"These Are My O.R. Scrubs." "OH, ARE They?" in Dramedy

  • Feb. 20, 2024, 10:22 a.m.
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Freshly turned 40, I’m sitting here in my whimsical flamingo pj’s (that were a gift from a certain ex-boyfriend’s not-at-all-whimsical mother) with a gaping golf-ball sized hole in my side. If you’re curious-the wound looks like an angry maw screaming. (If you’re not curious, it still looks like the mouth of an angry maw screaming. Or maybe it resembles the mouth of a creature that belongs in in the movie The Dark Crystal.)

None of this bullshit was in the fucking plan.

No. My birthday weekend was supposed to involve massive amounts of alcohol, rough sex with my handsome boyfriend, That’s What She Said jokes with friends and just all around being too fabulous for others to stand. OH…and brunch with endless mimosas with Chris & my 2 favorite bitches.

Chris and I had been counting down. Bags were packed. Everything was going to plan only…the week before he was supposed to come visit, I got strep for the 4th time. Ok, it hurts like a cast-iron bitch, but…antibiotics prop me back up. I figure, I already have an appointment with my doctor this month—we’ll discuss the recurrent strep then. Then on Tuesday, I feel a slight mass in my side. I have had issues with abscesses in the past. I’m lucky like that. By Wednesday, it was hot and painful and slightly swollen. It felt like a marble under my skin. By Thursday, it’s tripled in size…and I can barely walk without hunching over. I make an appointment at Urgent Care to get it drained, like I normally do. I joke with friends, “I wish Urgent Care had a punch card…this visit would be freeee!”

The dr asks me to lower my pants (it’s kind of like under my belly, near my pelvic area)…and it is the first of many people who are NOT my handsome boyfriend who will be looking at my Bermuda Triangle this weekend.

The look on his face alarms me. “That is not an abscess. That abdominal mass is red and indurated and …you have a fever. I am really worried that you have the beginnings of sepsis. You need to go to the ER. Now. Not tomorrow, now.” I pull my pants up, stunned. And not in a good way. I leave a voice note for Chris explaining the situation, drive home to hug my kids and grab a couple things and head to the ER.

The ER, as most ERs are, is a zoo. Understaffed. Overvisited. There is a woman next to me, looking for pain pills, hamming up a supposed foot injury, yelling “owowowowowowowowowowow.” I narrate her behavior to Rach via text. “Now she’s saying, ‘my foot is numb—is that good or bad?’” “Now she’s saying her foot pain is worse than labor pains…as she slams her foot into the pedals of her wheelchair.” “Now she is telling everyone her foot is dangling from the ankle. (Clearly not.)” It kills the time till my friend, Alicia, shows up unbidden. I had texted her that I was there—and she told me she was coming. (Well, I guess my weekend had one That’s What She Said moment.) I told her not to, but she never fucking listens, thank god. She shows up and I bemoan how I was supposed to see Chris this weekend. “What, am I not good enough?” “No, you are, the difference is I don’t want to fuck you,” I blurt out loudly. The pain has ripped off my filter apparently.

Finally, after 4 hours they put me on a bed in the hallway. The dr comes by and I tell him that my painful spot is in an…indiscrete location. He takes me in a room and I lower my pants for the 2nd time. He tells me he thinks it IS just an abscess. Oh phew, just… phucking phew. Maybe I will get out of here in time to enjoy my birthday and everything will be fine. They are packed to the gills, so they put me in a room where they put casts on, to wait for a CT scan and some other labs to rule out sepsis.

Only…the minute I’m hooked up, it’s apparent something is wrong-even though I don’t want to admit it. My heart rate is 140. My temp is 101. My blood pressure is high. I blame it on my anxiety, my pain levels. They finally take me down to get a CT scan and even though the woman warns me the contrast dye will flood me with warmth and make me feel like I’m peeing, the minute it hits, I feel certain I’ve pissed myself.

