Monday, February 09, 2009

Miracles V: Reprise, Me and My Hospital

The second stroke hit in November. Hit me really with a devastating force I do not yet understand. I truly thought the attacks I was having at the same time as the stroke were somehow related. My sister Ruth and I later came to characterize them as "shark attacks" and it turns out, they were occurring somehow independent or triggered by the same events as the stroke, but seemingly independent events. The doctors well understood and diagnosed the stroke events, and were even somewhat sympathetic toward my reported migraine complaints, but they were completely baffled by the "shark attack" stories. They tended to treat them as some kind of psychotic episode generally, although many of the hospital staff showed genuine compassion and concern. They obviously did not know what was wrong.

In the development of the first series of attacks in November, apparently in conjunction with a fairly serious second brain stem stroke, I laid in my bed incapacitated, waiting to die, and hoping I would. My dad and my friend Ricky helped me into the car, and I was too hurting and weak to resist. Dad and mom drove me to a hospital, though I did not want to go into a hospital again, I just wanted to pass away in my own bed at home.

It turned out they were taking me into Payson, Moutainview Hospital, though I was only semi-lucid, and didn't recognize what we were even doing most of the time. I told dad he was going the wrong way at one point, because I was alarmed to see that he was not heading for Provo and the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center that I thought he was taking me to. We arrived at Mountainview Emergency entrance, unloaded me , and things happened for a while that I don't remember too well, except lots of different people asking me to tell them what was wrong. I tried to explain about a hundred times, it seemed like.

Finally, I remember a sort of long drug-induced sleep, interrupted by several nightmarish hiatus breaks with what must have been "shark attacks". I could hear lots of people yelling and seems like running around the bed doing things, and trying to get me to talk, and doing something to try to wake me up, and alarms sounding everywhere -- but all seemed very far away, and I couldn't seem to muster up much concern. I just hurt and felt so tired, and wanted to stop breathing and die. Then someone would inject something else in the IV, and I would fall asleep again until the next attack.

I think at least two of these episode occurred where the medical staff witnessed the attacks and tried to intervene. After that, I think they determined that the attacks were not life-threatening, though they were painful and frightening, so they decided to just stand by and not try to intervene at all. I had several more painful "shark attacks" but they began to subside, and almost ceased by the time I left Mountainview.

One of the first significant miraculous events that took place was that people started to talk to me about my feelings, first my parents, then doctors and nurses, then friends and family, then everyone in general. I am amazed at the sudden outpouring of concern and sympathy I felt, coming from so many sources all at once. Perhaps because I had lived so many years in bitter loneliness and self-enforced monastic isolation, this seeming new found fellowship and brotherhood was almost surreal to me. One of the nursing staff at Mountainview, a young man named Tom, showed particular interest and sensitivity in listening to my story, even though I am sure he was convinced I was suffering from some problems with psychosis.

One great miracle of faith and hope at this time was that my bishop, Marty Hall, came to minister to me. He brought hope and prayer into the midst of great suffering and despair. He is indeed a man who bears the mantle of priesthood authority, and bears it well. He brought other gifts, as well. I give thanks for those too.

Another miracle that was visited on me at this time was the gift of a visit from two of my sons, and a spouse, which was a joy beyond my greatest hope. I was able to talk at length with them, something we had never really done before as peers, and it was sheer pleasure to my soul.

After a stay at Mountainview, the doctors determined they were finished with diagnostic work, and that I would benefit from more comprehensive rehab, so I transferred to Provo's Rehab Center for further inpatient care.

I wasn't prepared to go home yet -- I could not take care of my self independently, and my folks were not up to the task. The Rehab Center seemed like the best choice, though I had bad memories associated with the hospital. It turned out to be excellent care, and I am happy with the way things turned out.

Before I leave the chronicle of Mountainview Hospital, I have to mention again the funniest incident. I have journalled this experience before, but it bears repeating, I think.

One of the first problems I encountered with nursing care in the hospital was that I assumed I should do what I wanted, and they assumed I should be asking them for permission first before venturing to do much of anything -- and I mean ANYTHING. They were mad when they found out I had presumed to get out of bed by myself and use the toilet to urinate without using the urinal provided for the purpose of monitoring output and providing lab sample, etc.  I had no clue, and they had not told me, but they were just furious anyway. This went on for more than two days until someone patiently explained to me like I was some kind of stupid moron that I was supposed to be using the urinal, and that I was obviously NOT doing it because I wanted them to get into trouble with the doctors, and it was all my fault for such a backward upbringing, or some such. I apologized most profusely, and feigned complete ignorance, which was easy because I had not a clue what offence they were accusing me of. I started using the urinal as regularly as I could, and thought we were at peace.

