Friday, June 29, 2012

Musings from my Hospital Bed - part one

Long about Friday I started feeling better. In spite of the downward trajectory of my errant sodium. Sure, there were some discomforts that never eased off until I got back to our mountain cabin five days later. Like the constant buzzing in my head. And the fact that I couldn’t sleep on my left side for the jabbing pain in my upper chest cavity. Not a clue what that was all about!

But compared to Wednesday’s blinding headache and suspected bleeding gut - those things that brought me here - well, Friday came in feeling pretty strong. Comparatively speaking, that is - in reality I was actually sicker, with a new sodium count of 111, four points lower than when I’d checked myself in.

If truth be known, I was clueless about the importance of salt until I was forced to educate myself. Up until then, I pretty much took my sodium for granted. In fact, like a lot of us, I assumed it was sorta bad. I assumed it was responsible for all that nasty bloating in the past. I assumed that, what little salt I did need, was busy doing its job while I was off doing mine.

So yeah . . . I had lots of time to think about my salt while I was "lounging around" in the hospital. I got to thinking how our bodies are a huge percent water and, one way of looking at it is that it’s salt water. We need our levels to be in something called mEq/l . . . 135 to 145 of these. According to Wikipedia, anything lower than 125 mEq/l is considered “sever” hyponatremia. To have a sodium level of 111 and still be standing - well that was baffling to the staff and doctors who saw me. I was an anomaly and I suspect that later I was elevated to a different status . . . I'd become a challenge.

Here’s something else to keep in mind about sodium - once it dips, it’s important to bring it back up s l o w l y. Safe is a maximum of 10 to 12 points within a 24 hour period. That little bit of info will come in handy as you follow the rest of this story. Any faster and it’s like salting a slug - all the fluid rushes to the concentration of salt and the poor thing shrivels up into a potato chip. Just not a very tasty one. Unlike a slug though, when the concentration is in the brain cells, you end up drowning them which results in a surprising plethora of neurological issues.

But being at 111 that Friday wasn’t cool either. Not cool at all. I should have been in seriously bad shape - 110 and below and you’re in danger of things like seizures, comas and other bad stuff like . . . death. But not me, oh no. I was feeling pretty good on Friday. Then, on Saturday, when my salt jumped all the way up to 116, I got to feeling really, really good. In fact Saturday the doctor got a little worried about the jump from 111 to 116 and took me off the heavier drip and onto salt tabs.

So I’m finally free of my companion bag of salt water. The one that dripped into my pincushioned arm for the past three days. I get to tape a plastic bag around my I/V stick and take a nice, hot, wonderful shower! 

I’m up and clean and dressed and walking the halls, free to start laughing at how fun it’d been to tote my companion pole along with me like a skinny shadow on wheels - wires tangled, tripping over this one or that one, left hand wrapped around trying to keep my naked bottom behind its sexy little gowned curtain.

And free to start complaining. Like . . . why am I still here? If all we’re going to do is take sodium tablets, lasix, magnesium and other sundry pills, can’t I do that from the lovely porch of my mountain home? I promise, promise, promise that I’ll come back every morning for my daily blood letting. I pinkie swear!

But no, my doctor, whom I shall lovingly refer to as Doctor Salt Pounder (bless his tenacious little heart), could not, in his professional opinion, outpatient me while I was sill considered sever. This is where I started singing that song: 

"Welcome to the hospital Carolina. It’s a lovely place, such a lovely place."

"There's plenty of room at the hospital Carolina.

"You can check out any time you'd like.  
But you can NEVER LEAVE!

Captive as I was, I set up my hospital room as a workstation and tried to get some writing done. 

My super wonderful husband (whose vacation I was ruining), took to bringing me dinner to help compensate for the food the hospital was giving me (sort of hard to feed a pescatarian on their menu). So dinner on Saturday was rosemary/garlic grilled Talapia, wild brown rice and hand hewn fudge from a local Cherokee chocolatier for dessert!

And my continuing saga . . . well, it continues! You'll just have to stay tuned to find out what happens next.