I go back to the room to wait for results. Alicia, bless her stubborn heart, tells me she’s not leaving till we know what is going on. In the meantime, she paces around the cast room looking for shit to steal. We laugh at a supply closet label that says Rectum Them. Surely, it means thermometers, but the 2 of us laugh at the label anyway. Rectum them? Hardly know them. We’re so sure that now that the CT scan is done, that the dr is going to come in and just say, “Ah, here are some oral antibiotics—be free, little sick butterfly.” At the worst, they’re going to come in and say, “we have to make a little nick to let the infection out” and THEN “here are some oral antibiotics-be free, little sick butterfly with a cut on you.”

When the doctor comes in, he makes a bizarre statement of, “wow, somehow you don’t look as sick on paper as you do in person even.” Thank you? He then gives me the bad news. “We see an infection on the CT scan in your soft tissue-but …it’s not an abscess. It’s like a track of infection. Between that, the fact you’re tachychardic, running a fever and your white blood cell count is 12000, it’s too serious to send you home…You need at least 24 hours, if not 48 hours, of IV antibiotics.” I fight him at first. “I can’t stay. I have kids. Plans. I’m supposed to be going away.” He tells me I can sign myself out AMA, but he doesn’t think I’m going to get very far. “You’re sicker than you even think you are.”

This came to be a prophetic statement.

Alicia convinces me to stay. As the doctor leaves, she loudly announces, “Holy shit, he’s hot.” Then she sets about packing up to leave. No one brings me a gown or anything to brush my teeth & I am too sick to care or to ask. I sleep in my clothes and sparkly oxfords. It is a long night of beeping machines monitoring my racing heart, while constantly being woken up by nurses looking for cast supplies and rectal thems…One nurse, arms full of swabs, nods appreciatively towards my feet and tells me she likes my shoes. If it hadn’t been 3 am & I wasn’t fucking dying, I might have said thank you. And all night, meds slowly flooding my body with a fighting chance.

The next day, Friday, they finally move me to a unit at 4 pm. The bed is much more comfortable & I am grateful for it, even if I only plan to be here another day. By this point, most of my friends know about the hospitalization and have been texting either me (or Alicia for updates, if they don’t want to bother me). My boss, K, tells me that there is a group chat of my friends all texting updates. I tell her they should make a phone tree like the old days. She is worried that I’m upset about it. I tell her that I don’t mind a group chat about me, as long as I don’t have to be part of it. In my heart, I also feel this twinge of familiar gratitude. As hard as some circumstances are in my life, I have always had the right people around to counteract the terrible.

I ask Mike, my ex I still live with, to bring me stuff to shower and some underwear. I don’t look at what he brings till after. It is then I see he has brought me one normal pair of underwear. The swim trunks that go to my bathing suit. And the bottoms to a sexy lingerie set I have—that ties in the back and has a heart shaped hole that dips down into the butt crack. Great. Thanks. These should be perfect for seducing doctors with my diseased body.

Katie comes to visit me after work and brings me some silly birthday presents to make me laugh. Alicia and S. also come to visit me that night. Their gifts are stories about both the biggest dicks they’ve ever slept with as well as the smallest. (S. had the same response to both… “what do you want me to do with that?”) S. has put together a basket of comfort and entertainment as well…face wash, face wipes, hair tie, puzzles and coloring books to entertain myself, Trixie & Katya’s book, as well as a magazine about witches, inexplicably. She brings Alicia a pot muffin and the instruction to “eat only 1/8th of that…or 1/4th if you have nothing to do for the next 12 hours.” (Later, Alicia texts me that she should not have even eaten the 1/8th. I wish I had given her the magazine of witches to read while stoned.)

