Nose Bleed from Hell

The day after I left the hospital, I woke up from a dead sleep with my nose streaming blood. It bled for over three hours. The first two hours, a steady flow, were the scariest, sending me to the ER at 3:30 in the morning, wife and daughter with iPad in tow. And once again I know why I could never kill anyone. It’s the blood. Not that I’m shy about seeing it, but it gets everywhere. And unless you’re Dexter and wrap up your victim in plastic, you’re going to get caught because of it. We’re still finding brown spots in our house days later.

As I had my hands full during this ER stay and didn’t think to snap a photo, I used a photo from my last visit, which wasn’t that long ago. Argh.

At the ER, the nice, but “unseasoned” doctor first sprayed Afrin in my nose, which is a great trick to know when you need to stop a bleed. But, and here is another important thing to know when you have a bloody nose, if your blood pressure goes up because you’re anxious, the bleeding may continue. And that’s what happened to me, causing an “Afrin fail,” though we didn’t understand the blood pressure connection at that point.

Move on to Plan B and bring on the tampon nose-balloons. Insertion and inflation complete, I bled around them, over them, under them. Until I didn’t. Then the blood built up and drained down the back of my throat. Then they leaked again. Second fail. What’s Plan C?

I had a moment where I wondered if I should invite my wife and daughter back to the room filled with red and white towels because the doctor sounded like he was out of tricks and I had this strange feeling that after all of these years I might be killed by a bloody nose. Irony?

The bleeding went on until I did two things. I made the connection between anxiety and what the volume of blood coming out of my nose and asked for something to relax me. I received an Ativan tablet, which surprised me as they had an IV in me and could have express-trained the dose. I also called my sinus doctor since I thought I needed to take control and do everything I could to fix the situation. To my surprise he called me back, instructing the ER doctor to get my blood pressure down (as in get me to relax), tilt my head forward, and place an ice pack on my nose and forehead.

Hello to more Ativan and a blue bag filled with ice. 30 minutes or so later my nose was down to an annoying faucet-like drip and I was slurring my words. And after three hours at the ER, I let my wife drive me home.

Nine hours after the bloody nose started, I arrived at the sinus doctor. He deflated and removed the balloons, mixed up some glue-like substance that reminded me of the time I epoxied rebar into cement, coated my sinuses with it, and the bleeding stopped. Relief at last.

He sent me home with a prescription for Ativan and the following advice should my nose start bleeding again: shove Afrin-soaked cotton balls up my nose, lean my head forward, squeeze my nostrils, place an icepack on my nose and forehead, and find a quiet place to remain calm. And kiss my ass goodbye.

Okay, not the last part, but you know that’s what I’ll be thinking if it happens again.

Dog on a chain

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The doctors Rotor Rootered my sinuses yesterday. Their choice of verbs, not mine. And boy what a fun night it led to, my sinuses running red non-stop, completely dammed, making breathing through my mouth my only option.

Yes, last night the bleeding never ended and no one was that concerned. Or not as much as I was. I’m glad I didn’t have the surgery as an outpatient, though I would have probably been given better instructions and advanced warning about the blood faucet. The picture I attached shows about a quarter of the bleeding – at most.

When the doctors rounded this morning they told me the bleeding was normal and weren’t concerned. Timing is everything, and information like that would have been valuable to know yesterday, when I spent an hour on the Internet looking up post-surgery FAQs. Thanks for that, my white-coated friends. Fun with a capital FU. (I take that back. Thanks for not drilling into my avocado-sized brain yesterday.)

Like all hospital visits, this one has delivered its fair share of mental trials, like sleeping with blocked nasal passages and the last-minute catches of incorrect Tobra doses two days in a row – score one for the nurse and one for me. Isn’t delivering correct doses of IV meds a core skill? Come on, people, it’s not like accidentally adding an extra patty to a Big Mac. Get it right before my kidneys burst into flames.

Thanks to the Universe for a book I read recently, Unbroken. It recounts the true story of Louis Zamperini and what he endured during WWII. Big baby that I am, I thought of his hardships in Japanese POW camps and my discomfort became manageable. There will be no feeling sorry for myself here. Period.

10 to 14 days in the hospital? Easy time.

I developed a Bejeweled habit. I sit here for hours shuffling gems around and making colorful rows, then igniting the explosive ones. Bang, pow, pop, everyone clap. Hand to my heart, I’m really embarrassed, especially because I’ve earned a badge in every category. I’m holding my fingers in an “L” shape to my head right now. Usually I spend my time in Hell much better, but I’m tired and this is day 10.

I’ve done some work here, which is a “no no.” I can’t help it. I have projects to manage and to keep moving forward, and doing so makes me feel I have some control over my life despite being locked up and attached to an IV pole most of the day, which makes me a perfect candidate to come back in my next life as a hound dog chained to a backyard tree all day.

