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Not-So-Fun Life Lessons on Vacation

Posted Aug 05 2010 8:24am

A little morphine will put a smile on the face of most anyone!

Kyersten is a frequent guest writer at Hearing Elmo. She is a KODA and has participated in HLAA, Walk4Hearing, and Fidos For Freedom activities most of her life. She is a junior in college and is majoring in Psychology.

Okay, I’m really, really stubborn

Being someone who hates doctors and hospitals, I pretended nothing was wrong for almost a week. After all, if you pretend it isn’t there, it doesn’t exist right? Besides, you’re not supposed to get sick on vacation, that’s no fun.

But pretty soon I knew that I had, I decided, the stomach flu. So I went to the urgent care in my grandparent’s town. Or rather, one of them, because being a city of retired folk, they have about a million urgent cares.

After running a urine test and blood test (blech), the doctor discovered my white blood cell count was dangerously high. SOME stomach flu. They decided to give me an IV. Or, at least they suggested it…at first.

“No thanks, I don’t want an IV,” I smiled.

“Well, we need to give these medications, and it’s best through the IV,” explained a nurse.

“No, I’ll just take a pill,” I replied, smiling but firm.

“No, we’re going to have to put an IV in there,” said the nurse, smiling but firm.

“No I really don’t want it, just give me some pills, I’ll go pick them up at the pharmacy,” I said, slightly more desperate. The nurse pursed his lips. He was cute and a fireman…but married with twins, so a total loss there. He was just the enemy who wanted to stick the needle in me.

“Okay, well, you have to go get my grandma first. NOW.” I said. (All of my 20-year-old independence was out the window when it came to a needle!) I needed grandma, and I needed her NOW.

Thankfully my practical grandma calmed me somewhat and they were able to give me an IV, into which they slid medications and fluids into my body. Ooooo morphine. The world looked more amusing and less painful. But the morphine didn’t keep me from panicking somewhat when they decided to send me for a CT scan at a local imaging place. SOME stomach flu this was!

Deciding that perhaps I was wrong about the whole stomach flu thing…

After drinking 2 large bottles of nasty poisoned Gatorade (they claimed it was because of the dye mixed into the Gatorade), I was led to a back room.

The technician looked about my age. I was slightly suspicious how much experience he had. He led me to a room to change into some unflattering and itchy clothing. After waiting for a bit, I was led to the Machine.

“Now, this machine is going to take pictures of your insides,” he explained. I wondered how old he thought I was….I was getting a lot of “you look 16” comments recently.

“Oooh, can I put them on Facebook?” I asked, trying to lighten the mood.

“I supposed you can request a CD of the electronic versions of the pictures,” he replied seriously. Okay-y-y. (No sense of humor!)

The CT scan was boring and the technician bossy.

“Breathe in…hold your breath. Breathe out. Breathe in. Hold your breath. Breathe out”. Over…and over….and over….and over. I wondered if this really was taking pictures of my insides or was trying to calm me down from the harrowing IV experience (which, if I may say, was still in my arm. I was pretending it wasn’t there though).

I was sent to the waiting room. They called the fireman nurse and doctor. Pretty soon they called me up front. The fireman nurse was on the phone.

“You’re going to have to go to the hospital immediately. I was able to get a bed for you,” he said. He explained the process of getting there.

I nodded obediently as if he could see me, my rebellion rather withered. I assumed at this point it probably wasn’t stomach flu.

“Okay, I’m going to go get some stuff first,” I said politely.

“No…you need to go NOW,” Well okay then.

Well, this is all very…new…and…well, uncomfortable

So I went. I called my parents, who I had been keeping updated. I texted my brother to tell him I loved him. And I mentally prepared myself for surgery.

And then I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

They decided they needed to do more tests.

The first test they decided to do they quickly concluded they could not do because I am a virgin. They were very peeved. I almost apologized even.

“I’m really sorry I’m not like so many other young people nowadays and haven’t lost my virginity several times over by now!” On second thought, no, I was proud of the fact I was a virgin.

So instead they did an ultrasound. Wait just a minute, didn’t they just establish I was a virgin? So why exactly are they doing an ultrasound? But no, there are apparently other reasons to do an ultrasound. Grandma was completely fascinated. I was just uncomfortable.

Late that night Mom and Chloe arrived, both were tired but very happy to see me. My grandparents went home and I was knocked out by some sleep medication while Mom kept watch by my bedside in the hospital.

I was comforted by her presence and she said I kept reaching out towards her in the night, to reassure myself she was there. You’ll always need your mom.

Tests, tests, and more tests…and I never even got a grade

Kyersten needed a "Chloe hug" once the morphine kicked in...

The next day was filled with more tests, including an MRI. The MRI was probably the highlight of my hospital stay… if there could be a highlight. The MRI technician looked like a mad scientist and he was absolutely hilarious. The MRI itself was kind of cozy, and he actually had to wake me up once. I felt rested after the scans.

After all the tests, including so many blood tests that I lost count, it was time for them to consider what to do, because they were really not sure what was wrong with me. They did another blood test to once again confirm that I wasn’t pregnant (as though the two ultrasounds, the urine test, the blood tests, and oh yeah…the fact I am a VIRGIN, wasn’t enough to confirm!)

