Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Studly Therapist & The Naked Patient (That Would Be Moi!)

Humiliation and embarrassment are just part of the process when you are a regular at the hospital. At least for me. I hope a few of you can relate. My red face is usually a tad cherry here and there for that moment when there's a wardrobe malfunction or the basic memorization of a few facts ("Say the following five words back to me...") seem as a difficult as high school geometry with proofs. Ugh, proofs! Why did I bring THAT up? Anyway, my recall is nil right now. I mean it's bad. I can barely remember my last name. I tend to blame the medicine. At least one in particular. It's even referred to in some circles as "stupid pills." I was goofy enough before, just ask my friends. Now add a lil' stupid? Great. Things are looking even MORE promising for meeting Mr. Right -- yeah not even! It's a good thing I still have my sense of humor intact. I'm sure Carrie Bradshaw just wishes she had my flare for words, basket of pills, fashion sense, aluminum walker, and shower stool! Oh, yes, my friend, maybe in 30 years! Ha! Yeah, life is good. My cocktail is not a pink-tinged Cosmo. It's plain 'n'simple

The big, marquee event of red-faced humiliation happened after my right thigh surgery at MD Anderson in Houston. Post-surgery, the hospital provides patients like yours truly both occupational & physical therapy -- for a pretty penny! If you have read my other posts, you know that makes me giddy... NOT. Sarcasm, again. Love it. Don't know about you but I'm not real keen on having someone tell me to do something and then watch me do it, reps at a time, hooked to a IV cart. Of course, given my physical prowess (ha!), I'm always given a tip or three on how to improve and/or a printout for homework. Homework? WTH? Homework! I'm done with high school and college. No homework for me. The PT and OT disagree. At this point my red face is RED! I'm mad!

I don't know what it is but I have had my fair share of not-so-fun experiences that might send me to the other kind of therapy -- laying flat on the couch. While living in Lewiston, Idaho, a physical therapist had me work my shoulder area lifting weights because it was weak from a recent surgery.
She was counting with me and working with another person a short distance away. I was doing the best trying to lift the weights slow and steady, watching my
own movements. Meanwhile no one was beside. Mrs. PT was busy talking to the male athletes. Given surgery was only days ago, my arm got weak faster than I anticipated. Without a spotter, the weight came down quick & I nearly lost a eye. She saunters over with a "How ya doing over here with these reps? You done?"
Yeah. Done. Done and nearly without an eye.

Back at MD Anderson, I have a private room although it's quite a misnomer because any patient room at the hospital is not private. Am I right? It is a constant flow of nurses, housekeepers, physical therapists, food delivery, visitors, patient services, occupational services, church people, physicians, specialists, phlebotomists... the list goes on and on... I don't remember all the people that come and go on a floor during an extended hospital stay.

So it's close to lunch but I've just finished my breakfast: yogurt parfait, juice, and fresh fruit. I actually managed to sleep well the night before. I feel good minus the whole being in a hospital thing. There's a knock at the door and in walks a young gentleman, late 20s-early 30s, around 6-foot, nice build, bleached-blond hair, workout clothes and running shoes or what my Dad called "ten-ees" for tennis shoes. This guy could model. I'm not sure why he's here... in MY room. A hospital. He introduces himself as the physical therapist. OH. GREAT. PT. Oh, did I mention he's got diamond studs in both ears? I think the earrings are shining right at me. This should be interesting.

I give my brief medical background and explanation of Neurofibromatosis and during the quick chat the occupational therapist pops in or rather bounces in cheerleader-style with a "Hi!" and "Oh." and "No worries!" and "See ya soon." Complete with a good-bye wave! I think I feel a nap coming on about 3 p.m. Is that when she said she would be returning? Overly perky people make me want an anti-nausea pill or just give me the whole box. I'm all about staying positive as possible but you have to show a range of emotions. That's life. It's part of being human. Plus, no one is THAT happy. Except on scripted sitcoms. When all is said and done, eye candy is best! OK, OK, so I admit he's kinda nice-looking! But I'm not a jewelry-on-guys gal. If he has more carats than me, no deal. Ha! If I were the Bachlorette*, though, he might get a rose. Might.
*Not really a bucket-list item & I'm too old & the producers don't like redheads! :( Shame on them.

"Ready to work?" He asks. "You think you can stand up today?"
This is critical because it is the day after surgery when the several benign tumors were removed from my right thigh.

