Thursday, October 30, 2008

Enjoyable Hospitalization

While the blog title may seem like an oxymoron, it's a rather apt description of my maiden sojourn at a hospital early in the week. It all started when my lingering stomach ache blossomed into an elevated state of pain that forced me to take two consecutive afternoons off from my work last week. Then a most disconcerting development: I passed out black stools on Sunday afternoon and early Monday morning.

Previously in a discussion with Harriet, one of Wify's friends, when she related a similar ordeal of hers to us during which she had had to endure a protracted period of stomach ailment before she was diagnosed as a case of bacterial infection when follow-up antibiotics medication took care of matter, she had indicated that black stools are a sign of internal bleeding of the GI (gastrointestinal) tract.

Worried, I paid an unscheduled visit on my doctor first thing on Monday morning. I guess the mention of black stools to the receptionist must have triggered an alarm response such that I was ushered into the doctor's office with dispatch. The doctor took a quick look under my eyelid, confirming that I looked pale, followed by a rather nonchalant remark, “that certainly qualifies as black stools,” after he did a quick rectal exam.

His advice: check in to a hospital for an endoscopic examination to check for stomach ulcers that may have caused the internal bleeding. While my doctor has his own private practice, he is also a resident physician at the hospital next to him, the Memorial Hospital of Tampa. Without further ado and after a phone call to the hospital, I was promptly put on a bed in an observation cubicle on the first floor, changed to the hospital overall, a needle stuck to my lower arm (which was not to leave its newly found residence until I was discharged from the hospital two nights later), and the first of many blood works initiated and vital signs measured, including an EKG (electrocardiogram).

Around 2pm, I was wheeled upstairs into a double occupancy room. I took up the bed next to the window, one with a rather dull view of the outside world (the imposing presence of the bland rooftop utility room merely feet away tends to do just that). Then I had yet to make the acquaintance of my bed-side partner for the next two nights who only checked in toward the evening. Thus began my maiden sojourn in a hospital, a stay that I have only read about (the closest I ever got to doing that was visiting Wify during her deliveries back in Malaysia and also once in Shands Hospital, Gainesville, when she had a miscarriage in the early 1990s).

I was put on drips, the needle earlier lodged on my right arm becoming the convenient conduit, which of course was pre-planned from its insertion. There was also a heart monitor connected to several electrodes planted on my torso and the monitor placed in the front pocket of the hospital overall that I was wearing, gray colored rubber wires sprouting from its top and disappearing behind the overall, kind of like a hard-wired modern-day Frankenstein, minus my princely look obvious to any casual observer of course ( I guess an occasional indulgence in self-flattery wouldn't hurt). Then there were more blood works, and a whole slew of vital sign records (heart pressure, pulse rate, blood glucose level, oxygen level, and body temperature), at periodic intervals.

All these were not actually unexpected. In fact, I did have a haunch when I was driving to the doctor's office in the morning that today was going to be my day, my apprehension notwithstanding. Personally for me though, the only dreaded aspect of being admitted into a hospital is the regular blood works that I have to endure, whereas a visit to a doctor's office only merits the needle poking once during the time of visit.

Being a veteran of blood withdrawals does not help in my case at all. Every time I have to relive the squeamish feeling, averting my eyes from the flow of crimson red issuing from my body, and making me an ardent believer of Einstein's relativity where a second seems like stretching into eternity, all these while doing my damnedest to maintain a cool countenance. Admittedly, this may be more psychological in nature than anything else, but it's one that I find difficult to overcome.

But then I also found out that being hospitalized has its bright sides too, overwhelming the discomfiture due to blood works into mere but necessary inconvenience (how I wish they have found a painless way of withdrawing blood, much like now there is a painless way to measure blood glucose level without giving up one's finger for a hole-puncture like treatment).

First, the patience, the kind gestures, the soft and reassuring tones from all doctors, nurses, hospital technicians, hospital dietitian alike, even the lady from the finance department who explained the intricacy of the benefits coverage of my medical insurance vis-s-vis my deductibles to forestall any shock of an impending hospital bill. They are really a bunch of Angels in White, doing much to allay my clearly unfounded phobia of hospitalization. To borrow a cliché, saying that I was in good hands felt like an understatement.

Of special note is Sharon, my daytime nurse on the first two days, who not only made me feel at home, which may seem somewhat ironical since nobody enjoys making a hospital a home, but also ensured that Wify's stay with me was a most comfortable one.

There there was Mr. Bobo, an eighty-three year old long-time Tampa resident who became my roommate for two nights, albeit under some trying circumstances. He has sleep apnea, and thus requires being hooked up to a machine at night. He was also on a breath-analyzer, a plastic face mask that bore resemblance to Dr. Hannibal Lecter, that famed (or infamous) brilliant but unsettling character in Silence of the Lamb (1991) played by Sir Anthony Hopkins (this was the remark made by one of the night visitors of Mr. Bobo that I overheard).

But obviously Mr. Bobo is very warm, approachable, and the best pal one could have to share a hopsital room. His medical condition did not diminish in any way his gregarious nature, full of life anecdotes gleaned from having run a family supermarket business with his brothers until eight years ago when perhaps health caught up with him that he had to retire. His family is a very close knit one as evinced from the many friendly banters he shares with his wife, brother, children and grand children when they came visiting. Being just a curtain away, I could not help overhearing the convivial interactions among his family members.

