An Open Letter To The Sharp Memorial Hospital Team

Dear Sharp Memorial Crew,

First off, let me say Thank You to everyone with whom I came into contact at your facility.  You were all smiles.  You cared, and it showed.  I was a 41 year old surgery virgin, and you were all gentle and sweet.  And also HILARIOUS!  I love you all.  Thank you.

It’s funny, but I thought this was going to be easy to write, but I find I’m having trouble finding the right words.  I guess I’ll defer to my usual style, which is organized chaos.

sharpexperience I thought I understood “The Sharp Experience.”  I was wrong.  You all completely blew my expectations out of the water, and made what could have been the most stressful experience of my life into an absolute pleasure.  No joke.  I spent about 29 hours with you all between Friday morning and Saturday afternoon, and you exceeded ALL of my expectations.  Everyone I met was friendly, smiling, and willing to help.  All completely professional, of course, but still willing to crack a joke and laugh with me.

Unfortunately, I can’t remember everyone’s name that I met.  I wish I could.  They all deserve individual credit, so feel free to contact me and we’ll track them down.  I can tell you that everyone was great.  Literally EVERYONE.  I don’t know anyone’s last name, so you’ll have to figure that out.  Here are a few standouts:

Cara in the SPA was SUPER friendly.  What a delight.  She really helped make the waiting bearable.

phlebotomistBlood-taker girl with tattoos who was also in the SPA – Only saw her twice I think, but both times she was great.  Memorably so.  Made me smile both times.  If she needs any more of my blood she knows where to find me.  With how gentle she was both times, she could be taking it right now and I wouldn’t even know.

MJ – Wow.  What can I say about MJ.  She was my RN the first night in the hospital.  Incredibly patient with me.  Was there every time I needed her.  We walked around the floor.  She got me jello after jello.  Helped me with all my meds.  Took me off the IV as soon as it was feasible (FREEDOM!).  Adjusting the bed.  MJ is awesome.  Special thanks to her.  I was so out of it during much of my time with her that I can’t remember a lot of the details.  What I do remember is an overwhelming sense that I was completely safe and cared for during this time. (EDIT:  So I was originally done and going to publish this letter, but upon re-reading it I wanted to write more nice things about MJ.  I know she was a former traveler who just recently started at Sharp Memorial full-time.  Sharp, you scored BIG TIME with this one.  MJ, just keep doing what you’re doing.  You’re awesome.  HOORAY FOR MJ!)

Dawit, my man.  Thanks for the stroll around the floor.  And for collecting and measuring my pee.  It smelled terrible, but you were a champ.

feast-2JUANITA!  OH JUANITA! Let me tell you a story.  It starts with a hungry boy, post throat and spine surgery.  It ends with custom meals handcrafted with love to ensure I could actually eat it.  Chicken cut up into tiny pieces.  SHE LITERALLY CUT UP A PIECE OF FRIED CHICKEN INTO TINY LITTLE SLIVERS OF AWESOMENESS so that my recently intubated and slit open throat could eat them.  Was that all?  OF COURSE NOT!  She then gave me a bowl of warm chicken broth so I could dip these chicken pieces and get them soggy enough to swallow.

She is freaking incredible.  Extra applesauce.  Apple juice.  Scrambled eggs cut up into tiny bite sized pieces.  Lactose free milk.  Hot cocoa.  Juanita went so far out of her way to make sure I was happy that I don’t even have the words to describe how big of a difference she made.  Thank you, Juanita.  I ate food besides jello solely because of you. (EDIT:  I am STILL telling people about Juanita 5 days after I left the hospital.  Woot!)

Renea.  My dear Renea.  Who wandered the halls and storage areas hunting for ever more jello for me (and finding it!).  I was already starting to feel better when we met, but you ensured my spirits remained high and I’d be ready to check out as soon as possible.  I say “check out” instead of discharged because I felt more like I was in a fancy hotel instead of a hospital. Renea, who never ONCE corrected me when I called her Renee.  I still think your shoes are cool.

anesthesiaObviously I’d like to thanks my anesthesiologist Dr. Fowler (I think I spelled that correctly?) who did an awesome job and didn’t leave me in that half-life you see in the movies where you can’t move during surgery but you’re still totally awake and able to see and feel everything that’s going on.  That would have been awful.  Instead I drifted gently off to sleep and woke up with no problems.  I have no memory of the recovery room following surgery.  Keep kicking butt, Doc!

nmc-logo-printDr. Ostrup.  My neurosurgeon.  The man who ripped out pieces of my spine with his bare hands, power tools, and force of will, then replaced it with robot parts.  BEEP BOOP THANK YOU FELLOW HUMAN.  Seriously though, Thanks for everything.  You took the time to answer all of my questions using small, simple words I could understand.  Like “Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion” and “Coffee.”  Your calm demeanor and nonchalant attitude really helped me relax in the days leading up to the procedure.  I hope you carved your initials into one of my vertebrae.  You deserve it.

