(Los Angeles, CA) Mothers in general have been known to be intense. But one woman found that Mama Panda surpassed expectations, and despite occasional lumbering, provided great comfort in a recent time of distress.
It all started with a taste, a small taste, of a probiotics drink gone bad (or undercooked fish…or chili). After more than five hours, painfully expelling everything within her and then some via trashcan and toilet, at 2:30am on a Thursday morning, Mama Panda ushered the woman to the Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital emergency room. The woman was dressed in mismatched clothes, wool beanie and sneakers.
The emergency room was a series of curtained-off cells, complete with noise amplification and little to no privacy. One elderly patient suddenly moaned loudly in pain, while another caused a ruckus advising of his drug addictions while simultaneously asking for more effective medication. The woman and Mama Panda quietly sat through all this, waiting and hoping that a doctor would see her soon.
After multiple needle pricks, a messy ultrasound and a hello-down-there exam, the woman was ultimately diagnosed with food poisoning, infectional diarrhea and a severe infection, and was ordered for an IV feed of fluids and antibiotics, and hospital admission for observation.
“I was actually ambivalent,” claimed the woman. “I was definitely tired, true, and dehydrated and feverish… But it was also a really busy day at the office and I didn’t want to miss it.”
The woman, clearly had other issues.
But after a few e-mails, the woman resigned to staying in the hospital and after more than five hours in the emergency room, at approximately 8am Thursday morning, the woman was admitted to a hospital in what was to be one of many firsts for the woman.
The woman was assigned a room in the Asian Pavilion. Trying to keep an open mind, both Mama Panda and the woman looked for Asian decor or any other indication as to why it was named so. But they soon realized that it was its patients and staff that gave the Pavilion its name. The woman was unsure how to feel about this blatant practice of racial profiling; however, it would soon prove its usefulness.
HERE WE GO AGAIN!
As she was admitted for intestinal problems, the woman soon learned that fluids and antibiotics were all she was going to receive. After heaving her dinner the evening before, the woman was prohibited from any food until the doctor examined her. The doctor finally arrived at approximately 3pm Thursday, after which time he recommended an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) and colonoscopy to determine the extent of the woman’s ailments (Ed. Note: Link to procedure pictures have been deleted to prevent readership from vomiting and admittances to hospital).
The good news was the woman was given permission to have a clear liquid diet for dinner and she eagerly awaited her tray to arrive…only to be denied once more as it included beef broth (the woman is currently a pescatarian). The woman was resigned to devour the jello cups and juice, carefully saving her applesauce and juice for later that evening.
Bad news continued as Mama Panda, feeling guilt over the ability to eat, avoided meals until the point where she realized she needed energy to care for her baby (i.e. the woman). However, each time Mama Panda tried to forage for food in the cafeteria, it would be closed and she would come up empty-handed. Needless to say, Mama Panda finished the beef broth and reserved applesauce quickly.
Tests Friday morning also meant another night expelling the woman’s insides. In order to ensure a clear view, three rounds of medicine were to be administered to induce vacation…and not of the relaxing, tropical variety. Each round consisted of three cups of an unbearably sweet, thick syrup. As the woman drank each round, she quickly succumbed to liquid expulsions. Some were quick and involved little to no gagging. Many involved trips to the toilet, which in and of itself became a modern dance of non-slip socks, IV line and pole.
CENTER OF ATTENTION
Hospitals, like airports, can be a place for people-watching, and the woman soon noticed quite a bit of male people-watching, as in male people watching her. During a shift change in the emergency room, a new male nurse was assigned to the woman. Sensing his interest piqued (for the woman was likely a head-turner in fashionable beanie and hospital gown), the woman was amused to note his frequent manual checks of blood pressure, and unusual interest in her intestinal distress (“Not cool”). When it was time for her room transfer, the male nurse took the initiative and wheeled her to her room…despite not knowing where he was going and with difficulty maneuvering corners while showing off his knowledge of cardio pumps and catheters.
In turn, she also received the unwelcome attention of an attendant who was qualified for transport. His inquiries into her marital status, the unsolicited denigration of Asian women adopting American culture, and the too-quick agreement of this woman’s desire to eventually have children, was freaky and creeped the woman out.
