Updated: Dec 5, 2019
I settled into my new room later that night on the neuro medical floor for a well needed night's sleep. My family said their goodbyes and promised to be there tomorrow. I smiled and assured them "don't worry, I'll be here." This was a promise I intended to keep. No doubt there was the fear in the back of their minds that they could walk into a massive complication since that was commonplace the last time I was admitted to the hospital. I let my nurse do her assessment and give me meds. While in the PACU I noticed a weird twitching in my right thumb that was not there before. After my extensive research about cranioplasties, I was well aware that seizures were a possible complication and immediately brought it to the attention of the care team. They ran blood work and found I had low phosphate levels from medication given during surgery. An easy fix, I threw back the phosphate powder mixed in water like a shot of vodka. I worked on finding a comfortable position as the huge line of staples running along my head and the drain hanging out of the back of my head made things somewhat difficult. I closed my eyes for some welcome darkness.
This second stay in the hospital was much more pleasant. I dare say I almost enjoyed it. I was in higher spirits and could enjoy the time spent with family. I no longer got looks of terror and pity. We talked of futures that had a high probability of happening now. There were student nurses on the floor during my stay, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I watched their eyes widen in horror as I explained my medical history. I remember what it felt like being a student on a hospital floor. So eager to learn but also scared to do something wrong. It's often difficult to get patients to allow students to do procedures on them. I remember the thrill of when you got to do or see something new. For the next few days I was proudly their guinea pig. I told my assigned student to let all her classmates know that I was down for anything anyone wanted to practice. The only way we can truly learn in the Medical field is by doing. So anytime something was happening, I asked for the students to be brought in. Removing my catheter and IVs, practicing assessments of heart and lung sounds, and watching my JP drain being pulled from my head and the removal of my post-op dressing. For the first time in 3 months I felt like a nurse practitioner again. If my experiences could help educate my future colleagues, then I would eagerly participate.
While I had fun talking to students throughout the day and laughing with family, I had to return to my usual shift at night. My roommate was an older woman. She had been readmitted to the hospital numerous times in the same month. She refused to go to a rehab because she did not want to leave her cats. When given the option to go stay with her daughter in another state, again that was impossible because of the cats. I listened to her her long phone conversations about her cats, they were her main priority. She was a fall risk, much like I had been 3 months ago. She had an alarm on her bed set which would shriek anytime she got out of bed without calling a nurse to help her. Once again, I started to feel like it was my responsibility to watch over her. And so my night shifts began again, much similar to the ones I had in my previous hospital stay.
I found myself wishing for one of those roommate compatibility surveys Heather spoke about. She stayed up until 1 am calling people to talk about her cats. Not sure why anyone would answer their phone that late, I know I probably wouldn't. And she would insist that the nurses warm up her coffee around midnight so she could drink it. I almost wanted to shout at her nurse to not give this woman caffeine because no wonder she's up all night talking. But I was on edge, waiting to hear the bed alarm go off and ready to use my call light to get help. While I listened to discussions of cats across the curtain, another sound drew my attention. Non-stop screaming coming from the hallway. For the 3 days I was admitted, this other woman screamed 24/7. Once I was mobile again, my mom and I went for walks down the hall and my mom looked at me with concern when we passed by a room filled with screams. I explained that this was normal here.
The last night, my mom was sitting by my bed getting ready to leave for home so she could be able to get here early when I was ready to be discharged. Then we heard yelling from across the curtain. My roommate and her nurse were arguing. My roommate had once again, tried to get out of bed without calling for help. Now her privileges of walking across our room to the bathroom had been revoked and she was mad. They set up a bedside commode which she refused. Suddenly, we heard her nurse state "well, then I guess you'll just have to piss yourself." My mom and I looked at each other in horror. I had never heard a patient spoken to so disrespectfully. We immediately let my nurse know what the exchange was, and she sighed and thanked us for the information but did not look at all surprised. When my mom left that night, I knew it was going to be a long night for me.
She loudly talked on the phone and had her tv volume up to the max. That noise and the screaming from the hall made sleep impossible. My roommate joined the screams when she wanted something. She was obviously agitated after the fight with her nurse. She kept screaming for someone to come in and reheat her coffee. After 20 minutes of no response, I used my call bell.
"Yes Myra, how can we help you?"
"My roommate is screaming, she wants someone to reheat her coffee."
"Ok thank you, we will send someone in right away."
A simple solution. But here I was again making sure I was taking care of others instead of myself. I have come to realize that this is a coping mechanism. If I am too busy worrying about others, then I don't have to face my own problems. It makes for a good nurse, but only for the length of time you can keep up the pace until you burnout. They came, microwaved her coffee and I hoped that I would start to have some quiet. It would never be totally silent due to the screaming down the hall, but I could work around that. The talking continued. While I could understand the woman's love of cats being the proud owner of a cat as well, I certainly don't need to be awake all night obsessing over her. I decided to take matters into my own hands.
I pulled out my phone and turned on my meditation app I had started to use. I turned on a sleep meditation and hoped focusing on this would get me to sleep. As I settled in and listened to the calming music and gentle voice of the narrator, my concentration was shattered in an instant. My eyes shot open as I heard an angry, almost growling voice yell at me. "I CAN HEAR YOU! I'M GOING TO KILL YOU!" I stared at the ceiling, trying to stay silent. I quickly turned off my phone, and took a deep breath. I jammed that red call button as fast as I could.
"Hello Myra, what can we help you with?"
"Umm, my roommate just threatened to kill me. I just thought you should know."
Her nurse came flying in, and mine soon followed. She apologized for the loud environment and handed me a set of ear plugs which I gratefully accepted. I shoved those ear plugs in so fast and I didn't bother trying to listen in on how things were going across the room. I just needed sleep. The next thing I knew it was morning and I had slept late, something that had never happened in all of my hospital stays. I enthusiastically ate my last meal in the hospital, took a shower and walked out the front door of the hospital with my family. I waved goodbye to my roommate who didn't respond. We walked down to the Neuro ICU, where I had lived and almost died so many times months prior. My mom pointed to the room I was in, I peeked in but had no memory of it. We talked to the kind Irish nurse who had befriended my family due to my parents also being Irish, and she was the one who I cussed out repeatedly after emerging from a coma. We hugged, and I showed off my now complete skull and head full of staples. I could finally walk without wearing the stupid helmet again. Now, I was normal. Instead of leaving in an ambulance to go to rehab, I was going to my home.
I swiped my time card for the last time. I would not be doing any more overnight shifts in the hospital.