17. Uh-Oh

When the drains and I got home from the hospital -- I had come to think of pelvic tubes as part of me now -- nothing went right. Not that I expected a fast recovery. After all, my body had endured 12 hours under the knife for a radical cystectomy. And they don't call it radical for nothing. But now, I was clearly struggling. Struggling to get up the stairs to our bedroom. Struggling to clean myself, change clothes, and get settled on the bed. I was in pain. I was short of breath. I was exhausted. Boy, I needed to lay down and get some rest.

What could help? Hydrocodone for pain. Ambien for sleep. Opened up the bottles, and down went the pills. I soon discovered that these meds don't mix well. I noticed a problem when I laid in my bed and used the iPad. Got the fingers moving from app to app. Only problem: there was no iPad. I was moving my fingers in the air. Repeatedly. Kept trying. Same result. I believe they call it hellucinating.

Sensing that something was wrong, I tried to get out of bed. But I immediately fell down. Tried again, and fell on a side table and against a wall, giving myself a nasty gash in the back of my head. Tried again, and fell on the broken table. Kate and Michael came to my rescue. But by now, I was too far gone. I kept trying to get up. And I kept falling down. Kate even had to resort to bracing my falls with her body, Oh my goodness, that had to hurt. She kept Jack away by telling him to go to his room and put his headphones on. In one of the rarest moments in our lives, he did what he was told.

Finally, I resigned myself to stay in bed. But I was delusional. Frustrated at my inability to stand, I began pulling on my drains, stopped only by the greater physical strength of my wife and son. Kate knew something was very wrong and called the home nurse who was supposed to visit the next day. She found me unconscious, my oxygen levels low, and my cognitive abilities impaired. She quickly called for an ambulance.

With the ambulance came ENTs as well as the police. They examined me and interviewed Kate and Michael. They were trying to determine whether I suffered from a non drug related ailment, an accidental overdose, a suicide attempt or attempted murder. Murder?! Whoa! As if Kate and Michael weren't already over the deep end emotionally.

The next thing I recall was waking up to see several people hovering over me. Kate. The nurse. And two EMTs. (Judging my wife and son to not be the murdering kind, the policeman must have left before I woke up.) Um, great to see everyone. But what are you doing here? They had been measuring my vitals. Oxygen level too low. Blood pressure too high. Memory spotty. Awareness even spottier. My caretakers decision: back to the hospital I go. So I had entered my house hours before on my own two feet, and now was leaving on a stretcher. Not the way I had planned it.

I was taken to the ER, and placed through a variety of tests. CT-scan. X-rays. And more. Kate told the ER doctor to call Schenk and Bob. Fortunately, Schenk was in the hospital and stopped by. "What are you doing back here? Nothing better to do?" For all his toughness, Schenk has an affectionate side to him that, as a patient, I found calming. He proceeded to check his handiwork, pronounced everything in tact, and said the docs will know what to do once the other test results came in. In the meantime, sit tight. Like I had any other option.

Now the ER doc returned with the test results. And they weren't good. There was an anomaly in my brain, which might have been caused by a stroke. And I was at risk of a recurrence. Let's see if I got this straight: I survive stage 4 cancer and a radical surgery, but I might die of this stuff? God, are you playing a joke on me?

Bob intervened with hope. Remember, he's a neurologist. So brain injuries are up his alley. After reading the report and seeing the scan, he thought the injury might well be one that happened a long time ago. Still, the ER doc wanted to admit me into the hospital. Having just gone through a rather miserable experience there, I was in no mood for a return engagement. I really wanted to go home. So I argued and argued. But Bob and Kate convinced me to stay. So, reluctantly, off I went. Back upstairs. Back to a hospital room. Back to more misery.

I was admitted into the telemetry ward of the hospital, which is less chaotic than post surgical. My nurses, John and Donna, were focused on my heart and brain activity. But they also had to deal with my drains, which were foreign to them. My oxygen levels were in the 70s and 80s. And I was massively dehydrated.

I didn't stay in the room for long. First trip was for an ultrasound of my lungs. Then, around midnight, for an MRI exam of my head. Once in the tube, so many thoughts were racing through my head. A stroke? What else will go wrong? How can Kate and the kids endure all this? The exam lasted longer than I remember for previous MRIs. The buzzing sound seemed a lot louder, too. And, boy, what I wouldn't give for a glass of water.

Finally, the exam was done and I wheeled back up to my room. I don't know how, but I fell asleep for the first time in a long time. I was woken up by the morning nurse who draws blood. I still felt really dehydrated. Coming to my rescue was Dr. Gaynor, who noticed that I wasn't being fed intravenously. So she ordered bags and bags for me. Thank you, Darlene.

Then the hospitalist, the chief doctor on the floor, sat down next to me. "We have the results of the ultrasound. How much detail do you want to know?" Um, how about the high points? "Well, you've suffered a pulmonary embolism. You have blood clots - many clots -- in your lungs." Okay, what's the treatment? Normally, the docs would break up the clots through surgery much like an angioplasty. But since I had problems from the surgery I just had, that was not an option. Then what? Hope that the body absorbs the clots.

If not, "there's nothing we can do."

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Reader Comments (1)

Jim, I had no idea you were going through such a horrible experience! I am immensely glad that the worst seems to be over (knock on wood) and your life should be a little better each day. You'll most certainly be in my thoughts and heart as you go forward and heal. And I agree with you - thank heavens for health insurance! And Freddie Mac, and friends and family.

June 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEileen Fitzpatrick

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