Visiting hours in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) are 1 to 7 p.m. I was there just before visiting hours began, so I had to wait a few minutes before I was allowed to go upstairs to visit my wife’s bedside. I stayed until around 4:30, when I decided to leave so I could avoid driving into bright headlights after nightfall; it’s not that I can’t drive at night, I just prefer not to and it’s safer.
While I was there, I spoke with my wife a little and coaxed her to eat about three or four bites of the lunch that was sitting on her overbed table, untouched. A few bites of whipped potatoes, one bite of roast beef, and a bite of the apple crisp dessert was all she was willing to eat. The nurse said she had left her breakfast untouched, as well. Most of the time I was at her bedside, my wife’s eyes were closed and I suppose she was asleep most of my visit. She was awake when the nurses changed the dressing on the line in the vein on her neck and when the two nurses suggested I leave while they bathed her and changed the sheets on her bed while she was in it.
The multiple diagnoses on admission, the nurse told me, were hypotension (extremely low blood pressure) and septic shock, which was brought on by a third issue, urinary tract infection (UTI). Dehydration, too, played into her discomfort and weakness. The UTI is, I think, her third experience with the malady since she was admitted to the hospital in mid-July. Septic shock can be deadly, so calling 911 to get her to the hospital was, in hindsight, a very good thing. I take no credit for that; her doctor’s nurse sent me an email, telling me the doctor recommended my wife be taken to the ER for evaluation.
During the time I visited my wife yesterday, her voice was so weak I could barely hear her. Most of her words were requests that I give her water or iced tea; I held the glass up close to her and slipped a straw into her mouth so she could suck up some cool regenerative liquids. After her bath, she asked for more tea and some dessert (she chose angel food cake topped with fruit); she took only a sip or two of the iced tea and a bite of the cake before refusing more and falling asleep again.
The nurse told me she would spend another night in ICU while she was being “weaned” of the IV medications that were keeping her blood pressure within healthy limits. Once her blood pressure stabilizes, he said, she could be moved to a regular floor. When she will be transferred there and how long she will be there remains to be seen. I took her cell phone to her, but she seems so weak it is unlikely she can pick it up to dial it; and it’s not within reach, thanks to a short charging cord, but she can ask for it to be handed to her, if she chooses.
Around 7:15 this morning, I’ll try to reach the ICU nurse responsible for my wife’s care to get an update on her condition. The nurses probably do not relish phone calls from relatives, but short visiting hours and incommunicado overnights are almost too much to bear without some form of feedback. I wish there were a less intrusive (to the nurses) way to get updates on condition.
I will return to the hospital, either the ICU or the regular floors, after I get word on when and where to go. In the interim, I will shower, shave, and make myself more presentable to the outside world.