Impatient inpatient insights

I left my home at 6:15ish a.m. on Monday. I was in the ER within walking distance of my home by around 6:30, blood drawn around 7 a.m. and admitted shortly thereafter. I was transferred to another hospital, arriving at 3 pm, and I haven’t left my 9th floor room every since.

It is 9:30 am on Thursday.

I had a cat bite. One tooth. Punctured my finger. 3 pound kitten.

The almost instantaneous cellulitis was scary.

The fact that it got infected is not unexpected—most people don’t realize that 50% of cat bites get infected versus 5 to 10% of dog bites.

This whole adventure taught me a lot about animals, emergency medicine and hospitals.

My favorite nurse Michelle just announced I am being discharged as soon as she can fill out the paperwork. They cultured my blood— that was those bottles I posted the other day—and nothing grew!

So now that these have come back clean, I can head home. My neighbor, Jan, little dog Sobaka’s mom, is on her way.

I have set up my follow up appointment with my primary care physician, who will be very glad to see my blood pressure has reached normal levels.

I can’t even remember what I wanted to write in this because I’m so excited to go home.

  • I drink a lot of water and also urinate a lot. If the average person urinates 2000 ml a day, I probably hit almost 3000 ml.
  • I heard a “rapid response team” code 3 times while in the hospital, once each night around 8 pm. Last night, it was in a room a few doors from mine. Seeing the red cart fly by and people streaming from every direction, including the corridor I could see from my window. It was sobering.
  • I always feel like I’ve ordered half the hospital menu and when the food comes, I’m always shocked at how little food is on the tray.
  • My blood pressure was consistently about 117/75.
  • Being in the hospital for 3.5 days allowed me to follow the routines and “get to know” the staff and the other patients. In this time of Coronavirus, I couldn’t leave my room without mask and what not and really where would I go?
  • I saw the nurses deal with several difficult situations.
  • I watched the patients walking the corridors for exercise, in their gowns and with their IV poles.
  • I loved watching shift change, and when the residents and interns gathered for rounds.

This didn’t work out like I expected

I spoke with the teenager early this morning and asked for some pet updates throughout the day and this is what I can tell you:

Zeus and Artemis

Zeus and Artemis are allowing the teenager closer. Hermes doesn’t do more than a token flee when the teenager administers his meds.

Misty

Misty has taken to sleeping in my purse, which is balanced on a stool.

Good news: Ortho, the department supervising my wound care, has released me to go home.

The teenager brought me a cute top for discharge.

Bad news: My attending physician will not release me until I have 72 hours of normal blood draws just to ensure that there is no infection lingering in my system.

When I got to the ER on Monday morning, my blood work drawn at 7 am was normal, my blood work drawn here 24 hours later was also normal. So, and the attending physician specifically said this— If they draw my blood tomorrow at 7 am and it is also normal, I can go home.

This explains why I unexpectedly had another IV bag of antibiotics. Last night I slept well enough to dream and my brain transformed the chime from the IV pump in the room neighboring mine to Diana Ross’ “I’m coming out.” I dreamt I was dancing in a disco.

The noise: Explanation of the noise in my dream on YouTube

And if you don’t know the song: Diana Ross “I’m coming out” on YouTube

Upon hearing the news that my discharge would be delayed, I’ll be honest… I cried. Not in front of the doctor or my favorite nurse but I did cry.

Then I called “the meal hotline” and told them I was stress eating dinner tonight. I ordered a garden salad, cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and ranch dressing, broccoli, tator tots and a fruit cup.

Speaking of food, I tried the pancakes for breakfast with turkey sausage (that had a bite) and the chicken salad on rye for lunch. I promised the teenager I would try the sugar cookies.

Good news: The pancakes tasted as good as a diner. I was craving honeydew melon and it was so delicious. And the chicken salad also hit the spot.

Bad news: The breakfast was too small for me— if I do that again I am going to have to get scrambled eggs as that was not enough food for me and I was physically shaking by lunch.

Nala

Now that my meals are situated, I FaceTimed my cockatoo. That always cheers me up. I don’t have any clean clothes, except for a pair of jeans, so I asked Gayle to bring me a t-shirt and some dental floss.

She said yes and offered to stop and get me Dunkin so I placed an order. First I got her an iced tea and then I ordered munchkins. I checked out and realized I forgot my order. So I placed a second order.

Apparently that Dunkin’ closes at 2 and they were no longer accepting mobile orders— even though I had placed one one minute earlier.