Even though I’m happy to see my friends, I’m in bad shape. My temp continues to be high. My heart rate is galloping. C-reactive proteins are supposed to be less than 50—tests reveal that mine are 121. By this point, I’m in excruciating pain—as over the day, the painful spot has also developed cellulitis over it and the mass has continued to grow in size. The nurse gets me an order for Dilaudid. I am not a person who takes pain medication. I squeezed a 10 lb baby out and took 1 Tylenol after and that was that. I have a high pain tolerance that comes from years of detachment from my physical form. Dissociation is my fucking superpower, guys. She squirts that Dilaudid in my IV and, babies, that shit alters my fucking reality.

I can’t tell if I’m awake or not. I look at my phone. I see a message from K. from an hour earlier. “Is it ok for us to come visit?” I text back, “Sorry, just seeing this. Yes.” She returns fire with a very surprising text, “We were already there. We left you a gift.” Oh, mama. See. This is why I don’t take that shit. Not even for funsies.

Later that night, a Dr materializes in my room at 2 am. At first I’m not sure if the figure near the sharps container is even real. I wipe the drool off my face in case he is. He apologizes for scaring me. I cannot place his accent… Then asks me about my last name. “Greek?” “My husband was.” “Was??” He is confused by my usage of past tense. “He died, was killed, around this time of year a couple years ago,” I murmur, feeling tears welling up and trying to stop them. “You’re so young, he must’ve been young.” the doctor says. “Yeah, well, he had a lot of issues and it caught up with him,” I say, starting to cry, thinking about a recent dream I had where Alex came to me and told me he’s having trouble sleeping. The doctor apologizes again and says, “May he be with God.” I’m fully weeping by this point and I tell him, “I don’t think he is going there. And anyway, I don’t believe in any of that.” The doctor leaves the room without even examining me or asking me anything about my health. I wonder if he leaves the room only to realize he never did any of his duties, and if he tells himself it’s not worth going back in and dealing with the weeping widow. Then I wonder if he was even real or just some manifestation of my grief or a hallucination from my fever. And then, I pass out into a dreamless sleep.

On Saturday, I’m hopeful they will send me home, but also despondent. All day I’ve been getting fb messages from people who are not-in-the-know regarding my current circumstances, telling me to eat cake and have an awesome day and to party like…the fucking Greek Gods….And it’s a poke in the eye every time I get one of those messages and then look at where I ACTUALLY am. Mid-morning, I ask the doctor who incidentally looks like Dr. Bunsen Honeydew (but with eyeballs) if I can please, please just take a shower-as doctors have to write a script for a shower before the nurses will let you take one. He tells me no, says I’m not ready. (I don’t think it had anything to do with me not being ready. I think he just didn’t want to write the script for it.) I say, “But I feel so disgusting.” He dismissively pats my leg and says, “You’ll be fine.” Then walks away, presumably looking for Beeker. I just feel so low and so gross that I start to cry. The one Southern male nurse, who is a real character, finds me crying. I tell him it’s my birthday and I just want to be with my kids and if I can’t have that, it would be nice just to shower so I can feel human. “Honey, hang on. I’ll help you. It breaks my heart to see you cry.” He goes off and immediately comes back with this warm shower cap to put on my head and soap up, as well as wipes, new hospital gown, new bedding and all sorts of other assorted hospital sundries. A bit later, he comes into check and make sure I’m ok. It helps me feel a little more human and my mood improves a little.

Unfortunately, my labs have not shown improvement. Also, the cellulitis has developed into huuuuge blisters. The internal infection has also caused my abdomen to painfully swell outward as well. As a doctor tells me, “I saw your CT scan. Your infected area is…impressive.” Wait till you see it in person—but don’t think you’re special, because about 25 people have seen my naughties now.

Rachel comes to see me and brings me a gift. S. and Alicia come back, both of them bringing snacks. K. and her partner J. show up. J. greets me with, “I was told there would be alcohol on our birthday! Not this bullshit!” Well, I’m wearing swim trunks if that makes this more of a party. Also…if anyone wants to see my No-No-Kitty, please let me know. She’s quite IMPRESSIVE with infection and whatnot. Still, the night ends sadly when I think about how I can’t be with my Christopher. Or my kids. Or dog.

