Wretched Wednesday

Hell is watching someone you love in misery, and being helpless to do anything about it.

I've tried writing this entry about five times now... let me see... two... three... no, SIX times, now, this is the seventh. I get a couple of paragraphs in, realize the writing quality is wretched, and while that isn't something that holds me back often on this blog, still, I want to try to recapitulate this day reasonably well. So I go back, delete what I've written, and start over.

The first sentence probably came into being on the third attempt, and it is, to date, the only survivor of that and all concurrent ones. It seems to sum up the day pretty well.

SuperGirlfriend is currently in the bedroom nodding off to sleep. There were times today when she and I concurrently despaired of ever getting her out of that goddam hospital and back home, after what is laughingly called 'minor outpatient surgery'. But let me backpedal --

For a scheduled 7:30 op time, we had to be at the hospital at 5:30 this morning. I don't drive, and SG knew she wouldn't be able to drive back, so SG's mom showed up at 5 am to drive us over (she waited with me all day to drive SG back, too... she's a good lady). This meant setting the alarm for 4 am. We were both scared and stressed about the 'minor outpatient surgery', so neither of us slept well the night before. So that's today's first little misery -- stress and fear on very little sleep.

I hate our entire healthcare system. There is something profoundly rotten at the heart of it. I cannot help but think, in my fuzzy headed new age way, that our entire emphasis on healing a sick or hurt human being is horribly wrong headed. In this I am nearly a Christian Scientist; I truly believe that there should be an effective, entirely non-physical way of healing nearly any truama to the body through willpower, faith, and mental effort. It seems to me to be ludicrous that something can be wrong with our own bodies and we can have no idea it's so, and even more ludicrous that we can become aware something is wrong with our bodies, and have to go to a stranger and describe what we are feeling to them so they can make slightly more educated guesses as to what is wrong with us and then act on those guesses as if they were inspired truth. We live in our bodies. It seems to me we should be well enough attuned to them to always know exactly what condition they are in.

But that, of course, would be in a better world.

I also hate all this cutting and using various radiations and probes and medications with side effects and all that other horribly intrusive physical crap that we have evolved due to our culture's material bias. The Roman Empire has a lot to answer for, and our obsession with taking an empirical engineering approach to every problem is one of the biggest items on that bill.

But what I especially hate is that there is no love in our healthcare system. Love is left in the waiting room, while highly paid strangers who cannot possibly value the human body they are working on as much as they should visit all these intrusions and unpleasantries and traumas and indignities on that body, in hopes that these various unnatural stresses and contortions and tortures will conspire to alleviate the condition that was afflicting the body when it came in, without doing more damage to it in the meantime than the original problem already had.

I hate that the people who work on the people we love don't love them. I hate that it's just a job to them, and they're all in it for the money. I hate the fact that a 21st Century hospital is a temple to Mammon, rather than Asclepius.

So they took SuperGirlfriend back and prepped her, and after an endless wait they came and got us and let us sit with her while she was in a small room waiting for her various doctors to arrive. She'd been promised medication to help relieve her anxiety, and everyone could see she was quietly freaking out, but of course, the nurse coudn't give her the medication until the aenesthesiologist showed up and put in the actual written order. (Apparently, while we were out in the front waiting room, they'd had to set up an IV for SuperGirlfriend, and she has lousy veins so they'd had to do it twice, and the first time they stuck her, the lights had flickered overhead. Now, the nurse had pretty much ignored SG telling her how much she hated needles and how she often just fainted when someone jabbed one into her, but when the lights nearly blew as the first IV slid into SG's wrist, that nurse re-thought her position. SG was apparently radiating some major distress on every psychic wavelength, and some of it must have leaked over into a minor psychokinetic event.)

