Guess how I spent my Friday?
If you guessed, “At Feather River Hospital, getting her feeding tube unclogged,” you would be right.
Yeah. So. Basically, every medical person (nurses, GI tech, intervention radiologist, gastroenterologist) who has looked at my tube has commented on how narrow the gauge is. The feeding solution is rather thick, and because my tube goes straight into my small bowel, the rate of feeding is rather slow. Apparently this is a perfect storm for a clogged tube, even with flushing it out with water before and after each use.
I woke up at 7:15 Friday morning to the sound of my pump beeping. It announced, in rapid succession, that the tube was clogged and the feeding was complete. My mom attempted to flush the tube (push water in using a syringe) to no avail. The syringe barely moved. I, in the meantime, was fighting off the beginning of an episode by taking Zofran, my anti-nausea medicine. (It’s the stuff used for chemo patients and more effective than anything else. Naturally, insurance doesn’t want to cover it, because $2 a pill is so much more than hospitalizations.) My parents called the home health nursing service that set up my pump and the nurse on call said to try aspirating. That didn’t work, so the nurse who had first hooked me up came out. She tried aspirating much more vigorously, following the gastroenterologist’s instructions, still to no avail. We didn’t have the small brush that the doctors often send home with feeding tubes, so there was nothing more we could try at home. The nurse called the gastroenterologist at the hospital (the partner of my usual gastroenterologist) back and he said to come straight up to the hospital and check in with same day services.
So, at 9:30 or so, my parents and I packed up and made the thirty-minute drive up to Paradise, a process with which we have become intimately familiar. We seem to be unfortunately frequent visitors at both the hospital here in Chico and the one in Paradise. We also have packing for the visits down to a science. We arrived in smoky Paradise and went into check-in.
It’s a lot of fun when one of the women at check-in greets you like an old friend. Even more so when the second one is not far off.
I got checked in, but as I didn’t have a scheduled procedure so much as a “let’s squeeze her in sometime today,” I had to wait about an hour and a half before actually heading into same-day services. I went with my parents to the cafeteria, where they had a snack (that ultimately ended up being breakfast.) I didn’t have anything because I was still (successfully!) fighting off an episode and not hungry.
We made it to same-day services at last and got checked in. Feather River’s gowns aren’t quite as enormous as Enloe’s, but we all agree that they really need to just go ahead and give me pediatric ones. They hooked me up with a pretty trippy teddy bear.
My dad was super excited when he saw SDS. Slightly different SDS than you automatically think of, Daddy. I don’t think Kirkpatrick Sale ever wrote a book about Same-Day Services.
Of course, “You’re next” was relative. I spent about three hours chilling in the hospital bed in the SDS prep area. (I think the bear actually indicated I was next to see an RN.) It turns out that I’m totally (in)famous in Same-Day Services. We were chatting with a nurse about how patients will remember them but they usually don’t remember patients they’ve seen quickly one time when another nurse came over. We all recognized her easily, because she was the nurse who took care of me after my endoscopy. She immediately asked if I were having sedation. It turned out I wasn’t, and didn’t need an IV (over two weeks without one – that’s what we call victory.) She immediately said good and told the nurse filling out my medical info to put that I was allergic to Versed. And Benadryl. And basically not an easy person to sedate in general. I had a very adverse reaction to Versed, the sedative used for my endoscopy, the last time I was in. Apparently it was pretty memorable. (I basically had trouble moving or seeing and was having issues with breathing and staying conscious. They had to page my doctor to get an order for the reversal agent and had a hard time tracking him down. No big deal.) So the nurse who’d taken care of me was very eager to make sure I wasn’t given Versed again and that it was noted all over my file and my arm and everything.
The sign only says latex, but they were running out of room to write all my drug allergies on my wristband.
I’ve also decided that I need to bring my own tape whenever I go to the hospital. Not only am I sensitive to latex, but it turns out I’m also sensitive/allergic/some kind of rashy to tega-derm, the clear latex-free tape they use to pin down IVs and things like that. At least I can handle cloth tape, thankfully.
So, after about three hours, and some good conversation with one of the nurses who remembered a story of someone locally who had a similar condition to mine, another nurse came to wheel me off to the GI lab. Of course, when I got there, the doctor was still finishing up with another patient, so I was waiting in the hall for a few minutes. Funnily enough, the GI lab is right next to where the intervention radiologists work, and I saw the guy who put my tube in the week before. He stopped to ask how I was I doing and I told him about my tube getting clogged. Soon enough, I went into the GI lab and met Dr. Mansell, the gastroenterologist who was in the hospital that day. (Nice guy!) He was able to unclog the tube with a lot of a hot water and pulling back and forth and repeated flushing. I was thrilled that I wouldn’t have to have the tube replaced. The unclogging experience felt pretty much fine – just some slight nose discomfort – and I actually managed to keep up a smile through most of it. Three cheers for positive thinking, huh? The doctor did warn me that the tube was narrow and even with conscientious flushing, it will eventually get clogged beyond repair. My hope is that by that point, my condition and weight will have stabilized and I’ll be able to get the thing out.
I came back to the “recovery” area, but because I hadn’t had sedation, my recovery was mostly a matter of waiting for discharge orders. My fame continued – the nurse (a different one than before) said it was nice that I didn’t have sedation and could leave pretty quickly, and I agreed, mentioning that I’d had it for my endoscopy and ended up staying in recovery a few hours because it didn’t go well. She instantly exclaimed, “Oh, you’re the Versed Girl!” Apparently, they talk about me. (My reaction was a textbook adverse reaction, but apparently they’re pretty rare?) She also gave us some more tips about ways to flush the tube and how to take care of it – her little girl had had an NG tube as a toddler, so she knew what we were going through. I also received further confirmation that I should bring my own tape to the hospital, because it came in handy when we had to re-tape the tube to the side of my cheek.
When all was said and done, by the time my dad and I made it home (dropping Mom off for the last few hands of Mahj Jong!), it was almost four-thirty. I think we were all fried. On the plus side, I had successfully fought off the nausea attack and my stomach was feeling good, if hungry. That night I managed to eat a massive amount of Pad Thai. (Sorry, no pictures. I brought my camera but I was so tired, I forgot I had it.)
We’re now flushing with cranberry juice and warm water in the hopes that my tube won’t clog again. Fingers crossed!
On another note, this weekend was a prime example of why I need the tube, unfortunately. I was fine Saturday morning and afternoon, but I got sick after dinner. I was sick all day yesterday and I’m still not doing well this morning. If not for the tube, I wouldn’t have gotten in any food or fluid for over twenty-four hours.