(19-03-10) Scripps Mercy Care

I have no insightful stories, no revelational moments to share, no positive progress updates. This hospital is terrible. Most hospitals are, but this i am disgusted by some of their practices here. I’ll get into more detail about my experience here in another blog post, when i have the energy. For now, though, I’m just passing along the facts.

  • They repaired the hole in my ulcer on Wednesday and still do not feel comfortable giving me any solid foods. Instead, they give me a bunch of liquids, most of which are not healthy for anyone, much less a cancer patient.
broth, Italian ice, jello, soda, juice from concentrate
pureed squash, ice cream, lemonade, mashed rice
tomato soup, pudding, milk, juice from concentrate
  • I developed C difficil, presumably as a result of all the antibiotics i have received in the last two months (both here and at Rubio). They have me wearing a diaper, and i sit in my own shit for portions of the day. So now, even though i came in here for an ulcer surgery, they won’t let me leave until they treat the C difficil. They went me to stay here up to two weeks. Not an option.

(19-03-07) Food

Dr. Barrera is out of the country. I seriously am NOT having good luck recently with getting follow-up information from doctors who perform surgery on me. Fuck, how i miss Dr. Matatov right about now.

Here is the plan outlined by Kristina, Dr. Barrera’s P.A.

  1. There will be no food or drink today, either. This is non-negotiable. She said the hole in my stomach/small intestine was pretty big (even though the report said it was less than 1cm), and they covered that hole with an omental flap, which I understand to just be a clump of fatty tissue. They need to give that time to make sure that the flap keeps the hole closed. There was also a lot of cloudy, gooey liquid circulating around my intestines and abdomem, liquid that should have been clear and smooth.
  2. Tomorrow at 9:00, they will remove this drain from my throat. This 40-centimeter hose has been taking mucus and fluid out of my stomach ever since the surgery.
  3. IF, at 10:00am, i am not having additional pain in my stomach from the drain removal, i will be allowed to have water and clear soup broth.
  4. IF, at noon, my stomach handled the soup broth adequately, i will be allowed to have non-clear liquids: jello, yogurt, applesauce, etc.
  5. IF my stomach continues to go all day Saturday handling the non-clear liquids, they MIGHT allow me to have solid food for dinner. Kristina was quite reticent about agreeing to that part; she wants me to wait until Sunday before eating solid foods. So, i know she just said Saturday night to appease me, but I’m likely not going to get anything solid until Sunday.

(19-03-06-07) Surgery – w/update #2 added @4:30am on Thursday

A BULLET LIST OF WHAT I KNOW

(I will update this specific list every time i learn something new on Wednesday or Thursday, instead of writing separate logs. I will bold new information and adjust the title to make it easier for you to know when i have added something. I will start a new bullet list in a separate entry on Friday.)

  • It is offically 36 hours since this nightmare started.
  • I had an ulcer. Surgery was successful, I’ve been told. I have not yet spoken to a doctor about the procedure. From little pieces of information that i have gathered from others, i had a perforated ulcer, meaning the ulcer had ripped a hole in my stomach lining, so there was all this gas moving freely around in my stomach instead of being contained within my intestines like it’s supposed to be.
  • I will be at this hospital for up to a week. One nurse told me the hospital stay for this procedure ranges from 4 days to a couple weeks, with most patients being discharged after a week.
  • I have a catheter in but no colonoscopy bag, which i was told was my worst-case scenario. So that’s a small bit of good news in all this. The catheter will need to stay in for several days.
  • My room at Rubio will be held for me.
  • Hana took Botas today. He is with his new family now.
  • I’m still coming up off anesthesia, which means I’m still disoriented, while the pain is building.
  • I’m in a shared room with a loud and large Mexican family. This room is too small for all these people.
  • I do not want visitors or phone calls. Please stop. Also, be patient with me responding to your texts. I’m completely overwhelmed right now.
  • I’ll work on giving you more positive, friendly bullet points later tonight.
  • I’m pretty sure I’m in a private Christian hospital. Tonight, they conducted a prayer over the loudspeaker.
  • My new roommate this evening was an older Asian lady. Now I am the obnoxious loud one. 🤷🏻‍♀️ Luckily, i am a charmer when i want to be, and i was just informed that my request for a private room was approved. I’ll have my own space within the hour. It really had nothing to do with being charming. Here is a tip for you: If you ever find yourself in the hospital with a roommate, and you want your own private room, tell them you have a history of C difficile. It’s a really gross thing involving poop, and it’s highly contagious in hospitals, so they’ll give you your own isolation room automatically. I learned this trick during one of my other cancer-related surgeries, and it works every time.
  • The pain continues to be insufferable. They won’t give me more than 0.4mg of Dilaudid at a time. (As a reference point, after my other surgeries, i would be sent home with 2mg tablets.) So what happens is i receive a 0.4 dose, it makes me drowsy, i fall asleep, and then just shy of two hours later, i wake up with the same 9/10 level pain and have to wait up to 15 minutes to get the next 0.4 dose approved and administered. In other words, the insufficient dosage is not allowing me to ever get ahead of the pain. I’ve decided to combat this by setting multiple timers on my phone so that i can play their numbers and timers game and get more frequent doses of pain meds (even though those other doses will only be rounds of 0.1mg or 0.2mg, depending on what i tell them my pain level is). Playing this game requires me to stay awake and consciously deal with the pain, which is enormously frustrating but a latent consequence stemming from our country’s mismanagement of opioids.