“He was weird,” recalled the woman. “He creeped me out.”
The woman ensured that Mama Panda accompanied the woman on this ride to the procedure room. But in general, repeated compliments on the woman’s youth and ability to walk on her own were well received. She was more than 30 years younger than the average age of patients, and began to accept her place as the Asian Pavilion “it” girl.
NOT ENOUGH ATTENTION
Midnight Friday morning was the cut-off for any liquids before the procedure. As the deadline neared, the woman became more anxious and frantic for juice and jello. Long gone was the desire to be a model patient as the woman repeatedly called the nurse’s station, trying to get service. Each call resulted in grunts, or silence. Mama Panda also often tried to step in, searching the hospital corridors in search of supplies, juice and care, roaring in Korean to whoever would listen to her.
“I asked for orange juice and ice chips around 11pm [Thursday],” recounted the woman. “But [the nurse] forgot and so when I asked again at 12am [Friday], she told me I wasn’t allowed to have it. What!?! I had no problems pointing out that she forgot to bring [the juice] earlier, and guilt-tripping her into bringing me orange juice… I was thirsty!”
Unlike her CAT scan (another first), where the woman and the technician were alone in the mobile unit, the EGD and colonoscopy procedure room appeared like an operating room. As the room filled with staff, the noise level rose and it became difficult for the woman to follow who was speaking to whom. Understanding that she was going to be drowsy but not completely anesthetized, the woman grew increasingly concerned as she was lying on the bed, oxygen tubes in nose, wide awake.
“I managed to get [the nurse’s] attention,” recalled the woman, “and asked her whether I was going to be more sleepy during the procedure. She laughed. She told me that we hadn’t even started yet, and then after the bite block was put in, I felt this stinging sensation.”
“I said, ih thih wigh?” questioned the woman (tr. ‘Is this right?’). “The nurse said yes, and then I woke up being wheeled into the recovery room.”
But, as it turned out, leaving the hospital was most difficult of all. Mama Panda and the woman, having spent many hungry hours at the hospital, was ready to go home. But with staff shortages and shift changes, it took more than 40 minutes for her official transport (i.e. wheelchair) to arrive. Mama Panda stomped back and forth from hospital room to hallway, hallway to nurse’s station, and finally after bringing the car around front, motioned for the woman to walk out with her.
“‘C’mon, let’s go,'” recounted the woman, of her mother’s direction. “She had enough.”
The transport did finally come, as Mama Panda and the woman literally stood in the hallway, waiting.
LOVE IN A HAZE
Throughout the ordeal, with all its ups and down, the woman was most touched by the outpouring of love and concern.
Odd couplings can be very endearing, the bringing together of two things that normally do not belong together. The last day, the woman and Mama Panda started watching some television and unusual animal friends was the theme. Mama Panda and woman watched, engrossed, as they showed a dog and an elephant, a dog and a cheetah, and a cat and crow as pairs each play and hang out together. As volume was too low, Mama Panda and the woman however, never learned how the hippopotamus came to live inside the human’s house.
Among some scary firsts, the woman also received her very first non-family hospital visit – a dear friend who not only offered to get the woman and Mama Panda anything they needed, but had the forethought to prepare a care package of magazines, books, puzzles, paper and toiletries. A ripped, shirtless Rob Lowe made everyone chuckle, including passing hospital staff.
And Mama Panda was there, throughout all this, doting on the woman by providing water before they knew that water was not allowed, and adjusting the blanket whenever the woman shifted, ensuring maximum burrito wrappage and nose coverage. Mama Panda accompanied each trip to the bathroom to help with the door and IV pole, and each trip back with IV pole and blanket. (Even more difficult was the loss of use of the woman’s left hand from pain with the initial IV location. Eventually another IV line was opened on the woman’s right hand that thankfully, proved painfree once inserted).
“Eat to live, not live to eat.”
Famous last words.
(Ed. Note: This entry, while it may not seem edited, was kept intentionally long to convey the long 39.5 hours the woman was at the hospital.)