From Underpants to Fake Plants: The Dos and Don’ts of the Hospital Visit

Fake, but tasteful succulent plant from the hospital gift shop.  Photo by Cecilia Kennedy

The Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks Team recently sent one of its most precious members to the hospital: Nate.  For many years, Nate has had the resting pulse rate of a full-time Olympic athlete who might also relax on the weekends by scaling the Scandinavian Mountains and lifting large bricks.  In reality, Nate is a thoroughly trained accountant who can run pretty fast on a treadmill, pump a bit of iron, and hike Mount Pilchuck once in a blue moon.  As you can imagine, he’s quite fit, but he’s not exactly on the Michael Phelps activity and caloric intake plan.  In the past few years though, his resting pulse rate has gotten even lower and now, it’s accompanied by heart palpitations, dizziness, and some tightness in his chest.  These symptoms add up to what medical experts call symptomatic bradycardia, a condition which could require a pacemaker.  So, last week, Nate spiced up the walk-in clinic’s day by stepping through the door and telling the medical team (as they were about to go home), that he was dizzy and had tightness in his chest.  They sprang into action and ran the EKG machine, which indicated that he was fine.  Since that didn’t solve the problem though, they told him to make an appointment to see a cardiologist in a few weeks. They also told him, in the meantime, that he should remain hyper vigilant and go to the ER if he felt “strange.”  Well, on Thursday, he felt “strange” enough to visit the ER, which is something he has never done in our 20 years of marriage.

“Great! Maybe we’ll get some answers,” I said. “Get in the car.”

I thought Nate would be happy that I was driving him to the emergency room to get some answers, but he was not. He was not happy at all—and I was foolish to believe that he would be treated and released.  I should have packed him some underwear and clothes. I should have grabbed deodorant, toothbrush, comfy shoes, a washcloth, soap, baby wipes, and playing cards.  Instead, Nate went to the emergency room in a business suit, while carrying a National Geographic Magazine in one hand and a Clif bar in another.  So, here are some “dos” and “don’ts” we learned during our hospital visit:

DO:  Become extremely surprised to discover that people who are experiencing worrisome medical issues must go through security screenings and the entire admissions process before being admitted into the emergency room.  As two security guards “wanded” Nate, they explained that his business pants had set off the metal detector that he had to pass through.  Alex, Nate, and I were also asked for IDs and extra pictures, which took several minutes because the computers the two security guards had access to were not quite warmed up yet.  However, once inside the emergency room, we realized we could have bypassed the entire security process if we had just run buck naked through the place yelling, “I’m the patient!”  This is what worked for one woman while we were there.  It kind of took a long time for the two security guards to come get her because they were busy “wanding” fully dressed people and explaining various scenarios in which their clothes could set off the metal detector.

DON’T:  Just leave a loved one in the hospital without an extra set of clothes.  In the emergency room, the doctor ran another EKG and did more blood work, which showed that Nate’s resting pulse rate was low, but that his heart was not skipping beats and there was nothing to indicate an absence of oxygen to the heart.  However, the doctor wanted Nate to stay overnight for observation, so she admitted him to a room upstairs.  Once he was transported to the upstairs room, I met his extremely attractive nurse and explained that I would leave for a little while in order to get Nate some clothes.  Here’s how that conversation went:

Extremely Attractive Nurse (EAN):  Oh, we do not need clothes in the hospital.

Me:  Okay, but they’re going to give him a stress test, so he’ll want shoes—for when they put him on the treadmill—and maybe some underwear?

EAN:  Oh, no. He does not need anything.  In fact, you can go home. We will take good care of him here.

Me: Well, this is his first time in a hospital overnight by himself, so I think I’ll stay.  I can’t spend the night, can I?

EAN:  No, no, no.  You cannot spend the night. Leave at about 8 or 9. You can leave now and not come back until the morning.

(EAN leaves the room momentarily.)

Me:  Nate, I am going home, but I’m coming right back with the most unsexy outfits you own.

DON’T:  Buy a plastic plant from the gift shop.  Nate seemed to be sneezing in the hospital, so I skipped the live plants section and chose a very tasteful and realistic succulent type plant instead. I told him it would brighten up his hospital room AND he could put it on his desk at work.

“My work is stressful,” Nate said.

“Yes—yes, it is,” I replied.

“So why would you give me a plant that I could put on my desk at work—a plant that will now make me think of work?”

“Okay, I’ll put the plant in my office—on my desk.”