Bark, bark, bark, bark. In “dog” that means, “losing one’s freedom to roam bites the big one.”

Hospital Communication Tales

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There are certain things an attractive, charming, intelligent woman should never say to a dying man locked up and trapped in a room the size of a walk-in closet. At the top of the list is, “if there is anything I can do for you, anything at all, please let me know.”

Yes, one of the few RTs I have ever liked said this to me the other day. And I had to do a double take, my first thought complete confusion. Did I miss something? What does that mean? Was there some hidden meaning to it?

That’s the problem with saying something like that to a guy. Or to me. I’m not bright enough to understand an ambiguous statement. Does it mean you’ll get in your car and drive to McDonalds for me, buy me two McGriddles, and hand feed them to me while I recline in the hospital bed?

I’ve obsessed over the statement for two days now. And I’ve kicked myself for not simply asking, “What do you mean by that?” I’m sure it would have been innocent and harmless, as I look like . . . and smell like . . . five days of hospital grime and fevers. But I am a curious person with a vivid imagination set loose by ambiguities.

But that wasn’t the strangest thing said to me this week. It doesn’t come close. Here’s my favorite.

A nurse conducted her assessment – blood pressure, temp, pulse ox. And then she said this: “Turn around please and let me listen to those pretty little lungs.”

Yes.

I can’t make up something like that. Well, I guess I could, but I’m not sure I’d want to because it’s kind of creepy. And that’s what I said to her: “That may be the creepiest thing anyone has ever said to me in the hospital.”

But I said it with a smile on my face. I love odd statements, especially here in the pits of Hell. And when I joked about calling the HR department, she did a double-take. “I’m joking,” I said. “It’s all good, my lungs weren’t offended, but they aren’t feeling very pretty today.”

Awkward silence. Not sure she’ll be saying that to another patient now after I batted it around verbally for five minutes. Too bad. I ruined it for others. Or did I? Or are only my lungs pretty? I’d like to think so.

I’m not sure why I speak to doctors who work the weekend shift. There’s really no point. They’re here to collect the $300 or $400 for entering the room, and only want to make sure you’re still breathing and not lying on the floor in a pool of your body fluids with the word “anything?” written in your own blood on the board that reads “Pain Goal.” (Mine is in the photo.)

So, even if I cut off two of my own fingers and glued them to my head like a devil on Sunday, the weekend doctor would take one look and say, “you may want to mention that to your doctor on Monday.”

That’s it. It’s been a rough two days of not feeling well. And that damn statement? “Anything” with emphasis? What did that mean?

Yes, I have problems. I know.

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One more item checked off my bucket list: Acupuncture

I did it. I finally did it. Say hello to the human pin cushion. I let a doctor stab needles in me from head to ankle. One between the eyes, a few on the side of my face, and more down my arms and legs.

The DIY acupuncture kit from Home Depot is cheaper and equally effective.

And the experience wasn’t free of pain either. The needles in one ankle and one elbow smarted. But it was nothing compared to the pain of an IV started by a nurse fresh from nursing school.

The needles were easy. Having to lie flat on the exam table for 30 minutes  – not so easy or fun. I don’t like being horizontal and unable to move around, and 30 minutes of not being productive was torture – until the table started spinning and I had this strange floating feeling. That was a bonus.

But I can’t say I really felt any different during the procedure or immediately after it. I was a little disappointed and didn’t think I would return for another session.

And then I got home.

Yes. Home. And I started feeling . . . strange. My wife’s green eyes seemed greener and her hair darker, with more texture, richer. She looked amazing.

Luckily, my daughter was busy Skyping with a friend and too busy to notice her parents sneaking off to another room. I grabbed my measuring tape as my alibi, just in case, as we may redo the bedrooms when we remodel the kitchen.

[CUT TO: black and white movie from the 50s and image of train going through a tunnel, followed by fireworks and rockets blasting off.]

I have my moments. I don’t have many of them, but I do have them.

Then the rest of the day I felt high. And if someone had offered me another session of acupuncture, I would have jumped at the chance. In fact, I felt like a junky needing a fix.

Euphoric? Is that the correct word?

I’ll be returning for another treatment. I can’t really explain what happened during the first one, but something did. And it’s worth exploring to see if there’s more magic in those needles – or if the doctor is dipping them in a solution made of something very unique and illegal in most countries.

Either way, one more item off my list – with a bonus experience. It doesn’t get better than that. I heart acupuncture.

Something I would give to my worst enemy – c diff

I don’t believe in the saying, “I wouldn’t give that to my worst enemy.” Not me. I’d give everything bad I could think of to my worse enemy. And other than passing on my cystic fibrosis, c diff would be second on my list.

This is the devil picture on Wikipedia? That's the best they can do? Hmm. Oh, well, I'm wishing c diff on the devil, though I have my suspicions he invented it.

