Burnaby General Hospital Visit

Backstory

I have had stomach problems for the past little while (finishing week 3 and going on week 4 as of this writing), the complete list of [unpleasant] symptoms are:

  • Liquid stool
  • Stabbing stomach pain 
  • Waking in the middle of the night with diarrhea
  • Vomiting or Nausea

These symptoms had persisted for over 2 weeks before I got them checked out the first time.  It just didn’t seem like a serious enough problem to bother our overburdened healthcare system.  When I went into the emergency on August 11, 2019, I went with some duress as I had also been having issues with nausea that day and keeping food down.

The trip to the emergency was predictable.  I was able to see a doctor within, what I thought was a reasonable time and had given a blood test before I even left the waiting room.  The doctor noted that my fluid levels were low and after giving a stool sample I was put on a drip to rehydrate me. I believe the fluids were standard, so mostly saline to rehydrate.  I felt a lot better after having gone through 2 bags of fluid and not having to go to the washroom to expel it (yes even water makes me go to the bathroom, yikes!).

Side note about a co-parenting relationship, it typically has an advantage in these cases as you are set up in an HA (highly available) parenting situation by default with one parent on hot standby.  Although I hate to miss time with my son in this case (i.e. waiting in an emergency room) did not seem exciting or necessary. I gave a quick call to his mom and she was there within a half an hour to help out, thanks to J!

Second ER Visit

The story continues on the night of the 12th when I noticed that my body was behaving “odd”.  I was having jerky movements, it was difficult to make my arms and legs move. Not super hard, it just took more concentration than normal.  Okay, I thought, this is interesting, maybe a good night’s sleep will help and I knocked off for the night.

What has been common is waking in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.  This is usually announced with really bad stomach pains and a feeling of urgency to get to the washroom.  I hate to say it but I had become somewhat acclimated to it and I went to the bathroom that night about 3-4x before I finally gave up about 4-5 AM.  

When I got out of bed on August 13th though I noticed something really odd.  It was very difficult to lift my legs and arms when I put on my socks I almost had to assist my legs to lift.  A bit scary when you are used to these things just working. I also noted that my muscles felt tight, almost ripping tight, as I moved around.  I don’t know if that description makes sense to people but imagine lifting a very heavyweight and feeling your muscle stretch or rip as it struggles…if that isn’t helpful then suffice it to say movement came with a bit of pain.

I didn’t want to burden anyone with the issue so I powered through the morning routine with my son and got him off to camp.  I was honest that he would have to do a little more that morning and explained that I wasn’t feeling well and would be going to emergency after I dropped him off.  I feel that it’s important to have honest communication about these things, it makes it “less scary” if they hear about things like this and it [hopefully] ends well.  

After he was dropped off I packed a bag and headed into the emergency.  The nurses and doctors were very helpful getting me through the initial stages.  Having been there before we had knocked off some of the tests but they re-did the stool sample again to make sure as well as the blood tests.  They found in one of the blood tests that my potassium levels were a little low, strange because I had been eating bananas more often, trying to follow the BRAT meal plan.  It also explained the jerky movements and muscle twitches I was experiencing. The fluid loss, in general, could have caused the fatigue I was experiencing.

I sat in the emergency for most of the day and took in a couple of potassium IV fluid pouches.  It became obvious that I was not going to make pickup after camps so I invoked the HA parental unit on hot standby (she was more than happy to spend extra time during August as we divide summer into July and August care time…it’s a long time away from your child).  That taken care of I asked what the long term plan was.

It was a bit sketchy coming back, the short term was to get me admitted.  I found out later that does not mean finding a bed for me. To condense the long part about waiting I didn’t get a place to sleep until 12:30 AM on the 14th of August.  The bed was stationed in the Emergency room and turned out to be my home for the next couple of days.  

I was put in contact with one of the GI experts on the 14th and they outlined a bit more of the plan: I was to have a camera investigate my GI tract on both ends.  Trying to keep upbeat I, of course, asked the question, “Hopefully they plan to start with my mouth first?”, the humour being the assumption that they use the same camera, ba-dum dum.  If you are curious it is of course 2 different cameras. There was also a plan to get a CT scan however my kidneys were apparently really dried out so they were worried about doing that right away so would hold off until I was hydrated a bit more.  

During the day or so that followed the plan was a bit more refined and I even got to be a scientist for a day:

scientist for the day 1.png scientist for the day 2.png

If you made it through the pictures, yay you!  They are a little easier to work through without the olfactory portion of the science experiment…remember the old scratch and sniff stickers?  Okay, I’ll stop there.  

Let me tell you a bit about the colonoscopy plan and what they typically look for (because I was curious):

  • Visual inspection of the walls of the intestine
    • This usually involves looking for discolouration of the intestinal wall
    • At this point in time, they mentioned I had an elevated white blood cell count
    • Yup, I thought cancer too…they told me not to jump to conclusions
  • Any obstructions
  • Anything else odd that might be going on in this area

The big kicker was cancer and it still makes me giggle in that psychotic nervous way people reserve for the things that really scare the proverbial or literal crap out of them.  That being said, I don’t think it’s worth getting too worked up about until I hear back about the details and find out if it’s really something I need to worry about.

