Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving With SWMBO - Part II

As the insufferable Dr. Ian Malcolm so infuriatingly states in Jurassic Park: "Life Happens".

And thus is solved the quandary of what to serve for Thanksgiving Dinner with SWMBO.

The answer: "Clear Liquids for the next three days".

You may recall that Last December (2008), SWMBO's Oncologist observed her as being in the next thing to total systemic collapse as the consequence of 9 continuous weeks of weekly Infusions with platinum and other poisonous chemicals. She spent the better part of a week in the Hospital, completely missing Christmas and New Years.

This year promises to be even less respective of Holiday Plans for SWMBO.

This afternoon about 3pm SWMBO called me to ask for transportation to her Oncologist's office, and then to the hospital. She has been experiencing sever abdominal pain since Monday, and when she first went to see her doctor he prescribed for her ... powerful pain killers.

When she told me that two days ago, she was still able to drag herself to the doctor, so I only learned about it in our regular weekday evening phone chat. I expressed surprise that he did not make a determined effort to learn the cause of the pain, but other than that kept my big mouth shut. Hard to believe, but true.

Today, the Tyelonol-3 quit working.

We got to the Doctor's office around 3:30. The Doctor palpitated her abdomen, bring expressions of 'discomfort'; noted some bloating, and announced that the cause of her pain was either (1) a side-effect of the chemotherapy, (2) an unknown bacteria infection, or (3) Diverticulitis. Whatever the cause, he recommended that SHE check into the hospital for more tests, observation, rest and hydration, close personal care and initial treatment with antibiotics and pain killers.

SHE didn't want to do that, but became convinced when she asked him to define her alternatives.

The Doctor said:
"You go home, get worse until you become entirely dehydrated, experience blackouts, and become so incoherent that you can't say NO to the hospital."
So they put her in a wheelchair, wheel her to the hospital, and at 4pm check her into a private room in the new wing ... which is so new that the variable light-level controls haven't been hooked up to the lights.

Glaringly bright lights illuminated the room while the attentive (but harried) staff in the FULL hospital tend to her.

SWMBO hurts.

Give her a gown, and some privacy to change out of her street clothes.

Take huge amounts of blood from both arms. (There is a reason for this, which sounds something like "double blind checking for possible contamination of the blood sample; we want to make certain that the bacteria we find comes from inside you, not from your skin, my hands, or any other possible source of contamination".)

SWMBO hurts.

After two hours, a new technician comes in to poke another needle in her arm, in a new place. She installs a temporary shunt into which she can plug a saline drip, the prescribed antibiotics, and pain killers. Then she goes away.

40 minutes later, SHE buzzes for the nurse to ask please, I need water and the anti-biotics and something to make the pain go away. The nurse takes her entire medical history back to 1968.

SWMBO hurts.

Finally about 8:15 pm the nurse returns with a handful of medical gear-stuff:
  • Injecting a pain killer into the shunt, she announces that this can be given to her "once every hour ... if needed"
  • Sets up the saline solution to drip into her arm
  • Isn't real sure what antibiotic will be added to the drip but "we'll get something to you real soon, hun."
The pain killer finally started to take effect, and her eyes grew heavy. I had to leave to go pick up my own prescription, which I had planned to get on my way home from work.

So SHE will be in the hospital on Thanksgiving, taking only "clear liquids" (fruit juices, broths, water, jello, etc.) for the next day or two. Chances are that she only 'may' be well enough to leave the hospital on Saturday.

Actually, the initial diagnosis of Diverticulitis (which is the acute stage of Diverticulosus ... which she already knows is an unrelated malady ... the two conditions together are called Diverticular Disease) may be the real answer here.

I experienced Diverticulitis 5 years ago, and it was agonizing. It felt as if someone were jabbing a red-hot poker through my left side; it doesn't throb, or ache -- it is a very sharp, localized pain which does not lend itself to ignoring no matter how tough you think you are. All you can think of is: "Please, someone, make the pain go away!"

I'm not attempting to diagnose, but if what SHE is feeling is as she described, I know how that dominates your attention ... for hours, or days, and it only gets worse as it goes untreated.

But if that is the cause of her severe discomfort, at least she can be assured that it is treatable by antibiotics, and there are many standard pain killers which either dull the pain, or make it so that you really just don't much care. The original treatment takes a week to ten days to resolve the pain issues, and the better part of a month before the antibiotics actually kills the infection and allows you to get back on your feet.

I sure hope it's 'only' Diverticulitus.

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