Identity Disorder Today
My Experience at Mt. San Rafael
Written by: Kathi Stringer
Morning arrived and so did Gail. Breakfast was served at
eight sharp. She enjoyed the coffee while I nibbled on my meal.
After breakfast I drifted back to sleep while Gail did her cross-stitching.
Dr. Biber usually makes his rounds between eight and nine a.m.
He checks his patients then gives instructions to receive hot soaks.
This is done by lowering the bed at the head so the blood will be
displaced in the area treated. This procedure takes about twenty
minutes. The object is to reduce the swelling. The bad effect
is that moisture penetrates the gauze packing and creates a horrible
I was lucky. My swelling was not enough to require the hot soaks.
I awoke later in better spirits.
"What did you do while I was in surgery?"
"Well, Remember that little hill above the hospital with the
"I went up there and walked around and prayed."
"We had a long talk. I asked him to be with you and make everything
all right so you will be pretty down there."
"Oh Gail, it's not like you to say a prayer."
I could feel the tears swell up in my eyes.
"Now don't you start to rain on me now. Everything's
going to be O.K.."
Gail came over to check my pads and decided to change them.
For her this is a unique display of courage. When she finished
she sat down and put her head between her legs.
At mid-morning a nurse comes by regularly pushing a type of medicine
cart. She collects several items and brings them to me. They
are a large white pill, a long green one, a little clear red one
and three stool softeners. They were in small containers about twice
the size of the creamers they give you for you coffee in the restaurants.
One of them is filled with pure mineral oil, the other, Milk of
Magnesia. The third comes in a package you mix with water.
You must drink it quickly as it is fizzing. The alternative
is constipation. That would be unthinkable the way things are already
Gail stayed all day with the exception of leaving for lunch. Returning
with what would be my companion for the rest of the hospital stay.
She brought me a yellow bear. It was such a cute little thing
that I held it many hours through the days to come. At ten o'clock
that evening, Gail decided to leave. She didn't want to get chased
out like the night before. Tomorrow her flight back to California
would be in the afternoon.
About on p.m. Gail had to return home. She would come back on Thursday
morning to take me home. We hugged and said our good-byes. I was
now on my own.
I must say here that the nursing staff treats you with respect
and kindness. They do everything possible to make you comfortable.
I had a button clipped to my bed so that I could call them if I
needed to. It's wise not to abuse this service. I did
not. Although later that day I asked for a pain pill on the hour.
Her said she would check. Fifteen minutes later I called to
a nurse passing by. I told her I requested a pain pill fifteen minutes
ago and no one came. She said that she would check.
Another twenty minutes went by, still nothing so I pressed the button
"Please, this is the third time I am asking. Please bring
me a pain pill."
"O.K., I'll check."
After another twenty-five minutes someone finally came. A full
hour later from the first request.
"Would you please leave me two?"
"I'm sorry, I can only leave you one."
"You know, I try my best to go without them so when I ask
for one I really do need it. It's not right to send a request three
times and wait and hour."
"I'm sorry, things are busy."
It only happened once which is understandable and it was the last
At timely intervals during the day and night two nurses checked
my vital signs, my blood pressure, temperature and pulse. They really
do keep an eye on you. If something was wrong I have no doubt they
would have taken action immediately.
I managed to almost get a good nights rest. I kept waking
up from time to time. I remember wondering what happen to
the night nurse, John. It was three a.m. Saturday morning.
The next four days lasted an eternity. From that point on
I did not sleep until Tuesday evening, at about twelve midnight.
That's three days I was awake. I laid there and stared at
the wall clock until breakfast. Meantime I asked for more
blankets I could not get warm. Then later in a span of about one
minute my body must have released a gallon of water from my pores.
I drenched my bed from head to toe. As soon as I would move or turn
over the air would cool the wet bed and I would start freezing again.
But when I released that amount of water my fever would break momentarily.
I would request a dry bed, then it would start all over again.
