When Life Gives You Lemons… If the Lemon is Hepatitis, You Should Do Nothing. Eh.


September 23, 2011 by rebelwithalabelmaker

So, when our story last left off, I was in the hospital bed, just informed that I had Hepatitis A.  At this time, my thoughts were:

78%  Does this diagnosis mean that I will be allowed to continue to lie down, or is someone going to make me sit up?

11%  Does this mean I can't be home to meet the school bus?  Because Anthony is going to go hunting for the rest of that can of spray paint.  He was so sad when the babysitter took it away.

5%  Maybe they can give me some good medicine to help me feel better?

4%  He said "almost never causes liver damage or death".  What does almost mean?  Is it like when the boys say they almost got all the pee in the toilet rather than on the toilet seat?  I do not want a transplant.  Evan had a transplant, and he did not recommend it very highly.

2%  I can't wait to blog about this.  So many hilarious things have happened already.  Kathleen was right–I do lead an interesting life.


So, they can't fix Hepatitis.

"So there's nothing to be done but make me as comfortable as possible?"  says me. 

"I wouldn't go that far," says doctor.  Which was easy for him to say, he looked pretty comfortable with his fancy inside right stomach and everything.

But I forgave him quickly, when he introduced me to Oh-Dance-a-Tron, who I nicknamed Dance-a-Tron for short.  You would think from the name that Oh-Dance-a-Tron is a disco cyborg robot, but he was better than that:


He is an intravenous anti-nausea medicine, delivered by magical robot.  My Hepatitis/Supratentorial-Hyperemesis didn't stand a chance.  Between my Dance-a-Tron, the four litres of extra fluids, and my magical bed, I was a pretty happy camper by the time they admitted me.  I even had my iPhone, so I was able to arrange for Jane (not her real name, of course) to pick the boys up from the hospital, and she promised not to let Anthony eat any of the spray paint.  Which freed up another 11% of my brain for planning blog posts.  

I loved the hospital.  I had just spent 36 hours very sick, frightened, and mostly alone (Gary and the boys were there for me in the evenings, but the days and the nights got pretty long).  It was very lonely.  I prefer to vomit with company.

When I went to get all the tests for ministry, they said that I scored 30 on the extrovert scale.  I said that I thought that I would have gotten more than that.  They said the scale was out of thirty.  I said that my score was about right, then.  Turns out, 30/30 extroverts prefer to vomit with company.  Unfortunately for the company.

At the hospital, there are people everywhere–and you can always press a button to get even more people.  And they are all very nice once you stop randomly lying down on floors and on furniture and across their desks and such.  Once you are admitted, someone is always popping in to smile and ask you something.  And I had a Room Mate!

"Have you noticed," I said, smiling broadly at Room Mate, "how someone is always popping in to take your blood or change your IV or ask if you've had a bowel movement?"

Yes, Room Mate had noticed.  I'm just guessing, but I don't think he's thirty out of thirty on the extrovert scale.  Although he turned out to be very nice once I stopped telling everybody he had serious heart issues.  I know what you're thinking:  "What a terrible breach of confidentiality" but that would only have been the case if Room Mate actually had anything wrong with his heart, which he didn't.

You see, I did a lot of quoting Evan during those first few days.  I had made fun of Evan for caring so much more about WiFi than about his own mortal peril, but it turns out that WiFi is pretty important.  Hospitals can get a little boring–there are lots of conversations, but they tend to have little scope for creativity.  There are only so many ways to answer the question "Have you had a bowel movement today?" 

So, Evan is the world's greatest expert at being a patient, and I quoted him obsessively like Yoda to my sister.  Remember, Evan is not his real name.  Turns out the guy in the hospital bed was not named Evan, either.  In fact, the two of them were not named Evan together, in exactly the same way, if you get my drift.  And I'm not condoning eavesdropping, of course, but it's hard not to do it when someone is in the same room as you, and is beginning many sentences with your name.  "Evan says that I should make sure to get more clean clothes, and that I will need my toothbrush.  Evan says WiFi is imperative."  And then, when my sister (who also knows Evan) asked after his health, "Evan's had a thingey installed in his chest because his heart keeps forgetting to beat." and "I am worried that Evan may have contracted my Hepatitis."

