Foul Bowel

August 23, 2007

I expected my first entry after I got back from my vacation to actually be ABOUT my vacation, but fate had something else in store for me. Instead, I’ll be writing about my two-night hospital stay. It’s a long story, and it’s a doozy.

While I was away, my bathroom habits weren’t what I would have liked them to be, and, by Saturday, I was in quite a bit of discomfort. I had hoped that being home would be enough to get me back to normal, but those hopes were dashed when I was still unable to move my bowels by Sunday morning. I took a couple of Dulcolax, and went to visit my grandmother, who was recovering from a fall, which, by the way, required a trip by ambulance to the Emergency Room. She sprained her left knee and right ankle, and was pretty much bedridden the whole time I was gone.

While sitting there trying to have a conversation with her, I experienced cramping so severe it affected my back, made me sweat, and had me running for the bathroom every few minutes. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the cramps felt like heavy labor pains. A couple of times, I felt like I was going to pass out. Still, I was not able to eliminate any stool. I was in agony, and had to leave my grandmother’s after only a short visit, and also had to bow out of my nephew’s birthday party.

Hours later, the Dulcolax finally took effect, and my frequent trips to the bathroom became more successful. I mistakenly thought that would be the end of my problem. However, Monday morning brought more of the same, so I made an appointment to see my primary care physician. He said acute abdominal pain requires immediate attention that he could not provide in his office, and sent me to the ER.

The first order of business was the IV insertion, which is something I always dread. After this most recent experience, I will dread it even more. The ER nurse made four attempts. First, she tried the inside of my right arm. Next, she tried the same spot again. Then she tried the inside of my left arm, and after that, she went for a vein on my right hand. Then she admitted defeat and called the IV Team for assistance.

The IV specialist tried to insert the IV in my left hand. That attempt was so painful it brought tears to my eyes, and my thumb was numb for hours. She then went back to the site of the very first attempt (the inside of my right arm). Success at last, after being stuck SIX times.

Even though I was pretty sure that the abdominal pain I was experiencing was related to my bowels, the ER doctor wanted to rule out gynecological problems. I did have similar pain years ago when ovarian cysts caused one of my ovaries to get twisted, so I agreed to a pelvic exam and ultrasound.

I had to be moved to another cubicle for the exam because the bed I was on wasn’t equipped with stirrups. After the exam, I was moved back to my original cubicle, and given some kind of contrast fluid to drink in preparation for a CAT scan to rule out diverticulitis. When my bladder was full, I was taken to radiology for the ultrasound. The technician mentioned that my bowels were pretty backed up. No kidding.

After the ultrasound, I was transported to the CAT scan area, but, because the scan couldn’t be performed until two hours after I started drinking the contrast fluid, I had to wait in the hall for quite a while. Once I was brought in for the scan, it was a piece of cake, and over quickly. I was then wheeled back to my cubicle in the ER.

When the doctor came in to go over the test results with me, she said, “I have some good news and some bad news.” The good news was that the pelvic exam and ultrasound indicated that I was in good gynecological shape, and, while the CAT scan did show diverticulosis (which I already knew about after last year’s colonoscopy), there was no evidence of diverticulitis. The bad news was that she didn’t know what was causing my pain, and therefore, didn’t want to send me home. It was the ER doctor’s recommendation that I be admitted, so she put in a call to my primary care physician to get the necessary admission orders.

I arrived at the ER at 11:30 am. By the time I was set up in a hospital room, it was after 7:00 pm. After a visit from Daniel, I watched some television, and went to sleep around 10:00. I was awakened at 1:00 am by the arrival of my roommate, who was accompanied by her husband and two young sons. They stayed for quite a while, and made a lot of noise. I didn’t get much more sleep after they left because a lab technician woke me at 5:00 am to take some more blood.

This hospital stay was very unpleasant. For one thing, there were problems with the food I was served. At first, I was on a clear liquids diet, and then bumped up to full liquids, but they kept bringing me the wrong food, so I was eating very little. The unit office manager became aware of the situation, and frequently checked in with me to make sure I was getting everything I needed.  She grew increasingly frustrated and “pissed off” (her words) when she repeatedly saw that I was NOT getting everything I needed. In fact, she was so appalled over everything that was going wrong (too many things for me to recall or recount here, even if I did remember), she brought me flowers!

