Tuesday night I was admitted to the hospital for dehydration and viral gastroenteritis aka the stomach flu aka the WORST (and most thorough) cleanse I have ever experienced in my entire life. Sadly, I was two days shy of a possible Kardashian baby sighting at Cedars…which would have at least been a nice consolation prize for my week of misery…but whatevs…You win some, you lose some.
Basically, the Friday after Thanksgiving, I started throwing up EVERYTHING I have ever eaten (which at first I wasn’t too mad at…cause, well, I ate A LOT of food Thursday and Friday, and was feeling super bloated.) But then, what I hoped was a convenient little 24 hour bug turned miserable. It just kept coming. And if you have ever braved the stomach flu while trying to keep a toddler entertained, fed and alive…well, then you know the misery I was experiencing. Fast forward three days later, exhausted and tired, I thought I was finally turning the corner since I hadn’t thrown up in almost a whole day. But then on Tuesday morning I started well, losing my insides via the other end in a pretty aggressive manner. I know – it’s gross. So, without getting into the pretty vile details, I ended up in the hospital from Tuesday till Thursday insanely sick and looking like a Tim Burton character.
At first the doctors thought I had C-Diff (an infection in your intestines requiring IV antibiotics) which apparently you can get if you are a senior citizen, have recently been on antibiotics or work in a hospital setting – none of which apply to me. Then, they thought I had perhaps fallen victim to the recent celery-induced e-coli outbreak. Then they thought perhaps I had given myself food poisoning from my (what I had previously thought was a successful) Thanksgiving dinner. After a couple of days of fluids, some potassium pills, a negative c-diff test, and enough HGTV watching to convince me I could in fact now build a house, they let me go home after I was able to choke down some delicious chicken stock and a couple grains of rice. We still don’t really know what caused it because, well, by the time they ruled out C-Diff, I had stopped expelling all of my internal contents, so they really had nothing else to run more tests on. But either way, I was out of the woods, so they let me peace out.
Some people may like hospitals…I hate them. I felt like a prisoner being held hostage and couldn’t wait to escape.
Here is what I learned during my hospital stay.
- Urgent Care is a joke. It’s pretty much the same as pulling out your computer and googling your symptoms. Actually, I don’t even think it’s that useful. I went to Urgent Care at 5pm on Tuesday. I was told that I was in fact, fine. I didn’t need fluids. I wasn’t dehydrated. I should just take some immodium and antibiotics (both of which would have made me worse according to the doctors at the actual hospital). So…yeah. Three hours later I was in the ER and then admitted to the hospital. Good thing I’m not a moron and realized when I got super dizzy, was shaking like a leaf and unable to stand up straight I should probably go to the hospital cause I was in fact, NOT FINE. P.S. This apparently is the same Urgent Care that told a friend of mine her chicken pox was just a little rash, maybe eczema. Another friend aptly described Urgent Care as pretty much the same as your college health center – they test for STDs, Strep Throat and then send everyone home with cough syrup and a z-pack…cause there’s nothing some cough syrup and a z-pack can’t fix.
- I am capable of reaching a level of HANGRY I didn’t know was possible. On about day 6 of no food and day 2 in the hospital, I FREAKED OUT! I basically had a panic attack, decided I no longer needed my IV in, pretty much tried to rip it out myself because I convinced myself it was making me worse, and in doing so scared the crap out of my nurse who I’m pretty sure thought I was bat-shit crazy. Because, well, I was acting bat-shit crazy. Needless to say they adjusted my diet from liquids only, to the good old BRAT (Banana, Rice, Applesauce, Toast). After managing to eat a spoonful of rice and a banana, and regaining some sanity, I apologized to my poor nurse, allowed her to restart my IV, and realized I had in fact just had an epic freak out. Next time I get a little snappy cause I haven’t eaten in a couple of hours, I can say (with confidence) that “this is nothing…trust me.”
- When I’m old and crotchety and my kids put me in a home, I will be the ornery old lady that drive the nurses crazy. They will have to check my gums like I’m a golden retriever to make sure I swallow my meds. I will be the reason their “days without falls” number remains low, cause I will refuse to wait for someone to escort my wrinkly ass to the bathroom. (BTW the days without falls at Cedars was 32 – I did not find that very promising). I will google everything my doctors and nurses say and question them – because clearly my internet research is as reliable as years of actual medical training. I will lie to them and tell them I feel fine so I don’t need more medicine or have to stay longer. I mean it’s not really lying if I say I feel “better” because technically, I do feel “better” than when I was half dead and unable to hold my head up…but yes, I do feel dizzy and weak and a little nauseus…but if I tell you that, you won’t let me go home…so…I feel “better”.
