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Here’s the third part of my medical odyssey! You can read the first and second parts — The Lead Up & Hello Hospital! — here and here.

So when we last left our heroine, she had been admitted to the monitored floor of the hospital due to pneumonia and two pulmonary embolisms. She suffered such indignities as an infiltrated IV and having to pee in front of her doctor. What will happen next?! Dun-dun-DUUUNNNNN…

WORD OF WARNING: Some of the pictures I will be including in this post — and the ones that will come after — might be considered kind of graphic. I’m not going to post anything too gory but if you have absolutely no stomach for medical stuff at all, maybe you should look away.

Providence Saint Joseph is a Catholic hospital so there is a cross on the wall of every room. On the monitored floor, this cross had — as I liked to call him — a double high-five Jesus on it.

You're getting better? Right on! High-five! No, DOUBLE HIGH-FIVE!!

I’m not a particularly religious person but I did appreciate Jesus cheering me on. This despite the fact that I am very anti-high-five*, let alone double high-five. However, when one is sick, in the hospital and feeling pitiful, these kind of high-five prejudices are put aside when there is a cheering section up on a cross. Besides, who I am to tell Jesus not to double high-five? That would be presumptuous.

*It’s just so awkward — aim, timing, speed and force have to be juuust right when high-fiving someone or you both end up looking stupid. It is my opinion that — in most cases — it is best to just avoid it altogether and stick with the much easier low-five. That move is far less likely to be screwed up.

After a week, give or take, it was deemed that — while I was not well enough to be discharged — I was well enough to no longer require 24/7 monitoring. This meant it was time for a room change!

5th Floor South
March 6/7 – 16
As I was waiting to be transferred to my new room, one of the nursing assistants came in to help me get some things together.

NA: Where are you moving to?

Me: I think they said the fifth floor south?

NA: *makes a face* Ooooh…

Me: What?

NA: Well, it’s just an older part of the hospital.

I soon discovered that ‘older’ really meant ‘not as nice’. My room on the third floor north was lovely! It was spacious, quiet and new. It was well-decorated and, in addition to the recliner by the bed, had a bench of cushions by the window for guests to sit on. And, of course, it had double high-five Jesus.

There was no double high-five Jesus on fifth floor south.

My new room was cozy and if you have read real estate listings, you know that ‘cozy’ is code for ‘really, really, REALLY small’. My bed was pushed against the wall and there was just enough width left in the room to fit a recliner next to (but not facing) it. The paint was a dull putty color and visibly patched in a few areas. The position of the window meant that the room was always bright and hot; the location near the nurses’ station meant that the room was always noisy. And the cross in the room displayed a suffering Jesus nailed to it with not a double high-five to be found.

Not the actual cross in my room but it was very similar to this one

I guess I should have looked at this cross and been inspired by his suffering. I should have thought ‘He died for my sins. If he can do that, I can do anything. He’s there for me!’ But all I could do was look at him and commiserate:

“Man, this sucks.”

My time on Five South was torturous and painful — probably not to a nailed-to-a-cross level of torture and pain but believe me what I say that it wasn’t a good time. Due to the light, heat and noise, I got migraine after migraine after migraine. Also, I still could not eat. I spent most days curled up on my bed in pain, trying not to cry. After a while, they moved me to another room on the floor — one that was further away from the noisy nurses’ station and on the other side of the building so I wasn’t getting direct light all day long. This was an improvement as far as my migraines were concerned; overall, I was still very sick.

Before I switched rooms, though, there was the lung drain. Back when I was on the monitored floor, Dr. Patel (pulmonary) expressed frustration with the level of fluid in my lungs. He wanted to do a Thoracentesis (that’s the official, fancy medical term for a lung drain) but there wasn’t quiiiite enough fluid there to be able to pull it off. After a few days on Five South, that all changed.

Thoracentesis
March 7 & 8
Late in the afternoon on March 7th, a nurse came in to tell me that Dr. Patel would be by in a few hours to do the lung drain. This involves inserting a needle through my back and sucking out the fluid.

I was terrified.

She could see that I was scared and assured me that it really wasn’t that bad. I also talked to my parents and brother about it and was assured — based on my brother’s experience having it done — that it really wasn’t anything to stress out about. However, when all you know is that they will be sticking a big needle THROUGH YOUR BACK INTO YOUR LUNG, it’s hard to not freak out.

And freak out I did.