Actually, Evan likely did not contract my Hepatitis.  Remember last Hepatitis post, when I was going on and on about the stupid hand sanitizers and how they don't work?  Well, when I visited Evan a few weeks ago in the hospital, all unaware of my condition and dripping hepatitis virus, I insisted that they let me use the sink to wash my hands properly.

Snotty nurse:  You can just use the hand sanitizer.

Me:  It doesn't kill viruses.  

Snotty nurse:  If you're sick, you shouldn't be visiting.

Me:  I'm not sick, but there are many people from all over the continent visiting me right now.  It's a big cesspool of germs at my house (Who was right?  Who was right?).

Snotty nurse:  We don't have a sink.

Me:  It would be hard to treat immune suppressed patients without a sink.

Snotty nurse:  Well, we don't have a public sink.  It's in the are area where we keep all the medications.

Me:  That seems like a bad system.


Snotty nurse:  If you want to wash your hands, I will have to go with you.

Which was fine by me.  I was only washing my hands in their precious drug-sink, not peeing in it.  It  was way to high for that.  It did foil my plans to steal random cardiovascular medications, though–I was really excited about that.

So, I was very grateful to hear, three weeks later during my phone conversation with public health, that due to my careful hand washing there was no way I could have given Hepatitis to Evan.  Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for, say, pretty much every other person I know.

Turns out I am a giant hepatitis spewing machine.

"So," said incredibly nice lady on the phone, "We'll just need the names of anyone that you served food to in the two weeks prior to the onset of your symptoms."

"Okay, to begin with, we had nine relatives visiting."

"Um, that's a lot of relatives."

"You're telling me.  And three fringe billets–four, including the one I made a picnic basket for."

"Are you saying that we need to track down thirteen people?"

"Well, unless you also want to include people we had over for dinner…"

Those of you who know us will know that Gary's main hobby is throwing massive dinner parties.  My main hobby is doing dishes.  "Hobby" might be the wrong word.

"How many times does a person need to cook for thirty five people in one three week period?" said public health lady.

"You're telling me."  said me. "Can you spread hepatitis by washing peoples' dishes?"

(I should take a minute to reference my disclaimer post.  Sometimes, when I am telling you what someone said, I am more relating their tone than what they actually said.  Although my facts about what happened are always accurate, I am known to take a little liberty with the dialogue.  This is not so much a hard hitting news blog.  This is more like Fox "News".  Public Health lady, for example, mostly just said "oh"). 

"Also," I added, "We had a couple of lemonade stands."

(She said more than "oh" after that).

One nice thing that came out of the conversation with nice public health lady is that she confirmed what I thought–I did absolutely nothing that would allow me to have contracted Hep A.  No travel, no seafood (the troll booger doesn't count, as it has been thoroughly investigated).  Everybody keeps asking me where I contracted it.  Maybe they are confusing it with the other Hepatitis.

I am learning that there is stigma–that for many people Hepatitis is more than something entertaining to blog about.  Apparently, I have to be careful to specify that I have Hep A–both because of the difference in seriousness, and because of the associated stigma.  Apparently, the sentence "I gave my father Hepatitis" sounds a lot better with an A at the end (I did give him Hepatitis–he was living with me the whole time I was contagious, so he didn't stand a chance.  I feel really bad.  But we caught it in time to very much minimize his symptoms).

I am told that "I have Hepatitis" makes me sound like a drug user.  I try to remember to add the letter, a la "I have Hepatitis…  A".  But, since I am Canadian, I just sound like a drug user with a strong accent.  ("I have Hepatitis, Eh").

