Folks in my primary social capital circle know that over the past4 months I have been hospitalized with 2 episodes of pancreatitis. It is a sever condition where the pancreas, due to a blockage, becomes inflamed and dysfunctional. It comes on swiftly and the pain is unbearable. Once diagnosed the treatment approach is hospital admission and the complete shutdown of the digestive system, and pain management. My 2 recent admissions (early March and late May) tracked the same and, believe me, it is a condition you wouldn't wish on your worse enemy.
Now this blog is dedicated to looking at social capital and relationship issues, not a medical reflection, but their is a huge connection between social capital and acute medical situations that can not be denied. With pancreatitis, the pain is so outrageous that it is virtually impossible to manage without a social support system. I couldn't imagine doing what was required alone.
Still, laying in a hospital room, sometimes in intense pain, sometimes under the influence of pain medication, it is amazing the insights you have and the reflections that follow. To this end, here are some lessons learned.
1. Recognize that when pain medications are necessary there are some options that might work better for your system. When they gave me morphine, I immediately became nauseated and threw up during the application process. Of course, throwing up comes with pancreatitis, but if you can lessen this that is one less pain issue. What I discovered is that when they shifted me to dilaudid, I had limited nauseous reactions. Further, if the meds are applied slowly into the IV the results adjust better to the system.
2. When urinating into a bottle, especially from a hospital bed it is best to stand up (if possible), shift to your side (if you are mobile enough). Try to avoid peeing in a bottle while on your back.
3. As bad as you feel, and as insensitive that some staff can be (especially the overnight shift), the best policy is to be positive, take an interest in them and say please and thank you. It will serve you down the road.
4. Know that you can address the beeping of an IV monitor by hitting the reset button. Now this does not work all the time, and if you need a change on an IV bottle the beeping will continue. Still, these machines, and their infernal dysfunction, will make you crazy. The staff will blame your IV position and how you are laying on it.
5. Be prepared to not get much sleep. The pain meds will help make you drowsy, but just when you drift off, the aide will be in to take your vitals. In fact, the drawing of blood, always a deterrent to sleep, will happen in the middle of the night so that results are available for the docs when they come in for rounds. Forewarned is forearmed.
6. With digestive issues like pancreatitis, one major marker, that stand between the hospital and your dischage home, is having a bowel movement, and the passing of gas. Now, with the digestive system being shut down and taking nothing by mouth for 4 days, it takes a while for this process to kick in. Be patient.
I hope you never need any of these lessons and tips, but as one who is driven to observe, and try to make sense of experiences, i needed to share. As we all get older the more we will be destined for system breakdown, these kinds of experiences may be of help. Tread boldly!