And they were out of munchkins. So we got doughnuts in the munchkin flavors.

When Gayle left, it felt so good to wash, floss and put on the closest thing I had to an outfit.

Random Hospital Tidbits during a tropical storm

I think I have a sense of humor

My daughter brought extra dry erase markers so we could have fun with the nurses and my care team. Yes, as the a patient with cellulitis from a kitten bite I drew paw prints all over my board.

Today was my second day in the hospital at St. Luke’s Bethlehem/Fountain Hill and also the day that Tropical Storm Isaias wreaked havoc in the Lehigh Valley.

This is the only unplanned hospital stay I have ever had and will also be the longest. My other other experience in the hospital was giving birth to my daughter.

There are only two parts of this experience that I have disliked: IVs, though I have learned to ignore them, and collecting my urine so everyone can monitor my fluids.

Everyone on staff has been kind, and most downright enjoyable and intelligent. But Nurse Michelle has been my favorite.

Michelle finally arranged all my IV tubes into a double Dutch arrangement so they don’t have to keep swapping them out on my arm. She labeled everything meticulously. Attention to detail is the perfect trait for a nurse.

The hospital has lovely old architecture and picturesque views.

I started betadine soaks today. I’m tickled that such basic medicine still works well. I also feel like I’m hanging out with Marge from the Palmolive commercials.

“You’re soaking in it.”

Old Palmolive Commercial on You Tube

The teenager stopped by so that was fun— we took silly pictures. Speaking of the teenager and silly photos, I FaceTimed my cockatoo last night.

And in the category of things that make me happy—

Checking in to the 9th floor

The charge nurse introduced herself and asked me if I had Covid or any signs of Covid. I said no. She was curious why I had been swabbed and tested for Covid. I told her that they had told me that it was required before my transfer.

She discusses this with the doctor.

Then I discovered I had been admitted to the cancer floor and anyone with Covid or Covid exposure can’t be on the floor. The patients here are all very immunocompromised.

I read the hospital menu as I want for my admissions tests. It’s torture as it is after 3 pm and I’ve had about 350 calories of food and 6 grams of protein all day. And then I see Monday lunch features maple glazed Brussel sprouts.

If you follow my blog, you may now Brussel sprouts are my favorite and I narrowly missed them. I was heartbroken.

** side note** Every staff person I have met at both of these facilities (I started at St. Luke’s Easton Campus) has been amazing.

The nurse finished most of my paperwork when a very handsome doctor strolls in, with sandy light brown hair and big eyes, swoops in to check my finger. He’s the specialist, the regular doctor and the nurse have all seen the cellulitis from the puncture/bite caused by a 3-pound kitten.

He tells me his plan for treatment—a maceration dressing. Now at first, I got this word mixed up with “eviscerate” and thought maybe they planned to make a brace of nails to poke holes in my flesh and let whatever was beneath the flesh ooze out.

The reality is far less gruesome but probably just as uncomfortable.

He carefully explained, but I’m going to summarize and share pictures. They put wet gauze around my hand, wrap it in a splint, wrap it in some soft stuff, tape it like a candy cane, put a plastic bag over it, wrap it in a heated blanket, put it in a big sling and hang it over my head.

“Ah,” I said. “The height of 2020 technology here.”

“It works,” he said.

He returned with a resident and an intern and they set to work. I love being in a teaching hospital because I learn so much.

I finally ordered some food and I meant to ask the kitchen staff if they had any Brussel sprouts left over from lunch but I forgot. I went with the beef brisket. And a sweet potato. Applesauce. Lemon meringue pie. Salad.

When it arrived, my tray only had spoons as utensils.

I have my left arm suspended from an IV pole. My right arm has an IV in the elbow. And I have to eat salad and cut meat with a spoon.

So the nurse came in for one of those routine things that nurses do, and I asked her, “Is it customary to not receive forks?”

She looked at my tray and started to laugh.

I must have looked a good tad baffled.

“It’s usually hard to get a spoon around here,” she said.

“They were saving them for me,” I replied.

Note the utensils

She found me some plastic utensils and I was able to dine more delicately. Later at shift change, the nurse and I managed to convince the night nurse that I was under doctor’s orders not to have a fork.

I should know not to joke about food as I had an NPO go into effect at midnight just in case I needed surgery in the morning.

I slept from about 1 to 4 a.m., and the resident undressed my contraption shortly after 6. The swelling had reduced, the redness gone, only one knuckle still swollen. The resident squeezed and poked and prodded but no discharge or puss oozed out.

This means no surgery!

