I had C. diff hardcore for four days, and then the diarrhea and nausea started to subside. My stool was tested seven days after the onset of the infection, as was protocol. No bacteria should be present in two out of three consecutive samples in order for me to be released from the hospital. The hospital could not be held liable if I infected other people.
I was sure that I didn’t have it anymore. I was raring to go home… whatever way that would be. We still didn’t know how we were going home to Toronto from California with my gigantic halo brace!
The first and second stool samples were clear, but the third one wasn’t.
Wah. I had to stay in the hospital for seven days more until the next test could be done. We were getting to the end of Week 3 here. By the way, each day in the hospital cost $10,000 and I had to stay there for a month. All my surgeries and doctor consults were extra.
Luckily we had full coverage from our travel insurance. If there’s anything I’ve learned from this experience, it’s to ALWAYS PROCURE TRAVEL INSURANCE if you’re leaving Canada or your home country. It doesn’t matter if you’re only going for the weekend. I had a travel insurance package from my employer and I enrolled my husband as my dependent right before we left.
On one of our routine walks on the hospital floor, I told my husband, “Ugh, this sucks we have to stay here.” He said, “We’re basically just hanging out until we get to go.” He was right. From that moment on, I took a more lighthearted approach to staying in the hospital a little while longer. If anything, it gave me time to recover and regain my strength from my two major surgeries. By this time, both my parents had gone home to Canada. My dad left after my neck surgery (middle of Week 2), and my mom left at the beginning of Week 3 when my C. diff was nearly clear (to me at least). Thankfully my husband was with me 24/7 as he was permitted to sleep on a recliner next to me. Apparently it was incredibly comfortable too!
It was a pretty routine affair. This was, more or less, our daily schedule if we didn’t have any visitors:
6:00 am – Wake up and eat a bit to take antibiotic and anti-nausea pill for C. diff. Go back to sleep or read my book.
8:00 am – Wake up and eat breakfast. Take other medication. Wake up my husband to walk around the hospital floor with me.
9:00 am – Go back to sleep.
11:00 am – Wake up for real. Do random stuff to pass the time. Maybe walk around.
12:00 noon – Lunch time.Take antibiotic and anti-nausea pill for C. diff and maybe pain medication. My husband wakes up for real. Walk around the hospital floor. My husband showers and then goes out to buy food. I do random stuff to pass the time. The nurse comes in to clean my halo pins.
2:00 pm – Nap.
5:00 pm – Wake up. Walk around. Do random stuff to pass the time.
6:00 pm – Dinner time. Take antibiotic and anti-nausea pill for C. diff. Walk around hospital floor. My husband goes out to get something to eat.
7:30 pm – Sponge bath and/or hair washing with the help of a nurse tech. Watch a movie or show or whatever.
10:30 pm -The nurse comes in to clean my halo pins. Take medication. Sleep.
12:00 midnight – Wake up and eat a bit to take antibiotic and anti-nausea pill for C. diff and maybe pain medication.
4:00 am – Wake up and eat a bit to take pain medication.
Then repeat the next day. Pretty unexciting, right?
Other aspects of hospital living:
What sucked the most was having to wake up intermittently to take whatever medication I needed. I also needed to eat a little (like crackers, banana, milk) to be able to take them. At night I really needed to take my pain medication on schedule (every four hours). I would otherwise wake up from the terrible stabbing and/or throbbing pain at the back of my neck. I think it’s because certain muscles needed to be lifted off my spine during my surgery, and then “returned.” Also, my neck was broken, so obviously some pain would be expected. I opted to wake up on my own terms rather than experience the sudden pain. There would still pain from the act of getting up, but it wasn’t as bad. I wouldn’t be sitting down for a minute or two in excruciating pain until it fully subsided. Anyway, I had to nap a lot during the day to make up for the lack of sleep.
I was finicky about my sleeping position. I could basically lie on my back only. The bed had to be adjusted in a particular way. I had to have pillows to support my left arm as it needed to be elevated at all times with the splint. At first, I had to sleep nearly sitting because that felt most comfortable. Later, I was able to lie down at about 10 degrees. Truthfully it was like laying your head on a wooden board because of the halo. Fun.
Water didn’t splash on my face until we left the hospital a month later. I couldn’t figure out how to do it with the halo and I didn’t want to trouble my husband. I just cleaned my face with facial wipes.
Brushing my teeth was no problem. I just had to have a bib in case toothpaste dripped down my vest. I had to spit the water from my mouth into a kidney basin.
My husband or the nurse tech and I would wipe my upper body (the part covered by the halo vest) with cloths or wipes with rinse-free soap. One student nurse suggested using shaving cream but we only did that a few times. We sometimes opened one side of the vest near my waist to allow for some room for wiping.
