Friday, February 5, 2016

A Week in the Hospital Part 8: Tuesday – Psalm 84

Last week (January 26-February 2, 2016), I ended up in the hospital. Something simple spiraled out of control. While in the hospital, I kept up with the daily reading of psalms that I’ve been practicing since the first of the year. The psalms I read were chosen by the Presbyterian Daily Prayer Lectionary. The psalms are sent to my e-mail every morning and I often read them on my phone, then again in my bible. These psalms helped to frame my experience. The following is an account of my hospital stay for friends and family who want to know what happened. [NOTE: This contains some graphic depictions of medical problems. No pictures, just words.]

To see the previous post, click here.

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(By a “programming fluke,” this psalm was sent to my e-mail instead of the scheduled Psalm 12)

How lovely is your dwelling place,
    O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
    to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
    my King and my God.
Happy are those who live in your house,
    ever singing your praise. (84:1-4)

Another round of doctor check-ins in the morning. All of them said I should go home.



It is one of the benefits and tragedies of our medical system that the patient has to be her own advocate. It is a benefit because it means that I can refuse medicine that I do not want. I have agency. It is a tragedy, because it means that I, still weak and tired from nearly dying, had to hound the already frenzied nurses and medical staff to get me to go home. Hospital staffs are overworked. There’s no getting beyond it. All of my nurses and techs were being pulled in millions of directions. Some worked nearly sixteen hour days in a high stress environment.

Still, I needed to be home. Already our medical bills were going to be through the roof. I could not spare an eighth day in the hospital. I hadn’t slept well in seven days. I hadn’t eaten well in eight days. I was physically and psychologically exhausted. Already Sarah had been solo-parenting (with gracious help from friends) for a week. Already the emotional toll was weighing heavy on all of us. The kids were having a rough time, especially our three-year-old.

I also felt well enough that I began to feel guilty for taking up a room and the attention of doctors and nurses that could better be occupied by someone else.

So I pressed. I called the social worker. I asked my nurse at every opportunity. Finally, at 5PM, they approved my discharge. A dear friend stayed with me for the afternoon and helped me to pack up my belongings. Sarah and the kids picked me up on their way home from daycare and work.
I think I now know what it feels like to be high. I’ve never taken a recreational drug in my life, but I’ve been well-schooled in the effects.

I felt a little tired on the drive home. My arm was a still slightly sore from the PICC line insertion. But then I stepped through the door to our house.

Time stopped. Sarah and the kids seemed far away. I could not feel my body, neither the pain nor the exhaustion. I felt like I could run a mile. I finally understood what it meant for something to be “surreal.”

At first I was worried that I was suffering a stroke or was about to faint. But I had no other adverse symptoms. It felt surreal because I couldn’t believe it was real. I had forgotten what it felt like to be home, and now that I was, I was so happy, so full of positive adrenaline and dopamine that I was high. I was experiencing an adrenaline rush. It scared the hell out of me.

I called the one person I knew who could tell me if I was going crazy. My sister has been in and out of the hospital multiple times over the last few years. She reassured me. This was normal. She’d felt it before. This, too, would pass. She told me to get off the phone so that I could enjoy reading to my daughter before bed for the first time in a week. I did.

How lovely is your dwelling place,
    O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
    to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
    my King and my God.
Happy are those who live in your house,
    ever singing your praise. (84:1-4)

***

P.S. I am now on the third day of six weeks of daily outpatient treatment at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey. Every morning I spend three hours with a delightful crew of nurses and caregivers as they check and clean the dressing on my arm, take blood samples, and infuse me with two high-powered antibiotics. I get to read and work in front of floor to ceiling windows looking out over a well-kept garden. God-willing, any infection I might have had will be knocked out and I will be healthy in six weeks (plus the time it takes to flush the medicine out of my body and restore the good bacteria to my stomach). 

Thanks for reading, dear friends.

2 comments:

Kelsey said...

Love you guys and praying for God's strength, grace, and patience for each of you. Thank you for your vulnerability in sharing. Let me know if there's anything I can do (picking books or anything up from PTS and taking them to you, for example). I'd be happy to!

Marcus Hong said...

Kelsey - Thank you so much for your prayers and your offer for help! We will certainly let you know.