Wednesday was the day. I wasn’t scared of the surgery, I was in too much agonizing pain to care. I had never before felt such pain and I hope I never do again. A terrible migraine hit me on top of my stomach pains. Then, my IV decided to try to burst my veins; thankfully, the skilled nurses got it out in time. Unfortunately they had trouble finding a new vein and dug around in my left hand for awhile before moving to my right arm.

A story of being in a whole buncha pain…oh and experiencing being “high”

That time was the worst part of the hospital stay, all I could do was lie on the bed and sob, feeling like a complete baby and wanting so so so badly to be home. My amazing Grandma and Mom were there, answering tears in their eyes. At one point Mom left to talk to a nurse and my Grandma prayed for me…which I needed to hear because all I could pray was “please God please please, please God”.

The nurse, in desperation, gave me a new medication which made me very….well….high.

“I think my words are messed up,” I gasped. I stumbled, shaking as if I was having a seizure to the bathroom and back to the bed.

“I can’t talk, my words are gone,” I moaned in confusion. Mom and Grandma were whispering, used to trying to keep quiet because of the migraine.

“Please don’t whisper….your lips smack together more,” I complained. My poor long-suffering family!

They finally wheeled me down to be prepped for surgery and I did feel a bit nervous. The pain, however,  was over-riding everything else again. The weird pain medicine had worn off. A nurse’s humming drove me insane, as did the loud talking of the nurses around. I really wanted to be in a quiet hole somewhere. Mom asked the nurses to quiet down (bless her wonderful, protective heart), and most of them did, except the loud humming one.

She gave me papers to sign. I apologized for my clumsiness, saying I was not left-handed (the IV and various wires were on my right arm). She snapped at me to use the other arm then. I meekly admitted I needed to use the bathroom.

She ripped the different cords off me (I had spent some moments trying to see if I could change my heart rate, before the headache returned…it was fun!) and took me to the bathroom, hooking my IV on the door, and leaving me. I was terrified someone would open the door and pull the IV out, so I hurried. Barely able to even lower myself to toilet by myself, I half-crawled to the door and yelled for help. I was definitely learning humility! Another, kinder, nurse came and helped me.

Going under the knife…and having little cameras looking inside my body….weird

Then it was a blur, I was wheeled to the room, and after prepping me a little more, I waited for the countdown.

And woke up in recovery.

“I have to pee,” I cried. I was assured I didn’t need to. I sat there whimpering for a few minutes about not being able to see (my eyesight was blurry) before I gained control of myself and calmed down. I felt kind of silly when I realized how much I had been crying. Now I was just confused. I squinted around me. I had no idea what happened in the surgery. The hospital doctor came by and seemed truly pleased to see me. He explained that my appendix had ruptured, they removed it, and cleaned up the infection. Ewwww. Eventually I was wheeled up to my room, I was happy to see my nurses and family, in a very drugged-out foggy way.

The time where I felt like Frankenstein

After another couple of days of recovery, which all seemed like a blur, a surgeon came in to look at my wounds. I watched them uncovered the bandages.

“Oh it looks so good!” he said. I almost screamed…or passed out, I was still deciding which to do before he left. Nine terrible looking staples were stuck in my stomach. I decided I was having a nightmare.

“What is that?”, I whimpered. My mom comforted me and explained the fact I had staples, not stitches. I felt absolutely horrified. I decided to pretend they weren’t there. (I was getting good at denial. It can be psychologically healthy sometimes).

The drug-induced blurred ending of the story…they put me on a lot of medications

The next few days consisted of different milestones. Leaving the hospital… sleeping a lot at my grandparent’s home… going to the airport… setting off the metal detector with my staples… flying home… being pushed through the airport by a speed demon wheelchair “pusher”… and finally arriving home alive. (All of course in a drug-induced stupor).

What I Learned…oh the joy of life lessons

Yes, it wasn’t the best vacation but my pain and suffering eventually stopped. There was a fix. It eventually slowed and I became stronger and felt better each day. In spite of the trauma of events, it was just a “blip” in my life.

I was forced to think about my friends and family who do NOT have a “fix” for their physical problems. I thought of how the doctors at first were skeptical that something was terribly wrong. During the exploratory surgery, I finally had proof something was wrong. (Even though my appendix wasn’t where it was suppose to be… I knew I was special).

I have friends with Lyme disease who do not have “proof” of their illness and are treated with skepticism. I can now understand … in a small way… what they go through and not having a doctor listen to you. It made me appreciate those emotional trials they go through in addition to their physical ones.

I thought about my friends and family with disabilities and illnesses that have no cure. At the times I was tempted to feel sorry for myself (and yeah! I may have given in and had a pity party or two), I thought of the fact that there was a light at the end of the tunnel for ME. It made me appreciate the bravery of those who live each day with no “light at the end of the tunnel”. They still live life to the fullest. I know they have times of weakness and maybe a pity party or two. But they live each day with the strength and bravery that I can never imagine having myself. Pain and helplessness (doing simple tasks like using the restroom), makes common life tasks more challenging. I never fully appreciated what those with chronic illness and disabilities go through each and every day. It helped me go through my small trial of physical pain and helplessness…I thought of these people and felt motivated to keep at it, to be strong. I am awed by their strength. From this experience… I now have new heroes. Those who overcome physical challenges every day.

Kyersten Diane Portis

20-year-old Guest Writer to Hearing Elmo

© 2010 Hearing Loss Journal


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