Tag: #cancer

The Return

The Return

UTSouthwestern has some great contemporary art. Pieces are in all common areas and halls. In every conceivable medium. Indoors and outdoors.

It’s beautiful.

There is plenty of down time to study pieces one by one when you have a loved one in the hospital. Time just seems to slow down when you’re waiting to see doctors, get tests, treatment. Waiting, and for some people hoping, for health to return.

……………………………….

Brian starts feeling sick last Tuesday and it is concerning. By mid-afternoon he asks me to call his oncologist for her opinion.

I’ve mentioned this before, but at UTSW, getting through to a human being in your doctor’s office is nearly impossible. They do not give out direct numbers; all you have is the general hospital number and your MyChart email. If you want same day service, you wait on hold a Very. Long. Time. When I finally get through it’s after hours and the answering service picks up. The on-call oncologist advises us to go to the emergency room. Brian just can’t envision getting in a car at that point so we stay home. He figures it’s a virus and with his immune system compromised by cancer treatment, it will just take longer to get better.

We know cancer was highly improbable as his quarterly scans were normal a month ago, so we never thought it was a life threatening situation.

So we wait it out.

But after a week of sleepless nights, fever, lethargy, achiness and stomach upset, we call again. Brian hasn’t thown up since Friday. All he has is broth on Monday. It doesn’t stay down long.

This time I get through to the doctor’s office and they say we may be looking at sepsis and to go the emergency room. This time we do.

I think we both expected Brian to be pumped with some fluids and sent on our merry way.

Wrong.

Because Brian was considered potentially septic, we are ushered promptly to an ER room where he undergoes a litany of tests. When a monitor shows his heartbeat to be intermittently high, we are both taken off guard. Throughout the evening, when his heart rate randomly elevates, so does the volume and cadence of the heart monitor.

It’s unnerving. The elephant in the room.

There is no hypothesizing. No discussing. Just waiting.

We are told after Brian’s initial examination he is going to be admitted. There are too many questions and he is officially on sepsis watch. His heart is literally out of whack. They also want an oncology consult to rule out any potential reaction to immunotherapy which ended in March. That consult couldn’t happen until morning.

At 2 am we are taken to a room, about eight hours after we arrive. Brian is admitted to the Orange Tower. Interestingly, every area of the hospital is color coded. In emergency we are in the ice corridor (who knew that was a color). In the orange tower his floor, the 11th, houses oncology and gynecology.

Being on the oncology floor bothers me. I suppose I didn’t expect, or maybe didn’t want, to see Brian as a cancer patient anymore. That chapter is currently closed. But my feelings on the topic are irrelevant.

I go home for the night while Brian tries to sleep which, if you’ve ever been in the hospital, you know is impossible.

They say rest is the best medicine. Ironically hospitals are not for rest at all. They are for testing and monitoring at all hours. Taking blood. Checking vital signs. Getting wheeled to various scans. More tests. IV machines raucously beep when a bag empties so a fresh bag can take its place.

Hospitals are not for sleeping.

By Tuesday afternoon Brian has been poked, prodded and scanned for everything doctors consider necessary. He’s pumped with multiple bags of fluids, antibiotics and potassium. His heart rate is finally normal and he is eating solid food for the first time in a week. It is decided Brian’s heart rate needs to be in the normal range for 24 hours before releasing him, so another sleepless night awaits.

Completely exhausted, he is discharged early Wednesday afternoon with instructions and new meds and we hustle out of there.

Brian showers, eats and goes to sleep around 3 pm. I don’t expect him to wake until sometime tomorrow.

There are a host of potential reasons for his condition. In the end it seems he does have a virus/infection that is stronger than his immune system can handle alone.

……………………………….

Life imitates art, that’s the saying. At all of the UTSW buildings I’ve seen, a collection of vibrant, interesting art decorates an otherwise sterile environment, and I am appreciative. The pieces soothed. Distracted. Brought a bit of beauty to an otherwise unpleasant experience. An experience we all hope is one where the saying holds true. What initially feels frivolous winds up being just what the doctor ordered.