that they held firm to the no-information rule they seemed to have, keeping my issues a secret, like who Batman is. Still extremely tired and hungry, I could not think straight to ask the questions and plead for answers they were unwilling to share.

The first morning, I woke up when Joe, from the kitchen staff, brought my breakfast, then quickly turned and left the room. I was famished and ready to tear into even hospital food like a starving badger, as I had not eaten since the previous day’s breakfast. But still paralyzed, I realized I had to wait until someone could help me eat, which devastated my psyche. Even with whatever degree of disability from MS I had dealt with in the past, I could always feed myself independently. Nothing rips away your manhood, dignity, and pride like being spoon-fed Jell-O, like some invalid.

Finally, medical assistant Holly came into my room to take my morning vitals and inform me of the procedures and how-to’s. Nurse Heidi entered the room next with the daily regimen of morning medication and vague information and clear-as-mud statements. I requested help to eat since paralyzed, and they told me they would act as soon as possible. Several hours later, I remembered scrambled eggs, bacon, and oatmeal were inedible when old and cold. This iced meal was after sitting on the bed table untouched for many hours, getting chilled as I continued to starve, waiting for someone or anyone to help.

On day two, after many hours of extreme boredom, Bill from the kitchen brought the midday meal, which sat taunting me like a mirage to a man in the desert. Next, medical assistant Carol entered my room to take my vitals, asking if I was going to eat, obviously forgetting I could not move my arms. Then, Nurse Sandy entered the room, and I hoped to receive some great wisdom about my ailments and why I was there. Sadly, Sandy gave me no new information, only sharing more vague statements made of smoke and mirrors.

Although the medical staff changed every twelve hours and personalities differed each time, the day-to-day life was the same, simply mundane. So on the fourth day, I was happy for something different when a wound specialist nurse came in to examine me for bed sores. She found several unopened hotspots where bed sores began forming, so she ordered an air bed to be delivered that day. This new-age technology would replace my current ancient, very used, highly uncomfortable bed and make sleeping almost enjoyable again. Within seven hours of deep slumber on this new air mattress, I was no longer paralyzed and happy as a clam. First, I needed clarification about what had happened, but I received no information. 

This three-and-a-half-day period of paralyzation, requiring help for everything, deeply devastated my dignity. But, the time frame also let me see how some people can have an extreme care for their fellow man and others show a lack of common human decency. In the medical field, you should give up the need to always be right and the courage to say you are not the most intelligent person in the room. I never want to see another September 11th, but I would love to see another September 12th as the togetherness and kindness shined through, which is something the human race needs.

Kindness, not critiques.