Breakfast was served at eight followed by antibiotics and stool
softeners. Dr. Biber came at his usual time. He was dressed
casually in his ranch working clothes. He has a commercial
ranch that he enjoys
"You look like you're dressed for the ranch."
"I am, I have to fix the corral today."
"Must be nice."
"It is. I just love it."
I wished I could have gone with him. It would have been nice to
be outdoors in the fresh air.
That evening I used a bed-pan for the first time in my life. There
was a certain amount of relief knowing the stool was soft. I was
worried about the complications if I were to be constipated.
I noticed John was back after two days off. It was nice to see
his smiling face again.
Sunday was a long day. Gail and Gloria would call and check
up on me. It helped break the monotony. But nothing takes
the place of a hug. The nurses were kind and helped however they
As I am writing this it has been two weeks since this all happened
and I think it was that Sunday a nurse pulled out my wire. What
I mean by that is there had been a small strand of wire inserted
above my vagina. It went down below the skin into my body then back
out again into a loop. A piece of cotton is attached to the wire
held against my skin. She used a wire cutter to cut the wire. It
doesn't really hurt. It's just scary. The sensation is weird.
Today is also the day they started clamping my catheter drain tube.
It remained clamped for a period of two hours allowing the fluids
to stay in my bladder. The clamping and unclamping is done
for the next two days until the catheter is removed. This
helps to get what has become a lazy bladder used to working again.
By now it's Sunday evening and I've been up thirty-eight hours.
I could not sleep. My body was doing another one of its numbers
on me again. I am covered with blankets upon blankets to keep
warm. Again, water suddenly flowed from my pores and drenched
the bed. The air had an air conditioning effect. I was getting
very cold. I called for help. I needed a dry bed. I
reached for a drink of water. My hand missed it's target and
upset a full glass of cranberry juice over my entire upper body.
The hot flashes from the lack of hormones caused a mood swing.
I started to cry. Cold, soaking wet, things didn't matter
any more. I held the little bear Gail had given me and crawled
to the edge of the bed. I slowly got up. I just stood
there and cried. I hated the way I felt. When the nurse
came in she was shocked that I was standing up. I wasn't supposed
to be out of bed for another two days yet.
"What are you doing up? You have to get back into bed right
I managed to get the words out above the sniffles.
"I can't. My bed is soaked and so am I. I hate that bed."
"Honey, do you want to destroy all that Dr. Biber has done?"
She quickly changed the bed while I stood there.
"Are you all right?"
"Yes. My fever broke just now."
"Let me help you lay down."
She pulled the dry blanket up around me and lifted the side rails
back up. She seemed to understand what I was going through. Mt.
San Rafael is truly a special hospital. The employees make it that
I was awake all Sunday night because of the hot flashes.
John said I was going through menopause. Monday was another slow
day. I could not read. I tried to watch television now
and then. Sleep did not come. That evening a really
neat thing happened. I had a visitor. Her name was Marsha.
I knew her from television appearances. Her interview is what
helped my father gain insight about what I am doing. We talked
for a long time. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed her company.
We had so many things to share. I made a new friend.
Monday night was a long one. I told John about my lack of sleep.
He gave me their strongest sleeping pill. The time was after midnight.
I mentioned that the catheter would come out tomorrow. that meant
I would be up walking. I could hardly wait. He gave me advice about
urinating after the catheter is removed.
"Sometimes patients get tense worrying if they will ever be
able to pee. Because they're so tense worrying about it they can't
go and we have to re-insert the catheter. That's no fun. The best
thing you can do is to relax and don't worry about it. Let nature
take over. Remember, don't even think about it."
"Thank you John."
The drug he gave me was supposed to knock me out for eight to nine
I started to sleep. Circles, tumbling and slow motion. I
felt very hot. My skull felt like an oven cooking my brain.
I started to fight the drug. I needed to wake up. It seemed
to be the only way to be in control of the hot flashes. I
awoke one and a half hours later. Frustrated, I looked at
the wall clock the rest of the night. John said it was because of
the lack of hormones in my system. I counted the hours as
they went by. I knew at eight tomorrow I would be free of
the Foley catheter.
