In the days since my last update regarding my sister, things have taken a bizarre turn.
When I last wrote, she was in the intensive care unit (ICU), slowly recovering from a staph infection that nearly claimed her life. All seemed to be good, but her heart rate was rather excessive, her blood pressure far too low, and she had periodic bouts of what seemed to be delirium, with emotions that seemed fine one moment, and were vastly different the next.
At the end of last week, her physicians – henceforth noted as ‘The Brain Trust” – decided that she was well enough to be released from ICU, and deposited into a normal hospital room. This room would be private (as was the ICU room), but approximately half the size; it was cramped, off to the side, lacked any decent window view, and was overall depressing. The floor was warm when I went to visit, but I dismissed the heat, as I was wearing a sweater and an overcoat, and the nursing staff was less doting than the ones I’d dealt with in ICU. Again, I wrote this off as a change in environments, and that it was no big deal.
Well, my visit with Baby Sis lasted all of five minutes. She was awake for a split-second, before falling asleep. She’d awake, and the process would repeat. I knew that she hadn’t been sleeping, as the myriad of drugs in her system were all producing various side-effects (including an ulcer). She was also swallowing gulps of air. When I asked if she needed a nurse, she waved me off, asking me not to say anything since this was nothing to worry about. I figured that this behavior was another result of what The Brain Trust had been doing, so it was good to just let her rest. I went off to work cautiously optimistic.
Then, I received a telephone call.
My brother called to tell me that they’d rushed Baby Sis back to the ICU. Her breathing was not normal, nor was it the result of anything done up to this point. There were other signs that something wasn’t right, but that was the gist of what he’d been told. So after work, I made the trek back to the ICU. I was disheartened to learn that she was not on the floor she’d previously been, but instead been placed on a lower floor. It was warm, too. I walked in and went to the main desk – I really didn’t know what room she occupied – and waited. When nurses approached, they did so as if I weren’t even there; my ego didn’t suffer as I was in an intensive care unit, and the nurses were not there for my benefit. Everyone in a room who surrounded me at that moment was one step away from death; this was certainly not the time to scream, “Ahem! Anybody here?”
But what did get me was that my sister’s room had a host of signs on the doors that limited who could enter. What was going on? I’m her primary contact; someone should have said something to me about this. Someone should have given me an update on her condition. Instead, I find out by reading a sign taped to her door. I’d need a nurse’s permission to visit my sister, and if granted, I’d have to don a mask and gown, and enter through a special door. The restrictions were dizzying, and I was no closer to an answer than I was that morning. When I was finally able to pin down a nurse, she said that I could see Baby Sis if I wanted, but that they preferred that I didn’t.
What the hell does that mean?
“Well, she’s had a number of visitors,” the nurse said, in an exacerbated manner, “and she really needs her rest. If you go in, you’ve got five minutes, but again, it’s in her best interests for you not to see her right now at all.”
Part of me wanted to jump across that desk and slap the crap out of that nurse. She was so dismissive, so condescending. But she was essentially correct – my other sister and brother had seen Baby Sis, so maybe it was best for me to just stand down and wait a day or two. My getting arrested would not help her, and I doubt that it’d do wonders for me. I swallowed my anger and slowly walked away. I’ll be back, I thought, and next time we’ll actually get to talk.
Two days later, I made another attempt to visit. I figured that was more than enough time for her to settle down a bit, and perhaps to have gotten some much-needed sleep. This visit was worse than the previous, as this time I had to deal with a hospital technician who acted as though I shouldn’t have even been on the hospital grounds – much less in the building and on his floor. When I asked to see my sister, he was more dismissive than the nurse had been; my desires to swing fists would have been totally justified, had I chosen to do so. When he turned away while I was talking with him (for no reason other than to signal that the conversation was over), I knew that this was going to be “their thing,” so again – I swallowed my anger and left the hospital.
I am trying as hard as I can to put this all behind me. I’m fighting a temptation to contact a lawyer and make this whole affair ugly. I am resisting a desire to ask for supervisors and demand some sort of penalty for those involved. I’m not interested in making someone else’s life difficult; nursing is bad enough on its own. But I am there to see my sister, a woman who has spent an entire month of her life in an ICU bed, being told more than half of that time that she may not see tomorrow. If the situation is truly that bad, then give me – give us – the opportunities we need to settle our affairs, and stop acting like a bunch of petty, tin-star wearing tyrants.
I hate that hospital. Let me say it again: I hate, hate, hate that frickin’ hospital. I’ve hated it for years. The ICU staff on the earlier floor were wonderful – God bless each one of them. Before, I had access. Before, I had physicians and nurses who answered questions and kept me in the loop regarding her care. But that was before. This new floor and it’s crew? This is the mentality that I’m used to seeing at that hospital – rude, arrogant, and dismissive. I know that working in medicine can be trying, both physically and mentally, but seriously – this place is the antithesis of what a hospital – any hospital – should be. And before anyone accuses me of being unfair or petty, realize that I’ve acted as primary contact for three members of my family who’ve all been treated at this facility over the last twenty years – I know of what I speak. It’s been several days now, and I still don’t know what’s going on, as I still haven’t been contacted.
Okay. Rant’s over. Sorry about that.