She also left me her card and told me to call her whenever there was a problem, but I have this idiosyncrasy about not wanting to bother people, so I did not contact her. Instead, I kept things bottled up inside.

My suppressed emotions came to a head Wednesday morning. The night before, I had again been awakened from my sleep. This time, it was because of my roommate’s television. Patients are supposed to use headphones for TV viewing at night, but this woman was very inconsiderate, and behaved as if she were in a private room.

There was a nurse in the roommate’s curtained section of the room when I woke up, so I waited a bit to see if the nurse would tell my roommate she should be using the headphones. When that didn’t happen, I turned MY television on, and tuned in to a channel that had no picture, and just played classical music. I figured if I had to listen to TV noise, it should at least be something I could fall asleep to.

The next thing I knew, the nurse had entered my space, and, without saying a word to me, she reached for my headphones and plugged them into my TV set. I sat up and loudly announced that the only reason I turned my TV on was to drown out the sound of my roommate’s television, which had disrupted my sleep. The nurse said she would tell my roommate that she had to use her headphones. Sleep was fleeting after that, because my blood was boiling.

Another example of my roommate’s inconsiderateness was that she never removed her “hat” (a plastic container with a wide rim that sits across the bowl of the toilet, and is used to measure urine output). The first time I found my roommate’s “hat” on the toilet, I rang for a nurse who was very snippy with me, and suggested that, in the future, I should just wait for them to deal with it during their rounds, which she assured me were frequent enough that I wouldn’t have to wait long. I tried to follow her suggestion the next time I had to urinate, but, after waiting for over an hour, I armed myself with paper towels, and tackled the problem myself. This experience was repeated twice more during a course of two hours. (I had to pee frequently because of the fluids that were being pumped into me through the IV.)

Later on, another nurse was in the room for one reason or another, and I mentioned the “hat” situation to her. She became very defensive, and huffily declared that she and/or the “tech” (I think that’s what they’re calling nurse’s aids nowadays) checked the hats routinely. My response was, “Be that is it may, the fact remains that I had to remove my roommate’s hat from the toilet THREE TIMES IN THE PAST TWO HOURS. Furthermore, my yearly bloodborne pathogen training makes me aware of the HIV and hepatitis risks I am being exposed to by performing this task without gloves. Perhaps you could leave some in the bathroom to decrease the risks associated with exposure to my roommate’s bodily fluids.” Of course, my sarcastic request for gloves was not granted.  And I still had to remove my roommate’s “hat” almost every time I used the bathroom.

Anyway, back to the morning my pent up emotions erupted. My primary care physician dropped by at 7:30 am to let me know that I was being discharged, and the IV could be removed. My reaction to this good news was, “Thank God!” A breakfast tray was placed on my table at 8:30. There was a bowl of cream of wheat (so sticky it looked like glue), a carton of milk, and a cup of coffee. Before I had a chance to eat anything, the tech came in and said that, since I was being discharged, it might be possible for me to get a regular breakfast. I hadn’t eaten anything except one container of jello, and couple of small Italian ices since Sunday, so a real breakfast sounded pretty good to me. The tech went off to look into it.

Shortly after he left, my roommate asked if I had her tray, because the tray that had been delivered to her had my name on it. I checked my tray, and, sure enough, it had her name on it. This mistake could have had serious consequences considering that I was supposed to be on a lactose free diet, and was given a tray that included a container of milk.

By the time the tech came back to tell me that my diet orders hadn’t been changed, and I couldn’t have regular food after all, the cream of wheat was ice cold and even more inedible than it was upon delivery. So, I went without breakfast.

At 10:00, I pressed my buzzer, and asked if I could take a shower. The tech came in with towels, and I requested that my IV be removed before I got in the shower. He went to check, and came back to say that the nurse advised him to wrap my arm in plastic. I asked if the nurse knew that I was being discharged, and didn’t need the IV any more. He snapped, “I don’t know. Do you want it wrapped or not?” I was so taken aback by his nastiness that I was temporarily rendered speechless. Not knowing what else to say or do, I told him to go ahead and wrap it.

