November 22, 2012 – My first holiday with my husband, our two month wedding anniversary, and one heck of a day.
This Thanksgiving was both completely traditional for us, and also completely non-traditional. After all, we did watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and America’s Thanksgiving Parade. We did eat turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole (or green bean barfee as my sister would call it). We spent the holiday mostly just the two of us, just the way we have for the last few years. Everything sounds normal right?
Except that we watched the parades from a hospital room. My husband had to kneel to eat his Thanksgiving dinner. I purchased a pre-cooked turkey, pre-made mashed potatoes, and re-heated leftover stuffing from a few nights ago because we didn’t get home from the hospital until after noon.
Let’s hit rewind for a moment so I can explain, and so that the title of this entry “the other side of things” will make sense. My husband came home last Friday from work in a great deal of pain – he had the chills, then was sweating, complained of pain and fatigue… I thought it was the flu. He then revealed that it was actually a sore, which over the next few days got worse, and worse, and worse. Finally I asked my nursing coworkers for advice on his condition, and was told point blank to get him to an urgent care or hospital immediately. We had put going to the doctor off for a couple of reasons, but a big one being finances. We finally decided to go into urgent care on Tuesday evening.
The doctor in urgent care took one look at the area and told us it was badly infected and that he would recommend my husband go immediately to the hospital to receive IV antibiotics, and that he might even need to have surgery. Whoa! Not what we were expecting… and not at all what we had in mind for our holiday… but I couldn’t bear the thought of anything happening to him, so we went. He did receive IV antibiotics and he also underwent surgery to help drain some of the infection.
I called this entry “the other side of things” because during my husband’s hospitalization I got to experience what it’s like to be the patient, or the patient’s family in a hospital – not only just a regular hospital stay, but over a holiday when I know how understaffed it is working in healthcare since I am a dietitian. I spent the night with my husband last night so that I could meet and talk to his surgeon, and I did so because I knew that it was absolutely unpredictable when the surgeon would round (from my experience as a dietetic intern in a large acute care hospital) and that he wouldn’t stay long when he did round, so I needed to be there. I got to experience what it was like to have nurses and nurse aides in and out of the room all night taking vitals, changing IVs, and offering pain medication. I even tried the hospital food via room service – dinner was cold (I wish I had brought my thermometer!) but breakfast this morning was the right temperature and very enjoyable. I was delighted that the tray tickets included nutrition information, but shocked by the high calorie, high fat, high sodium content of a “regular” diet. I guess I shouldn’t have been too shocked – I knew how astounding it was from interning at the hospital, but it’s still like sticker shock to see that my burger and sweet potato fries and cookies for dessert weighed in at well over 700 calories with almost 50 grams of fat. YIKES!
Overall, I am very thankful this year for the caring and wonderful nurses, doctors, techs, aides, housekeepers, etc. that made our stay at the hospital the most pleasant it could be. My husband was in good spirits for most of his stay there. I am thankful that he is doing well and recovering at home, and that we were able to share a Thanksgiving dinner together. I am thankful for our family members and friends who visited, called, or wrote messages to us on Facebook. And I am thankful for the experience that will make me more empathetic for my residents and my patients, understanding what it is like to sleep in a hospital room and especially to be in one away from family and loved ones on a holiday. I am very grateful for everything that I have.
I hope that all of you have had a wonderful Thanksgiving, too!