A Place With Shiny Floors Is No Place To Be Sick: Part 3

When the nurse told me I was moving upstairs to a hospital room, I looked up at the transfusion bag to see how much blood was left to drip into me. It was still half full, which meant at least another hour for the bag to empty. So I’d be in the Emergency Department well-constructed bed with a foam core mattress covered with a fluid-proof, tear-resistant, self-deodorising, easily cleanable, anti-static, and stain-resistant cover before moving upstairs for another hour or more. Half a transfusion bag of blood had mixed with my blood causing me to think about if a critical volume of someone else’s blood had to blend with your blood before you’d feel any change in your blood; then I wondered what the difference would feel like.

image source: jmcadam

I did know that when certain parts of your blood thicken in different limbs or organs, you might cough up blood, experience nausea and vomiting, or have blood in your stool. And if your blood thickens to a gel in your legs and forms clots in your veins, you’re probably going to feel pain and swelling in your legs; they could even develop a blue-red tinge. If a clot breaks free, travels to your lungs, and blocks blood flow to parts of your lung, you could feel shortness of breath, chest pains, dizziness, and begin coughing and sweating. Blood clots that develop in veins deep in your body are known as deep vein thrombosis or just DVT. A typical place for DVT to happen is in your lower leg.

I became familiar with deep vein thrombosis by flying Qantas, Australia’s flag carrier airline, numerous times. Most international flights to and from Australia are long-haul flights. Qantas is acutely aware that long periods of sitting may cause blood clots to form in the legs, so they’ve had a passenger DVT awareness campaign from way back. What I remember the most is their inflight 2018 safety video; it’s a series of vignettes of different world destinations Qantas fly to, with everyday Aussies doing Aussie things at each stopover and talking about the safety features when flying Qantas.

image source: jmcadam

Several years ago, when I was going through passport control at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport, I watched a film crew shooting a daughter hugging her mum and dad goodbye. While clasping her dad, an aircraft flight crew of actors walks out of the sliding doors I’m about to go through. A year later, I’m on a Qantas flight, and the in-flight safety movie starts to play on the seat back screen, and there is the same daughter hugging her mum and dad and an aircraft flight crew walking by. One destination in the video is Singapore, where a woman is lying on a floating lounge in the sky pool on top of the iconic Marina Bay Sands, talking about DVT while she’s reading her Qantas magazine: and then some Aussie actor bloke does an outstanding water bomb into the infinity pool to finish the DVT sequence.

Qantas’s inflight magazine has six exercises that will stretch muscle groups that can become stiff because of long periods of sitting, namely Ankle Circles, Foot Pumps, Knee Lifts, Neck Roll, Knee to Chest, Forward Flex, and Shoulder Roll. To reduce the risk of blood clots forming in your legs, Qantas suggests doing a sequence of exercises for three or four minutes every hour. And then it struck me. I’d been sitting in the Emergency Department bed for over twelve hours, just shy of the flight time on a Qantas A380 from the west coast of the US to Melbourne, Australia, so out of an abundance of caution and to lessen the risk of blood clots forming, I prepped myself to start a series of four-minute Neck rolls and Foot pumps by repeating,

image source: jmcadam

Knee to chest, bend forward slightly. Clasp your hands around the left knee and hug it to your chest. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds. Keep hands around the knee. Slowly let it down, Change legs. Repeat ten times.

Neck roll, shoulders relaxed, drop ear to shoulder, gently roll neck forward and back. Hold each position for five seconds. Repeat five times.

I was about to start my first sequence when two nurses walked into the room; one was pushing a wheelchair.

Nurse:1 Time to move you upstairs.
Me: But my transfusion still going.
Nurse 2: That’s OK we’ll take it with us.
Me: We must be going to play Rugby instead.
Nurse 1: We just need to get you into the wheelchair.
Me: Hang on a tick. I need to do a few more knees to chest to stop any blood clots.
Nurse 1: Here take my arm. I’ll help you get out of bed and into the wheelchair?
Me: Whoa take it easy; I’ve got me Darwin jarmies on.
Nurse 2: Let’s get your gown straightened up.
Me: No worries.

image source: jmcadam

As one of the nurses pushed the chair out of the lift, the other followed closely behind, guiding the stand with my transfusion apparatus while juggling the other tubes hanging from me. When the wheelchair turned into the doorway of my hospital room, it was, for a moment, as if time stood still. I sat in the wheelchair staring in wonderment at the bed. I saw more than a hospital bed; I saw a cocoon crafted from soft, big blankets, warm sheets, a fluffy eiderdown, and feather-light pillows. And I thought of falling asleep in those cosy warm sheets and letting my dreams replace the constant sharp but brief needle pricks. There was still an hour of blood dripping in the transfusion bag, so I had five hours to slumber in my new luxurious bed before the early morning.

