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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Memories from Hospitals and Beyond


This was just going to be about stories in the hospital but it has morphed into encompassing much more than just inside the hospital walls. There are some stories that I won't share. Those are just for me.

Tried to get most of these stories in the right timeline but it is pretty much just a hodgepodge of memories.

I have had problems with my shoulders for quite some time. It all started with this little incident that happened in 1995 while I was still in the hospital after my accident. I needed to have an x-ray on my neck. I don't remember if I was at the MeritCare at that time or Dakota hospital. Anyway when I was down in the x-ray room the x-ray technicians told me the doctors needed to see my total neck vertebrae without anything else in the way. Meaning they were going to need to pull down on my arms and shoulders towards my feet to get a clear picture.

So here is the scene. I am lying on my back, one of the x-ray techs tethers both wrists and starts pulling with a lot of force. She is at my feet. The other tech is getting ready to take the pictures. All of a sudden both of my shoulders pop out of socket. This freaks out the one tech that was pulling on my arms and she lets go of the tethers. My one arm falls off of the table and knocks over the portable oxygen tank. Oxygen tanks contain water evidently because when the tank tipped over, water started flowing through the tubes and directly into my lungs. I must've aspirated quite a bit. So I started choking and flopping around like a crappie on ice. Arms flailing uncontrollably while out of socket. I believe I must have blacked out at that point because I do not remember anything else. I don't know if they ever got the x-rays. That is my first memory after the accident. Good times.

I had a lot of posters of scantily clad women in most of my hospital rooms. I don't remember if it was my friends or sisters that had put one of the posters directly above my bed. One day the poster fell from the ceiling and landed directly on my face. Giggity.

During those first three months in the hospital in 1995 I had countless different nurses. I don't remember ever having problems with any of them. In fact they were all great. I remember one nurse who was always on the night shift. She would check on me in the middle of the night and most of the time I was awake. If I was awake she would just sit there and we would talk. At that time, as most of you know I was very shy. So she did most of the talking. I wish I would have conversed with her more because she was pretty much the first one who told me how things were going to be from then on. Sometimes she would hold my hand and just sit there. I will always remember her for that.

During those first three months I would go to physical therapy three days a week I believe. The therapy room was in the basement. I looked forward to going to physical therapy just to get out of my room and to talk to my therapist. My therapist was fresh out of school from UND. In fact I was her first full-time client. For the life of me I cannot remember her name. I wish I could. I owe her a lot. I still do the one exercise she told me to do every night before I go to bed. She rode a Harley to work every day.

The other two days of the week I would go to occupational therapy which was on the same floor as my room. My OT therapist there was a complete knot head. I'm glad I cannot remember her name. I can still picture her and her nervous annoying laugh.

In 1999 or 2000 I had a skin breakdown under my right thigh. It wasn't really surprising because I was averaging about 10 hours in my chair every day during the first couple years at NDSU. I am only supposed to be in the chair around six hours a day. After my last final in the spring I had a doctor’s appointment the next day. The doctor told me I would need to lie down for three months in order for the wound to heal. So my summer was pretty much going to suck. It actually wasn't that bad. I had friends come over pretty much every day. Played a lot of PlayStation, drank a lot of Mountain Dew and chewed a lot of Skoal.

I must've behaved quite well for quite some time because I didn't really have anything else wrong with me until 2007 when I had another skin breakdown. This time it was on my lower back. They first tried healing the wound at home with help from Home Health. This is when I met another nurse who was just awesome. She would come to the house a couple times a week to change bandages, clean the wound and sometimes put on a vac. She is now head of nursing in the hospital not far from here.

My back never healed so I was going to need to do surgery. I thought this was just going to be a one surgery type of deal and a week in the hospital. It turned out to be three surgeries and three months at Triumph Hospital in Fargo. I met countless good people during this little hiatus.

My room at Triumph was way at the end of the hall by itself. It was a huge room made for two people but I was the only one ever in there. As I said I thought this stay wasn't going to be very long but it turned out to be a little over three months but the time flew by because of the nurses, staff and CNAs. When you are stuck in a room for three months you get to know people pretty well. I didn't hit my call button that much but the main reason I ever did was to get a fresh Mountain Dew. The nurses let me keep a stash of Dewsers in their refrigerator. Sometimes when I would hit the button the ladies in the office would reply back on the intercom, "Clint needs a Dew!" It was there pretty much stat.

During this hospital stay I had a lot of insomnia. Probably from all of the Mountain Dew now that I look back at it. Anyway as I said my room was way off in the corner and I got to know the staff very well. Every once in a while in the middle of the night while I was watching TV either a nurse or CNA would come in my room and hide for a while. My room was the hangout room. They knew I wouldn't say anything and they knew I didn't care. I enjoyed the company. There were some good stories told. They would hide out until someone would come looking for them or their pagers wouldn't quit going off.

I only had one bad nurse that I can remember during this time. My friends and relatives would always put some obnoxious thing on my whiteboard and she would clean it off every day. Jerk. It didn't last long though we would always make up for it with something more vulgar. She was also always pushing religion and crap.



Being cooped up for three months you sometimes go a little stir crazy. You want to get anything from the outside. I had one nurse that was pretty much my regular. She was great. She would go out for a cigarette break a couple times a day. One time she must've just got done with her smoke break and she was in my room giving me meds. I still laugh when I say this but I asked her, "Can I smell your fingers?" She just about choked. After she quit laughing, she complied with my strange request and let me. That cigarette smoke smelled amazing.

