Friday, February 10, 2012

Journal / December 12 / 13

Baton Rouge General Hospital
Sunday December 12, 1993

   Long day's journey.
   Mornings always the toughest; emotions just below the surface. Jen doesn't feel well; fever and lots of deep sleep. Respiration comes every four hours and makes her breath MucaMist, a fog-like mist that helps break up the heavy yellow mucus in her lungs. They also apply percussion--literally pounding with open palm on her right side where the congestion is heaviest.
   Getting ready to leave for a while, Jen opens her eyes wide--like a light switch turned on--but just as quickly the light fades.

Monday December 13, 1993

   Respiration people come and go, some pounding on Jen, some not. Bill Scott does not. Nice guy, grew up around here, same neighborhood, same age. Don't know each other though. Bill is black, probably lived on the other side of North Street, a different world.
   Some of the Respiration Therapists stop the feeding tube in Jen's nose before pounding on her ribs. Some don't. Laurie from Respiration tells me it is contra-indicated to keep feeding while pounding but Dr. Campanella, covering for Stewart, seeing Jen once for two minutes, gives orders to continue the feeding during the percussion. Doctors write orders on top of other orders, giving mixed signals to the nurses who really know the patients and run the place.

   Seeing Jen so thin  is upsetting. So frail. Tall girl, but her arms and legs look even more elongated. She opens her eyes but doesn't make contact. And always the facial contortions, the roving eye movement, me watching that, trying not to think about the virus, the havoc.
   Dr. Rogers breezes in, checks her over, pinches her right hand, and Jen reacts. He takes a pen and runs it on the bottom of both feet. Toes down, good reaction. Toes up, he says, indicates brain lesions. Scheduled MRI tomorrow will hopefully rule some things out.

   Jen's breathing pattern changes in the early evening. Shallow breaths followed by a deep one. She doesn't look distressed though. Oxygen saturation still high. Ask Suzie anyway. She says she will call Laurie in Respiration and have her suction and check things. Jen breaks into a sweat. God, I hope the fever is breaking.

   Earlier, when Laurie from Respiration mentions Campanella's order about not turning off the feeding tube during the percussion, she says she is going to take a specimen of Jen's sputum from her lungs. I tell her Bill Scott took one. "He didn't chart it," she says. I ask if the specimen is in the lab. No answer.
   Typical in health care I'm finding out. Everything happens in slow motion. The right hand not knowing what order the left is writing, charting.

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