(19-03-06) A New Kind of Pain

With the exception of some dusky light streaming in through the window, the room was mostly dark. Boiled cabbage was cooling on my neck, chest, back, and legs. I took off my glasses, paused Orphan Black, and closed my eyes to see if i could sneak in a quick nap.

I awoke to the feeling of Botas scampering across my chest. In hindsight, that 4-pound ball of cuteness probably barely grazed me, but in this moment it felt like someone dropped him from the ceiling straight onto my windpipe. A ripple of searing pain coursed through my entire chest. I’m used to abdominal cramping at this point, so i ripped the cabbage wrapping off my body and headed to the bathroom… but the second i sat on the toilet, i knew that wasn’t the problem. The pain went from 2 to 8 in a matter of seconds. It felt like something had exploded inside me, and it was becoming increasingly harder to breathe.

Is it my gall bladder? No, that’s to the right.

My appendix?? No, that’s further down.

Where is my small intestine? Did it rupture?

Is this what an ulcer feels like? Did i suddenly develop an ulcer?

I wasn’t sure, but the pain was continuing to build, and i went into panic mode. I reached for the intercom.

“I need a doctor in here.”

Every step i took made the pain worse. I leaned over the bed and grunted out breaths and obnoxious noises, waiting for staff. I called for a doctor again on the intercom and pushed the buzzer for assistance, in case no one was in the nursing station when i first called for help.

By the time Nahaliel arrived (which was probably only two minutes later), i was at a full-on 10-level pain, positioned on all fours on the bed, crying, and drooling. I tried to explain the stomach pain to him, but his spotty English and my seering pain made our conversation unfruitful… and i lost my temper when he told me to relax.

“I can’t relax. I’m in a lot of fucking pain!”

“I know,” he said. I’ll be apologizing to him later for cursing at him.

Over the course of the next half hour, staff brought a series of pain meds via shots, drip bags, pills, and oral liquids. I didn’t even ask what they gave me, just took all of it. Most of it barely seemed to have any impact. There weren’t any doctors on site during this time, either, so they had to keep calling Dr. Rubio, Sr. at home for guidance and clearance. It took almost two hours for the pain to get down to a 5. Luckily, one of the meds was making me drowsy, so i was looking forward to sleeping through the rest of the pain … but then, almost as soon as i started to feel legitimate relief, the rupturing screams inside my stomach began building again.

By this time, it was after 8:00. I rang for assistance and asked Nurse Paulina if i could talk to Dr. Smith.

“Dr. Smith, something is wrong. I think something ruptured inside my stomach.”

She asked me a series of questions and checked my stomach with her stethoscope. More pain meds in drip bags, more crying on my end, more phone calls to Dr. Rubio Sr, and then Dr. Smith came back with Dr. Campo, the surgeon i hadn’t seen since the first day at the clinic, when he put in my port.

“Tarah, we’d like you to go get some x-rays and a CT scan.”

My first thought was, fuck, how much is this gonna cost me? I was immediately pissed at myself for even caring about that, when clearly there was a bigger issue here.

“Can i go tonight?”

They called Mario, one of the bilingual drivers, to come to the clinic and take me to Imagen Radiologica Integral. I didn’t even change – just threw my robe on over my shirt and shorts that still smelled like boiled cabbage, and added slippers to my socks. Pink shirt, black shorts with a purple stripe, blue robe, red and white socks, blue and gray house shoes, a red/yellow/green Jamaican hat. Not a single thing matched, so you KNOW i was consumed with pain if i was letting anyone take me out in public like that. Getting in and out of the car was brutal; every time i had to move my stomach in any direction, stabbing pains coursed throughout the area. Every pot hole, every speed bump caused similar agony, and i cried the entire ride. The crying made it even harder to breathe, and at one point, i think i started to hyperventilate. When we walked up to the imaging place, and i saw the line, i REALLY started to cry. We were going to be there a while.

It was almost midnight when we returned to the clinic. I don’t want to go to sleep. What if i don’t wake up? I assumed no one would even look at the x-ray results until the next morning, and i was prepared to stay up all night until Dr. Godinez arrived to work between 7-8, so imagine my surprise when Dr. Smith opened my door just five minutes later.

“You have a perforation in your abdomen.” “You’re gonna need a laparoscopy. ” “Emergency surgery.” “Do you have insurance?” “Dr. V, from the lab, loves cats. She’s going to take Botas while you’re gone, so you don’t have to worry about him.”

She said other things, but this was what i heard and remembered. I requested to go to a hospital in San Diego instead of Mexico, for financial reasons, and she said that could be arranged. They called Adrian, the clinic’s main chauffeur, and i quickly packed a bag while waiting. Poor Botas. He knew something was up. When Paulina came to help me pack and change, we both watched Botas scale the entire shower curtain, then remain up at the top, staring down at us. “Botas, come down from there. Your foster mom is going to be okay; you don’t need to stress. Yo te amo.” I think he understood because he scooted down the curtain and headed for his food, while i headed out the door.

* * *

It is now 4:25am. I have been at this hospital in San Diego for over three hours. Morphine and fluids are infiltrating my system, and i just got back from a CT scan, which showed a perforation in my bowels that is causing free air to circulate all around my abdomen. They are making arrangements to prep me for surgery later this morning. It’s an inpatient procedure, so i will be here for several days. Kyana is my emergency contact, so she’ll have details about my surgery results before i even will. It might be a day or two before i am capable of providing an update myself, but I’ll do my best to keep you all posted.