Anyway, eventually the drug-doc made an appearance and showed us his patented Confident & Assertive bedside manner, which only cracked a little around the edges when I questioned him at length about exactly what drugs he was planning to give SG and what metabolic systems they effected and how specifically they worked (I learned, to my surprise, that there is now have a drug that will induce true sleep, rather than various drugs that simply cause artificial unconsciousness, which is not true sleep at all, and that drug, along with a few others, was part of the aenesthetic cocktail he was going to give SG to put her out). Then he got the order for the damned Versed in and SG finally got to relax a little. Then her surgeon (the one SG credits with saving her life when she nearly died giving birth to SuperAdorable Kid) showed up, and filled out some paperwork, and I questioned her somewhat, too, and then they wheeled SG off.

We'd been told the operation would take 60 to 90 minutes, that SG would be in the stage 1 recovery room for an hour at the most, then she'd be moved back to a stage 2 recovery room where we could sit with her again, probably for at most another hour while she got over the medication, after which we could take her home. So, with surgery scheduled for 7:30, it looked like she'd be done around 11 am and we'd be home by noon at the latest.

Let me digress here, before I go into details about how badly, even psychotically wrong all those cheerful and confident predictions turned out to be, by noting that SG had four different procedures today. I don't want to invade her privacy (although she may well give details on her own blog), but for all that the hospital and the doctor insisted on describing these as minor, outpatient procedures, the fact remains, SG underwent a great deal of physical stress and trauma to her most intimate areas today, and she was heavily sedated while it happened -- a process that also causes enormous stress and trauma to both the body and the mind. This is the sort of thing that, back in the golden age before managed health care, would have resulted in at the very least an overnight stay at the hospital, and nobody would have blinked if a doctor had decided to keep SG there for observation for 2 or 3 days.

But this was outpatient surgery, and jumping ahead, let me tell you, the idiot nurse SG got landed with in the stage 2 recovery room was visibly fretting, when SG wasn't recovering as fast from the aenesthetic as they wanted her to, as to what they were going to do about this. Why? Because they CAN'T keep SG overnight for this kind of procedure, or to recover from this kind of procedure, and the reason is simple -- the insurance company involved won't okay it. So that nurse was practically chewing her nails at the thought that SG might not get out of there that day -- but, trust me, all SG and I and her mom wanted was to get her out of there, anyway, so we were on board with the plan.

SG's mom and I went out to Denny's for a mediocre breakfast (we each got the French Toast Slam, which SG's mom should not have had because she's diabetic, but I have no control over SG's family). Then we returned and sat back down in the waiting room and tried hard not to fall asleep while we waited for the little pager-thing they'd given us to go off, which would mean there was some kind of news or maybe we could go back and see SG now.

And we waited.

And we waited.

Finally, some time shortly after 9:30, we were taken into a small conference room where SG's doctor met us, still in her scrubs with her weird looking hairnet on. The procedures had gone fine -- she didn't explain why they'd taken so much longer than we'd been told they would, and I was, strangely, too stressed to ask -- and we were told that it would probably be another 45 minutes and then we could go back to see SG in the stage 2 recovery room.

So we went back and sat down again in the outer waiting room... and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

It is horrible to sit in a room knowing that somewhere nearby, someone you love more than you love your own life is disoriented and confused, probably in pain, and not only can't you do anything about it, you are not even allowed to go to them and at least give them the comfort of having someone familiar and beloved sitting with them. And it is equally horrible to sit out there and have no idea what is going on. No matter how often medical professionals reassure me as to the simplicity and ease and lack of hazard of any kind of surgery, I refuse to believe it. When you cut someone open, there is hazard. When you use artificial means to make a conscious person unconscious, there is hazard. People die from unforseen complications in surgery and in aenesthesia every day. Medical professionals are only human beings just like the rest of us, they make mistakes, and often when they do, lives are shattered beyond repair.

So we sat there, and we waited, and I, at least, was stressed out of my mind, and scared, and tired, although I was trying not to show it becaus I didn't want to freak SG's mom out. But I badly wanted to see SG or at least know what was going on with her, and I couldn't.

