This has been one of the most emotionally draining weeks I've had in a very long time. On Sunday my 3 year old daughter was hospitalized because her knees and hips had become so swollen that she could not walk and even picking her up was enough to cause her to shriek in pain. For those of you who do not have kids, let me tell you that nothing is more heartbreaking than having to watch one of your children suffer in pain while you know there isn't a thing you can do about it. To make matters worse, I had to hold my daughter still multiple times for various blood draws and IV insertions. Every visit from the lab was meant with instant terror and the screams and pleads to let her go home will probably remain with me forever.
Fortunately, this story does have a happy ending. After several days of testing, the doctors were able to confirm that she had Lyme disease and they got her started on antibiotics. My wife and I were absolutely thrilled at this diagnosis; the alternatives that were being explored were all much worse! What had everyone baffled was just how fast the symptoms came on. On Friday she had 1 slightly swollen knee and by Sunday morning she couldn't move!
Anyway, I got to bring her home on Wednesday and as of today you almost couldn't tell that she had been sick. The swelling is almost completely gone and this morning she wanted to show me how fast she could run (even if she was still a little wobbly). The treatment is no picnic; a month of antibiotics, but at least she's home and getting better every day.
So that brings me to the here and now. As those of you who have been following me for a while know, I have this tendency to look for ways to learn from everything that happens to me whether it's good or bad. As painful and emotionally draining as this process was, it did help me to see a few things about myself.
This week I essentially lived in a hospital for the better part of 3 days. I was in 2 different emergency rooms (my daughter had to be transferred to a second hospital in the middle of this process), the OR prep area, and then in a pediatric ward. During all that time I saw a lot of people and spent a lot of time just sitting and thinking. There was a TV in my daughter's room, but I could only watch so many episodes of SpongeBob Squarepants before my mind started to wander.
During my time at the hospital I came to realize 2 very important things:
The first thing I noticed was that hospitals are filled with unhealthy people - I know, shocking isn't it? What I mean by this is that during my time at the hospital, I couldn't help but notice just how many of the people there were either overweight or diehard smokers. During my stay at the 2 different emergency rooms, I watched as one overweight person after another passed by my daughter's room. My guess is that of all the sick people I saw in the emergency departments, easily more than half were overweight.
By the time we got to the pediatric department, I was ready for a smoke. I've been on and off again with the smoking for a little while now and stressful situations always cause me to go "on" again. For those of you who haven't been to a hospital in a while, the rules around smoking at hospitals have changed. Most hospitals now are completely smoke free. This means you are not allowed to smoke anywhere on hospital grounds. This particular hospital we were at had setup a designated smoking area across the street underneath an overpass. If I wanted a cigarette, that's where I had to go. While in that area, I was absolutely shocked at the people I saw. It was bad enough to see doctors and nurses who get to see the result of what smoking can do to you, but what was really shocking was to see actual patients! Yes, I saw patients in their gowns and slippers... dragging IV machines behind them... in the 35 degree cold... walking across the street to go have a smoke! In fact one older woman came out of the building with one of those little pull behind oxygen tanks, but they wouldn't let her bring it across the street (gee I wonder why). She came over without it, had 2 cigarettes, and then went back inside. To be honest, I am amazed that the hospital even allows it, but I guess patients have rights even if it is the right to make things worse.
My takeaway from these observations was not that hospitals are filled with unhealthy people, but rather hospitals are filled with unhealthy people that don't take care of themselves. Being an overweight smoker is only going to increase my chances of ending up in a hospital sometime in my future. I've started to make improvements and I have made progress, but I've got a long way to go.
The second realization that I came across while hanging out at the hospital was that my unhealthy behaviors could cause others to suffer. I guess I've always had the belief that my bad habits would only hurt me in the long run, but now I've realized that isn't true. Watching my daughter in pain was one of the hardest things I've had to endure. Obviously it wasn't her fault that she was there, but it suddenly hit me that someday I could be laying there suffering from something that I could have prevented by living a healthier lifestyle. All I could think of was my loved ones being in pain as they sat around me and watched me suffer. It's one thing to be in the hospital for something out of your control, but it's another thing to be there for something that you could have prevented. I do not want to have to put my family through that so I need to do whatever I can to reduce my chances of needing a hospital.
Without a doubt it's been a rough week. During all this I did not exercise and my diet has been less than stellar. No doubt I probably added a couple of pounds, but my desire to be healthy has also been renewed. I threw my cigarettes out and haven't smoked all day. It will be tough but I am committed to seeing it through. I also started a 30 day weight challenge with my friend, but that's a whole other story. I'll tell you all about it in my next post this weekend. Stay strong people!