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Going to the hospital (again).

February 25, 2012

People who have a chronic illness may face repeated hospitalizations.  This gets to be wearing, not just on us, but on our families and friends.  Even our pets feel it!  I was in the hospital again this past week (or as a good friend calls it, “the Big House”).  This is my fifth hospitalization since December 2010.  I usually go because of a change in the pattern of my chronic chest pain, as was the case this week.  I don’t even tell my whole family anymore.  It’s getting to be an everyday occurrence, so to speak.

A lot of emotions come up when I go to the hospital.  There’s fear about the change in my condition, both that something is getting worse and that they’ll check me out and say nothing is wrong.  Old feelings about being believed and being cared for come to the surface.  I’m more likely to cry or worry.

I feel more comfortable in a hospital environment than a lot of people.  I worked in hospitals for many years.  The routine is familiar and soothing in a way.  I usually get along well with my nurses.  Sometimes it’s a hassle being woken up at odd hours, but I seem to usually get enough rest.  Of course, my longest hospital stay was five days.  For people who are very ill and have an extended stay, the sleep deprivation and overstimulation get in the way of healing and can make them sicker.

What’s hard for me is the repeated tests that I know are going to come out normal.  The doctors don’t understand my disappointment when they come in saying, “Your stress test is negative!  You get to go home!”  Even better is, “It’s not your heart! There’s nothing wrong!”  It’s not that I want more to be wrong with me, I just want what is wrong to show.  And there is something wrong, you just don’t know what to do about it.  My cardiologist doesn’t come talk to me about what to do next, he just sends the hospitalist to discharge me.  I know we need to consider medication changes, but they send me home with no guidance.  This is when the anger and hopelessness come up.

I saw my cardiologist yesterday and he said it’s time for a second opinion.  He even suggested Mayo Clinic.  That’s one of the centers doing good research on endothelial dysfunction.  Another is Stanford, but both are a couple thousand miles away from me.  I have set up an appointment next week with another local cardiologist who I hope might be a better fit for my situation and personality.  I met him last time I was in the hospital when he was covering for my cardiologist on the weekend.  It’s not that I have a bad cardiologist, but that we seem to have reached the end of our path together.  That happens with complex, chronic conditions.  Sometimes you exhaust the expertise (and the patience) of the doctor and have to get a new set of eyes to look things over.

I’m happy to be home again.  My dog was ecstatic when I arrived.  My husband tells me she spent the two days I was gone sleeping in the bathtub.  The cats even seemed excited to see me and spent extra time standing on me in the bed and stomping their little feet.  Home, sweet home!

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 25, 2012 3:57 pm

    Welcome Home!
    Your lucid description of what it’s like to be in the hospital with chronic heart disease rings very familiar to me. Hospitals change, nurses change, but the feelings remain the same.
    Coming to peace with some of the inevitabilites of chronic illness is an ongoing issue not only of medicine but of quality of life.
    This is a deep and meaningful way of approaching the realization that we may never get “better”– to share our feelings with others, to be heard.
    Thanks for your ongoing presence!

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