In the beginning of my journal I wrote that “Life is what happens when you’ve planned something else.” Ironically this proved itself again last Saturday, just hours after my last post. I referred to how my immune system was struggling with a persistent cold. I felt worse and worse as the day progressed in spite of playing with the girls and pressing forward to work on my riding mower, cut wood for some tomato stands, and other chores. I didn’t feel hungry but I was ravenously thirsty. Even though it was 84 degrees out, I put on a sweater as I mowed the lawn. Then I was just exhausted and increasingly achy. I sat down and Tish took my temperature 100.8 – not enough to get me excited but enough to let me melt into the recliner. An hour later it was over 102. I could hardly walk. Time to call the doctor.
He left the decision to us. But he said I was at risk for bacterial pneumonia and H1N1 (“swine”) flu. I wanted to wait it out until I had definitely worsening pulmonary symptoms outside of the chest tightness and pain that I felt. But Tish was pushing for going into the emergency room and getting checked out, especially after I could only untie one shoe before collapsing onto the bed. So she helped me stagger to the car. We headed south towards clear skies but the horizen was blackening behind us in her rear view mirror. Pretty soon the tornado sirens were screaming. Oh, the drama of my hospital admissions!
I learned that complaining of chest pain moves you to the head of the triage line in ER. I settled in quickly and had a pitcher of blood drawn from my arm – twice! Blood cultures, counts, nasal swabs, serum profiles, cardiac markers, EKG and chest xray. They wanted a urine specimen that I could not produce until after a one liter bolus of saline. They also wanted a sputum sample that I could not produce either until after a respiratory treatment. Nurse Sarah gave me an injection of Toradol for the severe body aches. Feeling better I went over my history with the ER doc. He seemed impressed and congratulated my on my five year post-transplant survival. Later he came back and said that, from the xray, he suspected an interstitial or an atypical pneumonia. He thought I had better be admitted. Around midnight I told Tish she should go home. A good idea since I didn’t get up to the floor until three AM.
I had two loading doses of broad-spectrum antibiotics and a “stress” dose of Decadron, a steroid. Funny thing, IV Decadron (dexamethasome)! As the nurse was pushing it, I suddenly remembered what I always warned my patients about – if pushed too fast, you get a burning sensation in your rectum that causes you to “pucker”. Yep, I’m here to say it’s true, folks!
The short story from here. Cultures negative so far, the rapid influenza A and B also negative. But my transplant doc, Jim Thompson, say the rapid test looks for anitbodies. Since my bone marrow is still immature I might not have made enough antibodies to be detected. So additional specimens are sent off to a Kansas lab to look for influenza DNA. He also confirms Tish’s theory – that since my immune system is equivalent to that of a four year old child, I, like a child of that age, respond to viral infections with high fever, etc.
I am put on respiratory isolation and settle back into the all too familiar role of hospital patient. I get mixed feelings when I see “Welcome back, Dennis” written on the board in my room. All my nurses are nice and attentive as usual. I begin to miss inpatient nursing and say so to my night nurse. I will write more about this in my post tomorrow. By today I felt considerably better and ready for discharge. Tests for influenza DNA and mycoplasm are still out.
So I write this from home. An unplanned weekend event. So much is unplanned. Having a terminal leukemia at the peak of my career, of my life. Losing vision completely in my left eye. Being on a debilitating three year course of steroids. All unplanned. But then, as I said at the beginning, that’s just life, isn’t it.
I am trying not to feel silly or guilty (hospital visits are a drain on the family finances to which I can only contribute meagerly on my disability). Would we have made the decision to go to the hospital without my history? or would I have just toughed out a bad case of the flu? Would I have been admitted for these symptoms without my medical history? Of course we did the “right” thing. I don’t know what Life has planned for me, none of us does. With my history, of leukemia, of transplant, of a still emerging immune system, ignoring such symptoms would have been irresponsible. I made the decision to have this 102 fever checked out. A medical doctor made the decision that it looked potentially serious enough to keep me.
But I am home now, back at my computer, back at my blog, talking to this ever-growing community. I am irritated that I had to postpone work on the book club, irritated even that I didn’t get the back yard cut before all that rain. Those were my plans. But what can you do. Life had something else planned this week.
Take care, Dennis
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