How I Ended up in the Hospital…

Role reversal is every caregiver’s worst nightmare.

It’s an unrealized nightmare for many; we say we long to be cared for rather than caring for others, but when that moment comes, it’s terrifying, a real-life nightmare.

It all started on Friday morning.  Something felt off, I was sore in a lot of different places, and somewhat lethargic throughout the day.  What I didn’t realize was that my body was gearing up to fight off an infection, and was likely already diverting energy away from more regular functions.

Friday afternoon, I got home from CPE and almost immediately laid down for a nap.  Around 7 or 8pm, I woke up with a twinge of abdominal pain and assumed I was merely hungry.  I made a quick trip to Wendy’s, but found that I was able to eat only half of what I had ordered.  As  the night continued, the pain started increasing, and I began to feel nauseous.  I was beginning to think that I might be passing a kidney stone, as the pain and nausea were vaguely reminiscent of a similar experience I had last summer.  I texted a couple friends to get them in the loop, wanting backup if I needed to go the ER sometime in the middle of the night.  Within twenty minutes of that first text, “I might need to go to the ER sometime tonight” became “I need to go to the ER, NOW!”

Recognizing my history of kidney stones, Gettysburg’s ER did bloodwork and CT scans and gave me some meds for pain and nausea.  Reading my scans, they didn’t see signs of a kidney stone, but assumed I had passed it already, and sent me home.  I was miserable all day Saturday into Sunday morning with what had become a dull achey pain on the lower right side of my abdomen.  Hypochondriac-Jono was playing around with the idea of “What if I’m having an appendicitis?”  But I wrote that off as hyperbole.

And then Sunday at about 1pm, I had just given up on finishing the lunch that I didn’t have much of an appetite for when I got a phone call.  They had done a second read of my CT scans from Friday night, and thought my appendix looked enlarged, and I should come in and have it looked at a bit closer, especially if I’m still in pain.

And so began the whirlwind of hospital craziness.

My friend Ryan took me to Gettysburg ER and sat with me.  The ER doctors confirmed that my pain was in the area near my appendix, and that I had a higher than normal white blood cell count, which normally accompanies an infection such as appendicitis.  I sat and waited for almost two hours while the surgeon who had to be paged from home came in to look, and confirm my worst fear, the appendix had to go.

I’ll be honest and say that by this point, I didn’t exactly have the most faith in Gettysburg Hospital, but my greater concern was my heart.  I have a somewhat serious heart condition, and if I was going into a surgical procedure, I wanted it at a hospital that had a cardiologist in-house 24/7, and since MY cardiologists are at Hershey, I wanted to go there.  There was quite a bit of pushing and assertiveness that needed to take place, but before long, paperwork was being processed to transfer me to the ER at Hershey Medical Center, where I would be evaluated and eventually go into surgery there.

Since I was an “emergency” patient transfer, I had to ride to Hershey in an ambulance.  I’ve been in the back of an ambulance quite a few times, but never as a patient.  Let me just say that if I’m ever being transported as a patient in an ambulance again, I hope I’m sick enough or in enough pain to not notice how bumpy and uncomfortable it really is.  When you’re NOT in that much pain, you’re able to notice just how unpleasant it all really is.

Anyway, I arrived at Hershey, where I was met by my brother, sister-in-law and nieces.  My nieces were concerned as to why Uncle Jono was at the hospital, but seemed relieved to find me sitting up in my bed in the ER where I said goodnight to them before their mother took them home, and my brother Josh and I began our long evening at HMC.

I got evaluated by the surgical team, and consented to the emergency appendectomy and put on the schedule.  They transferred me up to a room so I could wait in a bit more peace than was to be had in the ER.  It was scheduled for 1am, but I think I ended up going down at about 2:30am, and having the surgery itself at about 3am.   By 4:30 or 5, I was back in my room and beginning the road to recovery.

One of my mentors, Greg Larsh, a staff chaplain assigned to HMC’s Heart & Vascular Institute was one of the first to visit me.  It meant a LOT to see him (and the variety of other chaplains that visited me during my stay.)  I was doing really well, and appreciated the visit until he offered to pray for me.  It was at that point that I broke down and started crying…  It had sunk in at that point.  I was on the wrong side of the bed.  I was supposed to be the one offering prayer, not the one being prayed for.  There was a role reversal happening where I suddenly became VERY aware of my own weakness, and got a much better sense of what some of my patients go through in the hospital.

After spending all day Monday in the hospital, I was discharged Tuesday morning.  My brother brought me to his house for a bit, and then brought me back to Gettysburg where I’m now mostly happily recovering for the rest of the week.

Anyway, I wanted to take a few moments to thank the folks who have done so much for me the past couple days:

  • Stephanie Zinn who was going to take me to the ER on Friday night (and took me to dinner just a few hours ago.)
  • Julie Stecker who actually DID take me to the ER on Friday night.
  • Ryan Kobert who took me BACK to the ER on Sunday afternoon.
  • Andy Wagner, who made the phone calls to make sure that my on-call shift for Sunday night was covered (yeah, I was supposed to be the on-call chaplain that night, haha) and the chaplain associate who was my backup that actually covered the shift.
  • My brother Josh, and my sister-in-law Cathleen who helped me figure out what I needed to do to get transferred to Hershey.
  • My parents, who have been immensely supportive, despite being three hours away.
  • The EMTs who transported me to Hershey.
  • All of the doctors, nurses, and other folks at both Gettysburg ER and Hershey Medical Center that played a role in my care over the past few days.
  • The Penn State Hershey Department of Pastoral Services.  I got visits from several chaplains, including my supervisors, all of whom were immensely supportive.  I look forward to getting back on the floor with you guys!
  • Everyone who has posted supportive stuff on facebook, called me, or sent me texts.

Thank ALL OF YOU.  One of the wonderful “fringe” benefits of dealing with adversity, is that you get to fully appreciate the things you have.  I am grateful for all of the friends and family who have helped me out over the past few days.  If all goes well, I’ll be back in the hospital to finish out the last chunk of my summer CPE next week!

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Posted on July 31, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Great post. And, yes, I bet this lousy experience will indeed shape you into an even more sensitive pastoral care person…and you already had to be a good one. 🙂

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