The next day, I’m a fucking mess. On rounds, I pull my only pair of normal undies down for the 363rd doctor. By this point, I’m almost getting bored of this interaction, don’t even feel the normal embarrassment of revealing my lower half to perfect strangers. In fact, sometimes I show it to the dietary staff when they bring my tray in, just because…. why the hell not. The dr thinks the IV antibiotics have turned the infection INTO a huge motherfucker of an ABSCESS and orders an ultrasound to confirm. When the tech comes in to do the ultrasound, she has to push down on the cellulitis blisters with the wand, in order to get a good picture. I cry through the whole procedure. She leaves and I lay in bed, unable to sit up. When I am finally able to get out of bed, I see I’ve bled through my only pair of normal undies, the front of my gown, and onto my sheets. I walk into the bathroom and blood runs down my legs, soaks into my yellow grippy hospital socks & drips onto the floor. Panicking, I grab toilet paper and try to staunch the bleeding…but know ultimately, there’s nothing to be done. I gimp back out to my bed & put the call light on. One of the nice nurses, Paul, comes and helps clean me up and bandages the area and gives me some Tylenol that doesn’t even touch the pain. Soon after, a doctor comes in to tell me they will be taking me down to surgery on Sunday to make an incision and drain the problem area.

The next day, I am left with just my sexy lingerie bottoms. Welp. This is my life now. I put them on and wait for surgical to come get me. I’m lying there when in walks a girlhood acquaintance, Sarah, whose son is in my daughter’s class. I had forgotten she was an OR nurse. OR they? (HA, a little humor from the movie Rushmore there. Of course, who has even seen that movie anymore…) We chat as she pushes my bed down to the operating room with another nurse. I am comforted until I realize Sarah will be looking at my…my… girlish notions. And then I remember what I’m wearing. For fuck’s sake. Well, next time we see each other at school should be good and interesting. The anesthesiologist comes over and asks if I have ever had any bad issues with anesthesia. I tell him when I got my wisdom teeth out, I hit the doc. He doesn’t make much of a response, so much so I’m not sure he even heard me.

When I get in the OR, they tie my arms down. Oh, so he did hear me. I don’t even have time to panic. A couple deep breaths and I’m on another planet…a dark, warm planet…where the life forms are all staring at my bottoms and laughing at how inappropriate they are for the occasion, “WTF? Does she have a hot date with one of us?” Or maybe that was just the drugs talking.

I wake up in the recovery room with a horrible chemical taste in my mouth from the anesthesia and a searing pain, like my sexy red undies are made of lit matches. They take me back upstairs to my room. Alicia, who has been the patron saint of my suffering & waiting through the whole surgery because I have no family to do so, makes sure I am ok before leaving. I am so grateful for her being there, even though she didn’t need to be, without even be asked. She just came.

That’s what she said.

My roommate, who clearly has a drug problem & is a miserable human being, passes through & rams her IV into my bed several times without so much as an apology or an “excuse me.” She facetimes frequently with her trashy family so that I get to hear such lines as “do I look weird now that I have teeth?” “I don’t like that guy Mohammed…I’m always afraid he’s going to kidnap me and take me back to Egypt because those guys like white women.” “Get the fuck away from me. I can have Pepsi without you fuckers having any.” (This last statement being snapped at my roommate’s son…who is a toddler.) She is constantly frantically rattling her pill bottles, begging for pain meds, mumbling incoherently in nods… ah yes, that whole symphony of addiction I know so well. After my procedure, I’m exhausted and she refuses to turn her light off all night & then listens to YouTube shorts louder than is necessary. I finally drift off and wake up to the smell of weed. Wtf. I blurt out, “Are you fucking kidding me?” I hear her frantically spritzing body spray and putting things back in her bag.

I am not sad when she is released the next day, but I am sad when I am not. The doctor comes by to tell me that I had a huge abscess, a little bigger than a golf ball. He packed the wound and will need to unpack it Tuesday.

