Ach! Not Again!

UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center

Yesterday morning, I found myself being admitted to UCLA Hospital’s emergency room. That morning, I awoke around six in the morning to go to the bathroom. Coming back I found myself bumping into things. When I tried to get back into bed, I slipped and fell on the floor pinning my left shoulder between the bed and my nightstand. I was too weak to make a serious attempt to get up.

Martine heard my fall and frantically tried to help me. But how could she, with her right wrist in a cast from when she broke it the week before. For hours she tried to make me comfortable and gave me water to sip through a straw. Fortunately, she had the presence of mind to give me 30mg of Hydrocortisone, which, as it happened, is the cure for the symptoms I was experiencing.

Time and time again, she asked if I wanted an ambulance. My consciousness was improving from the Hydrocortisone Martine gave me, so I finally said yes. It seemed that the bedroom was crawling with Emergency Medical Technicians from the Fire Department within minutes. They hauled me out of my wedged position and dumped me on the bed. Their strongly recommended I be admitted to the hospital. I tried to resist their suggestion until I had the feeling that it was pretty much de rigeur in their profession.

So, as when I had my last serious Addisonian Crisis on December 30, 2017, I was trundled down the apartment steps, plunked into the ambulance, and driven to the UCLA Hospital emergency room (but without the sirens).

What was wrong with me? The scientific term is panhyopituitarism, which means I no longer have a pituitary gland. It all happened many years ago. To read the gory story of my near-death experience in 1966, click on this post from April 2015.

By the time I got to UCLA, I was feeling pretty good as the Hydrocortisone was doing its job; but I knew I would have to go through the medical profession’s equivalent of the death of a thousand cuts. I was wheeled from one clerk to another and asked for details which were entered into their system. Fortunately, In December 2017, I had roughly the same situation.

Still, it seems that emergency wards assume you have some internal organ problem such as a heart attack or cancer, so I was hooked up with little stickies all over my upper body and probed with needles until the doctors determined that, yes, I would not be likely to die on the spot. My problem was not a disease of an internal organ, but the fact that I was missing the body’s master gland and occasionally needed to have extra amounts of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) in lieu of natural adrenaline.

On at least two dozen times, I made the point that the problem was that I had no pituitary. I had to talk with an endocrinologist because my ailment was not a common one, certainly not one that a typical emergency room physician would grasp. Not only that, but the cure had been applied hours before when Martine gave me my medications. Back in 2017, the same hospital held me for three days until the resident endocrinologist strolled in with her hands in her pockets and, immediately understanding my situation, had me released.

Fortunately, I was released late that afternoon. Maybe it was the record of my 2017 experience that convinced them to let me go. Maybe it was because they had me walk to the bathroom and saw that I was fully mobile. And apparently, the doctors did talk to the endocrinologist who told them to let me go. I felt bad to be around all those persons who were really suffering. I kept telling the nurses I felt I was occupying space in their emergency room under false pretenses.

So I took a taxi home, and Martine was at the front of the apartment to give me my wallet so I could pay the driver.

The funny thing is, there is little advanced warning when one is about to suffer an Addisonian Crisis. In this case, I didn’t suspect something was wrong until I returned from the bathroom to go to bed. That was approximately a half-minute warning.

Broken Wrist

Today, Martine slipped on a rug in the bathroom and, grabbing for the wall, broke her right wrist in two places. She was in such excruciating pain that she was not able to communicate with me for upwards of a half hour. As soon as she was able to move, I drove her to UCLA Santa Monica Hospital’s emergency room. It was only by clutching a largish container of blue ice that she was able to endure the agony.

We were in the ICU for over six hours while she was X-Rayed, injected with Lidocaine, and bandaged with a splint (twice, after her thumb became numb the first time). For the whole time that I was waiting next to Martine’s gurney, a homeless woman tried to use me as her private nurse while she loudly threatened to check herself out of the hospital if she didn’t get her oatmeal instanter.

It looks like there will be some changes to my schedule as Martine is unable to wash dishes or wet her bandaged splint. I had been planning to visit my brother in Palm Desert this weekend, but we’ll have to reschedule.

My goal is to see Martine through this difficult period, just as she helped me through two broken shoulders and three cracked ribs. That kind of support is an effective way of showing love.

Highland View

Above is an aerial view of Highland View Hospital in Warrensville Township, Ohio circa 1965. For a number of years, my mother worked there as an occupational therapy assistant; and I spent several summers in high school as a volunteer in the occupational and physical therapy departments.

At the time I volunteered there, I thought of Highland View as a hospital for the terminally ill, because most of the patients were seriously ill. The average length of stay per patient was 67 days. I don’t have any statistics about what percent of patients died there vs. were released.

As a volunteer for occupational therapy, I helped bring bed- and wheelchair-ridden patients from their rooms to an auditorium where a visiting volunteer named Harry Zasz screened movies from a 16mm projector onto a screen. After the show, I helped take the patients back to their rooms. The movies were standard Hollywood fare: I remember Pocketful of Miracles (1961) and Seventh Cavalry (1956) as two films that were shown several times over the years.

I remember one ambulatory patient who had a very visible dent one or two inches deep in his forehead.

Probably what impressed me was something that happened toward the end of my volunteer gig. I played chess with an elderly Puerto Rican patient named Manuel. I was proud to have defeated him, but chagrined to find he had passed away that night. So much for triumph!

Later, my mother moved on to Saint Vincent Charity Hospital near downtown Cleveland. I had a very short stint there as a volunteer in surgery. First they had been clean up a very bloody operating room after a surgery. Then they had me shave around the genitals of a man scheduled to have a hernia operation. I just didn’t have the stomach for surgery and didn’t go back.

Incidentally, Saint Vincent Charity was the hospital that appeared in Billy Wilder’s film The Fortune Cookie (1966) with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. My Mom appeared in one shot, but the scene didn’t make it into the final cut.