The Diagnosis Is In And The Cure Is Hell

With a manicure and pedicure booked on the 24th, and with my health deteriorating by the minute, I called to cancel the appointment, thinking I wouldn’t be able to last long enough. However, being deeply in need of at least a pedicure, my gal at the salon suggested she could at least give me a basic pedicure to get me through.

I could tell by the looks on their faces at the salon that I looked like death warmed over once I arrived. My gal soon whipped my feet into shape and I felt better for having it done.

The next morning I awoke and announced to Nat that I definitely wanted to get checked into the hospital. He agreed. This time it didn’t take as long, as I stressed the fact that I was now very malnourished and in need of an IV with nutrients. I was soon booked into a bed and headed to the Short Term Stay area of The St. Catharines General for however long it would take to get me diagnosed and back up to speed.

The Short Term Stay area is a connection of 8 Pods (or small rooms with curtains for doors) surrounding a nursing station where doctors and nurses can see into each and keep an eye on everything around them. A nice set-up. I sent Nat home once I was settled in as there was nothing more that could be done and I knew he was exhausted mentally and physically from this entire ordeal. He, at least for now, could relax knowing that I was in good hands and being taken care of.

Trying to get sleep in any hospital is virtually impossible. If you’ve ever been in one you’ll understand. At one point, I soon began to doze off, but by 3:00 am some nursing staff decided to have a small get-together around the station until 4:00 am. So much for that.

It was Saturday afternoon before I was seen to by an Internist who had read my chart from top to bottom and realized I had developed Thrush. A yeast infection in my mouth that affects immune-suppressed patients getting dentures. It’s more common in babies and other adults, but just my luck, I was also a candidate. This Internist was good!

A medication was prescribed, and naturally, it was disgusting – a creamy little drink that you had to swish around your mouth and then swallow. This little drink only added to my gagging and being sick more than ever. I became sick just thinking about each dose before I took it. In fact, I cheated a couple of times and tossed a dose or two in the garbage. I would rather have died than take this crap. It was that bad.

It was soon discovered that the Thrush had spread down into my throat which is the reason why the intolerance to a couple of meds. I had also developed a bit of a bladder infection which had to be taken care of immediately. With everything else going on in my body, my new little kidney also had to be taken care of. If I rejected it now, I wouldn’t be able to live. You would not believe the amount of medications I now had to swallow (now a huge struggle) – 13 medications for the kidney, 1 antibiotic, 1 for the Thrush, 2 for stomach acid and a Potassium pill (which I was now lacking). And that’s just the morning routine. You get an infection in your mouth and the cure is almost as worse.

I was finally released after 4 days, with the new meds in hand. The body was still extremely tired and I just wanted to curl up into a ball under my duvet cover and sleep for a thousand weeks.

Still unable to swallow any kind of “soft” food, I struggled to get any nutrients into me in order to get my strength up. One of the most difficult things I have to do. I’m such a picky eater and drinker, I’m struggling to keep things in my stomach long enough for the nutrients to be absorbed into my body and help to get me up and running. Nat is in such a state, we’re now starting to argue about it. It’s so difficult for me to explain about the swallowing and he has no idea of how it feels. He’s now extremely worried, but how do I reassure him that I’m okay.

It’s upsetting to me, too. I would die for any kind of solid food from a simple grilled cheese sandwich right up to a Panko-encrusted pork chop with homemade fries. I’m in such a catch 22 situation I couldn’t win even if the odds were in my favour.

Once I was diagnosed, Nat and I soon began to discuss the fact, that why didn’t my Dentist catch this thing as it was developing. Even I could see my tongue was getting coated as the dental visits progressed. We really could have nipped this disgusting thing in the bud. Alas, too late and now I must endure what befalls me and for as long as it takes to get cured.

I return to the Internist this Wednesday to see how things are going. She implied last visit that this could last for a couple of weeks before I see any results. My mind and spirit truly do not know how long we’ll last. 2018 to me will never end.

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Good To See You, Again

With some thoughts of fear, the unknown, finality and a possible regret, I headed to bed by 10:00 PM. I love my sleep and instinctively knew Tuesday night (the 17) would take me over an hour to at least get to the doors of La La Land. My brain was swirling with anticipation, fear and trying desperately to imagine how the whole procedure would go down.

