Monday, June 28, 2010

What's black and blue and red all over?

June 22, 2010

Today was just supposed to be a routine appointment at University Hospital with the chemo infusion nurses that would flush my PICC line, remove the current bandaging, clean the area and then apply a new bandage.  I convinced Olivia to come along for the ride because it would be a short appointment and we would probably go have lunch after we were done.  I had her at food, even though she seemed mildly reluctant because she hates needles and hospitals.  But throw out a meal and you can coax her to do just about anything. God I've raised her to be just like me.

We got to the appointment right on time and I was thrilled to see that on top of my two favorite nurses from my previous visits, Theresa and Helen, there was also the nurse I had during my biopsy named Alina.  She actually hugged me when she saw me.  It felt really good.  Out of all of my appointments this is the one I enjoy the most and it isn't because I'm not getting poked and prodded on.  It's my favorite because these nurses are always so upbeat and full of smiles.  Oh and because they give me stuff, so that ups their likability factor.

In case you have ever wondered....yes, my affection can be purchased.  I keep a list on the ready in case I'm ever hit with the opportunity to pick anything I want and it will be purchased for me.  I'm a goof, what can I say? 

Anyways...lets focus on the matter at hand.  Alina lead me to a room where she would flush my PICC line, draw blood for lab work to show what my platelet and blood cell counts are followed by having my bandage being changed and a final saline flush.  If all my labs come back okay then I won't have another doctor or hospital appointment this week.

The appointment was both quick and painless.  Oh happy day for everyone involved....especially my left arm that holds the PICC.  Before leaving the hospital we stopped on the 7th floor so I could bring some sweets to the sweet nurses that cared for me just last week.  Nina, who was my FAVORITE nurse (she's the one that brought me a cup cake) got out of her chair and said "Jessica Pettus...what are you doing here?"  I was floored that she remembered me by first and last name.  I really do adore her.  She was so appreciative of the candy.  I quickly thanked her for the exceptional care she had given me last week, hugged her and then let her get back to a meeting that she was in.

I went to the nurses station and dropped off some goodies for them as well.  Everyone kept asking why I was back on their floor.  I told them it was just to visit and bring treats.  I let them know if we can't get my Medicaid status figured out they will be seeing me every week and for a 1 week stay per month, so if they wanna get rid of me they need to take it up with the Medicaid office.

My bag of goodies was empty and it was creeping towards lunch time so with tummies rumbling we made our way out into the rain and headed back to Slidell.  My MIL let Olivia pick where we would go for lunch.  She picked Times Bar & Grill.  YUM!  We had a good lunch.  I ate tooooo much, but it was so tasty.  I mean leave a morsel of that delicious bacon cheese burger lingering all by its lonesome on the plate would just be wrong on so many levels.  Of course once I was done eating I immediately realized that we would need to get me home.  Straight home.  Quickly and safely as possible.

Since having chemo therapy my digestive system has been more out of whack than under normal circumstances.  The other thing that I am dealing with is that after anything I eat, whether it be a big or small meal, I begin to feel lightheaded.  I don't like either one of those occurrences to take place while I am far from home.  What can I hiney prefers it home toilet. 

Once home and feeling a little lighter in the shorts and not so light in the head anymore I took Penny for a quick walk and then deemed I was deserving enough for a nap.  I took my afternoon medication and made a phone call to Allison to touch base and see how things were going in her neck of the woods and with her gorgeous and completely yummy baby boy Doran.  We were on the phone for a good 10 minutes when I moved the sheet that had been laying over my left leg.  At first I thought it was a shadow, but when I clicked on the bedside lamp I saw that my leg was covered from ankle to hip in black and blue bruises. 

I quickly looked at my right leg and while there are considerably smaller amounts it began to freak me out.  I told Allison that I needed to let her go so that I could call my doctor.  It was a little after 1p when I got a call back from my doctor.  She said that she was awaiting the lab results which probably wouldn't be in until tomorrow.  She asked if I had any other symptoms besides the handful of bruises.  I advised her that the pain in my left side has worsened, dry mouth still persist, continual nausea but am able to keep some meals down but there's been no fever, nose bleeds or continual vomiting or diarrhea.  Her response was that if I was really concerned based on the symptoms I listed then I should go to the emergency room at University Hospital.

I quickly dismissed that as being necessary.  All I was having was some bruising and the other side effects I'd relayed earlier.  If I wasn't being told that I HAD to go IMMEDIATELY that it's a LIFE OR DEATH situation then I was gonna call my best friend back and finish our conversation.  Which is exactly what I did.

