Recently I was admitted into the hospital after two trips to the ER in the same day. At the first ER visit they decided I just had a virus, but when I got home I got much sicker, so sick that when my husband was ready to take me to the ER again, I couldn’t walk on my own and even collapsed in our foyer on the way out. At this second ER visit they noticed my pancreatic enzyme levels were through the roof, so they admitted me for pancreatitis. Once admitted, after more testing, they realized I had colitis and a nasty case of C Diff (an intestinal infection) as well. So unfortunately, I ended up staying there three days.
This was my first time being hospitalized since I was 10. Back then I was hospitalized for one night after being hit by a delivery truck while crossing the road. I sustained some internal bleeding and nerve damage from that accident, but was extremely fortunate to walk again as the doctors told me several times. I don’t remember much of that first sleepover in the hospital except that I hated the IV, got to eat lots of popsicles and had my mom room with me for the night because I screamed bloody murder every time she would try to leave.
This last hospital stay I definitely remember well though. And at times I thought I was going to lose my Aspie mind there. Hospitals truly are sensory hell for us autistics. The constant beeping noises may have been the worst thing, especially the machines attached to me that would beep loudly and relentlessly every so often (and it always seemed to take way too long for someone to come turn them off, even though I knew they were busy). I could hear other patients’ machines beeping too, as well as the noise of everyone watching tv and talking in the hallway. That kind of constant stimulation is not pleasant at all for those of us sensitive to it.
In addition to the noise, there was the unpleasantness of fluorescent lighting everywhere (which is a trigger for many autistics and can give us severe headaches or migraines and make us dizzy and nauseated if exposed for long). Next, you can add the physical discomfort of being hooked up to things. Now, I know that I had to be attached to an IV because I was extremely dehydrated and needed IV drugs, so even though that was extremely uncomfortable (and I really wish they hadn’t put the needle in the crook of my elbow) I dealt with it and didn’t complain. However, when they came in to hook me up to a heart monitor and told me themselves there was no real reason to do so, I was irritated. Eventually I just told them to remove it, that I was refusing to wear it. I was kind about it and they totally understood since none of them knew why I needed one at the time.
Another thing I hated about the hospital is the fact that no one lets you sleep. I was constantly woke up for more shots, blood tests, equipment going off, people being loud, etc. It is enough to drive you crazy! Sleeping in those hospital beds is also extremely uncomfortable if you are a side or stomach sleeper (as I am).
Of course, I do realize that some of these things can’t be avoided. Medicine is necessary and so are machines and tests at times. However, I do wish there were hospitals made especially for people with sensory issues. Maybe some that do a better job of limiting noise and avoided hooking you up to stuff you don’t need. Maybe other kinds of lighting in rooms for those with autism or sensory processing disorders. I know I’m probably dreaming here and that the funding is seriously lacking, but it sure would be nice. Being in the hospital is hard enough for us Aspies just because it is so out of routine and nothing is familiar there, adding all this extra sensory stress can’t be good and I doubt it is conducive to healing.