Some of you might have been wondering where momonthedge has been the last few weeks.
Poolside in Palm Beach? Cruising the Caribbean? Snowboarding in Steamboat?
Alas, no. I have been to the only weeklong spa escape I’m likely to get unless I achieve my dream of visiting Oprah’s show this season and scoring the one day she sends everyone in the audience to Canyon Ranch.
I was in the hospital.
Before you put me on your church prayer list, let me tell you that it wasn’t all that serious, really. I didn’t break a leg or have a heart attack or burst my appendix. I had a garden-variety drug-sensitive staph infection. Not even the flesh-eating-bacteria kind.
Not to say it didn’t knock me on my hiney, though. Which is how I ended up in the ER and eventually in a tiny hospital room that was begging for an extreme makeover.
Let me explain.
A couple weeks back, I got up early one Wednesday morning and felt an itch on my lower back. I thought it was a bug bite and didn’t give it another thought. The next day I went to the gym to run on the treadmill, then went home to shower. I noticed the spot on my back looked irritated, like a spider bite. No bigger.
The next day it was angrier, so I put some Neosporin on it and went about my business. By Saturday, it was really hurting and kind of bulging. This is when I made my fatal mistake: I lanced it myself.
Hey, I’m a mom, and I was busy. I figured I’d drain the thing, pour hydrogen peroxide all over it and put some Neosporin on it, all of which I did. But by noon, it was way worse. So I decided to find an urgent care place and get it looked at. Plus I was starting to cough and kind of ache all over, which I weirdly attributed to the sore on my back.
Here’s a tip: You don’t want to be the last patient seen in the urgent care joint during flu season. It was nastier than gross in there. I waited an hour in an exam room before a tired-looking doctor came in, looked at my back, said it was staph and gave me prescriptions for Bactrim and Bacitracin ointment. After another hour at the 24-hour pharmacy, I headed home by 8 p.m.
The next day was a busy Sunday, and my back felt sort of better in the morning. But by lunch time, I knew I needed more intervention. So Matt drove me to the emergency room. There, a cute young doctor confirmed the staph diagnosis but said he’d have to open up that abscess, which he did, taking care to make as small an incision as possible so it wouldn’t scar and harsh my bikini line. So cute. As if I’ll ever willingly wear a bikini again.
Matt was concerned but also strangely fascinated with the little surgical procedure. It was like he was watching his own personal copy of the “world’s biggest zit” video on YouTube. He wanted to narrate the incising, but I begged him not to. He’d tried this kind of thing before, when I’d had my first amniocentesis, describing in detail the length of the needle, the way my stomach looked when it went in, etc. I don’t need to know these things. I was just trying to find my happy place.
After the doctor packed the wound, I felt a little better, but I think that was from the lidocaine he’d shot into my lower back. I had a big bandage back there and joked that if anyone noticed, I’d say it was a tramp stamp gone bad. The cute doctor probably thought I reminded him of his mom, only nerdier. He smiled condescendingly.
So we went home, but the darn thing kept getting worse. The pain woke me up in the night, and Monday morning I felt like crap. But so did both Joe and Tom, who were coughing and sniffling and running temps. I took them to the pediatrician, who said they had viruses. And he said I didn’t look or sound too good myself. I showed him my back, and he recoiled. I thought maybe I should go back to the ER.
Here’s another tip: Monday afternoons are the absolute worst time to visit the ER. Who knew? I figured Friday was terrible, but Monday afternoon the joint was full of people who should have gone to urgent care. By the time I got back to a room, I had a feeling I wouldn’t be going home for a while. Before I knew it, I had an IV in my arm and was floating from the oxycodon they gave me for pain.
However, I didn’t have time for a hospital stay. I had places to go, kids to shuttle. I had a paper due in one of my grad classes, and I hadn’t even started it. I started tearing up, but then a nurse told me I could just do my homework while I was lying in a nice, quiet hospital room, letting the IV antibiotics do their thing.
She had me at “nice” and “quiet.” Suddenly, the thought of checking out of my hectic life for a few days sounded OK. Again, it was no doubt the oxycodon, but I figured I could watch whatever I wanted on TV, sleep later than 6:15 a.m., catch up on my school reading. Wow.
Yeah, so I signed up for that package before I realized a) I’d be in a hospital room slightly bigger than my closet and b) they’d be giving me Heparin shots in my stomach twice a day so I wouldn’t develop blood clots. Oh, and right after I arrived at my room, a nurse and nurse’s aide came in and put these inflatable boot thingies on my legs. They filled up with air every 30 seconds or so, supposedly massaging my calves to prevent blood clots.
That karma, she is a byotch.
Have you ever tried to sleep with something gripping your legs every 30 seconds all.night.long? Between those bastards and the nurse’s aide coming in to check my vitals every few hours, I felt worse in the morning than I had the night before. They gave me bags of IV fluids between antibiotic doses, and by 7 a.m. I looked like the Crypt Keeper’s crazy Aunt Kate. I was puffy and disgusting.
So much for my spa vacation.
Over the next few days, my cough got worse, too. I kept asking for Mucinex, but no one seemed to be listening. On Wednesday, when my doctor came in to tell me I’d be going home soon with a catheter inserted in my arm, he asked about my cough and ordered a flu test. They stuck a probe up my nose and a few hours later, I got the news: positive for influenza B, despite getting a flu shot in the fall.
My week just kept getting better. My flu diagnosis earned me a sign on my door advising anyone entering to wear a mask and use hand sanitizer before they left my room. I couldn’t leave the room except to go get an x-ray or use the shower. And then I was masked up, too.
Late that afternoon, a drippingly sweet nurse came to insert my PICC, the catheter in my arm. Before she did it, she told me everything that could possibly go wrong. For instance, if I coughed too, too hard, there was a chance I might cause the catheter to pull out of the vein it was in. But everything would be OK, she assured me.
After Matt left that night, I cried inconsolably. I missed my kids, two of whom had the flu, too. I’d missed Maggie’s honor society induction. Matt seemed to have everything at home under control. I felt like life outside the hospital was marching on, but in my room it was like Groundhog Day.
Just when things couldn’t get any more dismal, Thursday dawned and Aunt Flo arrived. You know who I mean. She was early. I thought I was hemorrhaging before I realized what was going on. Like a 13-year-old stuck at school without proper supplies, I explained my predicament to the nurse. Lovely. Being a chick can be sooo much fun sometimes.
And it turns out that if you complain about chest pain when you’re in the hospital – even if your pain is coming from your flu-ridden lungs because no one has ever gotten you any freaking Mucinex – you automatically get an EKG and a visit from a cardiologist before you can leave the joint. That whole detour caused me to spend an extra day in the hospital.
Finally, Friday dawned. Outside my window, the skies were dark with clouds, and rain threatened. But I didn’t care. I was ready to go. And by 3 p.m., I had left my spa week behind for the sweetness of my crazy, loud, unpredictable home.