Morphine and Fentanyl-A Chemical Concussion


September 10, 2019

I disappeared for awhile. I’d been in a rough patch health wise. One night I was curled on bathroom floor in pain too weak to move, my husband called 911 and an ambulance arrived. My husband raced down the hill to beat the ambulance. From here I need to use what’s been told to me.  Because of the pain the doctor wanted to use morphine. Jack pointed him to the part of my medical records that says no morphine. Nurse leaves. Comes back with a shot that is a blend. Jack is led to believe not morphine. She starts the injection. I complain of feeling heavy. Then I lose consciousness. Jack, my husband, loses it. Nurse disappears. Then admits shot was morphine and fentanyl. 

The journey begins-one I have no knowledge of at this point. For three days I’m comatose. All bodily functions shut down. Jack, family members and friends take turns sitting with me. As best I can tell I came out of it early one morning. I see it’s a hospital but I can’t find a call button.  I start yelling ‘help me.’  From there it goes nuts. One doctor is furious that I dare disrupt his night. Leaves. It seems his patient died while he was gone. I have a hard time believing this memory.  In it I hear the doctor sobbing that he is ruined.  Something happened.  Nursing staff confirms it.  Or was the whole thing a dreamed up crisis from my crazy brain?

The drugs aren’t done. Delirium arrives. I live in my own reality with only brief moments of knowing where I am. While the people who love me are panicked I’m having quite the time in my altered reality. Inside my world the nurses are practicing for a spectacular performance complete with a conductor. In flowing lavender and green dresses the nurses danced sometime in mid air. Then the Christmas portion started. Traditions from another country in the days past  Christmas complete with dancing bears and happy families celebrating by giving each other gorgeous oranges. 

These are clear even now. Soon worries surface. I hadn’t received an invitation to the performance. I’m sure it’s punishment for what happened earlier. Days later I’m STILL fixated on the missing invitation. In my head I go up and take a picture of the announcement on my bulletin board. Finally it’s clear to me no performance. Rats it seemed really cool. In moments of reality I’m aware the nurses and aides are not treating me well. No clean sheets. I’m never allowed to get up even to go bathroom. As days go by I have some crazy times inside my messed up head. The funniest had me in the room which was round-really some architects master plan- but my bed is tilted and under the bed is water with floating mangrove leaves. They tell me that Jack just bought me the most expensive truck they had available for people in round rooms. On hearing this, I think, “Why haven’t I killed him?  In front of my bed is a green hill and country roads.  One has 5 huts lined up. Jack had married four native women. Again, “Why haven’t I killed him?”  Each of the wives claims her hut. But I’m not moving. 

There are longer moments of clarity as drugs leave my system. I remember doctors. I remember neurologists coming in to check where I was. I made sure I knew day, date, place and my name

Around September 14-15

At one point I have the last delirium moment. In this one we’ve been to the movies. One had the dancers in lavender and green the other was a cartoon head dancing with birds. As I’m more in reality, Jack insists they move me to another floor..  Here I’m mostly present except at night.  I start having lucid dreams and sometimes they become reality for me. In them, every task is difficult and its hard to remember all I need to do.

Around September 17

Jack succeeds in  having me moved to a rehab-skilled nursing facility. I had to pass a neurological test to be released.

At the Skilled Nursing Facility the lucid dreams are always about the hospital and what I have to do to get tasks done. There was a bed with buttons I had to push to create hot spots. I was cold. I spent hours mad at myself for not finding the buttons. The night nurse came in and raised the heat in my room and fixed covers. Finally sleep. 

The one date I know for sure is October 1.  That is the day I left rehab and went home.  At home I maintain reality except for after dinner.  Tired, I start to go into lucid dream world and difficult tasks I must perform.  I know it’s happening.  So I started a mantra to myself ‘Just let the routine take over.  Rely on muscle memory to do things.  Keep it simple.  Keep it simple.’  It works after about two days of this I can last all day as myself and be present.  It is now October 21st.  I still have therapists coming to the house helping to rebuild the muscle lost during the week in the hospital when I wasn’t allowed to get out of bed until the last two days.  

What happened to me is not isolated. Jack did some research and learned that in older women morphine is a problem. Women admitted for total hip replacement are given morphine, have delirium, released with delirium (usually to a nursing home.) They often die within 3-6 months of release from hospital. 

I I am grateful to feel like I am myself again.  For awhile I was lost-a strange feeling.  Rebuilding ‘self’ is lot of work.  I wonder now if I’ll ever stop second guessing myself. What remains clear are the friends and family who visited me. During the delirium, I remember faces. I could latch onto a well known face and be present for a bit. Helen, a good friend, floats on my left. I see my brother framed in a door. Jamie, my son, is on my right and worried about missing the cardiologists visit. It is here I start to come back for longer moments. I remember the cardiologist explaining about a newly diagnosed atrial fibrillation. I remember wanting to be sure Jamie got the details. This begins the long struggle back to clarity. Poor Jack. I think something’s real when it’s not. He is left to explain to brain dead what is real. 

I am lucky to be where I am. Without my committed spouse, family and friends I doubt I would be. So be an advocate. Hospitalized patients need visitors so staff sees them as people apart from the hospital. I’m not sure what you can do about doctors who ignore chart and family.  They need to be called to account. And beware of morphine’s effects. Give thanks each day for clarity.  

About Winding Stream Press

Janice DeRuiter Eskridge, M.F.A. is a poet who worked for over a decade as a poet-teacher for California Poets in the Schools. Helen Shoemaker, Ph.D. L.M.F.T. is a university professor who teaches in the areas of child development and counseling. She is also a therapist in private practice.
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