So I’m home. Finally. I went into the hospital on noon Friday, and got out the following Friday. You would think this means I spent a week in the hospital. That’s what my calendar claims. (I just ran the numbers on WolframAlpha, and apparently that works out to over six days.) But in subjective time, I have to say that the visit seemed to last about three fiscal quarters.
It’s really weird being back. People are calling me Shamus again, which was my name way back in the day when I used to run this blog, before I became a full-time patient. These days everyone’s been calling me “13Window”. My FULL name is 0513w for Floor 05, Room 13, Bed by the Window, As opposed to the other bed, which is by the door. but we’re all friends around here so folks call me 13Window for short.
Now that I’m home again and I’ve had time to reflect, I have to say that my old name was way cooler. I might switch back to that.
I expected to find my home office buried in layers of dust, some tree roots growing out of the walls, and maybe a bird’s nest on my USB hub. Maybe there would even be another layer of rumors saying that the development of Half-Life 3 had been rebooted, delayed, and then canceled yet again. But no. Nothing. It’s like I wasn’t even gone.
This wasn’t a great hospital visit, to be honest. For the last few weeks my blood pressure has been reading 180/100. That’s bad. I was trying to get an appointment to see a doctor, but that’s hard for me for a bunch of boring bureaucratic reasons. I finally found a group that did telemedicine. Cool.
But then on the day of the appointment my BP jumped up to 200/120. When the doc heard this reading she refused to treat me. She told me to go to the emergency room instead.
I hated this, since an ER visit is at least 10x as expensive as a normal doctor visit, but I also knew I didn’t want to delay this anymore and also I knew she was probably right.
Let’s talk about…
BP is the measure of how much pressure your blood is putting on your circulatory system. Your heart pumps the blood, and this pumping puts pressure on the walls of the vessels, your organs, and the heart itself. Ask a hydraulic engineer what happens when a system of pipes suffers from too much overpressure, and they’ll tell you horror stories about pipes rupturing and destroying equipment. High blood pressure is the same deal, only having the pipes “burst” means internal hemorrhaging, blood clots, organ failure, and brain damage.
Proper industrial pipes have known, documented limits. But the human race came without an owner’s manual, and so we don’t know the exact specs. It actually varies unpredictably between individual units. If you’re young and fit then a little overpressure is a small risk for you. If you’re old and out of shape then your pipes are a lot more rigid and a lot less able to take excessive pressure.
Values above 180 are when they start trying to get you to the emergency room. Values of 200 are where it gets scary. Your brain is filled with many tiny veins, and having any one of them rupture can result in a brain bleed that will, under ideal circumstances, shave off a few IQ points and make you forget how to control bits of your body. A less-than-ideal bleed is just like that, only much worse. Or you might wind up dead, which might be worse or better, depending on how you feel about living in a wheelchair and wearing diapers.
On the hospital equipment, my blood pressure came up as 240/140. That’s basically a continuous game of Russain roulette, where every heartbeat is a pull of the trigger. Everyone would look at me wide-eyed as if to say, “How are you still standing?”
Ironically, I felt fine. I felt relaxed. It was a gorgeous day out. I joked that I was in the mood for a jog.
Two days later I was trapped in a hospital bed, contemplating the nature and purpose of human suffering. The hospital had absorbed me, and there was no longer a clear line between my body and the building that was working to keep my body alive. My arms were wrapped in plastic tubing that had become a sort of extension to my circulatory system, adding or removing fluids according to its own whims. Other tubes came out the bottom of my dressing gown, carrying the less popular fluids. My chest was wrapped in heart monitoring equipment, and my arm was cocooned in a pressure cuff that took my BP just often enough to be sudden and confusing whenever it began squeezing. I spent my time questioning the wisdom of expending so much effort to keep someone alive under these conditions. I was in a lot of pain and I just wanted the chaos to stop.
And then every couple of hours a nurse would come in, look at the numbers, and smile at me, “Oh wow. You’re doing so much better today!”
Hospitals are weird.
My main complaint was the mind-destroying headache that plagued the early stages of my visit. It wasn’t life-threatening or even dangerous, but it was painful enough to make me hope that the BP would finish me off. Meanwhile, my actual problems (possible organ damage and stroke risk as a result of elevated BP) are completely painless, silent, and invisible. (Until they kill you.)
Maybe you’ve heard people talk about what it was like in wartime, how the state-run news constantly reported the glorious victories of their army. But then those victories seemed to be happening closer and closer to home, gradually approaching the capital city. And then the populous slowly realizes they’re not just losing right now, they’ve been losing for a long time. That’s exactly how I felt all week as various doctors came in, told me the latest test results were “fine” , but that they needed to keep me for “one more day” for a round of ever-more invasive tests. At first I thought those early test results meant, “You are fine and you will never have any problems again. Go back to sitting around and eating potato chips like a 22 year old.” But then I realized that the tests didn’t mean I was fine, they meant that I was still sick and the doctors couldn’t figure out why.
I expected this would be a quick overnight thing and I’d be out before the weekend was over. But then they decided to keep me until Monday, which turned into Tuesday, which slipped to Wednesday, which was delayed until Thursday morning, which gradually turned into Thursday afternoon, which then became “early Friday”, which ended up being, “Home in time for dinner”.
And so here we are. After all of that, I didn’t even get a sense of closure. They ran tests all week and then booted me out without giving me an answer. It was like watching a week-long episode of House and then turning it off just before Hugh Laurie wobbles in and explains the mystery. The labs are running slow thanks to COVID, so I probably won’t see the results until next week.
Thanks For the Support
Several people took this opportunity to give to my PayPal. Many thanks for that. Hospital bills aside, a hospitalization is always hard on a family. It was really nice to be able to handle problems like this:
SHAMUS: People donated. We can afford it. Just buy some $thing on the way here.
It might sound like a small thing, but that really did take off a lot of pressure. Thanks.
So that’s where we are. I’ve had a lousy week, but I’m alive and I have lots to do.
 As opposed to the other bed, which is by the door.
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