I was too upset to go to the shower (which was located a fair distance from my room), so I just sat on my bed, feeling overwhelmed. The unit manager walked in, took one look at me, and said, “Oh no. What did they do now?” I burst into tears, and found it difficult to speak at first, but, once I started, I let it all out. I reviewed the problems she already knew about, and filled her in on the more recent issues of which she was not yet aware. To finalize the unloading of my burden, I gestured at the whiteboard on the wall, and blurted out, “And just look at that! That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the people who are in charge of my medical care!”

This is what I was referring to:

For the record, I checked the whiteboard on my roommate’s side of the room and saw that Wednesday was misspelled there, as well.

The unit office manager called for a volunteer and instructed her to go to every room on the floor and correct the spelling errors. Then she asked me a question about my discharge. I exclaimed, “I don’t know! Since I was admitted, no one has told me a single thing about what’s happening. I don’t know anything!” She looked me in the eye and said “Yes you do. You know how to spell.” I burst out laughing, and she smiled and said, “Good. At least I was able to make you laugh.” She then arranged to have my IV removed, and had someone escort me to the shower. This woman was truly an angel of mercy.

Before I was discharged, I met with a nutritionist who gave me information on high fiber and lactose free diets. Then my mother came to pick me up. She took me out to lunch, and, let me tell you, I enjoyed every bite of my omelet and side salad. Food tastes indescribably delicious when you haven’t eaten in a few days.

To sum things up, the diagnosis was Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which I already knew I had. However, I’ve never been through an episode like this one. While I was in the hospital, they took blood to check for lactose intolerance (hence, the lactose-free diet) and Celiac Disease, but the tests had to be done off-site, and the results are still out. As I mentioned above, I was given information about a high fiber diet, and will be following those directions. Because of the IBS, I was cautioned against taking laxatives, and advised to take colace (a stool softener), instead.

I was able to move my bowels a wee bit this morning, but I’m still in a great deal of discomfort. This has been a pretty bad experience. Just writing about it has taken a lot out of me. Unfortunately, what it’s taken out of me isn’t what needs to be eliminated, if you get my drift.

I’m really tired and uncomfortable, so I’m going to try to get some rest. When I feel up to it, I’ll post an entry about my vacation, which I believe was partly responsible for my hospitalization. I’ll leave you with a hint: Irritable Bowel episodes can be triggered by stress.

Song of the Day: Take Me to the Hospital by The Faint

18 Responses to “Foul Bowel”

  1. Oh sweety, I know so much about incompetence at hospitals lately! I’m so sorry you had to go through that horror. As for the “regularity” problem, you might ask your doc about Miralax. It’s not a laxative, but it help gets your system back to normal schedule. It really helped my mom, before this latest episode at least.

  2. LeAnn said

    Gee Steph!! I’m sorry you had such a miserable experience in the hospital!! I’m glad your stay was short though! I just got out myself last Friday and haven’t been on line much. I had two strangulated small bowel obstructions and had to have emergency surgery to save my life. I was there three weeks and had many cat scans!! I HATE that constrast!!! But the docs, nurses and techs were awesome and I don’t have any complaints so even though my stay was longer it seems my experience was better than yours. I had very similar symtoms to the ones you described!! If you had a small bowel obstruction your cat scan would have revealed it. Thank God you didn’t! I’m glad you are home and I do understand the frustration of having so many different ailments!! My docs are recommending I go on disability now because I have too many things wrong to be able to hold down a job. Try to stay healthy! Love, LeAnn

  3. LA said

    Good lord, woman. Remind me not to use the hospitals on your side of the river! What a ghastly experience. Talk soon. ~LA

  4. Sunday said

    Maaan!!!! I know what you mean about those “hats”–I just said fuck it and walked to the MUCH CLEANER public bathrooms. The whateveryoucallthemnow didn’t seem to be all that gung-ho about cleaning–I was just counting the hours until I was getting out. In fact, I was constantly pestering everyone in a white coat that came in the room and looked my way. Thankfully, I was lucky–I didn’t run into rude doctors, nurses, etc., but the FOOD! The NOISE!! The fact that they couldn’t give me any Flinstones Chewable Morphine for those headaches caused by those stupid nitroglycerine patches!

