Sunday, July 17, 2005

Hospital tales 6: Face down in empathy

When life sends you into a tailspin, tell the tales.

At 12:30 on Monday afternoon they wheeled me through halls, an elevator, and more halls to interventional radiology.

“We’ll take him to holding until they are ready for him,” they explained to Sarah. “You can stay with him in holding until they are ready for him. Then you can wait in the waiting room and when they are finished the doctor will come out and tell you how it went.”

I started laughing. Lest they think I was going nuts,I explained. “I grew up on a farm,” I said, “Holding sounds like the place we put critters in before we shipped them.”

Earlier a nurse practitioner from interventional radiology had visited me in my room. She had explained the lysing procedure and had explained I would be awake during the procedure but that they would give me drugs that would put me in “la-la land.”

I asked about the drugs. One would relax me and the other would reduce my memory of the procedure.

La-la land. That was the best medical term I heard during my stay.

When I was wheeled on a gurney into an interventional radiology room the radiology staff told me that I would be lying on my stomach for the procedure.

I had a mild moment of panic. “My rheumatoid arthritis makes lying on my stomach hard to do and I can’t turn my neck to breathe,” I said. They may be experts in interventional radiology but I’m an expert on what my body will and will not do.

They listened to me and we worked together to figure out how to get me from the gurney onto the table. Soon I was lying face down with a pillow under my chest and a rolled up towel under my head that allowed me to breathe.

Once I was in position on the table the sweet nurse whose job it was to medicate me into “la-la land” (the best medical term I heard in the hospital) leaned over and said, “You don’t look very comfortable at all. I sure wouldn’t be comfortable in that position.”

I about cried.

“Thanks for the empathy,” I said. “Empathy is a great gift even when you can’t change the situation.”

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