Being in Hospital: Cannulas, Concerns, and Compassion

It’s been just over a year since I got my gallbladder removed. Before I had the surgery, I was in and out of the hospital because the doctors weren’t 100% sure what was causing my jaundice and my liver function wasn’t great. 

My gallbladder was removed in emergency surgery (which I was extremely grateful for) and I’m doing so much better now! I suffered with undiagnosed gallstones for years, which I have spoken about in a previous post.

There are a few things that I learned while in the hospital and I’d like to share my experiences, but the post I drafted is quite long, so I’m going to do a series of three posts. 

This is the first of the series.

The needle doesn’t stay in your arm when you get a cannula

Before I was sent up to my first ward, I had a cannula put in my arm.

This was the cannula I had on my second admission.

A cannula is basically a small tube secured by a clear bandage that stays in your body so nurses can give you medicines/fluids through it. It just feels like a normal needle when it goes in, but you don’t really notice it too much after it’s in. The first one I had was inserted into the crook of my arm and I was told not to move my arm. Naturally, I assumed that if I moved my arm, the needle would stab me. 

That is not the case. 

After the cannula has been inserted, the needle is safely removed through the tube.

I didn’t realize this. I kept my arm so straight that my hand began to swell and I had to keep it propped up on pillows! After a couple of days I asked and was assured that I could bend my arm. 

The reason why you’re not supposed to bend your arm too much is to keep the line open. Otherwise, the machine that helps regulate the dose of the medicines or fluids you are receiving through the cannula will throw an alarm. No muscle or vein damage involved!

When I was readmitted the second time (for jaundice and a liver infection, fun), I joked with the nurse about how worried I’d been and he was wonderful about it! He even showed me one and how the needle came out.

This explanation came in handy later on when I was in a shared room, and one of my roommates, a young woman, also thought the needle had stayed in her arm. She was across from me and how she was holding her cannula arm was very familiar. I told her about how I had thought cannulas worked compared to how they do work and she was visibly relieved. 

One important point about cannulas, though, is DO NOT let anyone put a blood pressure cuff on the same arm you have an active cannula. I had a cannula in my left hand post-surgery and the blood pressure cuff forced my blood through the cannula into the tube. It’s painful and scary. It only happened to me once, but thinking back to that still makes me a bit anxious.

This goes on to my next point of: 

Raise your concerns with the nurses early

I had to get a couple of scans to check my gallbladder: an ultrasound and an MRI.

On the way back from my ultrasound, I was incredibly dizzy and I did not feel very well at all. I hadn’t really been able to eat for a few weeks. I didn’t want to disturb the nurses, but eventually I mentioned to a nurse that I was dizzy and that my blood sugar had been a bit low on admission. I am not diabetic, so they weren’t monitoring for hypoglycaemia.

Guys, my blood glucose level was 3.3. Anything under 4 needs urgent attention and 3 or below is a medical emergency. If I had waited, it probably would have dropped and I would have been at risk of seizures and brain damage. 

The nurse scolded me, in a friendly enough way, and stressed that I needed to speak up if I had any other concerns. 

I had to have a few of these while in hospital. First, you get juice and then, if your blood sugar is still too low, you get one of these. They don’t taste great, so drink them quickly!

Post-surgery, I had some trouble with the tape that held my cannula on (I have very sensitive skin and am prone to allergic reactions). I had to convince a nurse to take my cannula out for me because I was having an allergic reaction. I felt guilty because she wasn’t happy with me, but if I had had a full reaction and if it had changed over to eczema (which I am also prone to), I would have had to deal with the effects of that for a long time after I was able to go home.

It’s really important to remember that everyone working in hospitals are human and they are deserving of respect, so always bear this in mind when talking with them. Their uniform, while important, can almost dehumanize them a bit because it positions them in their role, as opposed to being just another person on the street. 

I only saw one person being rude to the nurses, but I still cringe when I think back to it.

Be kind and understanding to everyone working at the hospital

Hospitals are stressful. This is for good reason, but it’s important to take this into consideration when talking with any staff. 

Nurses and healthcare aides work incredibly hard and have a lot of responsibilities, so being disrespectful or shouting at them is unacceptable.  So many of the nurses were kind and thoughtful, a feat for the environment they were working in.

Every porter I had was wonderful. They were really friendly and helped calm my nerves. And the hospital I was at was HUGE, so I was very grateful that I was in their hands.

The cleaners were also great, and they work long hours to ensure that the hospital is safe.

I had brief talks with the doctors and surgeons, and most of them were wonderful. I had one prescribe me a medicine to dissolve gallstones on discharge – days after my gallbladder had been removed! I thought it was really funny, but the pharmacist didn’t and caught it so I didn’t actually have to go home with it.

Hospitals are big places and there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes with a lot of people making those things happen. Sometimes patience is really important, but also ensure to be involved with and informed about your care.

It’s still really important to advocate for yourself if you’re worried or unhappy, but in a respectful way. 

I am grateful to the staff at the hospital I was at. I had a lot of positive experiences considering that was really the last place I wanted to be. After the surgery I was left with five scars; I’d make that exchange any day.

Published by mooseisreading

Canadian living in the UK. I love books, games, and cats!

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