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