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The Things We Do to Sick People

Posted Sep 12 2008 9:15am

Journal from May, 2006

Well, just when I thought I had done it all…I got sick this week with something I had never experienced. I had a really high fever, my joints ached so bad I could barely walk and I felt generally crappy. I went to the ER and, of course, they admitted me. The usual “we don’t know what you have but we’ll treat it with IV antibiotics" began. I was hoping they would figure it out quickly because I have my big fundraiser coming up and I have no time to spare. No such luck.

When the resident came in and told me that I was scheduled for a PIC line placement, I had my normal reaction: tears and trembling. I fought the decision but with no success. Soon, I was being wheeled down to my least favorite place in the entire hospital: Vascular Radiology. They put my gurney up against the wall and I sat there like a bag of discarded garbage for what seemed like hours. No one spoke to me, no one even seemed to know I was there. Despite my efforts to tune it out, I couldn’t help but hear the conversation of the many people lollygagging in the hall. Most of what they had to say revolved around annoying patients and how cool they were for being doctors. It was a level of stereotypical doctor machismo that became almost comical. If it hadn’t been for the fact that these were the people about to thread a mile long catheter through my arm and up to my heart, I might have laughed.

At one point, my IV machine started beeping but it was ignored by everyone who passed by. I looked down to see that there was a baseball size lump under my skin: my IV had infiltrated. It really started to hurt. I began to call out for someone to turn it off but, still, I was invisible. I literally had to reach out and grab someone to get their attention. They shut off my IV and eons later wheeled me into the room that makes me cry.

It freaked everybody out that I was crying before I even got on the table. They didn’t understand what the big deal was and I had learned it was pointless to try and explain. I got on the table and they began to prep me for the procedure. I had a plastic sheet covering most of my upper body, including my face. It was quite claustrophobic. They strapped my arm down to a board at a strange and uncomfortable angle. The began to wipe me down with very cold betadine. It was everywhere. The cold combined with my fever sent me into a shiver-frenzy. I was miserable.

It was at that moment that it dawned on me: this would be terribly uncomfortable if I wasn’t sick and scared to death. Add to it all of my maladies and it was downright awful. At that point, a phrase began to repeat in my head; “The things we do to sick people”. It really is astounding what we make a person go through at their time of greatest dis-ease.

In the end, I was diagnosed with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The treatment? Oral antibiotics. The PIC line stayed in a total of about one day and then we pulled it out. I doubt anyone besides me thought much of the needless pain and torture. The things we do to sick people!

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