BlogSeries Excerpts: Travels through a Toxic Shock Nightmare
We were traveling our own nightmare in 2009 as we watched our son struggle to live. Understanding very little of his illness and knowing that we would never be the same if we lost him, we sought even the smallest improvement each day. His recovery will always be a miracle and God’s blessing for our family, and the story of his Travels through a Toxic Shock Nightmare will be a treasure forever. –Herbert and Betty-Bruce Hoover (Mom and Dad)
Part V: MICU Part V of my blog series for Confident Voices in Healthcare. Thank you for still reading. It can be heavy at times recounting all of this and every time I recount it, I still have trouble grasping the weight of it. I can put so many words around it, cut it up, put it back together, and look at it from different angles and it is still hard to take in. I had the great pleasure of being invited to a Critical Care Conference that was organized and put on by the doctors that saved me. Pulmonologists, all of them. My non-medical educated mind started to grasp why pulmonologists are the ones so deep in critical care and it only makes sense since the lungs are the gateway to the body. If an infection is going to cut loose it is going to do so in the lungs, the battleground where the immune system gears up to fight the infection. I read The Great Influenza by John M. Barry recently and he had a description of this event that was so well written, so technical, yet so clear at the same time I had to read it over and over again to make sure that I appreciated every word. It was that good. The lungs. As I was coming out of my stupor, I still had theories. I had figured it all out but hadn’t really gotten anywhere. My world was getting a little more real but I had problems coping with it. I suppose this is what they refer to as the ICU insanity for lack of a better word. I was getting it and getting it bad. But my world wasn’t all bad, comedy came into the picture too. It was all I had and I had to use it when I was at my lowest. At the time, I had no idea of the top notch care I was receiving or of my good fortune or how lucky I truly was being in my current condition. But I wasn’t totally lethargic or indifferent to the matter. Oh no, it was as if I was putting the pieces of a puzzle together that was of my own making and the result was a puzzle that made no sense yet made perfect sense at the same time. However the puzzle of the true reality was in another box somewhere and I had no idea where that box could be and I wasn’t even looking for it because I had my own answers. Guilt, add that to what I felt. It strangled me. As I looked at my broken body I thought, What did you do now Howard? Was there an accident caused by you? You really stepped in it this time and now all of these people are staying up all night in some windowless conference room trying to think of a way to save you. Hope you’re happy. Nag Nag Nag. The nagging would not go away. Strange to say this but when I left the MICU I didn’t miss it yet I did miss it. I certainly didn’t miss the lights on policy or death being around every corner or how I felt but I missed the people. The understanding that they were the cream of the crop did pierce the haze even with my mind hell bent on being hypercritical. Damn ingrate. When I moved on I missed them and I really missed my wall, the wall I would stare at for hours on end. It had become my comfort, my hope, my despair, my foe. Fortunately the bed I was in accompanied me. Although I hated my Mighty Instaflate, in the future I would find its absence to be quite troubling. In summary, Part V of my blog involves a mixed up mind in a mixed up world. An unbeatable combination of drama, situational comedy, and People’s Choice Awards.