The morning after

We will be doing another 12 hours of fluids, electrolytes and unasyn. And betadine soaks. I have noticed the knuckle is no longer swollen!

Waiting for my ambulance

If you look at my last few entries, you will read about the tiny, little cat bite that sent me to urgent care and then to the ER at St. Luke’s Easton Campus. I never expected what happened next,

Right away, at 6:40 or so a.m., the doctor in the emergency room explained my options. They preferred to start IV antibiotics, then transfer me to one of the larger hospitals in the network.

Which would require an ambulance.

So I asked, “Could I just go to the hospital myself?”

And he explained I could, but he would be discharging me against medical advice, and then I would start over in the other emergency room. Which might mean two separate emergency room charges. And not being monitored. And losing my spot in the triage line.

And he recommended asking for removal of the transfer charges.

Now they have drawn on me with surgical marker at this point and i can see my finger swelling and my infection spreading. Two knuckles are completely swollen and angry.

I want to get this treated ASAP. So I agreed.

I’ve seen every episode of House MD, I know infections that spread are bad.

That was an attempt at levity. I don’t think all doctors are like House.

This is only my first real hospitalization— unless you count childbirth.

Now, Easton Hospital has a long history in the small community where I live. When I moved here, Easton Hospital was still a small, independent hospital. A few years ago, the Steward Group bought it and made it a for-profit hospital.

Which, for the sake of trivia, increased the tax base in our borough.

But over the course of the last year, Steward closed down entire departments. When Covid-19 hit, Steward threatened to close the whole damn hospital if the state didn’t offer massive financial support.

In May, St. Luke’s University Health Network bought the hospital. My doctors are all affiliated with this network so when the urgent care suggested going to the emergency room, this one is about 600 steps from my house.

I didn’t know that in the transition, the hospital has not fully rebuilt its services and wasn’t equipped for my care. I would have gladly driven to the larger hospital. Oh well.

By about 10 a.m. my ER nurses have given me a second antibiotic (the urgent care had given me oral Bactrim), hand x-rays, and fluids. They also swab me for Covid as a safety precaution prior to transfer. That was squiggly. The hospital where I must go is full, so I have to wait for another patient to be discharged.

And it is the full moon.

I have my own triage room in the ER. At about 11:30, my neighbor, Sarah, comes and brings my phone charger, iPad, teddy bear and my favorite sweat shirt.

We talk, play cards, watch TV and learn that I am not allowed to eat. My hand may need surgery. The nurse apologetically offers me clear fluids but also offers me a milk. I ask for the ginger ale.

Lunch was Shasta. It was a perfectly tasty and cold Shasta that hit the spot.

Sarah and I play cards as I drink my Shasta

The Easton squad arrives at 2:20 p.m. for my 2:30 transport. I am happy to report that my blood pressure has been good. I joke around as they strap me on, which this is really the silliest medical transport ever.

It’s almost 9 p.m. I’ll finish this tomorrow.

The wound at the time of transfer

The unfortunate cat bite

So yesterday in our first attempt to medicate Hades’ eyes, she bit me.

As I wrote yesterday, I went to the urgent care and was prescribed antibiotics. But this morning the bite and finger was much worse.

Ironically we were able to give both kittens their meds today without a hitch. And Hades even stayed out and didn’t hide after we smeared antibiotic ointment in her eyes.

The black cat at the teenager’s witchy shelf

After we got them treated, I went downstairs, had a little pastry and took my bactrim.

Then I headed to the emergency room at St. Luke’s Easton Campus. I walked over. It’s a gorgeous morning.

Now I left home shortly after 6. I didn’t open the curtains or feed the birds because I figured I could do that when I get home.

The ER has other plans. I need to see a hand surgeon. He will decide whether he needs to open the hand and clean it. Personally I believe he does.

So I have had an X-ray, IV antibiotics and fluids, and a variety of blood work that has also returned normal.

I am sitting and waiting for a room to open at the main hospital in Bethlehem as this one doesn’t have an OR let alone a hand surgeon.

I thought they could just poke a hole in it and be done.

How wrong I was.

Once the room opens, I will ride the ambulance to the other facility.

Have I mentioned I have a high deductible medical plan?

Greek Pride Day 2

So four out of our five kittens in the “Greek Pride” we are fostering for FURR had a great day.

Left to right, kind of clockwise: Hermes (white nose), Zeus & Aphrodite (not sure from this angle who is who), and Artemis

Hermes and Hades both get antibiotic cream for their eyes. Hermes now has no probably with us giving him medicine, though he hisses a bit and puts up a token fight.

