Saturday, July 3, 2010

Ward 5B - Neurology

The last instalment of my hospital stay.

I was transferred from NICU at some point on Wednesday, 1 day after surgery.  I don't know timelines and some of my days in the ward blend together.  Hey, good drugs will do that to you!  I know I was moved into a room and I had my first room mate - Mrs. room mate.  Who got there first?? No idea.  My pain was still pretty bad, as was my gigantic fat lip!  The pain management staff did their best and tried me on different drugs, which turned out to by hydromorphine, and thank heavens, it started to work.  I had 8 hour long lasting pills with 2 hour top-ups when I needed them.  I remember dozing in and out of a sleepy stupor a lot.  And I remember moaning... a lot of moaning.

Turn out Mrs. room mate was the moaner - not me.  At the young age of 87 she had dementia and was hard of hearing.  She was in to have a GI scope, so why is she in the neuro ward??  To drive me (and hubby and several nurses) absolutely crazy.  She would moan every 4 or 5 seconds - oooohhhh, ahhhhh, eewwww, like every breath hurt! The nurses asked if she was in pain - no.  So why are you moaning???? ARGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! I'm supposed to sleep in the same room as this woman! I told hubby several times to help me up so I could go smother her with a pillow!  I'm not the violent type, but her incessant moaning was intolerable. Then her family came to visit!! It was late at night, that's all I remember.  And they were louder than necessary.  They put up a sign which read "Mrs. room mate has dementia and is hard of hearing.  Speak loud and clearly"  Yeah, great room mate.  Somehow I managed the night... must have been the drugs!  In the morning the nurses came and moved Mrs. room mate across the hall.  Whether it was for my sanity or theirs who knows, but I thank them for doing so!  

I had inedible meals brought to me the first couple days.  Um, I don't eat pork, beef, any dairy, eggs or fats. And I don't care for hot cereal.  And no apple juice because of the acid.  I have major food issues... And the admitting nurse and the dietician I saw when I was admitted knew all of this!  They put me down as vegetarian, type 1.  Whatever that meant! So the first breakfast tray contained cream of wheat (ultimate yech!) and a hard boiled egg, and I believe apple juice or juice with apple in it!! This did not go over well with me.  I remember managing a baby cookie which we had brought with us.  It's bad enough my mouth looked like I went 10 rounds with Mohammed Ali, but to add insult to injury, the dietician send me nothing I could eat!

I got a new neighbour Thursday at some point.  A wonderful Chiari sister I later learned!  She had just had a shunt revision.  Good, two neuro patients in the same room.  Much better.  Plus, she is 30, not hard of hearing and she doesn't moan!!  We struck up a conversation between the curtains when she made comment to her mom of how lovely she looked in a hospital gown and green surgery hat.  I told her all she needed was the compression stockings (which I'd been wearing since NICU) and she was ready for the ball!  No stockings for her was her reply as she is paralyzed due to spina bifida.  Our little chat started a new friendship.  It was soooo nice to meet someone who understands Chiari!! She had decompression surgery in December.  We chatted off and on for the next 3 days.  Good room mate is the sweetest thing, and her family is wonderful.  Every time the went to get something for Good room mate they made the same offer of me - unfortunately, it was milk shakes, so no.

The things I remember most about my 4 days in the neuro ward:  bad food for the most part.  One nurse did some finagling and got my menu changed.  So I did get one meal with chicken that was partly edible.  It was really hard to eat with the big lip, but it was better than the vegetable goulash, vegetarian chili, cream of wheat, dry bread (not toast, just dried bread!), and other assorted oddities they sent me to eat.  And one night they sent me salmon and plain rotini noodles.  So I managed a few mouthfuls.  But wow, I can't believe how bad the food was.  Really, truly.  For such a wonderful hospital, the dietary crew needs some help!

I was impressed by the care in the ward.  Each patient has a RPN, not just a nurse between 9 and 5 with at 6:1 patient to RPN ratio.  We also had a ward nurse - 2 or 3 shifts a day. My first nurse, Rose Marie, was wonderful, truly wonderful. And a PC - personal care worker who was responsible for helping us bathe and clean up daily.  (Well, the day I could actually have a shower and wanted a shower, my PC didn't come back as promised!! So no shower for me!)  Plus the assorted dietary, pain management staff, some physiotherapists and occupational therapists, and doctors, fellows and associates.  It was a busy place!! But the care is second to none.  I am so pleased with the care I received.  There were also volunteers who brought fresh ice and water twice a day, magazines and newspapers.  It really is well run.

Dr. Gentili came in to see me three times during my stay.  I was pleased and impressed.  He said he doesn't always make his rounds, that his team does.  Well I saw him and his team!  The team was great!  Beverly, George, Dr. Andre, everyone.  Beverly sang "My Favourite Things" with me while George removed the drain from my leg incision.  How many doctors do you know that will sign with you so you take your mind off of the procedure?  Dr. Gentili talked to hubby a few times too.  He was very happy with the surgery and with my progress in the hospital, except that I didn't walk down the hall fast enough. Hey, compression stockings, swollen feet and a 6 inch incision in my leg!  Hello??  But he did tell hubby my herniation was not the least and not the worst he has see.  I don't have the exact length, but I will ask him in August.  He said that the immediate reduction of the pressure in my head, less problems speaking and thinking are all good signs.  My legs don't go numb all the time now either.  My tinnitus is still in my left ear, but it's only been 11 days and there is a lot of swelling still.

I battled nausea for the first few days, but by Saturday I was well enough to be discharged.  I was supposed to go on Friday, but a bout of nausea put a kibosh on it.  I got dressed for the first time!! Hurray!! And we picked up my discharge documents and staple remover from the nursing station and off we went!  We stopped on the main floor to pick up my prescriptions and ran into my friendly room mate's dad.  I'm telling you, this family is the salt of the earth - they truly are wonderful.  I really was sad to say good-bye to good room mate.  But back to where I was... running into the dad... he was so sweet!! He drove hubby and I to my cousin's condo where we stayed from Saturday afternoon until Monday at noon when we left the city for home.

The trip to the airport was an adventure, the taxi driver rushing us around downtown to the airport the day after the G20 summit.  Hubby had to put his arm behind me for support, but we made it uneventfully.  I managed to walk from the taxi to the ferry and all the way to check-in at the airport.  Then a security guard brought me a wheelchair and we wheeled through security.  I was, of course, wearing my cute scarf and Brain Surgery Survivor t-shirt.  We were asked by 3 of the security staff about my surgery and they were all amazed I was up, able to walk and flying home only 5 days after surgery! And it's true, it is pretty amazing, but I'm so happy I'm feeling this good!  There was some turbulence on the flight, but other than that I was good.  I'm not a great flyer - don't like take off or landing at all.  I was greeted at Thunder Bay with a wheelchair to make it through the terminal and welcomed home with a big hug from my teary-eyed mum.

It is so good to be home!!!  Follow-up trip to see Dr. Gentili is on August 30th, and this time my mum is going with me.


  1. Glad to hear that the surgery and recovery went well and that you're up and about so quickly. Yay! :)

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story, I am booked to have the same surgery at TWH with Dr. Gentili in a few weeks and this has helped me tremendously!