Life & Health Theology

Meditations on Surgery VII: The Infamous Hospital Stay

February 8, 2010

Here I will recount the rest of my hospital stay as best I can remember it (which isn’t great since I want to forget most of it).

For the most part, the rest of my hospital stay after that “Fateful Friday” was pretty miserable and uncomfortable. Most of the time I had gas pains, not much was moving through, I never ate anything (I got all my nutrients through the PICC line), I didn’t drink much (I got fluids through the PICC line as well), and I had all kinds of tubes and lines hooked up to me. Getting my NG tube put back into me the second time was one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life (ask Steve Briix about it, he witnessed this — which was my worst day). The only positive thing was that I didn’t have to get a catheter put back in during this (thank the Lord!!!), but I did have to use the bathroom all the time because I had so much liquid going through me. It was also incredibly hard to sleep at the hospital because of the combination of nurses giving me meds, my antibiotics making me incredibly antsy and anxious, people poking me consistently at 2am to draw blood (why at that ungodly hour?), and roommates that listened to TV really, really loud all night long.

It’s weird how you sort of get used to being uncomfortable and in pain over time. You just sort of learn to put it out of your mind. But one of the big problems was the antibiotics they had me on. Since they had found an abscess near where my J-Pouch connected, they had me on two really, really powerful antibiotics all the time. But first they tried to drain it by sticking a big needle in my butt. That was quite the experience. They took me down to the CT-Scan room (which is a big room with a giant donut in the middle that they slide you through), and since I couldn’t lay on my stomach they strapped me down on my side. I felt almost like I was in a mental institution, strapped to my side in a really awkward position, I had wet washcloths on my face because I was feverish, and they were giving me pain killers and stuff that made me drowsy (but not unconscious). Then, they started poking me. What a day! I wanted them to knock me out because by this time I hadn’t slept in 2 days and would just kind of writhe in my bed because I was so anxious to sleep. It was pretty crazy. Your body does weird things when you’re really tired and sick of being in one place — having a major traumatic surgery and your bowels in shock doesn’t really help either.

That was most of the experiences I had, the NG tube saga, the CT-scan craziness, and nights of sleeplessness and poking. Other than that (and my two X-ray trips) my days all kind of meshed together into one big monotonous hospital stay. But God was gracious and brought me through it all. I kept reminding myself that God would not put me through more than I could handle by his grace (although I thought my threshold was far below this), and I kept reflecting on James 1 and counting it joy when I encounter trials. Part of me didn’t want to have learned about joy and suffering like I did before this, maybe then I wouldn’t have been accountable. But it was a great opportunity for me to see if what I’d gotten so excited about learning from Scripture would actually live out in everyday life, when trials really did come.

And God really taught me (and continues to teach me) to be thankful for things that I’ve always taken for granted. For example, simply being able to drink water. When I had the NG tube in the second time I think I went 2-3 days without drinking anything. They gave me liquids through the PICC line, so I got my fluids, but I couldn’t actually drink anything during that time. You have no idea how thirsty you can become when that happens. And when I was finally able to drink stuff it just went right back up the NG tube and didn’t satisfy at all. There was a time when I would have honestly given up all other liquids and just drank water for the rest of my life if I could have just had one glass of water right then. I appreciate water so, so much now! Being able to drink it anytime is the best thing ever! I didn’t realize how much I take it for granted that I can go to the sink anytime and get water to drink — and clean, fresh water! It’s amazing! And then we have tons of options on top of that! Rejoice that you can drink water everyday!

I also learned to grateful for being able to do simple tasks, like putting on your socks everyday. I can’t do it anymore. I just can’t reach that far down, so I have to have people do it for me. And when I drop something on the floor (unless I’m sitting on the floor) I can’t pick it up at all. I have to have people get it for me. That’s kind of humbling. I have to admit that I just can’t do it. I feel really stupid sometimes asking people to do simple tasks for me. But that’s good because it destroys my pride and teaches me to admit what I can and  can’t do. When you’re young it’s not fun to admit you can’t do anything.

Along those same lines, I learned to let go of what people thought of me in the hospital. Perhaps I let my inhibitions go too much, but I’ve always struggled with people pleasing and when you’re not doing well and can’t do certain things that just sort of goes out the window. God is good at putting you in situations where you have no choice but to learn something you need to learn. So I’m thankful for that too.

There’s more that I could probably write that I’ve learned, but hopefully I will post them later on in days to come when my mind is more cohesive and clear. Overall, the verdict is that God is good, you can have joy in the midst of suffering and trials (if you fight for it!), and mom’s are stinking amazing at taking care of you (mine flew from Texas and missed weeks of work to stay at my bedside).

Recap of the Hospital Stay: what was supposed to be a 5-7 day stay turned into a 17 day hospital stay. Had a PICC line for nutrients, liquids, and antibiotics, a NG tube (twice) to suck out liquids from my stomach, (and a catheter for a couple days). Got two X-rays, a CT-scan, and had a big needle stuck in my butt. And probably walked around my hall upwards of 200 times during my stay.

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