I'll get the grossest part out of the way up front. Between the staples, the stitches, the open wound that was intentionally left open, and the hole in my stomach that I'll be shitting thru for roughly the next 6 months, my body from belly button to now non-functioning anus looks like a cross between a Dr Frankestein experiment and a circus side-show attraction. In case anyone wondered where I've been/what I've been up to for the last month, that's the deal. Twenty-eight days in George Washington Univ Hospital and 3 days in a faith-based nursing care/homeless/alcohol/drug treatment facility, my time at each location notable in their own right. I'll get more into that shortly.
To fill out the complete holiday package, for Thanksgiving I got a case of viral conjunctivitis and for New Year's I got some kind of yet to be officially diagnosed urinary-related infection from the catheter at the hopital. It's difficult to not feel like I'd be better off put down than given medical treatment. Yet I fight on. At least for now.
So this was the third time I've been admitted to GW hospital with a severe skin infection in my groin. I figured like the last two times, that I'd be in the hospital on IV antibiotics for a week and that'd be it. Boy did I ever underestimated the severity this time around. It had only been a couple days since the symptoms first came on, a small spot of skin irritation that felt like a zit or ingrown hair. Then came the fever and chills. That's when I knew an ER visit was needed. But the ER docs let me know in short order that I needed immediate surgery if I wanted to live, the virtues of which I did spend some amount of time debating with them. Yeah, still working through my depression.
Anyhow, the infection had sent me into septic shock and my kidneys were on the verge of shutting down. The docs explained they needed to do the surgery ASAP, but not just that, They'd go in, remove tissue, and get this - they'd have to leave me intibated for several days so they could go back in and remove more infected tissue as needed. They also let me know that due to the proximity of the surgery site to my anus that a temporary colostomy was likely in store. This all sounded like Suck City Central and that's when I asked the docs if they'd just address the pain and let shit run it's course, which would've meant the infection traveling from my groin to my shoulder, going gangrenous and ending my life. With quality pain meds that could've been a gloriously fun and peaceful departure, but the docs were kind of freaked that I would even ask such a thing so I let them off the hook so they could start carving away.
I have zero memory of the first 10 days of my hospitalization. My 50th b-day on 12/3? No memory whatsoever, Just as well. Not a day I was looking forward to anyway. When I finally regained consciousness, it still took a couple days to get the questions right - what's the year, what's the month, but I always knew who was in the WH. You bet your sweet ass i got that one right every time. "Barack Obama, thank god."
I spent more than one day after surgery on no food or water just in case I had to go back into surgery. I spent two nights sleeping in my own excrement because few people on staff, surgeons included, knew how to properly put on a new colostomy bag, which wouldn't start leakinging until the night shift came on and the night nurse didn't come in to help me until 5 am the next morning. In short, I really felt the quality of care had gone down hill over the last couple years. Docs were nice, all were pretty nice, but that doesn't much make up for leaving me to sleep in liquid shit.
I also let them know i was having to pee every 2 hrs once they took the catheter out. One of the docs made up some wait and see excuse. It was at my next care-giver location that I was taken seriously. Still don't know if it's urinary tract or bladder or what, but peeing every 2 hrs for more than 2 weeks is not normal. Hope to sleep through the night sometime soon.
On top of all that I couldn't even count on calls from family and friends to get through. Maybe it was just a series of flukes, but my confidence in GW has eroded quite a bit.
It was last Thursday the docs decided I didn't need to be in the hospital any more, but needed nursing care, particularly given the difficult location of the open wound and that it needs to be packed so it heals from the outside edges inward lessening the chances of new infection, at least that's what they told me. The fact that I just discovered a bedbug infestation right before all this came down was also a major consideration.
So where to go? According to the hospital social worker, the only solution my poor people insurance would cover was to go to a medical shelter called Christ House.Christ House? There wasn't a doc or nurse I'd dealt with who wasn't clearly aware that I was a staunch atheist. They knew this was not going to go over well, but they nagged and begged and cajoled and I eventually relented. I told them I'd go, but no guarantee I'd stay, especially if their assurance that Christ House was not overtly religious proved false.
I walked into Christ House looking in every nook and cranny for an excuse to turn right around and walk right back out, to go home even tho I might only have that home for another few weeks or a month. I missed my MSNBC, I missed my internet access. and I was desperate to find Alice, who the dumbasses at GW had told I wasn't there anymore, as of 3 weeks ago. Morons.
Try as I might, I was having one hell of a time finding a reason to leave Christ House. The staff were aware and totally respectful of my non-belief and they were simply amazing in every way imaginable. Seriously, it was stunning that this place has managed to assemble an extensive staff of medical professionals, case workers, you name it, all of whom are great at what they do. They put GW to shame. And no, they are not overtly religious.
Still, when a person wants an excuse to do what they want to do, a reason will pretty much always present itself. For me, it was taking advantage of the one mistake the CH staff made, and that was the case worker's insistance that I at least try attending the mandatory AA meetings. It just took two. I listened to all these guys talking about "god" helping/intevening, whatever. I decided to open my big yap. I couched it as carefully as I could, tried to communicate with as much respect as possible and basically told these guys that they might want to consider taking just a smidge more credit for themselves for having the courage and strength to address their addiction, that believing "god" played a part was all fine and good, but it takes people doing the hard things, making hard decisions. Three people shared afterward, two of which were heated reactions aimed directly at me. BINGO.
Some patients/residents realized the attacks on me were bullshit, but they played it way down, not worth getting into it with others and I'd been clear I was out of there, so what's the point. Staff tried and tried to persuade me to reconsider, but another opening might not present itself. I did stay one more night, but the next morning at breakfast some jackass made a snide comment in reference to the incident and that only served to cement the decision I'd already made.
So I'm home. Yay. And Alice showed up. Yay. I'm broke as hell, but the phone and internet are caught up, got a SNAP card, and a few weeks worth of colostomy and wound dressing supplies. Yay.
And once past the first of the year I'm on a mission to find new housing, better social service care, a separate issue not actually covered here, but I will in the near future. Employment will come. I had hoped to get some mental health issues dealt with first, but I've since been told the specific area in which I believe I need help may not be available except for people who have money to pay for it. Oh well, we'll see. In the meanwhile, wish me luck in changing my wound dressing. Emptying my poop bag I think I've got a good handle on. Changing where the bag connects to my skin? We'll see.
Happy New Year.