Breakfast came at eight. I decided to wait for the nurse.
"Good morning. Are you ready to have your catheter removed?"
"Yes. I've been ready for a long time. I can't wait to walk
"Would you rather eat your breakfast first?"
"No. I want to get it over with. I've been waiting for you."
She extracted some fluid from the catheter with a syringe.
"Take a deep breath."
It stung but nothing I couldn't handle. Now was the time. I scooted
to the end to the bed then over to the edge. Placing both feet on
the floor I rose quickly.
"Not so fast. Slow down. You might faint. You have been in
bed for a long time."
"It feels good to be up again."
I could not straighten all the way up. My stomach muscles were
pulling downward. My posture looked like that of a little old lady.
I was determined to work on that immediately. Then the person I
needed to talk to walked in.
"Good morning, Dr. Biber."
He made his usual inspection.
"Dr. Biber, I need your help. Please let me start on the hormones
"That's not a good idea, you can start them when you leave."
"Hormones can cause blood clots because of the lack of activity.
That's why it's best to wait until you leave. You'll be moving more."
"Dr. Biber, I haven't slept since three a.m. last Saturday
morning. That's going on four days now. The hot flashes are
driving me crazy. Please help me."
"O.K. Under the circumstances you can start today. But
get up and move about."
"Oh, thank you Dr. Biber. I promise."
His visit was as brief as before. I ate breakfast, got up
and started to walk back and forth from my room to the nurses' station.
I began very slowly. By the time I was finished (about fifty
times later), my walk was almost a jog. I went back to my
bed to a short breather. Next I headed for the shower. It
would have been a good idea to have a nurse with me because of the
chance of fainting in the shower. I hear this is not uncommon.
I went unannounced since I seemed to feel that I would be all right.
What a wonderful feeling that was. Hot water! This is
especially true because I was almost always cold due to the hot
flashes. Ten minutes later I could feel the hot water drain the
energy out of me. I had a funny feeling that I'd better dry
off fast and get back to my bed. Towel drying my hair I began
to feel very light-headed. I grabbed my things quickly without
bothering to dry off the rest of my body. I almost didn't
make it. My wet body hit the bed. By then I was seeing
little dots blinking in my eyes. What a relief to lay down
It was now only nine-thirty a.m. I had done a lot in an hour and
a half. I rested for a while. The person from the pharmacy came
by as a courtesy to let me know about the drugs that I may take
home with me. He went through and explained it all to me. It was
a nice gesture, but that was like everything else a Mt. San Rafael.
I wasn't too coherent. Another hot flash had me almost under.
"What about the hormones? Did you bring one with you?"
"No, but we will fill the order. Someone will bring it to
He could see my obvious dilemma.
"I'll check on it for you."
Dorothy came later.
"How are you doing?"
"Not to well Dorothy. I haven't slept in over three days.
My temperature is all over the place. I feel like I'm never going
to get better."
A nurse came around the corer.
"Get her started on the hormones right away."
"No buts. Can't you see that she is climbing the walls?"
The nurse left.
"Thank you Dorothy."
"It's all right. Someone would have done it for you anyway."
I don't think Dorothy will never know how much I appreciated that.
I'm sure her push helped. I rested for awhile then decided
to go up to the lobby. The air was getting fresher as I was
coming closer. At the end of the last corridor, had I gone
to my left I would have been in the lobby. Instead, I continued
straight ahead through two large double doors directly onto the
patio which was two stories high with a guard rail overlooking a
precious sight. Fresh air! I had forgotten the feeling
of being outdoors. Trees, mountains and deep blue skies. I
was so excited. If only I could run and feel the wind on my
face. My legs were tiring so I went to the lobby. Brightness,
due to the glass entry, adjusting to the light. I watched
normally clothed people enter and leave the hospital. Sitting among
them I felt a part of it all again.
Returning to my room to rest, it wasn't long before I had a nice
surprise. I started the hormones again. I hoped that
they would take effect soon. Marsha came by in the afternoon
and we visited for a long while that evening. Her company
made a difference. It was wonderful. As we were talking
the nurse came by with the laxatives, namely the Metamucil.