There was a lot of stuff we had to get done before the Thoracentesis could be performed — I needed to get a ultrasound so Dr. Patel would know exactly where to poke me as well as get my blood type determined (A-positive!) so I could receive two bags of plasma to thicken up my blood. There were hours between me and the needle, hours for me to fret.

There was a white board in every room (the nurses would put their phone numbers on there so you could call them directly when you needed them) and I gazed at it while I was waiting to be taken down to ultrasound.

I wrote that. So funny!

Stupid, stupid Nina! I determined that I had jinxed myself by writing that. The universe looked at me saying that I would bring the pain and it went ‘HA! The pain will be BROUGHT to YOU!’ Then, I looked over at the Thoracentesis kit that the nurse had oh-so-casually left in my room.

Those are some BIG bottles

As it dawned on me that there was a HUGE needle in there somewhere, I began to cry. And cry. And cry. And cry. I made sure to do this only when I was alone in the room (I didn’t want them to think I was a baby) but when the transport guy arrived to take me down to ultrasound, he could see that I had been sobbing.

“Are you okay? Don’t worry about the ultrasound. It doesn’t hurt at all.”

He was very nice and made pleasant, distracting conversation with me as he wheeled me over to nuclear medicine. The ultrasound technician was great as well. After he was done, he wheeled me out into the hall and told me to stay put. I joked that I wouldn’t and that I was planning to make a break for it. He told me that that actually happens more often than one would think which I thought was really strange. You’re in the hospital and wearing a hospital gown, crazy people! Where do you think you are going to go? But for all the pleasant conversation and amusing distractions, I could not shake the thoughts about my looming lung-needling. When I was returned to my room, I picked up where I left off with my fretting.

After a time, a woman showed up to draw my blood so my blood type could be determined. Unfortunately, she had a near-impossible time finding a vein and even after poking me several times, only managed to draw the teeny-tiniest amount of blood. “I’m not sure this will be enough. Someone might be back to try again,” she told me. I looked again at what I had written on the white board and resolved to never boast about bringing the pain ever, ever again. Nailed-on-the-Cross Jesus gazed at me and I am pretty sure he agreed that that was a good idea on my part.

Luckily, they were able to determine my blood type from the drawn sample and the plasma was brought up. This was an uncomfortable experience — even when set to push slowly, it really strained my small, wimpy veins. The two bags took a few hours and I was happy when it was over.

Sometime during all of this, my doctor arrived to let me know that the Thoracentesis was being pushed off until the next morning because it was getting to be too late. He noticed my puffy eyes and my tear-stained cheeks and let me tell you: if you ever need a pulmonary doctor in the Los Angeles/Burbank area, Dr. Mayur Patel is the guy you want. When he noticed my fear — no, terror — he sat down next to me and slipped his arm around my shoulders. In a soft voice, he assured me that he would never hurt me, would take good care of me and that there was nothing to worry about. He explained the procedure, how the area would be completely numbed and I would be given pain killers beforehand. He mentioned that it was something he did every day but that he understood why I would be scared. Then he wiped away my tears and told me to get a good night’s rest.

Dr. Patel is the best.

Morning came around and  I woke up with a migraine. Fantastic. I was given a shot of Imitrex but my head was still hurting when Dr. Patel arrived to do the Thoracentesis. He asked if I preferred to wait until the afternoon in the hopes my head would be better but I just wanted to get it over with. The last thing I desired was to have several more hours to sit and think and fret.

Rather than explain it, this image shows how a Thoracentesis is done (with the exception being that instead of a bag, my fluid was drained into those big ass containers):

Ouch. Ouch ouch ouch ouch.

They gave me some Dilaudid, numbed the area and got to work. Everyone who told me that it was no big deal was right! It didn’t really hurt at all; there was some pressure but no real pain. No pain, that is, until the end. As we were nearing completion, my shoulder started to ache. Then it started to hurt. I cried out for the nurse to hold it up or put some pressure on it or something but the agony got worse and worse. Then I felt a shooting, stabbing pain across the right side of my upper chest. Just as it was getting to the point where it was unbearable, the procedure was done.

This is what was drained from my lung. Looks like Guinness!

While I continued to suffer from a migraine for the rest of the day, I did feel much better after the lung drain. I could breathe much more easily and I’m certain that the relief of having the procedure done and behind me contributed to my feeling of wellness too. Upon viewing my x-ray, Dr. Patel happily told me that I would probably be discharged the next day! Things were definitely looking up.

Nailed-to-a-Cross Jesus knew better, though.

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