Wednesday, October 8, 2014

My trip to the Cherokee Hilton

I'm writing this from the third floor of the beautiful Cherokee Medical Center, Room 307. You know, I am so tired of being proving wrong that I'm going to quit saying "I've learned this and I've learned that" and just try to go with the flow. And everytime I say I've reached a new low, forget it, there is another new low I just haven't found yet. The post about cholesterol meds, forget it, I'm wondering why I felt competent to play doctor and diagnosis my sever leg pain. Why the heck didn't I just go to the doctor on Friday and let her do the diagnosing? I think it would have saved me a lot of pain and I wouldn't be residing in their hospital with 3 and 4 IV's dripping in my port.

The pain spread from my legs to all over my body and Monday morning I knew it was time to do something so called Dr. Harrison on her cell, I felt very secretive, like Mission Impossible theme running through my head. "Should you take this mission....." She wrote an order for blood tests at the hospital lab and Bruce took me down as soon as I was able to find him. Once I was up and moving, I'd be okay on my legs, just don't stop and stand or they spasm-ed up and gave out. My sister, Sara, had this vision of me when I told her I had to make laps around the kitchen table while waiting for something to warm up in the microwave. Then add Clyde, our seeing eye cat in training, making the laps with me, then pulling ahead when he found the routine, "Now if you will just follow me.....", it makes for some interesting times in the house.

I got in and out of the lab okay, the next stop was Dr. Harrison's office to wait for results. They gave us a room to wait in which was better than sitting in the waiting room but those exam tables are not the most comfortable, as we all know. And things always take longer than they tell you, that is a given. There was a very stressful period when I got sick in the office but finally Dr. Harrison came in carrying some papers in triumph. It seems that all the water I had been told to drink, was actually washing the good stuff out of my body along with the crips, the sodium level was extremely low, hence the leg cramps and other body aches. She sent us to the pharmacy for more meds and told me to eat every salty thing I could think of, 'munch on potato chips', how's that for a prescription? 

So back home to the couch for me, back to the field for Bruce, the day only went downhill, every move was excruciating, a trip to the bathroom was a marathon, especially when Clyde headed for the table thinking we were doing our laps again. I'd stumble back to the couch and take up residence. Before Bruce went back to the field he made me a protein shake to drink, as I was drinking it, I thought, why didn't I ask for a Gatorade instead? That's why we got them, Alex said a doctor told her it was a cheap IV. I called Jo from down the road and asked if she would come down and retrieve one out the basement, I want you to know that alone proves how sick I was because NO ONE goes in our basement.

She took one look at me and said, "You need to be in the hospital." She then asked if she could clean up the kitchen, this proves how low I was, I agreed, I was getting kind of tired of looking at the mess. Then Jo made up a bunch of sandwiches out of lunch meat we had been given and took them down the freezer for quick sandwiches. Before she left she again told me I needed to be in the hospital. That was when I called Janet, told her how utterly wretched I was feeling and was it time to call Dr. Harrison's cell phone again and she said she would. A few minutes later, Janet called back and said they were coming over, she called Bruce and told him of the newest development and for me to just stay put.

The rest of the night was a blur spent in ER, more blood tests, chest ex rays, other invasive body treatments that I'd rather not go into but they did the job, pain killers, IV's, pills that didn't stay down, that's another thing. Bruce has been after me to eat, constantly, it didn't matter that I was unable to eat, he still thought I should eat. After watching me puke my guts out in Dr. Harrison's exam room and again in ER, he now understands when I say I can't eat, I can't eat. Janet left about 8:30 and I finally convinced Bruce to go home around 10. He wanted to stay till I was settled in the room but they showed no sign of moving me out. He was going to have a big day in the field and needed his rest. A little later, Lisa, the P.A. on duty came in with a sheaf of papers in her hand, the in-depth test results, leaned over my bed and said, "On paper you look terrible." She wasn't going to get any argument from me, I felt terrible, I don't remember ever  feeling this terrible and hope to heck I never do again.

They finally brought me up to my room at 11:PM and I answered there last question at 12:30 PM, that is the only complaint I've had. I was shot, had not been sleeping, was sick and sore and just wanted some sleep, but it was not to come quickly, I was right across from the nurses station for a reason and it was a busy place. But I'm sure they got an earful from me because every move I made was excruciating and I did not suffer silently. Just moving 6 feet to the bathroom was a marathon run, get up, get my pants down, drop down on the toilet, relief for a few minutes. I learned to slide around and sit side saddle so I could reach the sink and wash my hands before the marathon backwards, get up, pull my pants up, one aide gave me wedgie trying to help, and drop down in bed, gratefully resting a minute or so before becoming better situated in bed. Becky had the nerve to ask me why I was even wearing underwear, I may have shed my bra but no one will ever take my underwear! It wasn't getting any easier so the nurse convinced me to use a bedside commode, another low point, giving up a perfectly good, respectable bathroom for an old person's potty chair.