After catching up for about an hour I decided that I was going to take a nap.  I sent Jon a text to let him know that I was laying down.  I would have my phone on but I didn't want him to worry if I didn't answer on the first call.  There is a history of him trying to call me and me not picking up.  It's lead to many a discussion because it is always when there is something important or time sensitive that needs to be addressed. 

I thought I was being proactive with my phone call.  That is what I get for thinking.

I fell into a deep, deep, DEEEEEEEP sleep.  I finally woke up close to 4pm.  I'd slept a little over 2 1/2 hours and I felt so refreshed.  I made my way to the bathroom to pee and immediately noticed that my original 1/2 a dozen bruises that had prompted my call to my doctor earlier had multiplied like rabbits or worse Bebe's Kids. And as I looked closer at a few different areas on my leg, stomach and arms I could see what could possibly be petechiae starting to pop up, but I wasn't completely sure.

I finished up in the bathroom and made my way back to my bed to grab my phone.  Just as I got next to the bed I saw that I was getting a call from Jon.  I picked it up and the fury was unleashed.  The words were coming out so fast at first I had no idea what the hell he was attempting to tell me.  After about 30 seconds he calmed enough for me to understand that my doctor had called with the lab results and when she was unable to reach me, she phoned my mother who gave her Jon's number and between my mom and Jon they had been trying to reach me for the past hour or more. 

Bottom line....I needed to get to the hospital immediately because my platelet and red blood cell counts were dangerously low and I required a transfusion.  Great...just frigging great!!  Then she follows it with "you'll need to be in hospital 1 to 2 day or more if necessary".  This made me think she had already arranged a bed for me, but I know that to assume will only end up making me look like a jackass who will then have to sit and wait in the germ infested waiting room.

I inquired if there would be a room waiting on me when I got there because we were walking out the door right that moment which meant we could be there in less than an hour.  She said "oh no no...I cannot get a you a bed assignment.  You have to go to the ER tell them that I sent you and then you will be admitted through them".  Oh well that makes things SO MUCH BETTER!!!!  Ugh...sometimes I swear I am either being tested or punished by what I deem to be non common sense thinking individuals.

I thanked her for getting the lab results back to me so quickly and told her I was on my way to the hospital right now.  I had appeased one person that had been trying to track me down so it was time to move on to the next one.

My mother.

Thankfully she wasn't as flip as Jon was.  She just figured I was sleeping and had my phone turned off.  She was worried but she admitted that what made her the most anxious was how my doctor made it out to be a life and death situation.  Damn doctor!  Ergh....

This is strike two on me missing an important doctor phone call.  From now on I'm going to have to sleep with it duct taped to my head so I will hear the ring AND feel the vibration.  I'd like to stick it somewhere else so I could reap the benefits of the vibration setting, but the thought of duct tape having to be removed from my lady bits....well, yeah....there's no call important enough for that type of pain.

Jon informed me he was on his way to get me so that gave me approximately 8 minutes to pack a bag.  Hmmmm....what to pack, what to pack??  I'm going to be inpatient for at least 2 days so its 1/2 a dozen pairs of underwear, 1/2 dozen pairs of socks, 3 pillows, journal (because I still don't know about whether I can have my laptop with me), pens, lots of mint gum, one chocolate muffin, body wash, shampoo, toothbrush and a slew of magazine's.  Woo's like going on vacation only not one that you can get lots of people interested in going to visit you on.  It must be the less than exotic locale or the fact that I am the only one partaking in the "cocktails" aka IV morphine.

Jon got to the house and I could see the anger in his face.  When he finally spoke it was through clenched teeth.  He told me that he wasn't pissed as much as he was scared.  The fact that neither him or my mother were able to get me on the phone made him worry that something had happened to me.  The drive was silent for a little bit but after I apologized for the umpteenth time he lightened up and we pulled into the ER drive. 

I went inside and filled out the admission sheet.  The nurse at the admitting desk was kind enough to provide me with a surgical mask since I was only a week out from my last treatment.  I took a seat and could feel the stares.  Bald woman, with a mask and two tubes hanging out of her arm makes for some double takes no matter where I am at.

I took my paper back to the admissions desk and she whispered that they would work as fast as possible to get me into the back to lessen my exposure to other patients.  I thanked her and went to sit back down next to Jon.  I don't think a full 10 minutes went by before I heard my name called. 

We stepped into a triage room where my vitals and medical history was taken.  I got my admissions arm band and bright yellow one to alert doctors and nurses of my allergies.  I was styling now!  The triage nurse said that I could go back in the waiting room and someone would be out for me shortly.  Jon and I took a seat and this time it was barely 5 minutes before my name was called and I was cleared to go into the treatment areas.  Jon, however, was unable to come along with me due to strict visitor rules. 