I learned the importance of being specific (as well as how strictly patient confidentiality is observed between nurses) when I was finally well enough to shower and shave.  Shaving involved a lot of blood.  Not because of being sick, but because of being me.

"Hi there," I said cheerfully to a random nurse, blood oozing from multiple points in my legs, holding the battle scarred razor, "I'm done showering, but I've cut myself on the razor a bunch of times and I want to know what I should do with it.  I know how fussy medical people get about the Hepatitis."

Boy, do they ever get fussy.  No sense of humour about the Hepatitis.  They were worse than Don't-Lie-On-The-Floor lady, and Don't-Make-Jokes-About-Peeing-in-Our-Sink lady.  Apparently, making jokes about giving other people Hepatitis is considered somewhat… unfeeling.  (So I should mention about the lemonade stand–I didn't touch any of the lemonade and so nobody could have actually gotten Hepatitis.  I only take Hypothetical Hepatitis lightly.  The actual thing does, in fact, really suck).

In general, the nurses were very nice, although they did have an unpleasant habit of waking me up at seven o'clock in the morning to ask if I'd pooped since they last asked me.  Since they had always last asked me at eight hours previous as I was falling asleep, the answer was inevitably "No".  You see, I do not poop while I am sleeping.

Since they had control of the Dance-a-Tron, I refrained from saying:  "Look, lady, in the unlikely event that I should wake up at three in the morning and have a surprise poop, I will come out to the desk and let you know immediately.  I raised four kids, I know how to celebrate a bowel movement.  We have a little dance in our family–and I would not dream of keeping such an achievement to myself.  So how about you take my word on that, and let me sleep.  We can talk about my poop all you like at eight o'clock when the breakfast lady arrives and I have a good reason to wake up."

Breakfast lady did not cheer me up as much as you would think.  Normally, when it comes to eating, I am a bit of an overachiever.  Not so with the Hepatitis eating.  Which was okay, because I shared my food with Evan in the next bed, by way of peace offering after accidentally strongly implying that there was a bunch of stuff wrong with his heart.

With Dance a Tron taking care of my nausea, and the fact that I was in the hospital taking care of my exhaustion (there was even a chair for me to sit on as I showered.  I got blood on it.), the only meaningful symptom left was the yellowness (my skin and especially eyes were quite yellow for a while) and a quite unpleasant dry itchiness.  I dubbed it "Hepa-tight-itch", and then entertained myself for hours with my own cleverness.  What can I say, the competition in terms of entertainment was not exactly steep.  I tried to fill that gap.

"Have you had a bowel movement today?"

"I have hepatitightitch!"

"Oh, they warned me about you.  You should call it Hepatitis A."

"No, I said Hepa-tight… oh forget it.  No pooping.  And my skin is itchy."

I was prescribed something for the Hepatightitch, which didn't work–but Gary suggested putting tea bags on my skin, which worked beautifully.  Although I have been informed that I am not to refer to the process of applying them as "tea bagging", since that would associate me with behaviours that I find reprehensible.  Such as watching Fox "News", and campaigning against socialized medicine.

And, as you can doubtlessly imagine, I am a big fan of socialized medicine right about now.  It's not that I am grateful for the free and excellent care I got–although I am.  It's that I'm proud to know that right now, in this city, every single person has access to that care.  Every person I see on the street, every child at my son's school, every person I speak to knows that they are taken care of.  Which can be pretty important–especially if they happened to stop by a lemonade stand on August 20th… the one with the very assertive six year old yelling "Hey, you!  You should buy our lemonade!"

Yeah, he was wrong.  You shouldn't.  It could turn you yellow.


One thought on “When Life Gives You Lemons… If the Lemon is Hepatitis, You Should Do Nothing. Eh.

  1. […] you all know, public health and I have a complex history, in which I have demonstrated my ability to be contagious but not infect others.  Note to self […]

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