My body below the vest was cleaned with cloths or wipes at first. Then a nurse tech suggested that I could go to the sink and then splash water on myself. That surely felt good. By Week 4, a plumber came in and installed a removable shower head in my bathroom so I could shower waist down. I had to cover my left arm (which was in a splint) with a plastic bag and some tape so that it wouldn’t get wet. My husband had to supervise me as I went inside the shower stall because it was really tight and I was scared of bumping my halo. Bumping the halo? Oh, it happened once before.
Hair washing was another story. It was disgusting. The only way to wash my beautiful, long, thick, black hair was using this:
It’s a rinse-free shower cap. Basically the nurse tech would microwave this so it would get warm, and then put it on my head such that all my hair would be inside the cap. Then she would massage it for a couple of minutes. The cap would be removed. DONE.
Gross, right? Most of the dirt and grime would still remain in my hair! For a month I had no choice.
Someone would then braid my hair to keep it neat. Once the tech couldn’t find someone to braid my hair. I wanted to go to sleep already but no one came. My husband didn’t know how to even tie long hair and this was the best he could do:
I absolutely loved it when friends and family came to visit us. We would share stories, have fun, and interact with people besides the hospital staff. Usually they brought food so that was a bonus! Once my uncle brought us lumpiang shanghai from a nearby Filipino place (Filipinos are EVERYWHERE I tell you, including Lancaster, California) and we continued to snack on it late at night when I would wake up to take my medication.
Considering it was hospital food, it was alright. Food services even called twice a day to ask what I wanted out of the choices they had! My husband raved over their banana pudding parfait. LOL. The only thing I would suggest was to vary the menu more. Mexican food every second day got tiring. My husband bought food outside as he thoroughly explored Lancaster on foot (we don’t have a car anymore, remember?). He also got whatever special request or craving I had… like shawarma~
Since I had a bunch of broken bones to heal, I needed a lot of calcium. My husband FORCED me to drink milk, or else he wouldn’t walk with me. I wasn’t allowed to walk by myself since the worst thing that could happen to me was fall down. I never was a milk drinker but I needed all the calcium I could get, so I willfully abided by my husband’s rule. I drank a serving of milk at least three times a day.
I caught up and finished the entire season of Masterchef Canada. IT WAS GREAT. David vs. Line in the finale was mind-blowing.
My husband started and nearly finished The Walking Dead. He probably watched a hundred random YouTube videos too.
We both bonded over all four seasons of Louie. For example, we’d watch an episode when I’d have to eat and take my medication at midnight.
I couldn’t really sit down for too long so we would watch movies in parts. We watched Up and The Big Lebowski. Thank God for Netflix.
We seldom watched the TV in our room. Once I watched My 600-lb Life on TLC and thought, Hey, what I’m going through isn’t so bad compared to those people. I’m not sure if I should feel terrible thinking that.
I also started reading Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. I would read it in the morning while waiting for breakfast. I read probably half of it when I decided that it was too predictable and repetitive (lavishness of Asians get boring too) for me to continue. Two stars out of five.
And of course, there was the giant time waster that we know as Facebook.
I had almost every nurse and tech on the floor take care of me. They were very kind and compassionate people. I cannot imagine more meaningful work than what they do everyday. My project this week is to write them thank you cards!
May 18, 2015 was our one-month anniversary (monthiversary?). Our hospital room was dimly lit, and I had just started eating my lunch.“Happy anniversary!” exclaimed ten or so nurses as they came in my door. Wow, we certainly didn’t expect that! Michelle, the nurse who led this effort, told us, “Just because you’re in the hospital doesn’t mean you can’t have a nice time on your anniversary.” Or something like that. Michelle was definitely one of my favourites. They gave us a banner with Pepe LePew and his sweetheart with “Happy anniversary” and a cute poem written on it. The nurses signed little messages on this office-printed banner and they gave us a balloon, a piece of (diabetes-friendly) cake, and a box of chocolate. My husband and I were both touched.
Michelle also hooked me up with a wheelchair one day so I could have some fresh air. IT HAD BEEN THREE AND A HALF WEEKS SINCE MY SKIN HAD ANY SUNSHINE. Outside, my husband, Michelle and I soaked up the Lancaster wind for ten minutes or so then went back inside the hospital. I noticed how stale the hospital air was the moment I went back inside.
By Week 4, all the nurses kept asking us, “Aren’t you going home yet?” as we walked past them in the hallway. We told them whatever plan we had going at the moment (it changed a lot). Day 30 since the accident arrived and we did finally leave the hospital. But not for home, as in Canada, just yet.