Did I mention my Mom and Aunt Jamie are here in the room and BOOM! Purses in hand, these two sisters are in front of my hospital bed mouthing "Lunch!" They're anticipating what I have not.

I start to shimmy my butt closer to the center of the bed while Mr. Diamond Earrings lowers the bed down and back.
"Sure. I'm ready," I say. Completely unsure.
I try to swivel myself -- dry skin against scratchy, hospital sheets -- so I can sit up. I pull the hot, sticky blanket off with my clutched right hand.
At this point, I forgot (being totally me, absent-minded) that I am in a backless/assless gown. I stand with gusto. My two size-10 flat feet festooned in hospital socks stamp the floor with purpose.
He grabs me as I wobble to straighten my pose. Here it comes... I can see myself, my face, my gown, my legs, my hospital socks in the mirror beside him... and THEN... I see it!
My one dimple per cheek... MY ASS CHEEKS!!! MY ASS in the mirror with me and Mr. Diamond Earrings.
"Oh, God, why? WHY?"

My aunt and mom were smart to make their excuses and skip Embarassville. Population: 1. I sure wish I didn't live in this lonely place. Holding on to my arms, he doesn't seemed fazed. At all. He steadies me as I balance myself on the slick floor.
"Careful, take your time," he says.
I look up at him and realize what just occurred. I bow my head and wince. All I want to do is hurry. I want to get in this chair next to the hospital bed and SIT DOWN.
Why are hospital gowns ugly and backless? Tell me, someone, TELL ME!!!

I can only take tentative steps because of the post-operative pain. This becomes the weirdest slow dance, me trying to make my way from the hospital bed to the chair, in reality it is only feet away, but it feels like a mountain hillside I must trek. He's keeping me steady, holding on to my sleeved arm (about all he can hold onto!) so I feel secure. It's micro-seconds, up against a soundtrack on the television for blue jeans that are also pajamas. I have to laugh on the inside. I could use a pair of those right about now. Oh, the irony of it all.... If there would have been a way I could put my hand through that television screen and grab a pair -- no matter what a fashion no-no these PJ jeans seem! Nothing is worse than a hospital gown. Nothing.

You wouldn't have wanted to see me at that moment. Face crimson. My scarlet letter A. I manage to aim my bare buns into the uncomfortable chair lined with a hospital sheet. I press my pain pump to speed relief to my legs and my bruised ego. Probably hoping that if I pressed the button he might also disappear. Nope, it did not work. Dang it. I thought pain pumps were magic! :) I just needed a few moments to recover from this revealing moment I so was not expecting.

I've actually come along way in the modesty department, believe it or not. I am so much better about it all (no really!) since I go to the doctor and hospital so often. I just think that day and that moment caught me by surprise when I saw myself in the mirror and I saw my cellulite-iced buns, I was ready to run. Cue that ol' Dixie Chicks song. So Ready TO RUN!!!

I ended up sitting in the chair for quite awhile that day. No bad headache. A great sign after surgery. I even got my hospital sheets changed while resting in the chair. And best of all, no OT visit after all. And a new hospital gown. Lucky me. Ha! I can embarrass myself some more in a new, cleaner version.

I have to hand it to Mr. Diamond Earrings, if it wasn't for him I wouldn't have had the chance to sit up in the chair. Sounds like such a simple thing but in a hospital and after surgery, it feels wonderful. I felt good the rest of the day. So, I am glad he stopped by. I just wished I had a robe on first.

P.S. For his patience and kindness, he would definitely get a rose.

***So readers, I don't want to be alone on this. What are some of your embarrassing moments at the doctor's office or hospital? Provide in the comments or e-mail at and I just might feature your story in a future post. Come on, I know there's some stories out there. Share 'em with me! 

©The Healing Redhead

Images: Microsoft Office clipart &

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

In the Hands of the Nurse

Did you know it was Nurses Week?

OK, so I started to feel a bit guilty for my Nurse Ratched entry last week given it was on the eve of Nurses Week! OK, not that guilty. Because what I said was true... but there is more I what I want to share on this topic of nurses and the art of nursing given I have spent many a day and many a night in a hospital.