I told her if I drank it again I think I would gag. But she
beckoned me to try. Two sips later and my stomach went into uncontrollable
"Stop! Don't drink anymore."
I was glad to hear that. I took my chances hoping I would not be
Marsha left late in the evening. I watched the clock hoping sleep
would come soon. This was getting to be ridiculous.
The time was shortly before one o'clock. My pores released
water again. But this time it was different. I could
ell the room temperature. It's over! The hot flashes
are gone! I just knew it. I drifted right to sleep at
long last. "Thank you Father", I prayed.
Wednesday morning and I had almost a full night's sleep.
This would be my last full day. It's also what they call a
"free day". This means they don't really have anything
scheduled for me today. So I made and effort to exercise and
move about. As I was going to the lobby one of the girls was
coming out of surgery. She had the whole nine yards done.
Bottom, top, throat and nose. But she was fast asleep.
I couldn't help but feel jealous. When I came out of surgery I was
practically out of my mind with pain and here she was sleeping.
I guess everyone's different. Besides, I did feel sorry for
her. It was a lot to have done all at once. The day moved on as
I was getting excited about leaving tomorrow. Marsha and I
visited again that night. Soon I was asleep with another good night's
I awoke at six a.m.. Today the packing would be removed.
The packing was about fifteen yards of gauze to keep me open inside
so that nature could not heal me back together. Shortly after
eight the nurse came in and asked if I was ready. I was. The
sensation is weird. It's like she is pulling out my intestines.
It's doesn't hurt, only a little scary. I have to continue
to dilate five times daily until I completely heal to keep myself
It was about nine a.m.. I kept watching the door for Gail as I
was fixing my hair. Then the silence broke.
I just looked at her. I didn't say a word. I was so
happy that I didn't know what to say. The tears were rolling
down my cheeks. I ran to her.
Our arms locked. We hugged for a long time. I kept thinking, it's
over, it's really over. She's going to take me home.
Later, Dr. Biber and Marsha came in. Marsha was kind enough to
ask the doctor to come early so that I could be released by twelve
"So today's the big day."
"Yes, I'm going home."
He was coming closer to check me for the last time.
"Well, I made it so I get to poke it first."
"Dr. Biber, would you please be extra gentle?"
(laughter) "You've got the rest of your life to tell all the
guys that. I'm just going to do my thing."
Here goes I thought. He sat down on the bed and leaned on one arm
as he checked me with his other hand. He has large forearms
for a man. I held on to one of them with both hands.
It only took a few seconds. T he he went through his list from memory
about all the things I need to do and to watch out for. He answered
all my questions. the time came. it was time to say good-bye.
We all hugged. That is, Dr. Biber, Marsha and I.
It was hard to do. I've grown to love them. That's what they must
mean by mixed emotions. I wanted to stay, yet I wanted to leave.
I promised to keep in touch. Then they disappeared into the hallway.
I finished getting dressed while Gail got my things together. A
pause..., the last moments, a look about the room, then I turned
to leave. I signed the release form at the nurses' desk bringing
the end to an unforgettable experience.
been almost three weeks since I left Mt. San Rafael Hospital in
Trinidad, Colorado. It's certainly a memory I'll have with
me the rest of my life. I'll miss Dr. Biber and the hospital
staff. Their care and emotional support carried me through
a rough period into a new beginning. Yet it seem like a dream
now, but I know it was very real. Sister Marie came by everyday
to check on me, always offering to help in some way. John
and Betty, the night nurses would respond so quickly to ease the
pain. These two individuals were extra special to me. But
really, every one at Mt. San Rafael is special in their own right.
I'll fly back to visit them one day, but sadly, some of them will
no longer be there. Still, no one can take the place I hold for
them in my heart. I had a unique experience with each and every
one of them and no matter how small, they have their place.
I really never did say good-bye when I left. Somehow it seems so
final. I just silently walked away. I guess it's my
way of being a part of Mt. San Rafael forever.
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