Hades, the little black kitten not in the photo, let me scoop her up and bring her to the teenager for her medicine. As I extended her face toward the teen, Hades panicked and started flailing.

I didn’t have a good grasp on the scruff of her neck (she’s 1/3 to 1/4 of the size of all my boys) and when I lifted my hand up to push her front paws against her chest, she bit me.

One tooth made a puncture above the knuckle of my left index finger. The teenager demanded I put the kitten down and go wash.

I washed my arms and hands with soap and water and then poured hydrogen peroxide in all the scratches and covered the puncture with a band aid.

Hades hid. All day.

An hour or so later, before going to the grocery store, I changed the band aid and added some triple antibiotic ointment.

I got the cats some sardines— the teenager deboned one can to share between all nine cans. The kittens, especially the runt, enjoyed them. Hades wouldn’t partake.

Sardines

Over the course of the day my finger swelled and I couldn’t bend it. When I did bend it, some discharge (relatively clear looking with a bit of blood) came out of the wound. It was starting to feel like I slammed it in a car door. I took an Epsom salt bath and headed to the Urgent Care.

Now I love my local urgent care.

This is what I looked like:

Lost the kitty battle

The bite is that small dot above the knuckle on my left index finger.

The assistant who took me to the exam room noticed my wounds and asked if I was there for the scratches. No, I said, showing him the puncture. “Cat bite?” he asked.

“I’m fostering unsocialized kittens and this one needed medicine in his eye,” I replied.

The doctor comes in.

He suggested I have an infection in my fingernail/cuticle and that it traveled into the knuckle. I suggest maybe it’s the puncture. He insists it’s the fingernail and prescribes bactrim, an antibiotic, but he wants me to go to the ER.

I grab a pizza, come home, take my first pill and help the teenager with the kittens. Hermes takes his evening meds like a champ and we scoop up the runt and think we see two little testicles.

We named him Zeus. Zeus likes to eat and likes to play. Artemis plays a little, but Zeus really likes to play.

Video of Zeus playing

When the teenager returned to her room to shower, three of the babies were sleeping on top of the desk instead of under it.

Day Two!

I’m so proud of them!

Errands and decadence

Today started from the get-go with an air that everything would be harder than it needed to be. I’ll spare you my editorializing and stick to my main message.

The other night, the teenager turned to me and asked what happened with our recent cat litter order. Now with four cats in the house I have 30-lbs of cat litter on auto ship from Petco every three weeks. I actually had this order ship early and I upped it to 60 lbs.

Petco Customer Service

Fog

It shipped on July 24. Well yesterday I tracked it, as our five litter boxes are getting low.

The UPS tracking system said “receiver has moved.” Ummm…. I haven’t moved in 17 years and I have been getting this order for more than a year.

I call customer service. I had a very sweet, very friendly representative named “Jean” who didn’t sound American. She informed me she would file the appropriate claim about the missing package.

I quietly said, “and in the mean time, what about my cat litter?”

She placed a new order, free to me, that should arrive in 5 to 7 business days.

Three 30-lb containers of cat litter arrived at noon today. Kudos to Petco.

Errands and paperwork

I finally wrote the letters freezing my Planet Fitness membership. I don’t have a printer, but the teenager does, even though it is running out of ink. I shared the letter with her on Google docs and asked her to print two copies.

Why two copies?

Because even though my home gym is in Easton, some of my paperwork says it is Mount Pocono even though I have never even seen the Mount Pocono Planet Fitness. The letters need to be certified, according to the contract, so I spent $4.10 each to send two. It’s easier than finding out I sent it to the wrong gym.

I had $33 cash and 15 cents in coins when I arrived at the post office. I told him to give me a few stamps and if he could get the total to an even number I would pay cash. At 55 cents each, the math on making that work… well he gave me 14 and it came to $15.90.

He’s probably now thinking the same thing I am— that 2 more stamps would have been the number we wanted, $17.

Ah, well. I’m still not convinced this federal coin shortage isn’t a political move to force Americans into accepting a cashless society. I’m still pissed that we moved our currency away from the gold standard.

Review: McDonald’s Iced Coffee

On the way home from the post office, I stopped at McDonald’s again for a medium iced coffee and to get my free fries Friday medium fries. I had mentioned yesterday that the caramel iced coffee tasted like a milkshake more than coffee.

