Monday, February 2, 2009

Under the weather and grateful for good nurses

Day +3
As expected, I felt a little under the weather yesterday and about the same today. It’s not so bad that I want to curl up in bed, so I’m still walking around. Yesterday I had a headache, nausea and pain from the mouth sores, and Mel gave me the perfect cocktail: Tylenol, Ativan and Oxycodone. Today I will get platelets and blood and some lasix for my puffy eyes and general overall water retention putting me about a dozen pounds over my normal weight.

I don’t like to take too much Oxycodone, because it can make me a little loopy, but I agree with the nurses who think at this point that it’s a good idea, because it’s important to eat and drink but difficult to do so if your throat and mouth are killing you.

I’ve been thinking about the two nurses I’ve had during this stay whom I first met six years ago during my first round of treatment. As every patient knows, nurses are on the front lines of care, and they are so important to how you feel emotionally and physically. Some take care of you physically but don't have the time or the inclination to talk. These two take the time to find out how you are.

I was one of Vytas’ first transplant patients. We kept in touch on and off, and he’s been my nurse at some point during each hospital stay. He knows me very well, having at one point nicknamed me Nervous Nelle. He can calm me down pretty quickly when I come up with some catastrophic scenario. It’s good to know someone with whom you can share scary thoughts, because once the thoughts hit the light of day, you can often see them for what they are, and some of the power goes out of them. Thoughts such as, “Do you think I’m going to die tonight of (fill in the blank)?”

Vytas knows when to bring me back to reality with a medical explanation and when to make a face or crack a joke. He's generally fun and comforting to be around.

I met Mel during that same first hospital stay, and I remember that her quirky, dry sense of humor really cracked my mother up. The other day I was pretty down, and she gave me a good pep talk. It didn't sound canned; it sounded like she really meant what she said about second chances and staying positive because there's every reason to be. And she’s caught on pretty quickly to the way my mind works.

She was in the room two days ago when the team came in to discuss one of their ongoing concerns, the fungal, or aspergillus, infection that caused my pneumonia. Although it has improved, they are monitoring the markers carefully and juggling medication to keep it from getting out of control and to hopefully get rid of it.

I said to the doctor who heads the team, “I read that aspergillus can get out of control and kill an immune-suppressed person like me, but that won’t happen because you’re keeping one step ahead of it, right?”

This is not his exact quote, because I wasn’t taking notes: “Theoretically, you could have a problem anywhere the blood flows, so it could spread anywhere, like to the brain. But that’s why we’re watching it so carefully.”

I shot a panicked look at Mel.

“Let it go,” she mouthed.

And after the team left, she said it out loud, firmly. “Let it go.” She knew it was something I might latch on to for hours and hours.

I pointed out that maybe he didn’t need to tell me all of that. “As a writer, I might say to someone that they have too many commas getting them into trouble, but that’s not going to have a big emotional affect on them,” I said. “It’s not the same as the doctor telling you more than you need to know and giving you ideas about bad things that might happen in your brain."

Mel reiterated: Let it go. So I did.

My friend Katryn, who lives in Portland, came to visit later that day. We’ve known each other since college, and we've done a good job keeping in touch. I saw her last when we met at Plum Island and walked on the beach on a beautiful fall day this past September. I pointed out that I was glad she had come to the hospital but that I would rather be meeting on the beach again, and she said, "Next time." It helps me to think of all the next times.

Katryn had an interesting comment:

“I’m sure you’ll be fine,” she said, “but you’re taking the long way around.”

Which got me humming the Dixie Chicks and talking of other things.


Susan Carrier & said...

I enjoyed reading about the great nurses who are taking care of you. I'm so pleased you have care takers who are caring for your soul and spirit as well as your body.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ronni -

I am so happy to read your update! Glad that your nurses are there to comfort your body and mind.

I am sequestered now reading and not able to call! This is the rough part but it sounds like you are moving forward!

With love, hugs and kisses from your blog-aphobic friend who is quite attached to your blog!!

Nancy said...

Hi Ronni, I was reading Susan Carrier's blog when I read that you ate strawberry popsicles and I immediately came to your blogsite. I know it's soothing, but I wasn't allowed to eat them because they had real fresh frozen fruit in them. You should double check with your nurses. Speaking of nurses, they are the front line in a patients care and I would not be here today if it weren't for the nurses. I'm glad they are treating you well. I was advised to take the pain meds if you need them. I'm glad you are doing the same. Take care and hang in there! We're praying for you. love, nancy

SRS said...

Gene asked me to say hi from him, and to tell you that you are not missing anything here. The weather stinks. There were three really desperate-looking deer between our two yards on Sunday morning. SRS

Wendy S. Harpham, MD said...

Hi Ronni,
Whether you have a good day or a rotten day, an up day or a down, day, you are still one day closer to being well again.

One thought that helped me through rough patches: All other things being equal (such as your prognosis orblood counts or the number of people sending cheery emails), it's harder to feel optimistic if you are in the hospital and hurting (or feeling sick).

It helped keep me from beating up on myself when I wasn't as upbeat as I wanted to be. And the funny thing is that when I remembered this little fact, I often felt a bit better, too.

With hope, Wendy

CLL SPOUSE said...

Lovely tribute to nurses. Your writing isn't suffering. I don't miss a word!

Samantha said...

Lovely post Ronni. I don't know how you do it but keep it up!

donna said...

You've been under the weather before, but now you have the new little cells to help you through. You can do it. Stay strong; good times are coming! Love you!

Anonymous said...

I think of you often and I am glad to know you are being well cared for body and soul. Praying for you. Patty

Anonymous said...

Great nurses are a Godsend; I know from experience. Hang in there Ronni. Keep humming the Chicks. I miss their music.

Michele A said...

Thank our guardian angels for our nurses who follow the docs around to mop up after them! Let It Go is great advice...put those awfulizing thoughts into a bubble and send it out of your life! You are a vibrant, healing being!

pam said...

Dearest Run,

was that your nickname with Manda in your duo? if so, would be so fitting!~ and a super omen... just taught Tommy how to post a comment on your blog...he was in a cab and had just arrived from Lausanne...
talk about the blind convert leading the fine!

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say "hi". At this stage of transplant the last thing I wanted was my computer or to read anything. I got the dizzies (putting it mildly) quite bad.

Just know there are so many people out here pulling for you!