Holy f**k, this bacteria is not pleasant. I had to start week three of the Vanco. And just when I think I have the upper hand on it, bang, boom, bang, there goes my stomach again.

Where is my worst enemy to give this to?

I’ve had some days with this sucker when I wished a meteor would fall from the sky, pulverize me and the c diff. Pile of dust and dead bacteria. Kind of like the movie where the hero grabs the enemy and jumps off a rooftop, taking both of their lives, to save the world. Not sure what that movie was called, but you know the genre, I hope. Hero dies to save the world. I just want to kill the c diff for the good of the world (and me).

I’m doing everything right. Taking the vanco on time, eating probiotics, getting sleep, making little c diff voodoo dolls to throw in the bonfire each night in an ancient c diff-be-gone ritual. Then I apply war paint to my face and chest and dance through the neighborhood in a kilt. My neighbors close their shades and turn off their lights. No one home, go away.  

Bacteria have it out for me. Story of my life. Story of your life?

In other random news, my wife is losing hair and is stressed about it. I think it’s from living with me and am surprised it didn’t happen sooner, like a week after she met me.

In reality, it’s probably her job. She stresses too much about it and is 10 times the worker I am. However, we don’t live in a big house or drive exotic cars, and we don’t have a boat or coke habits, and we don’t because we don’t want to stress about these things.

But she stresses like we do have these worries and that’s not right. And if she’s going to stress that much, we may as well move up to a larger house. I’ve always wanted a Porsche. And god knows I can throw a rock in any direction in this city and hit a coke dealer. Oops, sorry, meth dealer. I don’t live in Beverly Hills.

So, tonight I played the following TED video for her. It’s really about happiness, not work, and appreciating what you do have. Hopefully, it will help her fight the deterioration of aging and have a positive mindset. Or not.

I don’t like seeing her go through this, but I’ve been living it for many years and depend a great deal on Super Glue to hold my stuff together. Works like magic.

We all go through it don’t we? If we live long enough. But how we go through it is what matters most, isn’t it? No sense being unhappy about the inevitable. As my ex-friend Fox would say, Party like it’s your last.

(The TED clip is below. It’s funny. Please check it out. It may make you happier. Or maybe it won’t. Will. Won’t. Will. Won’t. Oh, hell, give it a shot. What do you have to lose?)

Hospital stays are like snowflakes

The master escape artist

I escaped.

Once again.

Yes, once again, I lived to tell about my journey to the Hospital California. And I wonder if it’s how Houdini felt when he escaped his self-made devices. Until he didn’t.

One day, I won’t, but I’m hoping that day is a long time coming.

But I do feel like I know what it’s like to hang upside down in a straight jacket and chains staring down at the ground and swelling crowd, which in my world is filled with doctors and nurses.

They look up at me, an oddity, dangling, and wish for a single link to snap, to give into the weight, and bring me down to earth. Splat. Now this is something they’ve seen in a medical textbook. Page 898, not unlike an egg hitting the floor.

Once again the experience was unique and unlike any other hospital stay. They’re never the same. New nurses, doctors, personalities, dosages, drugs, tests, sounds, smells – mistakes. Every day a new challenge. Every day a new result. You never leave the same person.

This time, like many others, I left feeling worse than when I went in thanks to C diff. I didn’t escape unscathed. My stomach is wrecked.

Obviously, the antibiotics harm the good bacteria in my gut, but I counter it with probiotics, which have worked in the past. This time the fridge was set to “high” before I noticed. I didn’t know a small fridge could get Alaska cold. So, I’m wondering if the freezing temperature ruined my stock of probiotics. Or if I didn’t take enough. I don’t know. But I do know I’m in for two weeks of vanco, a blowtorch of a drug.

I’ll be dropping pounds in the coming weeks.

You want to know the fastest way to loose weight? It’s not Jenny f**king Craig. It’s c diff. It strips the weight off fast. And you can eat all you want. Doesn’t matter. Shove it all in. Go to a buffet, run behind the counter and protective glass and stick your face in each tray. Eat like a horse. Go mad. Scream out, “I can eat anything I want and you assholes can’t stop me.”  The scale won’t care. It’s magic and never goes up.

I do wonder, and I had this thought in the hospital, too, if it’s not best at some point not do everything right. Not to eat right. Not to do treatments. Not to exercise. But rather, to adopt the Rock Star lifestyle of excess. I wonder. It sounds appealing at times, but not realistic for a long life span.

And as mine may come to an end soon – let’s hope not – I feel more pressure than ever to create something memorable to leave behind. To do something different with the time I have. I’m not sure what it is. Just something satisfying. A good use of my time. Because, god knows, I’m misused what I’ve had over the years.

The pressure of creative success never goes away. It’s a ghost that haunts.