In Part 1, I told you how my medical nightmare began.
My friends were at my bedside, happy to see me "back from the dead," but quick to point out the gross inconsideration of the Swedish Covenant staff.
"This is ridiculous, they didn't even bother to tell us you were in here. We found out only because you told Rina to bring you Thai food for what was supposed to be your overnight," Elise spit out between clenched teeth. "Yeah, they didn't call us or your family to tell us that you went into cardiac arrest or that they had put you in ICU. I thought you put us down as emergency contacts and the ones to make medical decisions for you", countered Rina.
"I did," I found extremely painful to reply. "My throat hurts." The attending ICU nurse interrupted, "Don't try to talk to much. When they were intubating you, something went wrong the first time and they had to do it over".
"Hey, can the woman get some ice chips or something for her throat," asked Elise. "What are you doing for the pain of her throat?"
"Well", the nurse told us, "we're more worried about the pneumonia she got from the botched intubation. The doctors are focusing on that - and the 103 degree fever she has".
I realized that I had been reanimated, according to the hospital employees passing through my room that Friday. I had died and come back to life.
I had apparently sailed through surgery - according to the Doctor "Lucky-to-be-Alive" - "with flying colors," but "something "happened" and that I "went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing" in recovery a full three hours past my leaving the operating room.
Then there was the failed first intubation.
And the coma.
And the pneumonia.
And the high fever.
Doctors came and went, but not my doctors. I asked, either struggling vocally or writing out my questions, "Where is my doctor -- Dr. _______?" But answers to my questions were not forthcoming. The subject was quickly changed to getting me better and out of ICU, of breaking my fever. I was given ice cream for my "sore" throat, where I could plainly see the tissue had been stripped away. Taking a drink of water was excruciating -- and brought to mind the cartoon in which Daffy Duck challenges Bugs Bunny by swallowing gasoline and a lighting match chaser.
As night fell that Friday, my room filled with some family and friends. I picked up my ringing phone and the sound of the voice of one of my two attending surgeons - the first I'd heard from either- informed me that he didn't know I had gone into cardiac arrest, been reanimated, and placed in ICU. Swedish Covenant hadn't told him. My other attending physician wouldn't find out for another four days - when I missed my first post-op appointment. No one who mattered to my existence had known I was comatose.
Saturday morning brought a familiar face in one of my surgeons. I was finally given the details - as much as had been passed onto him - of what happened. I had been assigned an attending physician from the Swedish Covenant's staff. (It apparently was too much trouble to alert my primary care physician or cardiologist.) This hospital staff doctor literally peeked into my room once, to let me know the ICU nurses would keep me informed of my progress and when I would be moved from ICU to a regular ward. By Saturday night, I was still weak, my throat was still inflamed, I still sweltered in a high fever and was now coughing and spitting up blood -- yet one of the ICU nurses told me I would be moved to a ward "as soon as possible."
The move occurred at 10:30 that evening. No announcement or explanation, just two orderlies at the door with a roller bed, efficiently unplugging and replugging my monitors as they placed me on the roller bed and pushed me into the hallway, down the hallway and into the elevator. We reached the fourth floor. We passed through several nicely appointed wards - spotless hardwood floors that smelled of a clean and recent oil washing, neatly painted white walls, wooded nurses' stations and softly lit hallways. My roller bed did not stop for passenger drop-off in the three wards I passed through. We didn't stop until we reached a ward in the distance: 4East. Ragged and torn grey carpet at the entrance smelled spoiled, and I was bombarded with harsh lights, loud sounds and grayish, ragged walls. Looking up, I saw peeling paint on the ceiling. Three modern wards we passed before we reached my final destination, which resembled the charity wards at the old Cook County Hospital.
We finally stopped, and I was distracted by moaning from the room across the hall from what would be my own personal hell for the next four days. A heavy woman occupied that room. She was moaning and crying. She was calling out for the nurse. The orderlies grabbed my attention as they moved me into a bed in the empty room and left without one word spoken to me.
My throat pain was unbearable. I rang the nurses' station. Twenty-five minutes passed before someone stopped by. I asked for pain management. My nurse left and returned with a cough drop. That cough drop would be the best and consistent treatment I'd receive for the remainder of my stay at Swedish Covenant.
During the next four days, I would get bedsores, insect bites that caused massive skin and scalp infections, and no food service from the cafeteria to comply with the special diet at my doctor's request.
A intravenous tube visibly hanging from my infected and left untreated right hand, Swedish Covenant's Senior Vice President of Operations would publicly threaten me with "physical restraint" by the hospital security force, police arrest and transfer to Cermak Hospital at Cook County Jail if I tried to leave the hospital "without permission."
In Part Three: As I Rot Away, BlueCross/Blue Shield Gets Billed Twenty Grand a Day.