Tourniquets and Tea


I alluded in my last post that I had been rushed to the hospital last week. I was working with a student, tutoring. She had an English paper due, and we were narrowing her topic. I had to put my head down on the desk, she went to fetch me water.  Alone in the room, I could feel the universe spinning around me. Whoosh!—I needed to get to the floor. It is better to get to the floor than fall to the floor. It is. But it causes as many problems as it solves.

Alone on the floor in a classroom is not where a professor wants to be. It puts a sort of bad spin on the day (ha! No pun intended).  It wasn’t long before well-meaning coworkers, including my boss, surrounded me. The asked what I ate, was I allergic to anything—taking blood thinners?

“Chicken sandwich and three cups of peppermint tea. Aspirin. And no.”

The head of the nursing school arrived with a blood pressure cuff. Lying down my blood pressure was 110/70, damn near perfect, exceptional for someone my age (so everyone said). She asked what I ate, was I allergic to anything, taken blood thinners?

“Chicken sandwich and three cups of peppermint tea. Aspirin. And no.”

But then I sat up. My fingers began to tingle, the room whooshed again. 90/60—and dropping. After three attempts to sit me up an ambulance was summoned.

The EMTs asked me the same round of questions. What did I eat, was I allergic to anything—taking blood thinners? Did the same BP tests, sitting up, lying down. Same results.

“Chicken sandwich and three cups of peppermint tea. Aspirin. And no.”

To say I was testy by the time I got to the hospital would be an understatement. I had a class to teach, students depending on me! It was LOW blood pressure, low blood pressure is a good thing!

A pudgy-faced little woman came into the room. She looked sort of like that fourth grade spinster teacher we all had—you all know the one I’m talking about. She put a BP cuff and pulse-ox on me, and took my pulse. I asked her what my pulse was…and she responded, “Oh, don’t worry yourself about that, honey.”

Honey,” I replied, “it’s my heart, so as I’ve been rushed here in an ambulance, I’m already on the worried side.”

She rolled her eyes, mumbled something about my ability to understand the numbers, and then said, “45.”

“Hmm, readings still low.” I asked for a blanket.

It was about then that Jamie arrived. Her car had overheated on the ride. The ill-tempered nurse scurried away, sort of like an Umpa-Lumpa. She never asked about food or drink or blood thinners or allergies. But I had heard the paramedics tell the doctor in the hall. Yes, the nurse reminded me of an Umpa-Lumpa…or…or a Weeble, yeah a Weeble. Jamie and I chatted, I sent an email to the person covering my class, and watched the machine…BP: 130/80, Pulse-ox: 98, and Pulse: 52. Excellent—flat on my back things looked good.

Nurse Weeble returned to take blood. I explained that my veins roll. “Oh, I’m good at this! It’ll be fine.”

I was dubious.  And she hadn’t brought me a blanket, I asked again.

Nurse Weeble-cum-vampiress put the tourniquet securely on my left arm. Jabbed once. Jabbed twice, and then a third time. No vein. I might have been a little testy when I repeated that my veins roll. “Oh, your fine! I’ll just try in your hand. Looks like you have a good vein on the back of your hand.”

“Hmm. Do you think we should take the tourniquet off? I mean my whole arm is blue and throbbing.”

“Oh no, we’re supposed to leave it on until I’m done.”

Now, at this point, I was tired, hungry, and my arm was throbbing. I had passed out at my job, and the Universe remained a little fuzzy, but nonetheless, I was pretty sure, once you’re sure you have a vein, you untie the tourniquet, right? BP: 120/70, Pulse-ox: 99, Pulse: 40. I guessed we’d get different readings on my other arm.

She stuck my hand twice before she hit the vein. “My veins roll,” I said. She was happily babbling about her sister’s birthday.

“Do you think we should take the tourniquet off?” I asked as she inserted the seventh tube.

“Oh no, we’re fine.” She smiled. She, by her own standard, had done a fine job.

Except we weren’t fine. My vein stopped giving blood—because, you know, the circulation had been cut off some eight minutes before. My arm was blue. The rings on my left hand covered in blood—because when she finally hit the vein, there was too much pressure, tourniquets do that. Jamie shifted uncomfortably in her chair.