Surprisingly I was up earlier than thought. I’ll do this when I’m anxious the night before. I’m the kind that wants something done, and done now. Impatience runs throughout my bones. Within 20 minutes we were driving down the highway to St. Catharines General Hospital to finally get my dentures and partials done. The little yellow container holding the dentures and partials sat atop my lap with an envelope of paperwork to be handed in upon arrival. I felt somewhat calm at this point. Perhaps thinking that this was it. All will soon be over and I’ll be back to my old smile, and the ability to chomp on good food again without having to gnaw away for half an hour after each bite!!

Arriving at the Outpatient Service we were escorted by a lovely volunteer to the patient bed area and were greeted by a very attentive nurse who kicked Nat out until I was settled. He toddled off to the waiting room as I began the usual ordeal of donning those wonderfully designed hospital gowns (“just strip down to your undies”), blood pressure, diabetes check, temperature, heart rate, etc., etc. More questions asked that had been asked a hundred times before with every appointment I’ve had during this entire ordeal. I could almost answer them by memory. At least I was ready for them and had made numerous copies of my medical record, lovingly done by my GP who is very efficient, along with numerous copies of my medicines. Always helps a great deal to be pre-prepared with such things, especially when your memory is fading and you look to the ceiling for answers!

Nat was soon summoned by my bedside as we waited for 10:45 AM – my procedure time. We didn’t have a whole lot of talking to do but watched as the rest of the nursing staff settled in all of the new patients coming in for whatever procedure they were having done. Even one older lady saying she’d never had an operation in her whole life. What a treat that must have been!! Nat and I also couldn’t get over the attentiveness of the nursing staff and the efficiency of which they were running the Outpatient Service. They were friendly, informative and certainly knew their jobs. As I’m a difficult one to get an Intravenous hook-up, they immediately called for the Charge Nurse who was a real pro at such things. They were right. She was very good and not even a bruise afterward once it was removed!!

Just prior to that, the Anesthesiologist dropped by to check on my meds (what I had taken and what I had not). He sounded Russion or Ukranian and was in a great mood. We had a couple of laughs – which is always useful when you know this man is going to knock you out!!

The time soon came and I was ushered a short distance down to the Operating Room previously booked by my Dental Surgeon – Dr. Carriero. Everyone in the room greeted me like an old friend – that’s always a relaxing way to go – and after trying to get the old broad switched over to the thinnest operating table you can imagine – I was soon off to La La Land. I was a bit surprised, however, to see that they still use a small amount of gas through a mask, instead of a direct injection into the Intravenous. Cool!!

As soon as I was off and out of it, I found myself struggling to wake up in the Recovery Room. Nurses were talking to me as my eyes were trying to focus and find out whether they were talking to me or someone else. Within several minutes I began to focus and felt like I had been punched in the mouth along with inheriting a whole lot of teeth. At least now I told myself – It Was Finally Over.

After 3/4 hour in Recovery I was ushered back to the Outpatient Room to check my vitals again, make sure I could walk without looking drunk and finally put my clothes back on. Nat went for the wheelchair (hospital policy – no walking out the door) and we were soon off and headed for home. Blessed, blessed home!!

Nat said he was surprised how well I took the entire thing – the swelling, the bruised cheek, the little black dot on my right cheek that wasn’t there prior and even the pain. I reminded him what the Anesthesiologist said – “I should write a book” about all of the things this old body has been through since the age of 3. My body has been brainwashed into doing what I’m told when it comes to surgeries, medical tests, etc. I’ve also developed a large intolerance to pain. This 69 year old piece of skin, bone, muscle mass and organs has been poked, prodded, pricked, along with one organ going out and another replacing, that it’s become my fortess for such things. When your life has been in and out of hospitals so much as mine, you begin to develop (as they say) “a thick skin”.

The rest of the day was naturally spent quietly in the living room – ice packs on the cheeks to keep any swelling down – and wriggling my tongue around the inside of my mouth to see if I could check things out. I finally took a look in a mirror and wondered “what’s the other guy look like”. Looking like I had been punched in the mouth with a good left hook I returned to my recliner and tried to block the image out. However, I did tell myself, this too will subside as the days go on. It’s the eating that will be the bain of my existence – only being able to eat soft foods (Jello, mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, ice cream, soup, well-cooked pastas, etc.) – for the next week. God, I’m going to miss the meat, fresh breaded haddock, french fries and maybe a bag of Cracker Jacks once in awhile. This too, Twila, shall pass as the days go on.

