Friday, December 2, 2011

A new metaphor

I had described this journey as a bumpy road, but have decided that a roller coaster is more apt.  Lovely thanksgiving weekend, as I said in the previous post, and looking forward to a fairly busy week, with candidates for a new faculty position coming through. Tuesday afternoon (11/29) I began to feel the sharp chest pain that I had had a month ago with pneumonia; by Wednesday morning it was more intense and I was having trouble breathing.  So off to the Urgent Care Center at MSKCC.  

Long day of mostly nothing happening.  One doctor said it could be a new tumor in the lung, or it could be a pulmonary embolism, despite my IVC filter.  So they did a CT scan, no contrast. Well guess what?  Pneumonia again.  Strange, since I was not coughing or congested, and had no fever.  (These all emerged in the next few days.)  The CT showed a small amount of fluid in the right pleural cavity, with bubbles.  So I was admitted. In this wacky world I now inhabit, pneumonia is good news.  

They were stingy with the pain meds in the UCC this time, but upstairs this was not so. They gave me enough morphine to sedate a horse, and when it still hurt to breathe deeply, they added more.  Plus lots of IV antibiotics. A lung team was consulted.  If the volume of fluid in the lung cavity had been larger, they  would have removed it with a needle. Bubbles suggest infection, and antibiotics do not reach the pleural cavity: no vasculature. It is important go get rid of possibly infected fluid.  Who are you going to call?  An interventional radiologist!  (If you read an earlier blog, you may observe that the IR is not my favorite specialist.)  Another night of fasting.

Went to the IR suite as 12:15 PM Thursday.  Different room for the procedure this month: not the one that looks and feels like a sports bar, with giant TV's and testosterone-enhanced docs.  The IR doc was the first one I saw a month ago, the one who was less of a jerk. Drain inserted by 2:30 PM. Unpleasant.  300 mL of fluid was removed right away, this pleased everyone. A few more mL continued to drain each day.  The tube did limit my mobility: it drained into an elaborate box that allowed them to measure volumes with exquisite precision.  As far as I could tell, such precision was unimportant.  But when I wanted to get out of bed, the whole contraption had to be put on my IV pole.  Observation: we stroll around the floor pushing our IV poles, some carrying an impressive array of tubes, pumps, and bags.  Do more convey cancer center status?

Somewhere along the way I had another overnight blood transfusion.  I don't recall being told why.  But given the frequency with which they draw blood, it is not surprising that my Hemoglobin and blood count were low.

Monday afternoon: drain out, and a shower.  Tremendous improvement in quality of life.  I had had five visitors that day, much appreciated. I think they enjoyed meeting each other; none were acquainted before.  Tube out, but still no mention of my release.  It is confusing to figure out who to ask because sometimes it seemed that the lung guys called the shots, sometimes the IR guy, sometimes the Attending, or even Brad, the resident who talked to me the most.  Finally, the team consults by phone with Motzer.  Often the nurses will tell you who seems to be in charge, but they need to be careful and discreet.

Tuesday: Brad comes in and says that I will probably go home today.  The new Attending, a nice Barnard alumna (this job is rotated among senior physicians), later confirms this, as the flotilla conducting rounds passes by.  She says that when they cultured the lung fluid, they found no infection and saw no cancer cells: very good news. A new lung person stops by later.  She says that I might go home with new antibiotics, since they never found the source of infection.  (P.S.: new antibiotics were not included in my final swag bag.)

Brad and my nurse, Mike, say that someone will collect all the meds I will need, and I will probably leave after lunch.  It was getting dark before it was all organized; pharmacy issues, again.  Rainy rush hour so cabs were non-existent, so we took two buses.  It was actually sort of relaxing and nice to see the holiday colors in the rain.  Thanks, as always, to Helene for getting me through all this.

I see Motzer tomorrow morning.  Perhaps my regular Thursday infusions will resume.

I save for a later blog adventures with hospital roommates. 

Note: I started this post in the hospital, but rewrote much of it today (12/7). I find editing Blogspot difficult with the iPad.  But iPads and Wifi sure do make being in the hospital a lot nicer!


Allison Kurian said...

So sorry you had to be admitted again, and very glad that you are now back home!

shelley said...

I am glad to see this comment that you are back home. I wish you a good holiday - filled with family and friends.

Branka said...

Hi Sally,
Sorry that you had to go to the hospital again. I am glad that you are back home. I hope that you will have a nice and comfortable Christmas holiday.
Best wishes,