This is the second installment in the Colonodyssey Series, chronicling my intestinal adventures. While undergoing a routine medical test today, I was strongly reminded of my time spent last month in the hospital. Today’s installment picks up where we last left our heroine, in the ER of a suburban community hospital.
12th House Bugaloo
I consider this a 12th house experience because Venus and Mercury were transiting my 12th house. In addition, Pluto had just entered my 12th house after a lengthy and interesting stay in my 11th. I do not think these placements triggered my illness in themselves ( to be covered in another article), but they emphasized an insular experience in a 12th house ruled institution.
What I noticed even today during a short-term outpatient test is how pronounced my reactions are to people, places and things. This sensitivity was quite prominent during my three-day hospital stay. Take this into consideration as you read the rest of my tale. I find both the brightest and darkest aspects of myself are brought to the surface when in the throes of crisis.
I encountered Julia the ER nurse almost immediately. She was bright, friendly, compassionate, and humorous. She shared her dedication to her faith and her appreciation of alternative health care. I felt safe with her and did not want her to leave my side. I was worried the other nurses may not be so devoted or kind. She seemed angelic to me and I was very grateful to her. The doctor was also kind ( do not recall name). The attendant who kept banging my bed into walls as I was transported to get a CT scan, not so much. She kept talking about how tired she was and her studies. Typically I would feel compassion, but at this stage of the game I was tired, hungry, and in pain. I did not understand why she was telling me her problems.
I was told that I needed to be admitted and I was too exhausted to protest. Julia said that the nurse I was assigned to was a good nurse. In retrospect, I see that was an accurate assessment. She was not engaging or angelic, but she was consistent and professional. I did not know how good I had it.
As the hours became longer stretches of mornings, afternoons, and evenings, I began to feel very much boxed into an unfamiliar world. A world where I was just a visitor. A world where I was held captive, an observer rather than a participant. I was a stranger in a strange land. This place is called Insular World. It became obvious early on that the patients were just collateral damage. We were often ignored or treated with disdain by some of the nursing staff. This also was prevalent at the other hospital I stayed in back in 2015. Now I like nurses generally. Several friends of mine are nurses. I also worked with some nurses as clients in my therapy practice. I highly respect the profession as it requires stamina, patience, and dedication. But when nurses either burn out, become routinely overworked, or simply find themselves in the wrong profession, look out. It seemed that the nurse to patient ratio on the floor was too high. I want to emphasize that my medication was given several hours late more than once, that I was not told in advance about adverse side effects that caused excruciating pain, and that I threatened to leave early against medical advice. This is not a dramatic element added to spice up this story. I gave it strong consideration. Issues of trust and control were resurrected once again. I like my independence and autonomy and surrendering my will to others was incredibly difficult. I thought about how life itself is beyond the grasp of human limitations and frailties. I had plenty of time to think.
Insular world is where you are left alone with your thoughts, defenses, and fears. It is where you are told what to eat, what to do, and when you can leave. You are subjected to unfamiliar machines, procedures, and people without warning or explanation. Okay, there was some explanation. The hospital floor is a workplace for a variety of people who worked round the clock. I encountered people of every shape, size, age, color, ethnicity and temperament. What they all had in common was the hospital. This was their territory. It reminded me of when I worked at a hospital as an intern many years ago. It also reminded me how much I miss having a place to be on a regular basis with others assembled to serve a common purpose. It is humbling to serve others and to require service. These interdependent relationships are slippery and complex. I concluded that the only way to seamlessly navigate this environment is to either be comatose or totally drugged out on sedatives. The squeaky wheel did not necessarily get the grease.
All is not lost
But there were some highlights among the ruins. Besides Julia, there was Debra who works in Finance. She was kind and beyond patient with me on the phone. Within minutes she came to my room and discussed various options with me. She was consistent, prompt, and courteous. It is interesting that at both hospitals I had excellent rapport with the Financial staff. If only they could be cloned! There was also the kind man who took my vitals signs. He had a great laugh. There was the secretary who joked with me and sometimes sided with me against one of the nurses. At the end of my stay she revealed that she is also a Scorpio. Imagine that!
My most enjoyable exchanges were with two young woman I met towards the end of my stay. I kept myself busy mostly by doing self-advocacy work. I was on the phone trying to get a different specialist, arranging visits with Social Services, and general troubleshooting. I felt more powerful on the phone communicating with folks outside Insular World. A graduate Social Work student came up to see me and I could tell she was new to the field. I spent the majority of the time asking her about her education and career aspirations. For awhile I forgot I was sitting in a hospital bed.
Last but not least was Maggie. Whenever you ring the call bell, you are surprised by who arrives at your room. A teenage volunteer came by and I asked her to find some magazines. After she retrieved some for me, she spent about an hour or more hanging out with me. She told me about her hobbies, her boyfriend, her college plans and why she enjoys volunteering. When I mentioned that I wanted to contact friends via Facebook she offered to get me signed in on her smart phone so I could alert others about my illness. During our visit, I came back to life. It really struck me how much I love talking with young people and learning about their aspirations. I am my happiest helping others by engaging and showing genuine interest. I think of Maggie often and hope she is able to follow her dreams. She clearly has a way with people that seems effortless and natural.
Much more drama ensued due to disagreements about medication and discharge. Fortunately the last doctor assigned to me was willing to compromise towards finding a mutually acceptable solution. I stayed one extra day and I was to remain on the medication that my system could tolerate. Luckily it was effective and my infection was eradicated. Being allergic to several classes of antibiotics left me wondering if I am not of this planet. But we can discuss that some other time.
to be continued….
header image via wikipedia.org, public domain