So, I basically went to the gift shop to buy myself a fake plant.  Instead, what Nate really needed was some playing cards and more National Geographic Magazines—and apple crisp.  (The dieticians wouldn’t let Nate have any apple crisp, even though it was listed as a choice on the cardio patient wing menu.  So mean!)

DO:  Watch television when you get bored.  You might discover meaningful life lessons.  For instance, Nate found the American Ninja obstacle course program and I watched it all the way through with him for the first time.  I was especially fascinated by an obstacle course that contained what looked like a “Ninja Swing” suspended over water.  On the opposite side of the swing was a net.  Competitors were supposed to stand on the giant swing and move it back and forth with their core muscles. The momentum was supposed to allow them to propel themselves onto the net on the other side. Once they reached the net, they could climb down and go on with the rest of the course.  The first competitor to try this event looked pretty tired to begin with.  Maybe he had spent hours beforehand being “wanded” by security—I don’t know.  In any case, he just kind of half-heartedly swung his body to and fro before flinging himself anyway at the net.  I found myself yelling, “Oh! This is not going to happen! It is not going to happen!” and I was right.  He totally missed the net and fell.  I couldn’t stop laughing. It was the funniest thing I’d seen in my life. Upon further reflection though, I realized that the Ninja Swing was a metaphor for life.  The Ninja Swing requires a full-on, unwavering commitment to the “ride,” which could be work, a part in the community theatrical production of Cats, a trip to the grocery store, etc. The net on the other side is any kind of meaningful goal, like a swimming pool, hot tub, or world peace.  If you give the Ninja Swing your full attention, the Universe will wrap its arms around you instead of smacking you on the rear with the Ninja Swing.  That’s what I think I learned anyway.

DON’T: Expect to leave the hospital with any new answers.  Nate passed every test in the hospital. There is no blockage to his heart and his “wiring” does not appear to be faulty.  However, he’s still experiencing heart palpitations and dizziness that have him on edge.  He will see a cardiologist, who will give him a portable monitor in order to collect more information. With this portable monitor, he is supposed to do all kinds of “Nate” stuff like running, hiking, working in a stressful office, feeding SeaTac the cat, lifting some weights, and playing massive amounts of European War Napoleon 4 on his phone.  In the meantime, he’s supposed to go back to the emergency room if he feels even more strange than he did on Thursday.

DO:  Talk about your fears—like this:

Me:  So, um. . . this all has me a bit worried.

Nate: Me, too.

Me:  I don’t want your pulse rate to go so low that it never comes back again.

Nate: I know.

Me:  I thought we’d ride the Ninja Swing together for a very, very long time, but I’m worried that the ride might not be that long.

Nate:  So, what can we do?

Me:  Well, I guess we just make it until Friday, when you get your portable monitor—and then you give it one heck of a ride.

Nate:  That’s what I plan on doing.

Me:  Still, I was hoping that if one of us fell off the Ninja Swing, the other one wouldn’t be too far behind.

Nate: Some couples get to fall off the Swing together, but not very many.  Sometimes one stays on the Swing for a longer time.  What will you do if I fall off first?

Me: Well, I’d be really sad, but I’d keep going as best as I could on that Ninja Swing—until I met you on the other side.  In fact, I think I’d become really proficient at it. Except . . .

Nate: Except, what?

Me:  Well, when my time comes, I might fly at you pretty fast. You might need a helmet or something.

Nate:  You’d have a lifetime to make one for me.

Me:  Yep.  I’d call it the After-Life Helmet. I’ll get a prototype going for my blog.

Nate:   I have full faith that it will meet high Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks standards.

Me: I love you too.

Your Turn:  Do you have any tips for visiting the hospital/emergency room? Any tips for remaining “in limbo” when medical experts don’t have any answers?












61 thoughts on “From Underpants to Fake Plants: The Dos and Don’ts of the Hospital Visit

  1. A humorous take on a scary situation. Good that you two are taking steps to get to the bottom of all this. I don’t really have any tips to share, but I imagine in the absence of some clear answers after the monitor has been worn and the results read, I might try a different doctor for a second, more enlightening, opinion.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks! I have heard of POTS. The daughter of a woman I knew had it and she wrote/published a book to get more information out. I think they crossed POTS off the list because his dizziness happens when lying down/sleeping and not necessarily while he’s standing. His heart rate looks really good when he’s exercising and awake/standing. They haven’t ruled out a pacemaker, but they want to gather more information to be sure, so that’s the direction in which they’re heading for now. It might change though–who knows?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I always keep a little emergency bag in the car with a couple of water bottles, few snacks and energy bars. Once you’re in the main hospital, the crisis part is over and nothing is happening until the next day. And yes, you don’t need clothes in the hospital – check dignity at the door.

