Friday, August 06, 2010


I guess I could consider myself lucky that I managed to go almost 37 years without spending any time in a hospital. My luck ran out last Monday, however.

Late Friday, I had been experiencing digestive problems that I originally assumed were caused by something I ate (specifically, that steak that had probably been marinating in the refrigerator for too long). Saturday it wasn't too bad; I felt mildly queasy but was not in any pain and spent most of the day in bed. Over the course of the day Sunday, however, the generalized bloating I had been feeling began to morph into a localized pain in my lower left abdomen, a pain that gradually grew worse Sunday evening and Monday morning. It got to the point that it became painful to walk, move and even breathe. Realizing that something was seriously wrong, I left the office early Monday afternoon and went to Methodist Hospital's emergency care center on the Southwest Freeway. There they ran routine tests, gave me pain medication, and administered a CT scan on my abdomen.

The resulting diagnosis of acute diverticulitis, while not exactly common for people my age, is by no means unprecedented. The doctor at the emergency center deemed it serious - he was particularly worried about a potential rupture - so he immediately admitted me to the hospital. An antibiotic IV was started and I was transferred from the emergency care center to Methodist's main complex in the Texas Medical Center.

There I lay, from Monday night to Wednesday afternoon, having a generally lousy time. The fact that I was attached to an IV limited my mobility, so I never ventured out of my room. Getting sleep was difficult, on account of the noise and light in the outside hallway, the loud snoring from the guy in the bed next to me, the constant click-clack of the infusion pump, or the simple fact that I was in an unfamiliar place. The fact that I was put on "bowel rest" meant that I could have nothing to eat or drink - all my fluids and nutrients came intravenously. The hospital staff, to their credit, were helpful and friendly and did try to make me feel comfortable, but there's only so much they could do.

Fortunately, I had my laptop with me, and that along with the hospital's wi-fi meant that I could keep myself occupied and even get some work done. I was actually pretty productive over the course of the day Tuesday, owing to the (relative) lack of distraction in my room as well as the fact that I was essentially confined to my bed. However, by Wednesday not even my laptop could keep me from beginning to get bored and restless.

Fortunately, the antibiotics were having their desired effect and the pain in my abdomen steadily decreased over the course of my stay. Periodic blood tests apparently revealed nothing abnormal, either, because by Wednesday morning I was allowed to resume eating (albeit only "clear" foods like broth or gelatin) and on early Wednesday afternoon a group of doctors came in to explain to me that my case appeared to be "uncomplicated" and that I could go home if I so desired. I obviously chose to do so, and by four that afternoon I was given a prescription for antibiotics and was discharged.

Two days later, everything seems okay. The pain in my belly is gone, I am taking my antibiotics as required, I am cautiously easing back into a normal diet, and I even went to the office today, if only for a few hours. My next step is to see a gastroenterologist to have this event examined in more depth - why did it happen, and what (other than eating more fiber) can I do to prevent it from happening again - but I first need to check in with my primary care physician to get a referral. I also get to look forward to the bill. My medical insurance will cover most of it, but not all, and considering how expensive medical care is these days I'm probably looking at coughing up a significant chunk of change.

So now I've finally had my hospital experience. And, having had it, it's something I can definitely say I want to avoid in the future. Ergo, it's time to start making some changes to my lifestyle. The important thing for now, however, is that I am okay.

Methodist is, ironically, the same hospital where I was born.

1 comment:

Charles Kuffner said...

Yikes! Sorry to her that, dude, but I'm glad you're out and back on your feet again. My first hospitalization experience was 2007 with pneumonia, and I totally agree it's not something you ever want to do again. Stay well!