Every time I go inside one of the antiseptic-laced, gurney-ridden, shot-stocked buildings, my life is in the hands of The Nurse. As much grief as I have given the select few with the Ratched-y characteristics, there are dozens and dozens... and dozens more willing to go above and beyond by calling and re-calling the surgeon until he or she gets the answer(s), ensuring the patient takes the stool softener (Yes, I said stool!), and always keeping the patient safe by telling each one to punch the "Nurse Button" before he/she makes any move from the silver sleigh AKA gurney.

The nurse is there, usually within a moment or two of the button call. This is especially important when it concerns the patient-controlled pump (PCA) making its "out-of-order" noise that just about gets anyone mad, including ME! Plus, you don't get pain medicine! It makes me a bit cross-eyed, if I let it. The noisy pump, if you don't know, is a device that delivers the pain medication intravenously. When a red light appears on the hand-held patient device, I can receive medicine, if needed. This device is attached by a cord to a larger box on an IV pole for ease of use.

On it goes, it often seems louder the longer it rattles on, but that's not the case. The ol' mind playin' tricks again... I try to tell myself to calm it down. Deep breath. "DEET! DEET! DEET! DEET! DEET! DEET! DEET! DEET! DEET!" I realize it is just before the top of the hour and that can be a busy time. "DEET! DEET! DEET! DEET!" At least this isn't a MRI. It's not as loud. Not at all. A field day in comparison. I'm upright, sipping soda, and flipping through a fashion/celebrity magazine. Definitely not things I can enjoy while MRI-ing on a Friday afternoon. TGIF! But...this sound is NOT SO FUN either!

The DEETs persist until I hear commotion outside my room, the burst of the machine noise rivals the tiny television in the upright corner of the room next to the bathroom door. The hospital room door opens at once, my nurse appears with my next set of tiny paper cups filled with medicine. She's got her eyes on the Meanie Machine.
"Oh, I am soooo sorry, Miss Leslie!"
The noise stops with the tap of her finger.
That always makes me happy and then I'll admit I'm little aggravated. I wish why could do it and save my ears and my mind!
Tap. tap. tap.
"I would have been here much sooner but another patient collapsed right on Mindy (another nurse) and I had to go help her and get him back in bed. And then he's flailing his arms, legs... and wouldn't stop until I stuck him."
I am staring at her rather calm demeanor as she tells me this story of such a challenging patient in such a scary scenario.
"Oh, and the patient in 44C soiled herself. It's just one of those nights!"
I just shake my head and half-smile, amazed. "I seriously don't know how you do it! I mean it. That is all just..." I am at a loss for words.
"Some days, I wonder, too," she says, throwing away some miscellaneous trash. "But I can't sing in a choir all the time!"
She told me earlier she was a world-class choir singer who traveled to Germany to perform. Her passion for singing is evident yet so is nursing. She's very lucky. I realize I am very lucky to have her. "Thanks for coming," I say, pointing to the quiet pain machine.
"That's my job," she laughs. "Now don't forget to drink a lot of water," she winks at me in her bright purple scrubs.
"And take some puffs on the breathing machine. It really helps after surgery." She is moving toward the door, but before she exits my room for the night, she turns, "You need anything else?"
"I'm good."
And I was...thanks to her! All nice and quiet. Ready to rest now.

I am so appreciative of nurses and their co-workers who, consistently, go out of their way to make the hospital experience a little more hospitable. They bring pillows, extra ice, and chauffeur patients, like me, at night to and from the bathroom. It is truly the little things, especially in the hospital, that can really make the difference. A fresh pitcher of water with ice can be the bright spot in any hospital day. Nurses help make the tiny miracles happen.

Favorite Bumperstickers for Nurses here

What It's Like to be a Nurse from Stanford U
It's actually quite moving! Thank you to all the nurses out there willing to make a difference.

 ©The Healing Redhead

Nurse image
Video: YouTube &

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Patient No. 1-2-3 Observations #saynotoneedlepokes #dislikeshospitalfood #hatesplasticbracelets

RX Needed: Hot doctor, better drugs, nicer outfits with better back coverage and do you have to stamp the hospital name on it like we're convicts (although, SOME DAYS it does feel prison-like, I have to admit!) It's not like we are stealing these fashion gems! The only runway these little numbers will see are a hospital hallway or the bed of a MRI machine. Lights, camera, action... Start the clang & clack of technology!

