I was admitted and kept in the Emergency Room until my COVID test came back negative.
My thoughts were racing:
This has to be a joke. This isn’t actually happening to me. I am not REALLY in a hospital detoxing from alcohol. My life has not unraveled THIS much. Why is everyone speaking to me like they don’t trust me? I’m feeling a lot better, I can go home now. This was a mistake. I didn’t need to get this many people involved. Am I going to lose my job? Will people figure out where I am? Is this going to work? What if it doesn’t work? Who is going to cover for me at work? I feel really bad for dropping everything.” I was left, alone, lying in a hospital bed, staring past the fluorescent ceiling light, with a yellow band on my left wrist that identified me as a fall risk. I continued a Librium Taper for the next three days, falling asleep after each dose making the days blur together. I ate hospital egg salad sandwiches, ruffles potato chips, and ginger ale for most meals. That was the only thing that felt palatable. My vitals were taken an ungodly number of times. Moms, do you remember after delivery when everyone kept coming into your recovery room, and all you wanted to do was sleep- yeah. It was just like that. An alarm was set on my bed, so I had to call for a nurse’s assistance whenever I needed to use the restroom. Using the restroom was the only time I left my bed. I went through hot flashes and chills. At times, I could feel the sweat beading behind my knees and under my arms. Other times, I felt the wave of heat overcome my body, my mouth watered and I immediately needed to throw up. I had multiple warm blankets brought to me during the chills. My hands visibly shook as I doodled and completed word searches to pass time. My heart rate hovered around 90 beats per minute and the heart palpitations hurt. While I no longer felt like I was going to die, I did feel like I was working as I shifted my body every so often in the hospital bed. My fingertips felt like a million pins and needles had been placed into them and I could not feel any sensation in either of my pinkies. I had the worst stomach pains I’ve ever experienced. I could feel waste moving its way through my body and getting stuck. STUCK! Prune juice. Apple juice. Laxatives. Hand warmers on my abdomen. They tried everything to get the movement moving again. My body felt empty. Tired. The only relief I found was in the short naps after receiving the decreasing doses of Librium.
On Wednesday, the second day of hospital detox, I met with one of the Directors of the Residential Treatment facility, Mr. S. He provided me with a brochure about the Residential Treatment Facility (RTF), the RTF handbook, and a list of all the things I needed before my first day, which was now confirmed to be Thursday, March 4th. I started to panic. I had to wear my uniform. I had to complete physical fitness training. “I’m not within regulations,” I thought. Remember, this is occurring during covid and we hadn’t yet returned to the office. I had been attending work meetings with my camera turned off. My hair was in butt-length knotless box braids. My nails were purple and over an inch long. I quickly pointed out, that I needed more time so I could get my grooming within the regulations. Mr. S brushed that off, “Nobody cares about that. That’s the list. You need to be in uniform.” I had a phone call with the Medical Affairs Branch, who explained I was now part of the Safe Harbor program and they would be receiving pertinent updates about my care in the RTF.
I called my parents, sent them a photo of the packing list, and continued thinking about the inconvenience this was causing those around me. My parents scoured through my closet and packed my bag. I called my best friend, who informed me that she couldn’t bring me my bag until Saturday. I called another friend, G, who said he would drive to my house, pick up my bag and bring it to the RTF that evening. A weight lifted from my shoulders.
Later that evening, G arrived at my room, bag in hand. I watched him enter my room, perplexed. “How did he get up here? They wouldn’t even let me Aunt SIT in the Emergency Room waiting room because of COVID. How did he manage to get to the 7th floor to hand deliver my bag?”
“Hey,” he smiled and walked towards me, “Are you good?” He dropped my bag and reached out to embrace me. “Oh wow, you feel really small.” I shook my head, “I know. I’m like 110 pounds.” Mind you, when healthy, I stand 5 feet 7 inches tall with an athletic frame weighing nearly 145 pounds.
At that moment, I stood, shoulders hunched forward, literally skin and bones. My cheeks were sunken in, there were large dark bags under my eyes, and my collarbone was prominent as my hospital gown hung off my shoulder.
The attending nurse interrupted us, “I just wanted to let you know,” he started, facing G, “We aren’t allowing visitors during COVID. I don’t care if you’re up here, but we are switching shifts… so, the new shift is probably going to ask you to leave.” We all shared a knowing laugh. G and I wrapped up our conversation. I thanked him for bringing my bag to Virginia, “I really appreciate you bringing my bag down here, that was a lot.” “Hey…I’m here for you!”
When was a time you felt your current situation inconvenienced those around you? When you finally asked for help, what was the response you received? What did you learn from those experiences?