About 11:30, after I'd badgered the desk twice for non-existent news, I got called up there over the PA system. They handed me a phone. It was someone named Kim in the Stage 1 recovery room. SuperGirlfriend was still extremely nauseous from the aenesthesia; they'd given her a dose of something called Finagrin (I'm doubtless screwing up the spelling of that) that would make her sleep for another hour. The nurse at the desk recommended that SG's mom and I get some lunch, so we went down to the hospital cafeteria and ate some typically lousy hospital cafeteria food, and then we walked back, and sat back down... and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

About 2 o'clock, I guess, or a little after, they finally told us we could go back and see SG. She'd been moved to the Stage 2 recovery room. So we went in. She looked horribly overstressed, and was obviously utterly miserable... she advised us in strained whispers that she was terribly nauseated and in quite a bit of pain. She had this very annoying nurse hovering over her asking her to quantify the pain she was in on a scale of 1 to 10.

Over the next fifteen minutes, SG visibly got stronger, but the nausea didn't seem to be abating at all. The nurse flatly refused to give SG anything for the pain through her IV (which they were using at that point to run in saline), because that would extend her stay in the hospital and they were not at all subtly trying to run her the hell out of there. What the nurse wanted SG to do was take two different pain pills, because by the regs, SG couldn't leave until half an hour after she'd taken the last pain pill. SG didn't want to take a pain pill because she'd already thrown up twice in the Stage 1 recovery room and she felt like if she took a pill she'd do it again.

So, I sat there, with SG's mom, and watched the love of my life experience the most heart wrenching misery imaginable, and I couldn't do anything at all to help her, which sucked profoundly.

Finally, after about 45 minutes, and switching positions on her bed a few times, SG felt well enough to try taking the first pain pill. That helped get rid of the nausea, so half an hour later, she took the rather more serious narcotic, which, after another fifteen minutes, pretty much damped the pain down to manageable levels.

Now, you'd think, having finally gotten the damned pills in her, and having shown such anxiety to get rid of us, that the idiot nurse would at that point be happy to let us leave. But, as John Belushi would say, noooooooooo... first she had to ask if SG had gone to the bathroom yet, to see if bladder function had been restored. So SG had to get dressed and shuffle off to the bathroom, where idiot nurse left her inside and went off to gossip with some other idiot nurse, so SG was alone when she came out and got halfway back to the recovery room without any help at all.

Then, since SG hadn't made a lot of water, idiot nurse had to do a bladder scan. So she did that, and that came back satisfactory, so idiot nurse said she'd send us home, although if SG hadn't had good bladder function by six or eight hours later, we should come back so she could be catheterized.

So, were we roundin' third and headed for home? Well, no, because, you know, hospitals won't let you walk out, you have to pushed in a wheelchair, again, for insurance reasons. So idiot nurse went off to order a wheelchair. We got SG dressed and waited another fifteen minutes, and then I went out looking. I couldn't find idiot nurse, but I did find four empty wheelchairs in a hall, so I grabbed another nurse and asked if could push SG out to our car in one of those wheelchairs. She said of course I couldn't, but she went and found idiot nurse, who said it was okay for us to leave, and then someone else pushed SG out to the car, and finally we got home.

I've been waiting on SG hand and foot since getting home, which is my privilege and pleasure, of course. But it's hard to see her in so much pain and not be able to really do anything for her. Still, she's finally sleeping now, and I'm hoping she'll be feeling much better when she wakes up tomorrow.

Okay. This is probably still wretchedly written, but I don't care. I want to get it outside myself and move on.

Oh, in health care related news, I'm finally over my persistent hacking cough, thanks entirely to SuperGirlfriend, and a nebulizer she uses to treat the Super Kids, all of whom have respiratory issues of some sort. She gave me intensive treatments over the course of last week, and finally last weekend I seem to have coughed my last. Not that I can't relapse, but we still have the nebulizer and plenty of Albuterol, so I know what to do if that happens.

Thanks, by the way, to everyone out there who sent good wishes to SG and me on this very trying day.

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