    In our rooms–they had an ancient setup for “headphone” TV, but no cable! What the hell?! I can’t sleep because they’re constantly poking me–and because of horror stories about perverted patients/etc., preying on patients.

    Seriously–if I have to go to the hospital again (and I hope I NEVER do), I want to go to one with cable, that freely dispenses painkillers, and has food that will make me want to eat, instead of flushing it down the toilet (after removing the hat).

    I don’t know how I would’ve reacted in your situation–since I was pretty pissed about blinding headaches, it probably wouldn’t have been pretty, and then my family would’ve been getting news that I “suddenly” died of a mysterious heart attack. Even though you went through a lot of shit, you handled it in the right way. There’s probably a reason why not that many people in my family live past 65! 😉

    But enough about me–don’t let this stress put you back in the hospital! They’re icky! 😉

  5. Sasha said

    Oh Stephanie! 😦 I don’t even know what to say except that I’m so sorry your hospital stay was so miserable. I’ve never been a hospital patient but have spent enough time in them to know what frustrating experiences they can be. xoxo

  6. Bex said

    Good Lord, just when I thought things were looking up for you, and now this! I don’t know how you keep on ticking, Steph, but I wish you well with this latest episode of “maladies from hell.” You certainly have had way way more than you share!

  7. mercystreet said

    What an ordeal. It is bad enough to be sick but then to be treated badly. Every hospital room I have been lately has had gloves in the room. I would let them know that they should keep gloves IN the rooms. They even gave me the rest of box when I left the last time I was in the hospital. They said they had to throw them away otherwise.
    By the way colace is what I have to take and it is gentle.
    Get better soon.

  8. goatbarnwitch said

    Ack! What a terrible thing to have happen. Hospitals are surely not a place for people to get healthy what with all the poking and probing. It sounds as if the hospital you were in is staffed by a bunch of idiots (with the exception of one). I hope things are on an upswing from here. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help out.

  9. Joan said

    Oh my gosh – that is truly scary!!!If they can’t spell Wednesday, I can see where they would get Zantac (for reflux) and Xanax (for anxiety) mixed up.Every patietn should have an advocate like you had! Glad your home now and I hope things start moving along nicely…if you know what I mean. 🙂

  10. PalMD said

    I wish I could say that your experience is unusual…

  11. OMG! What an experience! Thank God it’s over an you are home! Sure hope you can get some rest and relief very soon! Anxious to hear about the vacation. Stress, you say? On vacation? Not good.

  12. Ouch! I’ve been there. recently, sad to say. Surgery on finger + codeine = 4 days with no movement. I can Thoroughly recommend prune juice and sitz baths.

  13. lisele said

    Nursing has really gone downhill in many hospitals, sad to say. And “attitude” has gone way up. Crazy isn’t it? Why do people go into medicine/caring for people if they only intend to treat them like they can’t stand them? As for the spelling…that is nuts. “Days of the week” is one of those pretty darn basic ones.

  14. kitchenlogic said

    Stephanie I’m so sorry you had to go through all this hell! I’ll send good pooping vibes to you for some quick relief. Okay, I don’t think I’ve ever said that before to anyone.

  15. debbie said

    i had no inkling of what youve been going through nor of what hasnt been going through you. what a frightmare. you almost sound as if you should have been a featured story in the sicko flick, what a horrible state of affairs that both you & that hospital are having…. i hope sooner than later that all systems are go & cleared with the both. be well, those places will kill a person ! hugs, hugs, hugs to poor you !

  16. Holly said

    “Be it ever so humble, there is no place like home”. What is it with hospitals? My last stay before I had Warren I had a doctor wander in my room by mistake and start freaking me out by talking about heart defects and down syndrome, it wasn’t until he mentioned a test I never had that I realized he was in the wrong room and the poor doctor nearly had a heart attack right there. I was so out of it on pain meds (due to kidney issues), it didn’t occure to me right away they couldn’t have known any of that at that point. sheehs. Hope you are feeling better and the poop gods finally smile down on you.

  17. Bummer Stephanie – – – so sorry you had a pits of a time in hospital. When you’re hurtin’ fer certain you don’t need no Grinch Squinchin’

    Hope you can stay out of hospital !

  18. Stefani said

    What an ordeal! I’m so sorry you had to go through all that. {{{Stephanie}}}

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