Wednesday, May 03, 2006

"It's just a clean out "...

So spake Elvis King, a fellow floor mate during my first admission. Yes, that is his real name, and yes, he was a lot of fun. He showed me all the entertainment tricks of the hospital--we decorated towels we stole from the linen room and had wheelchair and wagon races up and down the Y-shaped halls. He was from Fostoria, a town in Northern Ohio, and was awesome. He couldn't believe that my windowsill had spontaneously erupted into bouquets of flowers, balloons, candy, and stuffed animals. It was, after all, a clean out . But when you're 11, and you've got a huge extended family, it's normal. My best friend at the time, Anne, came with her mother and brought me the entire Misty of Chincoteague series, since we were both horse nuts, having both attended Girl Scout riding camp in Hilliard the year before.

I was in the hospital for about two weeks, and boy did we learn a lot. We learned how to do PDs (postural drainage), which back then was still done by hand. Someone (usually my parents, and usually dad) would pound the 12 positions on the chest, 6 upper and 6 lower, where my body was tossed over a pile of pillows in order to get the secretions out of the lower lobes of my lungs more effectively. PDs were especially important for me since I wasn't what Pulmonologists call a "productive" cougher, meaning not a lot came up when I (rarely) coughed.

Along with PDs were aerosol treatments, which consisted of albuterol and saline mixed in a nebulizer and inhaled twice a day before PDs. This drug combination opened up the lungs and made the mucus easier to clear (the mix is a "bronchodialator", for all you med trivia folks.) These treatments would soon bookend my day for the next twelve years.

Also, we learned about the wonderful world of enzymes, which I would have to take orally before eating most foods to make up for the fact that my pancreas didn't produce enough enzymes naturally. I wasn't yet the World Champion of Pill Swallowing, so we opened up the capsules, placed the tiny beads in applesauce or pudding, and I ate it that way. how much fun it was to tote applesauce packets to, say, the movies. Lots of fun for my mom. I eventually, after about a year, learned to swallow them (which took some bribery from the American Girl catalogue). It also helped that the capsule eventually became smaller.

My dad stayed with me during the night and mom was there during the (well, as often as she could be with Mel and Bryan underfoot). This established a pattern that would stick for many years to come.

After the two weeks, I was discharged and went home to resume my life; well, with a few minor changes....

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