So, I'll be talking hospital gowns later on in the month and I have an entertaining story for you then. Today, though, it's all about patient observations. I've done this whole patient thing a few times... Like two-dozen times and counting. If I could get a degree as a patient, I'd have something by now... maybe a bachelor's, working my way to a master's? Crazy to talk about it in these terms, I know! It's how I cope. And I hope I can share some of my experiences -- good, bad, and ugly -- with you! A few funny and freaky ones might have slipped in! I might have to apologize or delete this blog later. Ha!

I'm always in a zone when I wake up on surgery day. I've got my target in my mind's eye: I'm getting to where they knock me out (hang on...) before surgery by giving me a relaxant ("the good stuff") through the IV in my arm. Before I know it the black-gray mask is over my face. I so dislike the suffocating rubber smell over my nose and mouth, blocking my view, aiding my surgical slumber at a rapid speed. For a brief second, every time, I think: "Is this sucker, this dang contraption, gonna kill me?" Someone overhead tells me, "Breathe in real deep, Leslie. Real deep." I feel a gentle pat on my right or left shoulder. "We will take good care of you. Don't worry about a thing. Breathe in. Big deep breath. See you in a little while." I can feel my body ease into the gurney, my eyes flutter closed. I heard one last question: "Are we ready to get started here soon?" Faint laughter and the clang of medical equipment fills my ears. Then, I'm gone.


1) Ever feel you're the equivalent of a frequent-flier when it comes to hospitals and doctor's offices? Where's my free trip? My free anything! Can I feed the fish in the lobby fishtank? Get a free smoothie? Something? Coupon for parking?

2) What about when you get your prescription filled after a long day of doctor visits, scans, and a blood draw...But wait! The pharmacist has a problem! Oh no, not NOW! It's late. You're tired, your feet hurt, your stomach is growling... The pills can't be re-filled yet because it is too soon on the calendar, according to your insurance carrier. Insurance will pay for it in a few days but not now. The out-of-pocket cost is $435. "Come back in four days," says the pharmacist. The hospital pharmacy is not in your town, though. It's actually a two-three hour drive depending on traffic. You only have pills for two days. You need pills now. NOW. Can YOU relate?

3) In an open area, near a waiting room full of patients, you have a nurse yell your weight as if she's yelling "Bingo!" Loud. Very LOUD. Fair skin + red hair + embarrassing moment = Glowing patient! p.s. Karma make its rounds! :)

4) Girl talk, for a moment. Hospital undergarments! The white "mesh"underwear. If you can call it underwear. Have you SEEN it? Have you WORN it? OMG! It is more like someone took scissors to mosquito netting and fashioned it to look like a pair of panties! It's horrible! While we're here... no padding for down there! None!

When a nurse handed me a pair of "fruit of the doom" undies before my surgery I thought I was on one of those blooper shows. I just knew it! This HAD to be a joke. No blooper. Just sad, sad bloomers. What a mess! This whole time I have thought the hospital gown has been so bad! That's regal, a showstopper, in comparison.

5) Nurse Ratched is a legendary literary character. "Medication Time!" But I'm here to tell you that she's not just in books but alive and in a hospital near YOU! Before you think I've knocked over all my pill bottles, let me explain. There is more than one Nurse Ratched (One Flew Over The Cukoo's Nest), who may not go by that name, but has a irritable, mean, even devilish persona.

Most nurses I've met have been extremely helpful, kind, and supportive during my hospital stay. There are exceptions, though, ready and willing to give you The Evil Eye. *I have witnesses. He or she can be unwilling to communicate with the patients and/or physicians, try to convert you to her religion while on her work shift (appropriately apologize and then start all over again preaching!), and theres the lovely nurses who are in a rotten mood the entire shift and give you the *wrong* medicine. Luckily, your visitor catches the error!

You don't choose to be here! You have to be here because a tumor is causing pain in your left shoulder and you must have it removed. It's not for fancy cosmetic surgery or a vacation from the fur kids or real kids like a Real Housewife, or more accurately, a Real Singleton of Texas! LOL!

Besides, would I really choose the Brain and Spine wing of a hospital to spend my time off if I had a choice? Um, no. New York City! Southern California! Georgia! How about overseas? ... Although I've had so many now I might as well go for the world record, right? Most Surgeries of a Single Woman Who Hasn't Completely Lost Her Mind And Still Has A Penchant for Those Cozy Hospital Socks with the No-Skid Feet. Sad, but affirmative. I'm doing the best I can. In conclusion, Nurse Ratched is alive and well. And in a hospital near you! Be on alert. That said,
there have been wonderful nurses I've been honored to meet in Houston and Seattle who know way more than the the average doctor. I'm serious. Much like teachers, they rarely get the pat on the back they deserve and get paid far too little for what they do. I joke about the few "bad seeds" but there are some amazing men and women out there who keep those hospitals running.