Having this big room to myself, I also had a lot of hiding places for my Skoal. I imagine some of the nurses knew about it and some that didn't will know about it after reading this. Depending on my visitor, I would have them grab a fresh pouch and throw it in my mouth. I can't believe I never got caught. Sometimes they would come take my temperature and I would have to slide the snoose over to the other side so they wouldn't notice. Evidently I'm pretty sneaky or else they just didn't care.

During one of my three surgeries I had this little event take place. It was back surgery so I was lying on my stomach. I remember going under from the anesthesia. But for some reason I woke up midway through the surgery. My face was in a doughnut type of cushion so no one could tell I was awake. And evidently my anesthesiologist wasn't paying too much attention to my vitals. Anyway like I usually do I started whistling. I heard one of the nurses say, "Who is whistling?" Pretty soon I seen the nurses face staring at me from underneath and she says, "It's Clint!" They asked me if I was all right and I said yep. But they decided to put me back under again. I was whistling "Patience" from Guns n Roses. It is my to go song to whistle.

Hospital food sucks. It doesn't matter where you go. It pretty much all tastes the same. Doesn't matter what you order. Another good thing about getting to know all of the staff is that they also know the hospital food sucks. I believe this was against regulations but numerous times nurses would bring me food from local restaurants. You don't know how much this is appreciated unless you have been cooped up eating the same slop for couple months. One time I got a steak from Ground Round. They are not known for their steaks but that is where the nurses were going and that is what I wanted. It did not suck.

During another one of these three surgeries while getting prepped, one of the nurses kept staring at me strangely. I could only see her eyes so I couldn't really tell who it was. Or if I knew her. But all of a sudden she said, "I think I know you. Do you go to O'Kelly's?" So that started a little reminiscing. Evidently she had seen me there doing karaoke or something. But then the doctor came in and we had to quit our conversation and start the surgery. Damn doctors.

Speaking of damn doctors. My doctor for these three surgeries was suspended for being drunk during operations. I swear a couple times when he came into my room I smelled booze. But I thought I was dreaming. Evidently I was right. Read the story below.


 If you have ever visited my rooms you know that there is always something going on. The white boards are always entertaining. Most visitors come and put their own trademark on the boards. Some nurses laugh at it and some are not so amused by the childish shenanigans. Either way it makes my day go a little faster seeing the reactions from different people.

Some people are just dumb, it doesn't matter how smart they are. That goes for doctors also. I have had some doctors say some really stupid stuff. One time a doctor told me to hop up on the table so we could get along with this examination. I stared at him like he was completely nuts. Then I looked at the nurse and she rolled her eyes. Evidently he didn't read my chart. There is no hopping. Another time I had a doctor ask me to swing my leg up so he could have a look. I should've told him, "If I could swing my leg up, I know where I would swing it."

The majority of doctors are pretty good. A couple years ago I had a very bad kidney infection and my doctors wanted me to come to Fargo to stay in the hospital so I could get two bags of IVs a day. I told them I didn't want to do it in Fargo, I would much rather not stay in the hospital. It turned out I could drive to Lisbon once a day and get it done there. Anyways, long story short I got to know the doctor that was on call that week pretty well. He is from Bismarck. After my first day of IVs he told me, "You are kind of neat."

A couple years ago I had a handful of surgeries for kidney and bladder stones. During my bladder stone removal surgery there was complications. Somehow the surgeon went through the wall my bladder and nicked my intestine. So instead of day surgery it turned into a four night, five day all-inclusive stay at the Sanford Inn. I would not recommend an extended stay. Because they feared they may have damaged my intestine, they put me on a strict diet of clear liquids for five days. And they did not mean liquor. I had great nurses and doctors during this little stay. They really didn't need to do much with me except force me to drink enough water to keep everything flowing smoothly. For some reason my room turned out to be the hangout spot again. As soon as visiting hours were over, my room turned into the place to be. Good times. On my last day there they wanted to make sure I could eat so I was treated with a bowl of creamed wheat with brown sugar, chocolate pudding and a glass of 2% milk. It was one of the best meals I've ever had. After the nurses got me ready and I got in the chair, I was burning down the hallway trying to get the hell out of there when one of the nurses said, "I want you on my patient list next time you're here." I hope I don't have to go back but if I do and you still work there, I will do my best to get on your list.

I used to hang out in Fargo just about every weekend. It didn't seem to matter where I would go I would run into someone that I have met in the past during a hospital visit. Sometimes I would remember who they were, sometimes they would remember who I was and sometimes it was mutual. But it usually turned out to be a good reunion of reminiscing. Most of these people have become lifelong friends.

I remember one time I was at the Spirits Lounge in the Holiday Inn when a couple of physical therapists that I didn't know, came up to me. They were so impressed that I was out and about. None of their clients ever go out. I have found that out to be true. I am usually the only person I ever see in a wheelchair at a bar. They were also impressed that I used tray on my wheelchair. None of their clients like using a tray. They asked me why I used a tray. My response was, "Where else would I keep my cocktail, cash, pull tabs, phone and tobacco products?" The next thing I knew one of them was riding on the back of my chair and we were burning down the hall and crashing someone's wedding reception.

One of my favorite compliments came from our local PA. She once told me, "You are my favorite patient." I said, "Why is that?" "Because you don't complain and you do what I say," she explained. Evidently I am like an old dog but I will take that as a compliment.


I am very thankful for all of the nurses, CNAs and medical professionals who do what they do. Over the years I have had some not so good medical professionals, but the overwhelming majority would do anything for me.


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