Well, another minor skirmish. One day, I decided I wanted to take a shower. I smelled like a horse. Not bad, just too much BO and too long absent soap and water. So, I said to the nurse, in passing, "I think I will shower today. I think my dad can give all the help I need."

The nurse seemed to hear, and did not disagree violently, but passed on rather quickly to other duties, seemingly leaving my dad and I to attempt the shower as we pleased. In reality, the nurse was submitting my request, and it would have been considered, but they would have insisted that two PT guys be standing by, just in case I needed any assistance getting back into bed after the shower.

I got undressed and climbed into the tub shower with the greatest of relief. There is nothing like the blessing of hot soapy water rinsing over a traumatized body. A hot shower can be so relaxing after a week in bed without one.

Problem is, standing up in a shower for too long can also challenge blood circulation for one who has lain flat on his back for a week. Without much warning, I suddenly realized I was going to pass out -- right away. Things were turning gray before I realized it. I called out to my dad, "I'm passing out!" Fortunately, the shower was equipped with an auxiliary stool for just such contingencies. I collapsed on it just as my dad moved it into place. In alarm, he summoned the nurse, who sternly disapproved of the "unauthorized" shower, and immediately summoned various Gestapo and burly PT guys to help me out of the bathtub.

By the time all the troop stopped arriving, I had revived, gotten out of the tub, with a little assistance, and was getting dried and dressed. I was sternly informed that showering requires an attendant, and I was not to do that again, under any circumstances. I tried to act appropriately remorseful, but apparently they were not convinced. After helping me get gowned and safely back in the bed, I was wheeled off for more diagnostics, including an extensive EEG, which involves gluing dozens of electrodes to my hair, and leaves a very big mess of glue and other stuff in the hair and scalp after completion... Oh Oh, I really need another shower! What to do now? I made the request through proper channels this time.

It just turned out by some coincidence that two 15-year-old girls from the local high school were serving as volunteer nurse assistants that morning. They got assigned to monitor me -- while I was taking a shower. I have to say, it is the first time in my life that a couple of young girls have ever watched me taking a shower before. I honestly hope they were not too offended.

Before I peeled off my clothes, I gave them a chance. I said, "If you are offended by the sight of a fat, naked old man in the shower, please turn your head NOW!"

They both claimed to have seen it all before, and even seemed to study with some interest as I soaped up and rinsed.

The shower was quickly completed without further incident, and I returned to my bed for further rest and recuperation.

Next instalment:  Brain Damage


Anonymous said...

I think, maybe, that people loved you and cared for you all along like they do now. I think that you just didn't know it or believe it enough to recognize it for what it is. You're a good man and always have been. You quit believing that for awhile, and started believing all the bad stuff, which was all wrong. The truth is what people are saying to you now, that you are good and lovable. It is true now, and it always has been.

I love you.


Jim Cobabe said...


For a time that was simply not an option for me. I needed a very small world to exist in -- I just denied everything else. It simplifies the problems greatly.

Anonymous said...

Ok, so have you left your small and sad world behind now? A bigger world shows you much more that is cruel, but also much more that is lovely and sweet. In my opinion, it is a worthy trade.

Believe in the good, Jim. It's a big world full of good stuff out there. You just have to take that leap of faith to find it.

Patricia said...

Great stories, Jim. I had no idea that being in the hospital had gotten so complicated. I have been on the receiving end of the "You did this on purpose to make us look bad" accusations. Those are strange, and I really don't know where they come from. Is the hospital staff trained in wielding guilt to secure your compliance?

In my case, I arrived at the hospital with only five minutes to spare before giving birth to my daughter after a lightning labor. One nurse accused me of cutting it so close on purpose.

So what have you learned from all this?

Patricia said...

BTW, I should add that I very much appreciate your being willing to share these stories with us.

Jim Cobabe said...


I believe it more and more every day.

All things testify if Christ.

Jim Cobabe said...


It should be obvious by now that I love the telling. Thanks for following. BTW, you owe us a link still, or am I wrong?

As to what I have learned about nurses and hospitals, I understand now that the doctors are only there as acccessories, and the nursing staff is really running the place. It all would have been so much easiser if I had understood that in the first place. I was under the mistaken notion that doctors somehow had something to do with running hospitals. I see now that it is really the nursing staff that does all the heavy lifting -- and I don't just mean weight, although they usually do that too.

I fell instantly in love with a vietnam girl that was my nurse several times at the neurology ward at the U hospital. Like a fool, I impetuously propsed marriage, and I think frightend her away forever. But she was so intelligent and quick-witted, she appealed to me so greatly, I wanted to be friends. I don't think she will speak to me again. But I can hope.