Change Required for Growth

So let’s split that up with a bit of happiness and maybe comedy about the entire experience at the hospital.  What I would like to say about everyone at the hospital is that they are trying so hard in a system that is so completely, obviously and badly broken that it almost saps the caring out of you.  The people that take on this type of job have my utmost respect and they do their best in a system that is burdened, breaking and needing to change. In the US we see the same thing and the introduction of a 2-tier health care system is not far from our horizon to try to deal with the current situation.  

We need a bunch of creatives to look at this situation and start finding good solutions to the issues being faced here before it does break completely.  An interesting post the other day about smart homes has one solution to this (thanks for posting Roger) and maybe this is the right direction to go in, although I am personally mixed on the privacy aspect of it.  Maybe it’s better AI looking at test results, providing a better diagnosis? Maybe it’s more technology connecting doctors and “team huddles” when there are odd symptoms that surface.  I have worked on a number of teams and those types of distributed groups of experts are difficult to build as they involve a lot of trust work between professionals. It’s a super interesting problem and I think it would be fun being on a team brainstorming solutions so if you need an extra educated dude with an opinion (EDWAO) please send me a plane ticket.

My Room and the Patio

Moving back to the journey and the experience I had immediately gotten my mom to bring my guitar down when I was admitted.  Since then I’ve spent a few sessions outside belting out my handful of songs to people passing by at the hospital. I think I can knock off the “open mike” item on my list of TODOs which makes me feel a bit happier that I can perform in public with more confidence now.  I even had a couple of people give me a thumbs up, some smiles and one person in the hospital told me that it made her very happy. Yay!

When I was waiting for my test yesterday they shuffled me up to a room of my very own.  The reason for putting me in a room is apparently to keep me away from other patients because they are not sure what I have.  To be clear they have already ruled out parasites, I have not been out of the country and I have been sitting in ER for 2 days at this point in time.  This is where it really gets funny. I am also not supposed to talk to elderly patients because whatever I have maybe contagious, rule out the fact that I have been hanging around my family for 2 weeks and they are not sick, and then there is ER, work friends…so the reasoning is not making a lot of sense.  To top it off though my neighbour is an 80-90-year-old woman and I am in an area of the hospital that they are allocating to elderly patients with dementia…so yeah, not really well thought through unless I am being placed here as the angel of death. Not a happy thought to be sure, so let’s move on from there.

In my first day here I did listen to the instructions and quietly asked what the update was on the doctor.  I did this until about 4:30 PM when I thought, wtf, this is ridiculous. I then went out and sat at the counter until I found someone that would talk to me.  It was my nurse and I started asking questions. It turns out they were waiting for a call from the wrong doctor, that was easily fixed and I told them who to call. Within 30 minutes, 10 of them where the nurses explained that “this happens all the time”, “you are not being targeted,” yadda yadda.  No I don’t feel like I am being targeted I just feel like you might need help solving this problem and it’s important to me that it’s solved. It is apparently a thin line between being aggressive and being effective however it’s my health and I have a vested interest in being effective.

Unfortunately, the doctor was done for the day at this time and I chastised myself a bit for following the “stay in your room instructions”.  In order to shake that off I went outside on the patio, yes there is a wonderful patio on my floor. It is hard to get to and no one knew where the keys were to start with but after some persistence, I was able to get a seat there and have my supper of broth and juice.  I went back to my room after and grabbed my guitar and headed out for a bit of a longer stay and made quite a nice night of it. I do have some questions about why there aren’t more people out there enjoying the views (they really are spectacular) and the flowers (such an amazing bonus and really perked me up).  Having already raised a bit of a stink and planning on raising more today to try to speed up my 5 PM test time (yes I have to go another full day without food…) I figured I’d pick my battles for now.

It’s a new day though and hopefully, after the camera crew shows up for the filming I’ll still have the energy to sit out on the beautiful patio and take in the sights.  Our HA parental unit is also down as my son’s mother is out of the country on vacation now.  We are both truly fortunate (and I for one am grateful) that my mom is here to help take care of my son.  If not it may have meant a cancelled trip.  So yeah, hopefully, we are both super grateful for that.

Update – 2019-08-18

I ended up checking myself out of the hospital yesterday morning at about 10:15 AM.  After an interesting talk to one of the doctors, I found out that they do NOT schedule procedures like that on the weekend.  It is curious that I had spoken with 2 nurses, including the charge nurse, and they had confirmed that my procedure was scheduled on August 17 @ 5:00 PM.  After reeling a bit with the fact that I had been lied to directly by at least two people in the ward I was in I decided that this was not the place for me.

The doctor that informed me that procedures were not scheduled on the weekend, Janet K, also phoned to confirm that was indeed the case.  She was very nice and agreed that checking out was the correct thing to do.  She also filed a formal complaint on my behalf and wrote me a prescription for KCl to be taken every 4 hours so I could replenish what I was losing.  We had a great talk about kids and she said that there is hope that the teenage years might not be so bad and that she had a wonderful relationship with her child through those years and now beyond.  Wonderful lady to talk to and really happy to have met her.

I checked myself out in time to make it to my son’s guitar lesson as well (bonus!) which has been interesting.  He has been building a very involved song and I can’t wait to be able to hear him play it.  It’s definitely something that will require him to log more practice hours.

The rest of the day was spent in the bathroom quite a bit, predictably, however, I did manage to do some running around and get the fluids for my CT image on Monday.  I imagine the rest of the weekend will continue like that as well but spending time with my little guy is definitely preferred to wasting away bored out of my mind in the hospital, thanks again, Janet!

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