6) Never ever read itemized statements of your hospital bills unless you are actually in the hospital. Lying down! Strapped down! Are you comfortable? Do you have plenty of medication in your system? Warning: If the statement is fully read, you might experience side-effects such as: a red face; yelling; excessive obscenities; screaming; crying with projectile tears; hysteria; rage; running or sprinting after doctors, nurses and other staff; overwhelming sense of helplessness. See. I told you not to read it! Oh, don't use that extra box of Kleenex. It's *18.50 per box, not including tax. (*Kidding with you! Not sure how much hospital tissue is these days!

7) No matter how sweet or kind-sounding physical therapists seem, be wary at all times. They're all up to something. :) I had one PT take me on a walking tour of MD Anderson in Houston (the place is like a city!) the day after surgery. The DAY AFTER SURGERY! A little soon for a city walking tour, eh? (OK, so we didn't see the entire City of MDA but we saw enough and what we saw I never want to see again.

Couldn't we go to a window that overlooks a garden or even just some art? She took me down this window-less hallway and made me walk, walk, walk. Gray carpet. Gray walls. Gray, gray, gray. Everything was gray. Think of Seinfeld's "No soup for you!" guy and convert it to my situation here: "No fun for you!" Yeah. Boy, did I hurt the next day. Know thy limits and know thy physical therapists. And lock your hospital doors at 2 p.m.

8) Why does every release from the hospital take longer and longer...longer than even Mom's stubborn doxie, Abbey, to get from the corner of the backyard to the back door? That. dog. takes. her. time. You watch her and it's as if days go by before she makes her way into the house. It's like the saying goes, 'her way or no way.' Well, unless you say, THE WORD. If you say THE WORD, the waiting is over. The dog is in the door in seconds flat. "Treat." All of a sudden, magic happens. Tiny feet, long body flying through the grass so fast it gives you those cartoon stars if you watch the performance start to finish.

The one piece of information I want to know is: What is the magic word to get me out of the hospital? I've tried getting the paperwork started the day before but it DOES NOT HAPPEN. The real aggravating part is that the doctor can even give me the green light "to go home" and it can be hours and hours AND HOURS before I leave. A nurse can tell me to plan for a 8-9 a.m. release and it still can be a long wait even if I'm ready, suitcase packed. Come to think of it I don't know if I've ever been sent home before noon! But wait, do I have my prescription? Can't leave without the prescription!

So, when I wake up from surgery, I wiggle my arms and fingers, determine how this stacks up against the last few procedures pain-wise. It honestly takes me a moment to remember where on my body but the pain usually alerts me rather quickly. Post-surgery, I am constantly amazed each time by the dryness of my mouth, the open desert. The ice chips, the size of a pencil's eraser, are given to me by the spoonful. The first chip as it melts, tastes like a body of water, cold and fresh. I swallow, wanting more and more.

***HEY, READERS, DO YOU have a memorable observation from your medical experience you would like to share? Not looking for fiction here! This has to be a real experience that happened to you, a friend, or family member in the hospital, doctor's office, exam room, etc. I would love to hear your stories & I might even put your submission on my blog! E-mail your stories to with the subject line Observe. Thanks!

©The Healing Redhead

First and last images:

Neurofibromatosis Awareness Month is NOW -- Let's create some awareness!

Ideas for NF Awareness Month
Wear the Children's Tumor Foundation blue and green NF awareness wristband all month. Wristbands can be obtained by emailing Rosa Perez at

Create a fundraiser to benefit NF research. You can do any number of things, including: approach your Human Resources department about letting employees wear jeans to work if they
make a $5 donation to the Children's Tumor Foundation; host a bake sale or lemonade stand; and ask a local restaurant or bar to donate part of its proceeds on a particular night.

Put the "About NF" flyer in your community (workplace, public library, popular coffee shops,
civic center bulletin boards, grocery stores, etc.) and pass flyer out to friends and
coworkers. Get the flyer here.

For more ideas, downloads, and an event list for NF Awareness Month, go here.

©The Healing Redhead

To learn about Neurofibromatosis and/or to donate to the cause, go to CTF.