People began talking.
I heard someone say something about a room number.
I could feel the cart that I was laying in being rolled on the floor.
Bump-bump. I heard doors open.
I opened my eyes to see the bed being pushed through automatic doors. The hallway lights flitted by my eyes like road signs flitting by a car window. I tilted my head backward to look above me. At the head of the bed was someone in a mask and long blue gown pushing the cart.
My stomach hurt.
Was I done already?
I began feeling my stomach. I felt a bandage, then someone grabbed my hand and pulled it away from my stomach.
I lifted my head and started feeling my stomach again with my other hand. The IV tubing tugged at my arm.
“Will someone grab his hand before he pulls off the bandage?”
“No bag?” I asked.
The masked man in the blue gown asked “What did he say?”
Mrs. WhiteCoat was walking next to the bed. She held my hand and said “No bag, honey. No bag.”
I put my head down and went back to sleep.
“You have to help us move you over onto the bed,” said the masked man. This time his mask was pulled down around his neck and I could see his goatee. It seemed like he had a Jamaican accent, but I couldn’t tell for sure. “Come on, now. Move your butt over a little.”
I was still a little confused, but I lifted my butt up and tried to move in the direction I was being pushed and pulled, but something began pulling on my thigh and on my, er, um … appendage.
“His Foley is caught. Hold on.”
Yeah. Hold on is right. That damn that thing hurts when it’s pulling down there. Like a cross between someone holding a Bic lighter under the tip of said appendage and feeling like you have to urgently urinate.
I felt like telling them I had to go to the bathroom, but remembered all the drunk guys sleeping it off in the emergency departments yelling about how they had to go to the bathroom. Then the staff holds up the Foley bag and says “you ARE going to the bathroom.” Nope. Wasn’t going there.
Then I got a quick lesson in the law of physics: Water flows downhill.
Did you know that if there is air in the Foley catheter tubing and you lift the bag above the level of your bladder, a combination of urine and air flows backward into your bladder and causes pain? If you didn’t, you know now. Trust me, it’s true. One of the surgical people did it while I was moving from one bed to the other and the pain caught me by surprise.
“Aaaaaahhh!” I yelled.
“What? What?” asked the nurse.
I hesitated. “Ummm. Nothing.” I was too embarrassed to say anything about it. I just scooted the rest of the way onto the bed, holding the edge of the catheter with one hand to avoid any further pulling and pinching the catheter with two fingers to prevent further backflow of urinated air.
I could just see her giving report to the next shift. “In Bed 27 is the wacko doctor that yells and scares the hell out of you for no reason.”
I’ll blame it on the medicine – whatever it was that they gave me.
They hooked the Foley catheter bag below the bed and I could feel the urine and air pass back out of my bladder. Best description I can think of is trying to urinate Rice Krispies and milk.
I gritted my teeth.
The rest of the day was kind of a blur.
My stomach was so bloated that I looked like I had a beer belly. Trying to sit up in bed caused a lot of pain all over my stomach. They put an incentive spirometer in front of me to encourage me to take deep breaths. Right. I got to about 1000 and I started getting a sharp pain in my right side that radiated up to my shoulder. It felt like someone was sticking me behind my collarbone with a sharp knife.
“That’s the free air in your abdomen pushing on your diaphragm,” the nurse said.
I didn’t care what it was. I just wanted it to stop. And why didn’t they suck the free air out of my abdomen before they closed, anyway?
“This is your pain medication pump,” the nurse explained. “If you’re having pain, you press the button and the pump will deliver a dose of medication. It will only give you a dose of medication every 10 minutes. If you need more, call me.”
“You don’t need to worry about that,” I said, still half looped from the medications I had received. “I won’t need it.” I coughed and felt a searing pain in both my lower abdomen and the right side of my neck. I grimaced.
Mrs. WhiteCoat pushed the pain medication button.
“You better stop that – it’s a Federal crime to dispense controlled substances without a prescription. I know people. All I have to do is make a couple of phone calls.”
“Shut up or I’ll push it again,” she said.
“Push it as much as you want. It’s locked out for another 10 minutes. Ooooh. My stomach hurts. Ooooh. Aaaaah. Oooh.” I giggled which really did make my stomach hurt.
Mrs. WhiteCoat was sitting in a chair next to my bed holding my hand. Having someone there who cares about you is important – especially after a surgery. Earlier in my career, I used to get annoyed that family members wanted to be right there next to the patients. As I mellowed with age, I didn’t mind where the family was sitting as long as it didn’t interfere with treatment. Sometimes it still can.
But as a patient, my wife was my comfort. I was still half doped up on the medications from surgery, I didn’t know who anyone was that was taking care of me, I didn’t know what was happening to me at the moment, I wasn’t even sure where the hell in the hospital I was.
But I knew Mrs. WhiteCoat’s hand … and I was glad that it was there.