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Day after surgery – still in hospital

There were so many others who deserve mention and I’ll blame a naturally poor memory mixed with a variety of pain medications on my forgetfulness, but we should be able to identify them here:  My three “shower girls” who came in and changed my sheets and towels, set up the bathroom for a hot shower, gave me instructions on how to do it without re-injuring myself, and were all smiles and happiness.  You all were great and had me constantly laughing and smiling.  My Occupational Therapist (Nancy?) who made sure I knew how to dress myself without falling on my face, and who shared some personal stories of success that made me feel better about my own situation.  My Physical Therapist who walked with me around the floor and was stunned by my mobility.  HAH!  Jokes on you.  MJ and I were walking around the floor all night long.  I couldn’t sleep anyway, might as well check some boxes off the board!  The two Charge Nurses (night and day) who stopped to chat and ask how I was doing during my walks around the floor.  Thanks for your concern!  All the nurses at the desks who smiled when I walked by.  Every smile is a bit of happiness you can share.  Carlos, thanks for the smooth wheelchair ride to the door when I was dischargedIf I forgot anyone, I’m sorry.  Your contribution was significant, and you too are appreciated.  And I suppose a special Thank You to someone I’ve never met but who had an equally important role to play: The Jello Stocker.  Thank you.  You brought more happiness to me during this experience than I can possibly express in words.  Jello is life.  Jello is love.

And what can I say about The Hotel Del Sharp Memorial.  They did everything right. Comfortable single rooms.  Comfortable beds.  Incredible food.  Super friendly everybody.  Awesome views.  This was a luxury experience.

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I have to keep coming back to the staff here.  Sharp clearly has incredible hiring practices.  This one deserves another mention.  Whoever is in charge of hiring the people with whom I interacted should be invited to the pizza party you’re going to throw for everyone on my floor.  I’m not joking.  Pizza Party.  Or, you know, whatever kind of awesomely catered food and party these people want.  Do it.  They deserve it.  Also, big raises, their own ponies, some kind of monogrammed scrubs that say BEST TEAM EVER, probably a tiara of some kind, and a series of crisp high-fives.

OH!  You know what? I thought of one critique.  One tiny space for improvement.  In the private bathroom in my private room, with my private view of the sunrise, the toilet paper rolls were a little low.  A bit hard to reach.  There.  That’s it.  Could you raise them up about a foot?  That would be awesome.  Thanks!

But the most important thing, to me, while in the hospital for what was my very first surgery (nearly 42 years old!) was this:  I never once felt afraid.  Nervous before the surgery, sure!  But I always felt safe, and surrounded by confident, knowledgeable people who could handle anything my broken down body could throw at them.  Except my jokes, which were apparently too painful to take. 🙂

Thank you all.

Kind Regards,
Humble Dave

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Just Another Pain In The Neck

Welp, it’s finally happening. I made it nearly 42 years before I reached this point, but I’m here. Surgery. Doctors are going to take me apart and put me back together again. Huh. I assume they’re going to put me back together again. How would I know? What if they open me up, take me apart, and are like, “Okay, who brought the replacement part? We’re ready for it.” And then they’ll all kinda look at each other, shrug, and just… wander off. It could happen! Look around you, people. This is a weird timeline we’re living in right now. Anything’s possible.

Granted, it more likely they’ll finish the surgery smoothly and that’ll be that, but I’m just saying… weird timeline.

Anyway, if you know me at all, you know I’ve been having a bit of neck pain over the the past 9 months. I say “a bit of neck pain” in the same way one might say the pacific ocean has a bit of water in it. It actually has a lot, in case… ummmm… that’s something you didn’t know for some reason. Which would be weird. I’m not judging. It would be a lot less weird than some of the other stuff I’ve been reading lately.

So back to my pain in the neck.. Surgery is the solution. Hopefully. Already tried medication, rest, physical therapy, and begging for it to go away. No luck. So, surgery! Specifically Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF) surgery. Basically what they do is open up my throat, shove all the junk in there off to the side (esophagus, trachea, arteries, etc), rip out one of the discs in my spine (specifically between C5 & C6), grind out some extra bone, screw in a metal spacer, put the rest of my throat back and stitch me up. Done and done.

I wonder if I can keep the disc they’re removing? My wife doesn’t think so. That seems unfair. It IS mine, after all. Really, it’s more mine than almost anything else. Literally a part of me. Had it my whole life. I’m kinda sad to see it go. We’ve had some good times, that disc and I. Ah well.

I also wonder if I should record it? Set up a camera in the corner? It might be interesting to see what the inside of my neck and spine look like, right? Probably gross, but still… a learning experience.

It’s late and I’m tired, so I’m not entirely positive any of this rambling makes sense. There’s a good chance it doesn’t. I was watching Flight of the Conchords while typing, so… distracted. However, if you’ve made it this far I guess it’s good enough.

To sum up: First surgery – slit throat and spine removal. Pretty standard really. Souvenir unlikely.

As always, thanks for reading, and you’re welcome.

-Humble Dave