The nurses had me out of the wheelchair, sitting in the bed, and the transfusion and saline bags alongside me as fast as a rat up a drainpipe. I now had a true sense of being in the hospital. I was in a room with a number, a dry-erase whiteboard with an assigned nurse and a nursing assistants name, a telephone with a number, an at-your-request room service dining menu, a double wall insulated large handle mug, a patient television remote control, and a men’s plastic urine bottle. I was feeling content.

I was finding pleasure in my relaxation and drowsiness; until various hospital, noises came from the infusion equipment, and an unfamiliar nurse appeared beside me. The blood bag was empty. She flushed a few teardrops of blood from the tubing and announced I’ll let the phlebotomist know we’re all done with the transfusion.

image source: methodistcollege.edu

Phlebotomist: Hi, I’m here to take a blood sample.
Me: Look at my arm will ya. It’s had more pricks than nanna’s pin cushion
Phlebotomist: It should just be a sharp but brief prick.
Me: Just remember you’re not throwing darts at the RSL on Friday night.
Phlebotomist: I’ll be back in an hour for another sample.
Me: Hoo roo, see ya later.

I was growing accustomed to my new hospital bed. The warm circle of glowing light that first surrounded it had dimmed to a dullness, but it remained an almighty change from the Emergency Department bed. I sat back against the two pillows, closed my eyes and tried to free my mind of the last fourteen hours and wondered if I could find the sleep that had escaped me. My thoughts of sleep were interrupted by the nurse coming alongside the bed and calmly telling me.

They just tested your haemoglobin level and it’s still below half of what it should be, so we need to start another blood transfusion.

It seemed as if I was in a hospital time loop. Every hour was repeating itself; a sharp but brief prick, alone in a dimly lit room, a haemoglobin level below half what it should be, and a blood transfusion. I watched the blood, once again dripping in slow motion into the IV tube, and when I closed my eyes, I heard the slow drop drop of the blood. And then it became a distant muffled sound as if it was a ship’s bell tolling in the distance. It was the very same sound of the bell tolling on the Sea Hound, so I listened for a seafarer’s call out, Sea Hound ahoy, to pierce the howling wind and heavy rain of an ocean storm.

image source: tenor.com

Times were when I was a youthful teenager. It was a time without home computers, video games, cell phones, social media, the internet, virtual reality and artificial intelligence. We played cricket and footy in the daydream stadiums of our minds in the streets outside our house, and the comics from the corner milk bar and the afternoon radio serials fuelled our imagination. At four pm every weekday afternoon, I’d head straight for the dining room, sit by our free-standing HMV combination wireless record player and sit fixated, listening to the Air Adventures of Biggles, Superman, Tarzan, Hopalong Cassidy, Robin Hood, and The Adventures of the Sea Hound. The Adventures of the Sea Hound was a radio adventure serial about the escapades of Captain Silver and his mate Jerry hunting Nazi spies.

Peas and potatoes were the only vegetables I’d eat when I was a young teenager, so mum would bring a plate with a couple of grilled lamb chops or cutlets, boiled green peas and potatoes for my tea from the kitchen into the dining room every weeknight so I wouldn’t miss the cliff-hanging end of the Adventures of the Sea Hound. The soft, slow sound of the tolling bell on the Sea Hound turned to loud, persistent beeps. The transfusion bag was empty, and the nurse was flushing the last bloody teardrops out of the tubing. I slowly turned my head toward her.

Me: Do you know the time?
Nurse: It’s a little after 3 in the morning.
Me: Was I sleeping?
Nurse: I’ll tell the phlebotomist we’re all done with the transfusion.
Me: You little ripper. It’s been a couple of hours since I had a needle.
Nurse: If your haemoglobin level has stabilised they’ll come and get you for surgery in a few hours.
Me: No River Murrays.

And so I sat in my hospital bed, unable to take prisoner my escaped sleep, waiting for the morning to arrive to have a tube with a camera threaded down into my stomach and for the surgeon to see if cauterising my bleeding stomach lining with a high-frequency electric current would stop the bleeding.


Adventures of the Sea Hound

Qantas Releases DVT-Fighting Video to Keep Passengers Fit

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) – Cleveland Clinic



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