Sunday, March 27, 2011

Letha's Wild Ride

It’s been 7 days since I was released and I’m so exhausted I haven’t been up to writing, calling, or even mild facebooking.  I went out to the end of the driveway to see if we had any mail today, and by the time I got to our three step porch I was thinking of calling out to Dan to have him help to get me all the way back into the house. The whole trip was futile - as the mail hadn’t come yet.

Both Dan and I hardly slept the night before going in for my 5 day stay of Interleukin 2 treatment. We had an American Cancer Society’s “Road To Recovery” volunteer drive us to the Morris Cancer Clinic, Monday morning. (“Road To Recovery” is a great program for anytime one can’t drive one’s self to an appointment.) I checked in as Dan guarded my Trader Joe’s ‘overnight luggage’ (the brown one that says, "Sailing the Culinary Seas") and Harris Teeter re-usable bag of food.
Then, blood drawn, stethoscope to the lungs front and back, breath in, breath out - “OK, you’re set. Proceed to admissions.” 

I had packed my bags so full of things, they were impossible for us to carry  all the way to the ICU in the main hospital. I brought my watercolors, a DVD player, a solid block of DVDs, a weeks worth of food, a heating pad, and countless changes in clothes. We waited about 2 hours for a volunteer to help walk us through the maze of halls to the main hospital, getting lost about twice along the way.  When we got to the 9th floor ICU, I remembered we were supposed to go to the admissions office first. But the bags had been dropped at the front desk, and the volunteer was a ghost of swinging doors squeaking to and fro.

Luckily one of the 9th floor nurses led us to my room and said she would send someone from admissions up to us. What a relief! First I ran around disinfecting every surface of the room with sanitary wipes, then I put my cold foods in the small dorm fridge and arranged my other dry foods on the counter. Dan was watching TV , as well as the streak that was me fly around the room. When I ran out of things to do, I broke out my watercolors. It was the only time I painted while I was there. Just a few dabs and the admissions person arrived. Papers were signed, gown donned, and I slid into bed for the next 5 days. I was nervous and fidgety. We were offered sandwiches which we ate happily. Though, I’m sure the bread was taken from the same 1970’s packet of Wonder Bread that made me a sandwich back in high school.

The first thing on order was for me to go downstairs and have a PIC line put in. This is pretty yucky, so squeamish people close your eyes and don’t read anymore. They wheeled me, bed and all to the 8th floor where there are stall type rooms along each wall. I had been given an anxiety pill 30 minutes before my bed came to a stop in one of these stalls. The PIC line guy was waiting for me. He opened up his sterile PIC kit and went to work. A bit of Lidocaine, a huge needle, a tube pushed from my upper arm to a place just above my heart all inside a major vein - Yes, it makes me squirm too!

My bed was back in place, and waiting for the 6:00 dose time to roll around was pretty tough. Dan had to leave so he could walk home while it was still light out. It was 6:45 before they gave me the first dose. I didn’t know what to expect, and I was scared. My nurse was so nice, there was comfort in the way she  talked me through every little step while hooking up the dreaded bag of IL-2. She said it would take about 30 minutes to empty out into my system. I was trying hard to feel it, but I couldn't really. By 8:30 I was wildly pushing the nurse call button with ice blue fingers, and my body wouldn’t stop shaking. It was a strange kind of cold that came from deep inside me as opposed to some hard stabbing wind slapping you about. The nurse armed with her bag of morphine came running in with three toasted blankets, she whirled around plugging in the drug to my PIC line, inserted the warm blankets between my old one and my body all within a matter of minutes. Somehow the chills went away and I slept.

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