    You do need clothes for going home.

    The biggest thing I’ve learned taking family members to the ER/Hospital is that you have to alert, follow up with staff and importantly take care of yourself – eat, drink plenty of water and go home and sleep. You’re no good to your loved one when you’re hungry and tired.

    and bring your cellphone recharger …

    Liked by 4 people

  3. This is alarming!

    I had very similar symptoms 3 years ago and it did turn out to be my wiring – a mis-firing electrical signal from a nerve telling my heart to slow down. It has been fixed and I haven’t had problems since then.

    Good luck with this and remember to be good to yourself, too.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. With my husband’s cancer and medical conditions, I have been to many hospitals in the VA and outside. Be patient, learn from every experience and try not to let other’s anxiety affect you. Many of the patients at the VA are in serious condition and I often try to emulate how the family deals with the stress. As military families, they have learned how to handle uncertainty.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Hi. Bless your heart, ERs and hospitals are unique experiences for sure. I’ve never heard of security in a hospital though, but I’m in a pretty rural area. I bet that was a bit frustrating to be going through weird symptoms and have to pause before getting to the check in desk.

    I completely understand the going home with no information thing. 4 years ago I was in the hospital for a week and still don’t know what happened. Saw lots of specialists afterwards for months- still nothing. I think, in my experience and experiences of friends and family- that’s pretty common. Hopefully though, his answers will come quickly. ❤️

    Love that your humor still shines through even in moments like those. Sending good thoughts that his health goes back to fabulous soon.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. that must have been so scary for all of you and sadly you still have no answers to what is going on. I hope you both stay on that ninja swing for a long time and they are able to determine what Nate needs to feel better and soon! you are in my thoughts

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I hope Nate gets definitive care soon and the problem can be repaired.
    The most important do is to be appropriately assertive. Do share relevant information. Very importantly, with so many people into Supplements Complementary and Alternative Mantras (SCAM) of Healthcare, mention anything that the patient may be taking or doing in that realm. Some of that stuff can really conflict with conventional approaches to medical care.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I’m so sorry you and your beloved are facing this. Unanswered health concerns are scary, but I’m glad to see it wasn’t enough to knock out your wonderful sense of humor. I’m holding good thoughts for some good answers!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I hope he is feeling better now. That sort of thing is scary. I can’t believe they didn’t let you stay! That’s one of the reasons they have those oversized vinyl chairs! I’m not feeling really warm and fuzzy about EAN! As for dealing with being in limbo when they can’t find an answer, I’m quite experienced in that sort of thing. I’ve been looking for a medication that will stop my epileptic seizures for 6 years. But that doesn’t mean that Nate will be in that category. If one doc can’t find an answer, find another, and another. 7 neurologists later, I’ve hit the end of the road with one of the best docs in the country. But that doesn’t mean that Nate won’t find one who will have the answer, and more importantly, the appropriate path forward. I feel for him, that’s for sure…and I wish your whole family the best.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Has there been any change? You just wait, he’ll feel better at the worst possible time. It never fails that if you go to the doc your symptoms will suddenly disappear…till you get home! That sort of thing is maddening, but don’t give up!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks! He does not feel better, but even in the hospital, when he had symptoms, they wouldn’t register on the EKG as “events.” He will need the portable monitor so that cardiologist can gather more info. Hopefully that will yield useful information. If not, we’ll just try to find more doctors. Thanks for the follow-up:)

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Cecilia – I wish I had some great DIY tips, but all I can suggest is, take notes. Names of each doctor, dates, doctors’ comments, tests performed, etc. Yes, the hospital has a record of all this, but it’s often useful to track all this on a timeline for your own reference, especially if you’re directed at some point to a teaching/research facility, and resident after resident wanders through, each with their own opinions and hypotheses, sometimes second-guessing each other, and you grind through the process of elimination.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Actually–you do have some excellent DIY tips here. I could make a chart/Excel sheet to gather this information and make comparisons. I could even make it a decorative Excel sheet/chart, if I were so inclined, but at the moment, a plain chart will do–this is a really great idea. Thanks so much!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had some tick bites from the woods in NY, VA, etc and currently being tested again for Lyme, it helps to add your own notes, for example, that such-and-such test has been shown to be inconclusive, so that down the road, someone doesn’t glance at my chart, and dismiss the possibility as already eliminated. Sometimes quoting one Dr to another prompts them to look closer, if only to establish who’s the superior diagnostician.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Excellent–this is really great–not that you had tick bites–that’s horrible, but quoting other doctors/experts as you’re talking to other doctors–I think that would be very helpful. Thanks!


