One Flew Over the Hopkins’ Nest

Henry: Yo, I’m Henry.

Carl: Carl. Whaddup?

Henry: Not my red blood cell count.

Shameless (US) season 3: Ep. 4 “The Helpful Gallaghers”

On July 5th, it finally happened. After weeks of bouncing up and down like a yo-yo, my counts were holding solid and the all-knowing “team” gave me the green-light to go home for a few days before the second round of chemo started.

Hallelujah, amen.

However, it wasn’t as easy as they made it sound. Before I was allowed to go home I had to undergo a quadruple procedure to get another bone marrow biopsy, another spinal tap with chemo injection, and a Hickman port placement. So many release conditions. It was enough to make your head spin. Unfortunately, all the time I spent mentally preparing myself meant squat when the surgeon responsible for my Hickman placement decided that, although they were high enough to go home, my counts were not at an adequate level to go under the knife. So the team decided that I could go home, but I would have to come back to the hospital two days later for my procedure and then again the next day to be readmitted to begin chemo. I was scheduled to be released from my prison cell on the 6th of July.

What’s that saying? “When you make plans God laughs”? Well he was probably ROFL-ing at me.

As it turns out, our insurance company had yet to approve a home CPAP unit for my recently diagnosed sleep apnea. And of course, because the 6th was on a Monday, there was nothing to be done prior to discharge because no one was in the office over the weekend. And managing to sleep though 19 years of nights without a CPAP wasn’t enough to convince anyone that I would be fine for a day or two without it.


So I waited on my hospital bed, staring at the bags that had already been packed. July 6th came and went without a single breath of free air, and I was starting to get pissed off. Then along came Dummy.

The new class of residents had been ushered in just days before, and I found myself with a new batch of baby-faced twenty-somethings who suddenly had a hand in my care. And part of my care included submitting prescriptions to the hospital pharmacy so I could leave with a suitcase full of medication. Because the pediatric pharmacy at Hopkins is known throughout the entire hospital as being agonizingly slow and backed up, my mom made a point to pick up the prescriptions the night before we were supposed to be discharged so that, come morning, we could get the hell out of there. Around 8 o’clock Monday night – the night we were already supposed to be home mind you – my nurse came into my room to inform us that the resident had only submitted half of my prescriptions to the pharmacy the day before because things “got too busy” for her. So of course the logical thing to do is to clock out exactly at 6 o’clock when your shift ends instead of staying a few minutes late to finish up paper work (I dub thee “Dummy, Queen of the newbies”).

“She could have stayed a little later to do this, but she didn’t. I’m sitting there thinking, ‘you’re a doctor, it’s your job. So do it.” -nurse who shall remain unnamed.

I’m not proud, but I’m also not ashamed to say that I lost it. I had watched One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest my senior year of high school in AP Psychology, and suddenly I was looking at that movie like an autobiography. I genuinely told my mother that I felt like Jack Nicholson from the movie because I thought I was losing my mind being stuck in the hospital.

So Tuesday rolls around, and we weren’t able to pick up the remaining prescriptions until 2 o’clock that afternoon, and on top of that we still had yet to hear back from the home healthcare people about the CPAP machine.


At this point, I was feeling hostile, and there wasn’t much anyone could do to make me feel better. My mom had resorted to singing “I Know it’s Today” from Shrek the Musical (“the waiting, the waiting, the waiting, the waiting. The waiiiiitiiiiinnnnngg”), and the hospital staff could only shake their heads, baffled at what they called “the worst discharge process” they’d ever seen.

That’s me: setting the standard wherever I go. And noticeably, Dummy was steering clear of my door.

Finally, on July 7th, my mom and I were able to slip out of the hospital with what felt like seconds to spare. If we had been there past 5 0’clock in the evening we would have had to spend another night in prison the hospital.

They say the first discharge is the most difficult for all patients, but mine was a true nightmare. I just hope that Dummy has since learned that being a doctor sometimes requires late nights until the job is done.

As for me, I choose to forgive. But not to forget.



2 thoughts on “One Flew Over the Hopkins’ Nest

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