Saturday, August 07, 2004

Short Circuiting Sleep

Let's be clear on this....hospitals are lousy places to sleep. They're fine if you have a ready supply of drugs, but for those of us who went through our entitlement of pharmaceuticals in the 70's, a hospital is a very difficult place to get any rest.

I'm not sure how many Naugas had to die to make the Naugahyde bed/chair/torture device upon which I camped last night, but I'm certain of this much, although I've never seen one, Naugas certainly can't be fluffy little creatures.

The real issue in trying to sleep in a hospital is the constant noise. There are various devices monitoring Amy at all times. For the first few hours I was attempting to sleep, one of those gadgets, a PulSox meter - which measures her oxygen and pulse rate - kept sounding an alarm. I don't mean a weenie little "I'm a car alarm wailing you can ignore me alarm", I mean a "WAKE UP!!! WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE! ALARM!"

It's very effective... unless apparently you are the person hooked up to it

I bounded out of my modern day torture rack each time it happened and rushed to Amy's side, initially I actually thought it was a hospital fire alarm. Amy slept through it.

I finally figured out that we had a defective PulSox machine which believed it had a bad battery. Amy's breathing and pulse rate were fine... as evidence I'd work in a mention of snoring here but she's already going to throttle me for the above let's forget I mentioned snoring okay?

I will mention I leapt out of bed a short time later when I noticed Amy getting up. I thought she might have needed help with something, but then I noticed her eyes were closed. I cautiously said, "Amy?" She opened her eyes, smiled at me adoringly and said, "Oh, I was dreaming I was shopping at Aldies."

I tucked her back into bed wondering why she would be dreaming of Aldies, which for those of you who don't know is a grocery store chain. A grocery store chain we don't have in Texas...never have. Amy has not shopped at Aldies since before we were married to the best of my knowledge. I'll let the family dream interpreter figure that one out, although I suspect he'll beg off citing the morphine as a factor precluding any Jungian analysis.

I crawled back into my makeshift bed...did a crossword puzzle, and started to drift back into slumber...

"WAKE UP!! WAKE UP!! WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!" was time to do something about the PulSox machine gone haywire. Moments later Amy's very attentive nurse - who hates cameras by the way...the things you learn on the night shift - eventually found us another PulSox machine and I again attempted to sleep. I did manage to dream for a moment or two but my thoughts were haunted. Do you know what a PulSox machine looks like? Did you ever see the movie "Short Circuit?"

Maybe in the bright light of day no one sees the connection, but last night for me it was the stuff of least the brief ones I managed to squeeze in between interruptions.

Following the PulSox pulmonary experience - which by the way sounds like a great name for a theme park ride - I was awoken by various other alarms indicating fluid drips had stopped dripping and also by a male nurse who wanted to know if Amy had used the restroom recently. He actually inquired if I had perhaps taken a measurement "of her output." I pointed him toward the chart on the bathroom door where this vital information is dutifully recorded by Amy, and rolled back over thinking discomforting dreams of PulSox pariahs couldn't be much worse unless of course the pee measuring male nurse made a cameo appearance in them.

Then a woman came in to the clean.

It was 3 in the morning. All the lights were off, and this very delightful woman - also not keen on cameras by the way- came in and quietly removed the trash, picked up some other debris, and lovingly checked Amy making sure her blankets were covering her. I found it very sweet...odd, but sweet. She didn't inquire about body fluids, but noticing I was now wide awake she did ask about the picture I had brought of the family.

Having given up any hope of sleep, I began doing crossword puzzles. I knocked out two and then foolishly thought, "I bet I could get in an hours nap now."

I gently closed my eyes and rolled over onto the only spot on my back which wasn't throbbing from previous attacks by the Naugachair-creature. I prayed a little, thanking God that Amy was resting well and that despite my minor discomforts, she was getting good care. I started to drift off and then...


I couldn't believe it. I went over to check the PulSox meter and this time it was actually doing its job, Amy's breathing had dipped one notch below what is deemed acceptable. I nudged her, and the numbers quickly rose.

I started another crossword puzzle and then the nurse came in. I asked about the PulSox alarm and she showed me that she carried a pager-like device which gave her continual read-outs of Amy's PulSox machine. She wasn't concerned by one ear-splitting alarm at all. I, of course, wondered since she had a pager that gave her such information, why it was necessary to have an alarm on the thing that rattled the plaster from the walls. I decided it was best not to ask.

About that time, Amy woke up briefly and the nurse checked her out. She gave her some medications, and then it was back to normal...unless you consider sleeping to be a normal activity at 4 a.m. on a Saturday.

I polished off the puzzle I was working on, feeling rather proud of myself - of course I now realize I may have written complete gibberish in the puzzle squares because I was so sleep deprived.

I knew I couldn't stay much longer. I had to get home and tend to the dogs and my original intention was do some yard work at the church in the cool of the morning.

I went over to Amy's bedside and prayed again. That certainly seemed like a better use of my time and I knew even if I was speaking gibberish God would know what I meant.

I packed up my stuff, folded away the blankets and the Nauga cruelty device before waking Amy to tell her I had to leave. She cried a little, the general frustration crying of someone who has been through an awful lot and doesn't really understand. I held her hand and kissed her.

Then I assured her I would be back tonight.

There's nothing that could keep me away.

For the record: I got a nice nap in when I got home, and plan to nap more before going up to the hospital tonight. I don't want to sound too sleep deprived, or too noble.