Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hospital - Part II - Deception

When I was in the hospital in December, my room mate was an old lady who could say three things: "Yes, No, Because". The nurses kept her in a chair by her bed which had an attached tray, like a high chair, which kept her trapped. The old lady would yell at anyone who came by, "Let me out of prison!" She had no idea the year, or where she was, and would constantly hurt herself trying to escape.

Her whole family came and visited her one day. Daughter, son-in-law, and various others. For two hours they all talked, while the old lady randomly yelled out "Yes", "No", or "Because", and incredibly the family always managed to make sense of her ranting. They just assumed she was responding to one of their comments.

Of course, it is possible they knew the extent of her dementia and were just trying to save her, or the other relatives, embarrassment. Or they were just trying to be positive. In any case, it makes me hope that euthanasia is legal by the time I'm in that condition.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Hospital - Part I - Crohn's

I spent a few weeks in the hospital due to my Crohn's disease. Being an engineer, I kept notes and have some interesting observations which I'll try and relate over the next few posts.

Crohn's disease is when your immune system attacks your intestines. It causes swelling which can be treated by anti-inflammatories (e.g., steroids) or immune suppressants (e.g., remicade). Crohn's symptoms read like a Pepto ad; it mainly causes pain and diarrhea.

The swelling eventually leads to scaring called strictures. Unlike the swelling, strictures can only be treated with surgery (usually a resection). I've had about 3 feet of small intestine removed (we have about 22 feet of small bowel total ... thanks Maxim!). Strictures can clog up with food and cause partial blockages, which is why I went into the hospital.

I've been to the hospital 3 times for partial blockages. Most times it happens late at night when the pain and nausea become too much for me to handle. The wait time in emergency has been between 2-5 hours before I get in, the nurse starts an intravenous line, and they give me pain-killers (usually Fentanyl). They always ask you to rate your pain between 1 and 10, with 10 being the worst pain in your life. I usually am at a 9 before I get the pain-killer, and have vomited several times.

Given that Crohn's is related to your immune and digestive systems, there are several lifestyle changes that will help reduce problems. Avoid weakening your immune system by not getting enough sleep, working too hard, drinking alcohol or coffee, or smoking. It is best to avoid difficult to digest foods like nuts and popcorn. I have found steak is particularly difficult to digest, and almost all my blockages have been preceded by eating steak (and Caesar salad ... thanks Earl's!).

In the next few blogs I'll try to go over some of the crazy roommates I had in the hospital, and essential things you should bring if you are going into the hospital.