Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Things we learn, part 2

Spent this morning with Sweetie in his fabulous hospital digs. First thought as I entered the room: What the hell is that smell?! Turns out, it's Sweetie. Ew. He's been bathing every day, but the stuff in the "fluids" IV bag seems to be seeping out of his pores and permeating the sheets, his clothing, the curtain around the bed. This is a smell I can't seem to describe -- not quite BO, not quite antiseptic, but somewhere in the realm of really sharp cheese mixed with vinegar. To say it's nasty is an understatement, and I can't seem to get it out of my nose this afternoon either. (I brought his clothes home to wash them, but I really wanted to just burn them!)

Of course you can't crack a window on the 4th floor of a hospital, so after about 10 minutes in there, I couldn't take it anymore. I asked the tech to come in and change his sheets and unhook his IV so he could shower. Sheets, fine, she said, but IV no-can-do; the morphine pump cannot be unhooked and taped up like the regular pic line can be, so sponge bath is your only option. Those of you who know my husband know that he is a Nevernude and he would have to be completely unconscious to have a stranger sponge-bathe him. So I learned yet another new thing today: Giving your man a sponge bath is not nearly as sexy as some late-night cable programs might have you believe.

I also re-learned today that morphine makes a person funny as heck. After receiving more potentially bad news about more crappy genetic disorders that he may have, he looked at me and said "See? All this time you thought I was just fat and lazy! Maybe I'm just unbalanced!" I guess you had to be there, because it doesn't sound that funny now, but to see him sitting crosse-legged on that bed wearing a pair of gigantic shorts and that big dopey smile, with his belly all swollen and Buddha-like, I just fell into a fit of giggles. Even the doctor cracked a smile. (We have found over the three hospitalizations that we've been through together that most doctors don't quite understand our sarcastic humor -- in fact, I think we make them very uncomfortable -- but they endure and get used to it in time. That's why we stay so long -- it takes at least six days before the docs and nurses loosen up.)

On a serious note, though, I did learn something important today that I need to pass along to you: Know your own medical history and that of your spouse. Know the conditions that their parents may have or had, even things that seem small. So many health issues are passed down in our genes, and what may not seem like a big deal to you may be extremely significant to your doctor. For instance, I didn't know until this week that Chris's mother suffers from hypothyroidism. But guess what? That causes extreme fatigue, rapid weight gain, and severely dry skin. And guess who has been extremely tired, putting on weight, and suffering from skin so dry that it cracks and bleeds? You got it. When I mentioned it to the doc, his face lit up. They're testing Chris for hypothyroidism today. So, I came home and wrote down every medical condition of everyone in his family going back to his grandparents, and I've written down all the different hospitalizations, medications, and complaints that he's had since we've been married. I'll do the same thing for my own family and self tonight. And I'll keep all this in a notebook if ever either of us needs to return to a hospital.

Which brings me to my next what-I've-learned point, the reason such a notebook might be crucial: Sometimes we spouses have to be the voice for our loved ones. Chris has been so in-and-out from the pain and pain medication that often I'm the one who has to answer the questions -- and ask the questions. I had to ask for his fluids to be increased yesterday because he was trying to sleep off a dehydration-induced headache. I had to speak with his doc this morning about the hypothyroidism because Chris was knocked out by the morphine. (Another reason why I feel sad for the man in the bed next to Chris -- he has no one there to be his voice. I find myself listening in to his discussions with his docs so I can fill in any details for the other specialists and nurses who come in!)

Anyway, these are lessons I hope none of you ever have draw on -- at least not while you're younger than, say, 70 -- but if you do, know that you can do it. Like I said previously, you really learn what you're made of in times like these, and these are the times that make us who we are.

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