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(dispatches from social isolation)

First Offerings: Kelly Beekman and Katherine Vode

Acknowledging Those Who Help the Sick during This Time

Kelly Beekman

 

At 12:45 on a Thursday afternoon, May 21, I was overcome with terrible abdominal pain that, over the course of the next hour, became more and more severe. In the following 10 or 11 hours, I came in contact with so many different people who assisted in various ways to support and care for me. I wanted to take this time to thank those who helped me. Spoiler Alert: I am feeling almost back to normal and am home safe with no surgical intervention.

I send my thanks first to my boyfriend, Rod, who, up until the time they rolled me down the hallway into the emergency room and he was not allowed to follow, was in physical contact with me since the pain became severe.

Who wants to go to the hospital when there is a pandemic? I was scared and didn’t want to go.

The following is the list of people I came in contact with during my crisis and stay at Lankenau Medical Center. They made me as comfortable as possible and were so kind and thoughtful, answering my questions and supporting my care. I met more people in those 8 hours than I had in the last 6 weeks put together!

1. Rod’s friend, Karima, an ER doctor, whom he texted when we were still at home when I couldn’t identify what was going wrong. She prescribed 600 mg Ibuprophen for pain. When that didn’t work, she urged us to go to the hospital.

2. The nurse who took my temperature the minute I walked in the ER door: 97.5. She took Rod’s temperature too: 98.4.

3. The security guard who showed us to intake.

4. The nurse who took my personal info for the intake and…

5. The nurse who asked me my symptoms for the intake. She also gave me my wrist identification that had my barcodes printed on it.

6. The orderly who pushed my wheelchair into the ER and showed me to my private room. He gave me my lovely green and blue hospital gown.

7. My first nurse, Jessica, welcomed me, and took all my medical history. She hooked me up to the heart monitor, took my blood pressure, and gave me two of the warmest hospital blankets to cover my bare legs—they must keep them in a warming oven—that was sooooo nice. She then put in an IV port and took blood. She also gave me socks so that I could walk to the bathroom.

8. In came Hannah, the Physician’s Assistant who gave me fluids in a IV drip and morphine. I have never had morphine before. That made things much better. She told me I was to have a cat scan and ultrasound to see what was going on.

9. An administrator came in with some papers for me to sign for intake… Have you ever tried to sign your name after receiving morphine… it was not pretty… I then slept some.

10. When I woke up I needed to go to the bathroom again and Maria, my second nurse, with the beautiful tattoos came to set up the commode, ‘cause morphine does things to your sense of balance and I had no desire to walk far. When I was done, Maria hooked me back up to all the machines but before she was done…

11. An orderly came to take me to the CAT scan. He gave me another warm blanket. So thoughtful.

12. The CAT scan technician gave me orientation and spoke to me when I was in the machine. When I got back, Maria gave me a pillow. I slept more. (Morphine makes the world a little fuzzy around the edges.)

13. Hannah and Maria came again for a pelvic exam, and then the ultrasound technician came to get me in a wheelchair. She was a fast driver. I have to admit that I got a little carsick!

14. At shift change, I arrived back in bed and met Lea, my third nurse. She tucked me back in and connected me to the machines. I was in pain again from the ultrasound procedure, so she gave me more morphine … Oh, so grand to have the world slip away for a little while, but very shortly after…

15. Dr. Bushra came in to tell me that he was on my case and was heading out to look at the ultrasound images. I slept some more.

16. I woke and talked to a nurse on the intercom who came in to unhook me from the machines so that I could go to the bathroom.

17. The security guard in the hall directed me to the unoccupied bathroom.

18. I slept some more and spoke to another nurse on the intercom when I woke up, who sent in Lea. She told me that the OB/Gyn was asked for consult and we were still waiting for their evaluation of my case.

19. The OB/Gyn doctor came in with the good news that it was not surgical and that there was nothing they could do to intervene. Pain meds were prescribed and then I got to go home. Lea disconnected me from the machine and gave me discharge paperwork to read at home.

20. The last person I talked to was the Check Out administrator.

Rod met me in the parking lot and I was home again and in bed in less than 20 minutes. Diagnosis: Fibroids.

When we read in the paper every day about the people who are working on the front-line with the patients who are struggling the most from COVID-19, it is hard to imagine what their experience is really like. After this has occurred, I can now have a better understanding of how many people are involved in the care of the sick in a hospital. I was there about 8 hours. Imagine what it would be like to be in the hospital for three weeks? Though I was not with my loved ones at the hospital, the people who supported me became important—like family. I am grateful for the human interaction and the human touch.

Dazzling Enchantment in the Warm Growth of Spring

Painting by Katherine Vode

2 Comments

  1. Joanna B Bergmann

    An ordeal, Kelly, but you captured your 8 hour stay with such vivid detail, I felt as if I was experiencing your time in the E.R. with you. Your gratitude was palpable and your bravery, admirable. So glad that you were able to leave without surgical intervention. Hope that you are out of pain now too. Warm thoughts from me to you.

    Reply
  2. Walter Alexander

    Many thanks for your frank and thorough detailing of your experience of being helped, mostly by strangers. It reminded me immediately of an event from my own life, some ten or so years back.

    I was in Berlin, Germany, for a medical conference. I had taken an evening flight arriving at around 6:00 in the morning, and had foolishly neglected to remove my contact lenses before shutting down after the meal. I tried unsuccessfully to get some sleep in my cramped coach seat. By the time we arrived my eyes were seriously irritated, and when I got to my hotel I removed them and grabbed an hour’s sleep before I had to head off to the convention center for a press briefing. My eyes were still very red, and there was no way I was going to put my lenses back in, so I went out wearing my glasses (which I never otherwise do).

    Still exhausted, I walked a few blocks and headed down a set of sharp-edged stone stairs to the underground. I was top heavy, wearing a bulky lined raincoat with a backpack stuffed with my recorders, cameras and computer, and a tripod over my shoulder. I was not used to navigating stairs wearing glasses, and I misjudged a step and plunged down to my left, out of control.

    It was still rush hour, and there was a stream of commuters coming up the stairs toward me. I fell into them, bouncing off perhaps three or four people who absorbed my momentum. No one fell, and I managed after a few steps to regain my balance at the bottom of the stairs. I looked back. People were asking (in English—how did they know I was American?), “Are you okay?” “Yes,” I said and asked the same of them. They moved on. I quickly saw that my connecting train was arriving in two minutes. My left calf muscle was cramping and I walked up and down the platform to work it through—succeeding just as the train doors opened and I entered the car.

    I was thunderstruck. I was in a foreign country in an unfamiliar city—saved from certain significant injury by total strangers. But something more than that opened itself to me. I was born in 1944 at Bronx Hospital during the era when most women gave birth fully anesthetized. I was then already being helped by complete strangers, and have continued to be helped by countless strangers right down to the those who planted, grew, harvested and shipped the lemon in this morning’s tea! And then I saw further with something close to horror—how much of my psyche (and most other people’s, I presume) is devoted to blocking out that realization all of the time–of how much we depend endlessly on each other and are helped by unseen hands!

    So, yes, thank you, Kelly, for the reminder!

    Reply

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