- The “food” in hospitals is atrocious. And I don’t just mean taste-wise. I mean it is chemical crap. I was APPALLED at what they brought for me to “eat.” I hadn’t eaten in 5 days when I was admitted, was seriously deficient in any and all nutrients, and was on a liquid diet. I was presented with an array of culinary delicacies which consisted of: chicken broth (the only thing I would eat which basically tasted like pure salt water), apple juice (like 2% actual juice, the rest pure sugar), cranberry juice (again, the word “juice” is used very liberally here as it’s just sugar), jello (sugar and other chemicals), and this ice/sherbet thing that was again sugar and chemicals and tasted DISGUSTING. I tried to force myself to eat something, but I just couldn’t. I had no appetite and what I was presented was not food. I was about ready to order myself some cold-pressed juice to be delivered to my room. I was horrified that patients on a liquid diet – basically a step away from needing a feeding tube – are given “food” that is completely devoid of nutritional content. When is the medical community going to realize that what we put IN our bodies affects what is going on inside our bodies?!?! When someone is sick, they need to be ingesting the most nutrient dense, healthy food possible…what was put on a tray in front of me was the polar opposite of nutritious. And I’m pretty sure it couldn’t be categorized in ANY food group. Most of the reason I was in the hospital was because of being nutritionally depleted, so it made ZERO sense to me why the solution to that was to have me “eat” “food” that had ZERO nutritional content. I mean seriously? WTF?
- Our society is OBSESSED with weight loss. I joke about the fact that I was planning on doing a juice cleanse anyways after all my Thanksgiving imbibing…but those are JOKES. I lost almost 6 pounds in less than a week. That is INSANELY unhealthy. Yet, almost everyone I told about being sick responded with something along the lines of “did you at least get to lose weight?!” or “I got the stomach flu and didn’t even lose weight, I’m jealous”. Even my nurse in the ER said, “well at least you got a little weight loss so now you won’t have to worry about what you eat over the holidays.”?!?! A medical professional, as I’m losing my insides and so sick I am being admitted to the hospital thought the “bright side” was that I could now eat a shit ton of christmas cookies without stressing about the size of my ass. I knew that society in general was obsessed with body image, weight and diet…but I didn’t realize HOW MUCH. I’m sorry, but drastic weight loss is not healthy. Weight loss is not the ultimate prize. Being so sick you lose massive amounts of weight is NOT a “lucky break”. When will people realize that it’s about being HEALTHY. Losing weight should result from being active, eating healthy and finding balance. It makes me sad that people would actually be envious of weight loss from extreme illness. Like, seriously, so sad.
- I am incredibly grateful for my amazing friendships, because I don’t know how we would have made it through the past week without them. There are many times when I’m reminded how much harder it is raising a family without any family nearby. We had a Thanksgiving meal for three. We don’t get to do the BIG holidays or birthday parties for Avery. I miss out on having “free” babysitting. But, there’s nothing like an impromptu visit to the hospital to make you acutely aware of the situation. We didn’t have anyone to call in the middle of the night to help. We couldn’t just drop off Avery at his grandparents so Micah could be by my side. I drove myself to the ER, spent the night in the ER by myself, spent all afternoon and night the following day by myself in the hospital. We were reminded of what we were missing…BUT…we were also reminded of what an amazing community we have built for ourselves here, and how grateful we are to have the friends that we do. I was shown how amazing it is to have friends who are willing to pick up your little one without hesitation and bring them to their house on a “big adventure” so that you know they are safe and sound while your husband comes to be by your side in the hospital. Everyone should have someone they can call to help in a true emergency. I am incredibly grateful and fortunate to have such close (and selfless) friends that I can rely on. Because if you don’t have family nearby, you NEED those kinds of friends in your life. Heck, even if you have family around, you NEED those kinds of friends in your life. I was reminded how important it is to have and to BE those kinds of friends for others, because, you never know when you will need to text someone at 4 am begging for help with your toddler because you are being admitted to the hospital.
When I was in the hospital, all I could think about was coming home. (Ok, I also thought a lot about how uncomfortable the bed was, how much I didn’t want to feel like crap any more, how terrible the food was, and why it took so long for the nurses to show up when I hit my “nurse” button.) But honestly, there’s nothing like a couple of days of forced solitary confinement to make you miss your toddler flailing himself on the ground in an epic temper tantrum.
The whole experience also made me really reconsider being in Los Angeles. I often think about giving up the beautiful weather, the incredible quality of life, and all the amazing things L.A. has to offer to move back to Rochester. And then I come to my senses. The cold…the 355 days of grey…the cold…the lack of things to do…the very suburban-ness of it all…the overwhelming amount of mini-vans…the MLM parties…did I mention the cold? But despite all that, there is a simplicity, a sense of community, a feeling of safety, insanely fresh air and some unexplainable charm to it that keeps the Roc in the back of my mind as a “some day” possibility. I mean it is “a great place to raise a family.”
Maybe it’s because what Rochester has to offer is all that LA is decidedly lacking. Rochester and LA are, in fact, extreme polar opposites in every aspect. Some days, I would never live there. Some days, I’m ready to pack my bags and drive cross-country. And sometimes things happen like getting wildly, violently ill that make you think…question…wonder…what if? I’m not saying I’m ready to move…I’m not even saying I would move…but I am saying that with every event like this I feel like a boomerang getting closer and closer to rounding the corner.