On the first night, while I was laying on my bed, my side of the curtain drawn, I overheard an exchange between Mr. Bobo and a man whom I figured to be a male doctor/nurse initially from his asking a lot of medical questions relating to Mr. Bobo's condition. However, as the conversation developed, it seemed to take on a more heated tone, which was totally unlike one that involves a medical provider and a patient. The clincher came when the man uttered, “Am I aggravating you?” Wow, that's direct. Then Wify whispered that the man was in casual wear and also later I heard that he addressed Mr. Bobo as Dad. So the man turned out to be one of his sons who was just showing his concern for his Dad who does not seem to be taking the medications as prescribed.

We too had our own little anecdote to commemorate our sharing a bed in the hospital, but at different times though. You see, most of the day I was bed-ridden, save for one trip to the bathroom cos' I did look ridiculous with a drooping neck line and a rather revealing back. So Wify would be slouching on a cushioned chair but one with a rather straight back and alternated between sleep and consciousness, not to mention the constant shift in the seating position with her head resting on different parts of the bed. Tired of being on the bed for hours on end, I would wake up at about 4am, just in time for the next round of blood works at 5am like clockwork, and surrendered my bed to Wify to stretch her curled up body to sleep like a baby.

My doctor would make his round at 7am, checking into my progress of the day before and plotting the next course of action for my recovery. Seeing that I was sitting up and Wify ensconced on the bed, he would remark rather sheepishly, “Now who is the patient here?” much to mine and Wify's amusement. There you see, doctors can be a humorous lot too.

If you could bear with me, there's just one more experience I need to share: my endoscopic exam (the full name of the procedure is esophagogastroduodenoscopy, or EGD, for short). It's a minimally invasive procedure when a kind of scope is inserted into the stomach through the mouth that does not require any incision. I have earlier learned from the nurse that I would be put under general anaesthesia but I still did not know what to aspect.

I was wheeled into the exam room, put on a bed surrounded by a host of computer terminals and dangling tube-like extensions. I remembered the doctor ask me to turn on my side, and the nurse then inserted a plastic mouthpiece with a hole in the middle for me to bite on to, and the wall clock was displaying 12:55pm. Then the light suddenly went out and the last thing I remembered was coughing a few times. The next instant I felt a gentle slapping of my face and woke up to find out the source of that face slapping, who turned out to be Wify, and I was already out of the exam room. And the time was 1:25pm. So half of an hour was unaccounted for since I have had no recollection of whatever happened during that limbo-like hiatus.

Later, Wify told me that the nurse was the first to slap my face, and rather forcefully too, and yet elicited no response from me other than a slight stir. I guess it must be some kind of telepathic connection that a spousal pair would develop years into their connubial relationship that only a loving caress from her would resurrect me, so to speak.

Anyway, to make a long narrative short, I was diagnosed with having a stomach ulcer from bacterial infection. I was prescribed antibiotic medications with Prilosec, an acid reducer available over the counter, and to follow a bland diet consisting of soft cooked food, nothing raw, not even fresh fruits.

I was discharged on Wed morning, and am thankful for all the wonderful care rendered and warm relationship cultivated during my maiden but brief sojourn at the hospital. Now I'm in the good hands of Wify who would make sure that my road to recovery would be the most comfortable one, for which I'm most grateful.

Until my next medical adventure, which would likely be the colonoscopy, originally scheduled for next week but is now postponed by a month in order for my ulcer to be treated first, I would like to thank all those who have sent in their well wishes, including my colleagues at work, especially Connie and Mrs. Kim, two of Wify's pals who visited us at the hospital on our second night, and also my children and family members who were unceremoniously jarred into worry because of my unanticipated medical condition. But I'm glad it all ended well with a quick diagnosis of the medical problem and the prompt treatment rendered. You can be assured from now on that I would not take my health, and anybody else's for that matter, for granted. And the identification bracelets I wore and the pair of warm anti-skid socks from the hospital that I am wearing now would bear testimony to my enjoyable hospitalization.


Hilton said...

Wow, Say. Sorry to hear about all this. Glad it was something treatable. All the best wishes. Get well soon.


Say Lee said...

Hi Hilton,

Thanks for the get-well-soon wish. We are glad too that it did not develop into something worse. But it just means that I have to put my gastronomic pursuits on hold for a little while, despite your fabulous food blogs that I enjoy reading tremendously.

Lee Wei Joo said...

Get well soon Dad, and be able to eat well again! I know you will.

Kitty Girl said...

" princely look obvious to any casual observer of course..."

Say--were you narcissistic due to something the doctors gave you, or have you always been this way? [Teeheehee!]Fat Dad! Now we get to say, "We told you so*!"

*To go see the doctor

Thank you for sharing your experience with us! I am happy that it was just a stomach ulcer--not that it is a small matter, but that it is something easily treatable.

Mr. Bobo --come on, that's not his real name!! Even if it were--don't you think you should protect his privacy by making up a name??? Just sayin'...

Mom is such a trooper as well, staying at the hospital--we must not forget to thank her for helping you recover!

So--from now on--no more delaying seeing the doctor, or getting a second opinion! Moral of the story. :)

Say Lee said...

Not really, just having a little fun with words, and feeking elated at my quick discharge.

And yes, I have been blessed and should not take that for granted.

Did Mom tell you that Mei had Mr. Bobo's grandson as her classmate at Plant High? It's indeed a small world.

Mary Wang said...

We're so glad you're okay. Take care. Stay healthy. It's so touching to see Bee taking good care of you and pray to Buddha for you :)

Say Lee said...

Thanks, Mary, for your well-wishes. Yes, having a spousal partner who understands and cares ensures that half of any battle in life is already won.