Tuesday brought small, tiny, nearly unnoticeable improvements. The day began with a early visit from Bruce with the laptop and some clean undies. My temp had also been steadily dropping, some of the pains were not as sharp and by afternoon my swollen fat, stubby sausage like fingers were working enough that I could use the computer. They never forget you in here, I did not have a meal plan but someone was always coming in to see if there was anything that sounded good from the cafeteria. They kept me supplied with applesauce and that keeps me regular, just the ticket with all the stuff being run through my body. I tried jello, didn't cut it. For dinner I ordered an egg salad sandwich with the crusts cut off and cut in 4 squares. so I could pretend to be at a garden party but really  just to be the most annoying patient they ran into that day and it came just like that. I was quite impressed. I wish I said topped with some fruit on a toothpick. The most I could eat was one and a half squares. Late in the afternoon the dietitian paid a visit to discuss the eating issues. Besides being puffy, every joint and muscle hurts, it hurts to open my mouth very wide, chew and swallow. She said they would supply a 4oz bottle of a supplement that packed a punch in a small size, which was what I needed, for snack morning and afternoon and keep trying things, something easy to eat, mashed potatoes, oatmeal anything that will go down easy and just tell them you only want a 1/2 order, they will do everything they can to help me out there. My temp started up again, first chills and then sweats so the nurse brought out the tylenol again and it did it's thing. By that time I was laying in a wet bed with damp nightgown but I still had my undies on. I laid there awhile, I had to really want this to go through a bath and change of linens but knew I couldn't stand it much longer.

Britt, the cute little nurses aide said they had just the thing, a bath in a bag, all I had to do was sit on the edge of the bed, bathe, dry and call when done to get dressed. I'm not exactly sure the genius that thought up bath in a bag, it's a plastic bag with soapy water and 3 or 4 hand clothes. I don't know if you know what happens when a plastic bag, looking like a water balloon is placed on a flat surface, in this case it was the lid of the bedside commode,  but I bet you can guess. At some point it explodes and showers the hot soapy water all over. But Britt wasn't fazed and said, "Oh, this happens all the time!" and  and cheerfully cleaned up the mess. It was all worth it when I was able to lay down in a fresh clean bed with a fresh nightie, I was wishing I had some clean undies to put on also.

I realized that I was beginning to move better, things still hurt but not so bad. Kim stopped by for a visit, while we were talking, she asked if there was anything that I thought would taste good and I said a cheap McD cheeseburger with ketchup and pickles, they are thin and mushed together, it seemed just the thing so off she went. She came back toting two burgers and a small fry and it tasted good, I ate the whole thing, not quite all the bun but got the meal down with all that sodium laced ketchup and pickles, a few fries completed the meal and then my mashed potatoes and gravy arrived, OOPS. They didn't taste near as good so I'm glad I had the burger first. Then Becky arrived, these two have been my dynamic duo from the beginning when they were first told. I think they made a solemn pledge to pick me up when I'm down, to celebrate when I'm up, to show up with food and drink (drink - wink, wink) and they are doing a great job, I think they must have spit in their hands before sealing the vow. 

Kim left and Becky was getting ready to leave when Dr. Harrison showed up, the blood that was drawn that morning show improvement in a lot of areas and Tracey, the nurse with her, said that I looked much better than when I came in. I had no where else to go. Doc said they would keep a continuous IV with the antibiotics and she thought I should be seeing some improvement myself in the pain by Wed. She is also going to talk to Storm Lake tomorrow and see if there is any connection that is setting up a bad reaction to the chemo drugs, I know it's all a lot of guessing game and everyone is going to react differently.  Bruce came shortly after with a harrowing tale about nearly burning the combine up in the field, we did that once, it's not fun. He and his buddy, Grassey, his right hand man these days, saw the flames from underneath at the same time and was able to knock the trash off and use Bruce's water jug to dowse them enough to get the combine in the yard for a thorough cleaning.

Bruce looked so tired, I know he was up early because he was here by 7, had no nap and had worked all day. He brought me a dish of luscious watermelon which went down so good, so I sent him home to bring me another dish in the morning along with clean undies. I'm doing this a day at time in case I would experience a miraculous recovery and be dismissed, I'm think I'm a ways off. But after he left, I decided to try the bathroom on my own, shoved the potty chair out the way so the IV pole could stand guard against unauthorized entry and shuffled to the bathroom. I realized that it didn't seem so desperate, I could actually stand while pulling down my pants and stand again at the sink to wash my hands. It was a victory, a small victory but I had to call Bruce and tell him and he was so happy to hear it. "I went potty all on my own!" It still felt good to stretch out in bed but it certainly brought my spirits up a scooch.

When my new nurse, Jerry, was in changing IV bags I asked him how long people are usually treated for something like this. He said they have not nailed down the infection yet and he said there are orders through Saturday, when my face dropped, he quickly said that is normal, that doesn't mean I'll be here that long, they usually do 3 days. That would put me here till Thursday, it's early Wed morning and I've been working on this off and on since Tuesday. If my temp spikes again, that will not be good, it means the infection still isn't under control and I won't be able to leave until my legs work normally again. But I am thankful to be here, I was just going down at home, I did not have these good drugs to bring me out. I've had exceptional care, everyone is so compassionate. I know there are people who kind of look down their nose at the smaller, local hospitals but we are so fortunate to have this one. I'm 12 minutes away, Bruce couldn't drive to Sioux City or Storm Lake after working all day or before he started in the morning. No, I'm very lucky.

But I'm also a little ticked, I was supposed to have 3 good weeks of health before going back for my 2nd chemo. This is cutting into my three weeks and that is not fair.

So keep praying, no new fevers, lessening of leg pain, appetite stimulation, when did I ever in my wildest dreams think I would have a hard time eating.

As for the prayers, when Lisa was looking down at me last night, after delivering the news, she took my hand and said she would be praying for healing for me. You don't get that service just anywhere.


  1. I hope you get better soon! Prayers are heading your way[:

  2. It's so great to read your blog!! To hear from you directly,what a blessing! And, yes, you hit the nail on the head; too many community hospitals can't make it financially and are closing across the country; leaving too many people who have to travel longer and further distances to get care. So glad you're on the rebound. Guess you'll have the template for success following the next round, that's how we'll have to look at this.