I prepare for Monday to be quiet. Only…at 1:00 pm, my mom walks in unexpectedly. I had not really given her much information about my stay. The only reason I told her I was at the hospital at all was that I thought it would be good for the kids to go with her, since my ex is not the most…outgoing parent. Otherwise, I would not have told her at all. She gives me a birthday card and then proceeds to spend the next 30 minutes bitching about my aunt wanting to spend too much time with her, before pretty much making a run for the door while I am in the middle of a story. This. THIS is why I no longer harbor expectations of being supported or loved from my family. It’s too bad, I bet she didn’t even know doctors saw something IMPRESSIVE in her daughter.

In sharp contrast, Katie arrives after work to check in, followed by S. who brings me dinner from my favorite sandwich place & Alicia who brings me some snacks. Spoilt.

Tuesday morning, the dr comes in to unpack the wound. Whoa, mama. I can’t make it through the procedure without crying, it’s so painful. It’s like a horrible magic trick…instead of pulling scarves out of my mouth, he pulls bloody gauze out of my stomach. It pulls on the edges of the already tender wound, ripping it open even more. Because I am crying, the nurse feels sorry for me and gets me a hydrocodone. Again, my experience with this pain med reminds me why I avoid them. Apparently, feeling good and a trifle high, I waddle my fat ass over to my new roommate’s side of the room. I whoosh the curtain back, as she is mid dry-heaving into a basin. “Hiiiii roomie, would you like to borrow my charger?” Please note: at no point did she ASK to borrow my charger. It was like I decided, “let’s be friends for a couple hours.” To her credit, she politely declined and I walked back to my bed, my hospital gown flapping in the breeze. Not humiliating at all. When I come to my senses later, I cringe so hard I pull a muscle in my ego.

A doctor comes in later to check on me. She tells me I’m going to be on straight insulin at home. I’ve told all the doctors multiple times that I use the pre-filled Lantus pen…right after I pull down my swim trunks or chastity belt or underoos or whatever other nonsensical bottoms I have on that day so that they can look at my “impressive” spot. She tells me they don’t know why I got so sick, as the wound cultures/MRSA test came back negative. She shrugs it off and says, “Probably just your diabetes being out of control.” It seems like a cop out, dismissive. It sounds a lot like, “Maybe try not being fat.” I feel like most doctors don’t really want to listen. They see that you’re fat and look no further. I want to respond, “Be a better doctor, maybe.” I do not, though. So, as sick as I was, I literally have no answers…and am left to wonder if/when it will happen again.

Later, I get a notification from my pharmacy that they are filling an insulin prescription. Because they don’t tell me there are syringes, I assume I’m getting more of the pens. The nurse gives me my discharge paperwork and I’m being wheeled out to my parents’ car to go home.

My ex goes to the pharmacy to see if my antibiotics and my insulin are there. He comes home with just bottles of insulin and tells me that 1) they can’t get my antibiotics 2) there was no script for syringes. I look at the bottles, they want me to do a sliding scale. That’s great…except I have no syringes to inject myself with and I also don’t know how to do a sliding scale…because despite me telling every doctor 50 fucking times that I have only used the prefilled pens and given myself a fixed amount of insulin each morning, none of them actually listened. They also have written the script that I will inject insulin in the morning…after breakfast…after lunch…after dinner…bedtime and at 2 am. Um…no…I will not be getting up at 2 am to inject, sorry.

So I spent today trying to get my meds. It is now 10:21 pm and I still don’t have the necessary antibiotics or insulin…I just keep praying the infection from the wound doesn’t take hold and send me back to the hospital. I only found out from my primary care doctor today that I was septic-despite it being suspected, no one at the hospital told me that I actually was. Wtf.

And that’s where we are now….but at least I’m at home…showered & in appropriate underwear for the occasion. All of these are upgrades from the past several days…dare I say…impressive?

Written April 2024

Last updated February 20, 2024

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