Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New Hospital Adventures: Day 1

So here we are, on Wednesday afternoon. A few hours ago, I finally got home from what I had hoped would be a short hospital visit.

What happened? Well, I arrived at the hospital Monday morning feeling weak, after having spent all of Sunday in bed, pretty much too weak to move and occasionally drifting into a mild fever. Vicky had spoken to the oncologist on call (who happened to be my hematologist) and she said if I didn't improve, to come in the following day.

So I did. My nose was stuffed, my throat was sore, my head ached, my chest hurt and although I could walk or talk neither was something I wanted to do for too long. Vicky, my parents and I got to the hospital and I headed straight upstairs for a vitals check and blood test, with a note that I should get a blood culture if I had a fever.

I should mention here that blood cultures are standard for fevers; if you saw that picture of me in the Gazette in March, I was having one done at the time. Blood cultures are blood tests used to check what, if any, bugs have gotten into your system. Just in case the fever is brought on by an infection in the chest catheter, there are three groups of blood draws. One from the each line of the catheter, and one from the arm. I hate blood cultures for two reasons: (a) it takes days to get the results, so you're on pins and needles wondering what you've got, and (b) I hate getting stuck in the arm.

So anyway, I didn't have a fever, but I muttered that I knew I was gonna get stuck sooner or later. After seeing my hematologist (who noted that some of my sinusoidal area was ever so slightly tender), I was directed to get a chest X-ray and a sinus X-ray. Vicky and I went downstairs, registered, and sat in the waiting room.

And then suddenly, everything went weird. My balance went a little off, and it looked like I was seeing the world through a mass of light purple blobs. It slowly started to get worse, and I mumbled something as I slowly started to list to starboard. Vicky asked if I was okay and I mumbled something else and then she asked if I needed a stretcher. I sat up, and realized I couldn't stay vertical for very long. I said yes, propped my head in my hands, and waited.

A gurney was brought in short order, and I managed to walk the three or four steps needed before sitting and then quickly lying down.

What I didn't realize then was that I'd be in a gurney for most of the next 48 hours.

It came to my turn for the chest X-rays, so I was wheeled in and felt good enough to stand for them. I lay back down in the gurney and was wheeled over to the room for sinus X-rays. While waiting for the technician, Vicky and I sat on the gurney and joked about the fact that the door marked "Always Leave This Door Closed" was usually opened, with the room used as a shortcut between two parallel hallways. I felt okay (well, no worse than a few hours earlier) when I sat down for the first X-ray, but in the few seconds before the next everything went wonky again and I had a quick lie-down while I caught my breath. After the second X-ray, I got back in the gurney and pretty much stayed there until I was wheeled back upstairs and climbed into another gurney and waited for my doctor to show up and look at the films.

When we had left the house that morning, my mother had mentioned that I might consider the possibility that I'd have to be admitted. I did, but I didn't really want to think about it. I figured I either had a cold or my white blood count had finally become elevated enough to be problematic. It turned out neither was the case. The X-ray technician's conclusion was mild pneumonia, and the very first thing that went through my mind was that it was pneumonia that had killed my grandfather exactly fourteen months earlier.

The hope was that I would be admitted to my old ward, but they were full to the brim so I was sent to emergency until space could be found, preferably in isolation since the blood results hadn't come in yet and there was suspicion I might be neutropenic. I ended up in the red unit (emergency has three units: red, green and blue), in room 12: as it turns out, a psychiatric room. Psychiatric as in the bed already in the room had straps on it.

By now it was approaching 5:00, and my mother elected to stay overnight with me. It turned out that my E.R. doctor was none other than an old classmate from my CEGEP days (he clearly stayed in sciences, unlike me). I ate dinner when it arrived, ran through another blood test and some more Q&As, tried unsuccessfully to read a bit of my magazine (I was too weak to hold it up and the room was too cold for my hands to remain exposed anyway), and called it a night.

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