So today I ordered a medium iced coffee for $1.29 (and my free French fries with a side of spicy buffalo sauce). The standard iced coffee comes with cream and liquid sugar, which confuses me because I think it is also made with whole milk.

Well I ordered mine with no sugar. I don’t like liquid sugar and I don’t put sugar in my coffee.

When I took a sip, it was awful. My Nescafé is better. But once I started eating the French fries and the buffalo sauce, my searing tonsils didn’t have any problem with the coffee any more.

Perhaps I will have to drink all of my iced coffee plain and compare them all. Get one from Dunkin, one from Starbucks and one from McDonald’s.

This is how I think they would rank:

  1. Dunkin’ Donuts
  2. Starbucks
  3. McDonald’s

So, I want McDonald’s to knock Starbucks down a peg as Starbucks coffee is bitter. But McDonald’s struck me as weird. We shall see.

Public relations and mini adventures

The last two days I have been hectic busy. But, yesterday, despite my activities and the sporadic heavy rain, I still walked about 9,400 steps.

Go, me!

Oz the Regal (random cat photo)

I started my day with a video chat with my fellow volunteers at Aspire to Autonomy, Inc. This anti-human trafficking organization helps connect underserved populations with services, while educating about human trafficking and looking for trafficking victims. It then helps victims rebuild their lives and get whatever help they need to reach autonomy.

They are also currently hosting monthly “Feed Northampton County” pandemic response food distributions at the Hispanic Center of the Lehigh Valley and in the West Ward of Easton. Using a pop-up food pantry model, Aspire and their network of ambassadors distribute food, masks and hand sanitizer.

The organization works with interns from Kutztown University’s Master’s of Social Work program. Currently I am working closely with Sarah, who has embraced the idea of learning more about public relations and how it can benefit her in promoting her future activities in her career.

Sarah and I were scheduled to have a video chat to strategize pitching the press release she had written the day before on a training session she and two other interns—Kayla and Sam—are facilitating next week on Pennsylvania’s Act 197. (More on that in a few paragraphs.)

Kayla and organization co-founder Darnell (and my supervisor) joined us to catch up on the list of activities we have going on right now.

I left the meeting energized and started pitching to my end of the media list, while Sarah handled the others. This morning, we noticed that The Valley Ledger had already posted our material. Thank you to them!

To read more about our upcoming training (please come!), click here: Act 197 training .

I hopped from there to a meeting for the fundraising committee of Mary Meuser Memorial Library. We had to cancel our annual book fair, due to Covid-19, and met to discuss future possibilities for fundraising. I floated what I felt was a good idea to use key space in the library (and facing a major thoroughfare) to promote local businesses. The committee like the idea and I am to prepare a proposal.

And the teenager made arrangements with Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab (FURR) to get our kittens fixed next week.

Fog, my office companion

The rest of the afternoon is a blur. But I know I helped with some correspondence for Aspire and pursued some networking opportunities on behalf of the group. I also asked my peers at the organization about an idea I had to promote the enforcement of Act 197 via a social media campaign.

Last night, I visited with my neighbors, watched Golden Girls with the teenager, went for a walk with “my other half,” Buddy’s mom who lives in the other side of my house, cuddled with my cockatoo and watched Indian Matchmaking on Netflix.

This morning somehow I slept until 8:30. And my email alerted me that it was National Drive Thru Day. I wrote a corporate sponsorship letter for Aspire and submitted it to the founders for review. Then, the teenager borrowed Buddy and we went to gather up cheap eats at the drive thru.

First I stopped at Dunkin as I still have more than $30 on my Dunkin gift card. They were offering 100 points on any purchase. I cashed in the free beverage I had on my card and bought the teenager hash browns. Then we stopped at McDonald’s as they were offering a free medium fry with any $1 purchase.

I bought her a $1 large Diet Coke and they kept offering me a $1 McChicken. The teenager told me to get it, so I did, but I had them make one without mayo and with lots of pickles.

There is still much work to be done in coming days as Aspire has several major happenings next week, but it’s exciting that between Aspire and the library board I have the opportunity to freely share my ideas and work to move both agencies forward.

Mama cat, part 2

Whelp, the joke was on us.

Our sweet Mama cat was a neutered male.

What seemed like an awkward baby belly was primordial pouch.

I tried Facebook again to find his owners, but at 5 pm he will be headed to the cat sanctuary.

But that cat looked like Mama.

Explains why it acted differently toward us than in our past experiences.

And the cat was sent off in our biggest cat carrier so now we don’t have enough for all our pets should we have to transport everyone.

So Mama did not get surgery today.