  11. Yup, they never give you an instruction booklet for these situations. You only get better with practice and then they change the rules. I have had to walk around with one of those EKG monitors and still they didn’t find the answer to my issue. Years later a doctor found I was anemic! Most likely had been for years. Once I got the iron back into my blood stream it solved my issues. To say I was pissed at my regular doctor for never finding it was a bit of an understatement.
    Plastic plants? Wow! I would have expected a full craft project. Maybe something to think about if there is another visit. Just remember all your craft supplies will need to be security checked.
    Best wishes in finding some answers.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Wow, this must be so scary for you guys–fingers crossed that everything is OK. Personally, I hate hospitals so my only advice is avoid them until it’s absolutely necessary, and make sure you have someone there to advocate for you to ensure that you aren’t given the one medication that you’re severely allergic too (Ken did this for me, grilling each nurse to make sure they weren’t giving me codeine, which would kill me. He and I are also riding the Ninja Swing together!).

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Oh man. What a non-fun experience. It’s nice you two have a way of livening things up with your own brand of silliness. I always make sure I have a big, engaging book with me for all doctor visits–one that I’m unlikely to finish in a couple hours.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. So sorry to read this, hope you find answers real soon. And just echoing what many have said above, don’t forget to look after yourself. I have family going through all sorts of medical mayhem currently, and the immediate care-givers are taking a pummelling by trying to do and be all things. Their own health is suffering as a result. Take/find all the support you can. We don’t have to go through security to get into Accident & Emergency here, maybe in the big cities, so that took me by surprise; Yes, let’s delay this potentially critical medical moment! Good to see you’ve got humour on your side to soften the edges. I’m a MASSIVE fan of that technique. And a massive fan of how you use it. Wishing you and hubby all the best and here’s to a very long time on the Ninja Swing. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks–yes, caregivers have to give themselves a break–totally agree there. I’m a massive fan of your great sense of humor too–really enjoy your blog! It’s not always fun and games here at Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks, but eventually I get around to laughing every once in a while:) Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Poor Nate, it must have been worrying enough to break that 20 year record! It sounds like it’s definitely been a learning curve though, and you’ve discovered a new favourite Ninja-based show! So with the monitor he’s got, he just uses that and takes it back in a few weeks, they look at the results and see if there’s anything unusual going on..?
    He’s not taking any other medications or inhalers? They can sometimes cause palpitations and odd spells. I assume blood glucose and electrolytes were all fine on his blood work. Very strange..! It’s hugely frustrating to not get answers, especially when you continue not be well or something still seems ‘off’ because you can’t treat the issue when you don’t know what it is or what’s causing it. My fingers are crossed he doesn’t get any worse again and that the ‘specialists’ can figure something out. Personally, I think Dr Google can be more helpful sometimes (though obviously not as attractive as the attractive nurse).

    Caz xx

    Ps. Sorry I’m so behind on blogs and for the late comment! xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by! He is supposed to finally see a real cardiologist tomorrow and get his monitor. No one is really treating it as an emergency, so he’s kind of frustrated because he continues to have symptoms. Maybe the doctor might be able to tell him something tomorrow.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I hope Nate is doing better, dizzy spells and palpitations are scary 😦
    I’m terrible when medical experts don’t have any answers. I turn to google and try to find them myself, which can sometimes be good, but sometimes causes too much worry over worst case scenarios. I wonder if it’s a low blood sugar issue? It can cause palpitations and dizziness, although I’m not a doctor, and I don’t know if that would’ve been tested at the hospital already?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much! I think they did test for everything, but they just didn’t find anything. He had the follow-up with the cardiologist who told him that all of the tests they do have a decent percentage rate of failure to show what’s really going on. So, this cardiologist will collect more information and I hope we get some kind of answer–fingers crossed!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. More than a month late here. I have pretty much the same thing going on for me – low pulse, dizziness, occasional chest tightness – other than that, I’m perfectly fine. And so far, the medical consensus is: who knows? Other than confirming that “yup, that’s how your heart works”, I’ve got nothing either. The good news is that impending death from this weird way my heart works is not in the cards. Just annual checks and trying not to die from unrelated causes in between, which is a pretty reasonable request!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the reassurance:) Nate had the portable monitor for a week and they analyzed the data. When he’s feeling those symptoms, it just means that his heart has changed rhythm and there’s no major emergency. He has eliminated caffeine and has less symptoms now. He’ll also complete a sleep study in November to help him sleep better. Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

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