Nurse Weeble-cum-vampiress-cum-moron waddled off with all of the blood my body was willing to surrender.  She returned, without a blanket, and hooked me to the ekg machine (eeg?—I don’t know one of those e-machines that checks your heart) and started IV-fluids. I don’t know if she knew, but I knew the best way to raise pressure was to add fluid. Someone here besides Jamie and me had a clue. I breathed a sigh of relief. I wondered if Ms. Weeble got off soon. She finally bought me a blanket.

After the fluids started, She returned with my blanket, and she did my blood pressure lying down, sitting, and standing (so I wasn’t under the blanket long). And because I was being pumped with fluids, all three came back in the low-normal range. I bit my tongue, and asked for my blanket back.  Jamie read on her iPad and tried to be invisible.

Vitals all stable. Just as I began to relax, like a bad penny, Nurse Weeble-cum-vampiress-cum-moron came back to—get this—get a urine specimen. Really? We couldn’t have done that before you wired and tubed  me all up? Really? She handed me the cup and gave me directions to the rest room. Now, because I was a little fuzzy, I didn’t think about it until after I got into the bathroom, behind the locked door.

What if my blood pressure dropped again? Where was the call button? How would they break in? Where was Nurse Weeble-cum-vampiress-cum-irresponsible-moron? I tottered back to my cubical unattended and bordering on angry. What if I had fallen?

Nurse Weeble-cum-vampiress-cum-irresponsible-moron said she’d be back to hook me back up to everything. But she didn’t come back. Well eventually she did, for the sample. She babbled on about how much she loved her sister; her sister’s birthday was, like mine, in September. She didn’t hook anything back up. Jamie shifted.

And then we waited. No BP cuff, no pulse-ox, or heart monitor. I was pretty sure my blood pressure was rising, a lot. Jamie went to get information from the front desk and was told that I would be discharged soon. I think she may have said something snippy to Nurse Weeble-cum-vampiress-cum-irresponsible-moron, but I don’t know. I didn’t see that nurse again. Jamie came back into the room, looking somewhat mystified, with a Styrofoam cup full of water in her hand.

“What?” I asked.

“I asked the nurse for water for my radiator and this is what she gave me.”

“Have you met my nurse? She’s a French fry short of a Happy Meal.”

“No, it wasn’t your nurse—it was a different nurse! We need to get the hell out of here!” We both stared at the cup of water.

“Find the ladies room, fill up the empty jug in your car and fill the radiator. I don’t need you to wait here with me. You can come back when you’re done.”

Shortly after Jamie departed, the doctor arrived to tell me that all of my bloodwork came back indicating there was nothing wrong with my heart, but I had a UTI—so here you go have some antibiotics. No idea why you fainted. Have a nice day.

The blond nurse who did the actual discharge insisted that I had come in semi-conscious, so Nurse Weeble-cum-vampiress-cum-irresponsible-moron had given me oxygen.

“No, no she didn’t.” I said.

“She had to, that’s protocol!”

“Yeah, no she didn’t.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yup, yup, pretty sure. I’m claustrophobic; I would remember something over my face. No oxygen.”

“Oh, well I guess we will just cross that off the list of necessary procedures.”

Good answer. Because a good malpractice lawyer wouldn’t catch that. She did ask me about Jamie’s car, she gleefully shared that she had given her water for the radiator, and didn’t get it when I said it wasn’t enough. I just smiled and signed the discharge paperwork. If you looked up dump blond in a dictionary, pretty sure this young woman’s picture would be there.

I was discharged, and after losing consciousness at my job, was sent out into the night alone to find my daughter. Really? When Ian had stitches over his eye, they made him use a wheelchair to the car—made me pull up to the door in broad daylight. Stitches, needs supervision upon discharge, pass out at work, send out into the night alone.

Got it.

That makes sense.

Once home, I did a simple Google search for the effects of everything I ate throughout the day on blood pressure and learned peppermint tea lowers blood pressure. The cure appears to be ½ bag of normal saline, and poor medical care—I didn’t get that from Google. So, Google 1, local hospital staff 0.

Maybe I’ll make some tea.

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5 thoughts on “Tourniquets and Tea

  1. Hilarious write up, Mel. Just dealing with the Weeble (wobbles but doesn’t fall down) was probably enough to raise your blood pressure even without the fluids. I’d never heard that about peppermint tea. Hmmm, surely it requires some other factor at the same time. Incidentally, it is possible for the blood pressure to be different in each arm. It indicates a blocked artery I think (My daughter is the paramedic, not me, but she would have eaten that nurse for a snack.) Glad you are OK.

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