I kissed him on the cheek and wearily waved at him as I made my way to a curtained area.  Bed #13 would be my new digs for the next few hours.  No sooner was I gowned and covered by the sheet provided I could hear the nurses discussing my case and how I really needed to be in an isolated room.  Apparently this was a hard thing to accomplish on this particular day because of a few unruly patients that were either screaming or being hostile.  Part of me wanted to stay in what seemed to be a safe little corner, but hey if I could get my own room, that would be nice too.

Another 2 hours passed and they found an isolated room for me.  Since my reports from the labs earlier that day showed my counts to be dangerously low it was deemed that anyone entering my room for any period of time would have to be masked.  They completed all of the paperwork and then it was time to focus on drawing labs and preparing for the transfusion as well as waiting for a call for an empty bed upstairs.  As I sat and waited for someone from the IV team to come and get my PICC working, because it had decided to take a shit and not work.  I had just had labs and fluids flushed through these lines less than 8 hours prior and NOW the bastards decide not to work.  Great.  Great.  Just frigging great.

In an attempt not to delay things any further I told them to draw the labs from my other arm.  I hate having to be stuck, but I was laying down so when I passed out I wouldn't harm anything and I was also starting to have a great deal of pain since I was now more than overdue for my scheduled dose of pain medication.

After the nurse that drew my labs and the one that was working on my stubborn PICC line completed their task I asked to see the doctor.  More and more petechia began to sprout up.  There were a few inside my mouth which was a first for me.  The other troublesome matter was the fact that while my constant companion, left sided spleen pain, was holding steady at a dull ache there seemed to be another organ that was unhappy and wanted to join the "lets torment Jessica party" that  seemed to be in full swing at the moment.

I was so tired and hurting so bad that I just wanted to cry, but that would only make the situation worse.  As it creeped closer to 10pm I told Jon that he should leave and head home.  I knew that I was going to be admitted, at some point, and there was no reason for him to lose an entire night of sleep over this.  And there was the matter of Olivia being home alone.  As much as I'd like to have him with me, priority one is always the kids.

I tried to sneak a kiss from his masked face before he made his way out the door, but was not successful.  Once Jon left I had no real distractions which meant I was free to focus on how much pain I was in.  I was beginning to feel more miserable by the moment and now I was going to have to drink some chalky contrast in order to have a CT of my abdomen.  Why must some diagnostic test be so damn disgusting??  Seriously, having to down 16 oz of gooey chalk berry flavored grossness that resembles milk but has the consistency of finely ground chalk sticks.  It is not an ideal task to have to accomplish when you don't feel like putting anything in your mouth, let alone swallow and keep down for a predisposed time frame.  My advice to those that ever have to drink a barium contrast....make sure it's cold...make sure you have a straw...suck as much as you can and swallow....then wait a minute or two and do it all over again until complete.

It's not rocket science but hopefully it will help someone as it has helped me.  I'm a giver of unsolicited information and advice.  Your welcome America.

It's just after 2 am and I am finally being transported to my room on the 8th floor.  I'm a little bummed that I couldn't be placed on the 7th floor with all the lovely nurses that I had when I was last admitted, but I was hopeful that I'd have a new crop of great caregivers. 

I'm so very tired.  More bruises and petechiae are sprouting up by the hour.  I'm settling into my quiet room.  There's a constant whirring noise coming from a fan they have placed in the room.  I told the nurse she could turn it off at anytime as it blew her papers around and she was forced to stop and start writing a few different times.  She chose to leave it on so I just watched her become more and more agitated. 

Then there was the fact that I had to be kept in an isolation room.  Anyone coming into the room had to be not only masked but wearing a gown as well.  This particular nurse was having major wardrobe malfunctions with the not to compliant blue plastic gown.  I felt really bad that she had to wear it because I could see how hot it was making her.  That may have been why she was adamant in keeping the fan on.  This woman was the key to me getting pain medication in the very near future so I wasn't going to do anything to upset her apple cart.

As time ticked by and I came closer to starting the first unit of the blood transfusion she began to take on that lunatic tone.  When I had asked for more water and ice she asked who had brought me some the first time.  I said that I didn't remember the nurses name but she was short with pretty eyes.  My nurse snatched up the cup and pitcher and dumped it out and brought me sterile water.  Are you kidding me?  Now I've got to worry about water making me sicker.  Jesus....I really wish I could have a good stiff drink right now.

I'm pretty sure this is gonna be a LONG night....ergh, scratch that it's after 3 am now so technically speaking....oh who the fuck cares, this is gonna be one hell of an experience getting one on one nursing from someone that has the potential of making Cybil seem a bit normal.  Pray for me people...pray hard!

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