Excerpt from Foreword
Why do hospitals fail? Early recognition is often difficult (presentation in the first few hours can be deceptive as the patient does not appear ill despite objective measures suggesting the development of a serious physiologic problem) and adequate treatment requires a choreographed team to perform multiple tasks simultaneously.–Dr. Scott Lindblom, Medical Director, CHS Critical Care Network, Section Chief, Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine
Book Review Comment Through much of the story he was a captive prisoner because of his personal failings. It is a wild, intimate “emotional epic” story and poignant look into what it’s like to be a very sick patient in the hospital. Instructive for healthcare professionals and caregivers. —Susan Morrow, MSW, LCSW, ACSW Excerpt from Travels through a Toxic Shock Nightmare
From Chapter 15
Kiss me, I’m Irish! The plane must have been headed over the Atlantic again. This was really becoming 1984’s The Never Ending Story. The origin story that is, for some reason I found the sequel, 1990’s The Never Ending Story II: The Next Chapter too derivative. On this flight my parents were in attendance along with Becky. We were landing soon so it was only appropriate that I get my hair washed and my teeth brushed to do what, I don’t know. Perhaps meet the press? I really believed that soon this would all be behind me, we would land and I would get off the plane and life could continue. The nurse, who introduced herself as Nora, was busy setting everything up. It felt like a casual loose atmosphere. I had a sense that I was going to be out of the woods of this whole ordeal soon. There was no way to speak at all to Becky or to my parents but they were talking all around me. My parents could be very chatty so they of course asked Nora where she was from. “I’m from Ireland, originally,” she replied. It was a reply that was very much in keeping with the international flavor of the nurses on my flight. They continued to talk about Ireland which lent itself to my confusion as to where I really was at the moment. I thought, Are we flying to Ireland or are we flying from Ireland? Even if I could speak I would never have the courage to ask lest the response be, “We’re flying to/from Ireland you fucking nitwit!” Nora washed my hair which I supposed needed it with the amount of bed head that must have seeped through. The water on my head just felt heavenly. I had been so hot lately that I could barely stand it. I just wished I could get some of that water in my mouth, I was so damn thirsty. My hair was dried and the nurse started brushing my teeth. She said, “The toothbrushes in the hospital are not the best but they’re better than nothing.” I didn’t really care. At least the feeling of the grass in my mouth was subsiding. She pulled some attachment from out of the stand that was connected to the tube that was in my mouth that sucked the water. It was just like I was at the dentist. Well, not my dentist. My hygienist doesn’t use air, she makes you sit up and spit, and with that I digress. As she used the suction tube I began to wonder just how all of these tubes were connected. My last memory of these tubes was that they sucked something out of my chest and now they were being used to suction my mouth. Very impressive instruments they had on this medical flight. I just hoped some Clouseauesque nurse didn’t hit the “Reverse” button by accident and put what had come out of me back while music from The Benny Hill Show played. Nora put a new gown on me, which was a miracle given my limp-like status. It must have been like dressing a slab of meat in fabric. For a parting gift she laid those cursed blankets on me. As she tucked me in all around the corners she continued to utter “Shhhhhh!!!!” as if I was a troublesome child. Though I may have been acting like one with the shitting of myself and all, there was no need for that. The heat was relentless, I just kept trying to kick these fabric shackles off which was not possible since my legs didn’t kick so it was more of a side to side shuffle. This movement caused her to tuck the blankets in tighter. I should have felt like a toasty cinnamon bun, but I didn’t. I felt like a caged badger trying to gnaw off its paw to free itself. I was so uncomfortable with the inability to shift positions. The salon treatment with the hair and teeth had distracted me from that. Since it was over I realized that I was still stuck and the plane didn’t seem to be landing. Are we now flying past Ireland? Where are we off to now? Crap, I thought I was done with this, and the plane engines are so loud. It turned out my excitement of being done with this was unfounded. I was stuck and my discomfort was magnified by the disappointment. I would have asked but feared the response would be, “We were never going to Ireland you shit for brains!” The Answer Man wasn’t very nice here.
Betty-Bruce Hoover’s (My mother) Perspective
January 27, 2009 – We learned that Howard had a bad night from about 10:15 on until morning. They did another bronchoscope and noted that his lungs were still inflamed with little secretion. When he did need to have the congestion removed, it was bloody and thick-looking. It was hard to look at it in the containers at the head of the bed.
Howard Hoover lives in Charlotte, NC with his family and is a first time author. As a sepsis survivor he has been invited to speak at conferences, hospitals, and manufacturing facilities domestically and internationally. He holds bachelor degrees from the United States Merchant Marine Academy, and the University of South Florida, and a graduate degree from Mercer University. He is a registered professional engineer in Georgia and North Carolina. Contact Howard Hoover: firstname.lastname@example.org Visit www.howardwhoover.com for more information about sepsis and a couple of other interesting items regarding my story. Travels through a Toxic Shock Nightmare is now available on Amazon.