The adage of "walk a mile in my shoes" hit home last week in a completely unimagined manner.
After experiencing some chest pains over the previous weekend, I bit the bullet and drove to Saint Joseph London's emergency room last Monday afternoon. It was quickly determined that my blood pressure was extremely high and an EKG in the Triage office was the launch of more tests to determine what was going on with my health.
Much to my dismay, after a couple hours the ER staff informed me that I would be admitted in order to monitor my blood pressure. The EKG showed that my heart functions were good but further tests revealed that a "small aneurism" in my aorta was apparently a small blood clot. And that unbeknownst to me prior to Monday evening, I have a cyst that will require some type of future medical attention.
It was terrifying to watch the monitor showing my blood pressure, especially when it soared to over 200 while in the ER room. The nurses, sensing my distress, provided constant reassurance that I would be fine. It was also quite odd to be wheeled in that ER bed to the various test sites that I have covered as news stories as more and more developments have taken place at our local hospital.
Early Tuesday morning, I was placed on the fourth floor and was constantly monitored by the staff. That care continued throughout the next two days.
It was comforting to have personal knowledge of two of my nurses during that time. My best friend, Sandy Brown, is a nurse on the fourth floor and I had talked to her previously about the weekend chest pains. She advised me to seek medical treatment if those conditions persisted so I texted her when I arrived at the emergency room. After she ended her shift on Monday evening, she appeared in my room and dubbed me with a new nickname - Miss Non Compliance! On Thursday, Tim Dailey was my nurse and he gently reminded me that taking my prescribed medicines was vital to my overall health.
I was honest with the admitting staff that I had stopped taking my blood pressure medications. My reasoning was that it upset my stomach and that I despise taking pills. Medical staff, however, have their own reasoning and when I was told that I was having a "Hypertension Crisis" upon my admission, it put things into an entirely new perspective.
Throughout my stay, I was told repeatedly (kindly but firmly) that taking my medications was vital to maintaining my health - and my life. I had to take the medicines in the presence of the nurses who attended to me because of my prior admission that I hate taking medicine.
I even told the case management team that I had been reminded daily of the importance of taking my medications - telling them that I had to lay on my side because every nurse, doctor and lab tech who dealt with me had "chewed my butt" for my lack of self care!
While a stay in the hospital is seldom a welcomed event, the staff of Saint Joseph London demonstrated their professionalism and dedication to caring for the people they serve. The administration of Catholic Health Initiatives and their branch hospitals are consistently recruiting specialists to serve the rural areas in the best manner possible. While it has been a pleasure to highlight these continuing improvements and additions to our local hospital through news articles, being a patient and actually experiencing the "hands on" care they provide is both encouraging and inspiring. While these administrators continue to seek professionals who can offer expertise care and specialization on the local front, it is indeed the day-to-day staff who exemplify the true mission of the hospital.
I commend their efforts and dedication in their everyday duties that are, often as not, frequently very challenging as they deal with a wide range of illnesses, treatments and personalities. They put themselves at risk during these trying times of a pandemic, but they do so with the loyalty to their chosen careers with excellence.
As the reality that I was on the verge of a stroke truly sank in, I realized that these people inevitably saved my life. I'm taking a handful of medications now - as prescribed - and am grateful that I have been given another chance to cherish the life I have. It isn't perfect, it isn't without challenges. But it IS my life. And if taking a handful of pills is the means that will allow me to enjoy my remaining life with my friends and family, I will do so - gratefully and without complaint. Because it certainly beats the alternative!
Nita Johnson is a staff writer at The Sentinel-Echo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.