This whole procedure, to my way of thinking, should now be my last visit to any hospital for any other purpose, except for transplant check-ups, for quite some time. I’ve endured numerous childhood surgeries and tests, kidney dialysis (home and hospital), fluid around the lungs, the kidney transplant, a few rejection visits, my native kidneys removed, a large polyp removed, my cataracts removed, and now my new teeth. I can pretty much state a good part of my body has endured more than its share. Now that I feel so much like my old self (whatever that is – maybe in my 30’s, the best years I’ve had without any medical procedures) hopefully I can now say to myself, with my new best smile – Good to see you, again.

It Was Like Living A Horror Movie

Monday began as a quiet day. We settled in for the evening and with not much on TV we decided to give the new Jay Leno show a try. Halfway through the show this old body decided to pull another fast one on me. I began to hemorrhage and bad!!! I called for Nat and trying to keep as calm as possible, the two of us packed up what we thought was going to be needed and headed down the highway. As it was after 10:00 PM, we knew the Prompt Care wing of the Hotel Dieu Hospital (my hospital of choice) would be closed and thus we drove into the St. Catharines General. The line-up of the walking wounded was horrendous, so I grabbed a waiting Paramedic and with the snap of a finger I was being admitted.

Laying on a gurney in a small corner of the emergency room, I was not seen until staff noticed that I had been back and forth to the bathroom on several occasions, had bled all over the hallway leading to the bathroom, in the bathroom itself, and was at the stage where my body was going into shock from losing so much blood. As I lay there, my husband slept upright in a chair by my bedside until 6:00 AM the next morning. Aside from being scared, cold and extremely tired, I found the communication and assistance lacking all around. My husband nor I were told anything of what was happening.

With all things in my medical history, this whole ordeal wasn’t easy and turned out to be long, frustrating and exhausting. I had lost so much blood the ER was considering a blood transfusion. Thankfully the hemorrhaging stopped by 2:00 AM. We knew, however, it would be a long wait before knowing the next step, and a long wait it was. It was concluded that the polyp that is due to be removed on October 2nd had decided to burst and apparently is not all that uncommon. The physician on duty would have to consult with the Doctor at St. Joseph’s in Hamilton that morning in order to be advised of the course of treatment. With neither one of us saying it out loud, we somehow knew that I was going to be admitted. For how long remained the big question.

Naturally neither Nat nor I could settle down and get any sleep, especially Nat. I’d look over at my dear husband now and again and could see the worry and extreme exhaustion in his face. It’s not easy sitting by a bedside, waiting, wondering and worrying and it’s even worse while sitting in, what looked to be, one of those steel-framed reception room chairs for over ten hours. Wrapped up in a bed sheet to keep his shoulders warm, he fought back sleep as best he could. As the sun finally began to rise and a few more hours passed, we finally heard those words that I’d be here for at least a another day. With that I sent Nat home to get some sleep and to let family members know what was going on.

After finally being admitted for observation for possibly three days I was able to settle down, except for the lack of my medications from the Hospital’s pharmacy. The first question asked on the admitting form had also taken me aback – “What are your expectations in this Hospital?” Seriously! If they had to ask such a question then there’s certainly a huge problem. Aside from fixing my medical problem, I expected quality medical treatment, knowledge of medical conditions and a well-stocked pharmaceutical, which was not the case. Certain of my anti-rejection medications had to be ordered in and I never did receive all of them until my husband brought in my own supply from home. I couldn’t help but wonder if I had been all alone, in a car accident or something similar and would have been unable to assist anyone in St. Catharines General, whether I would survived or not. I have a Medic-Alert bracelet but I’m not sure this would have helped any of the nursing staff and their lack of knowledge of transplant patients unless they called the Hotel Dieu and my nephrologist.

After getting settled in for that 24 hour watch, I phoned Nat to bring him up-to-date and told him to stay home, that I was going to try and get some sleep myself. With no success of sleep, only thoughts of what was next and what the hell happened, the day was long, drawn out and my emotions were running high. While talking to Nat he said Bonna might drop by that evening and when she did, I was ever so glad to see her. Keeping my mind distracted from the matters at hand was more than welcomed and, Bonna made me feel better.

Finally as Wednesday morning came around, I knew it would be a waiting game until the Doc came by to (hopefully) release me. My luck of the draw I get a doctor that does her rounds in the afternoon, but at least I was now able to eat a solid meal for lunch, and thus bided my time until 2:00 pm when the good news arrived. By this time it was only a matter of waiting for Nat to show up.

Upon arriving home, still exhausted from this whole ordeal, Nat and I settled in for the night, ordered Chinese food from a new restaurant in Fort Erie, curled up in our respective chairs and prayed for peace and relaxation.

As Thursday arrived and having only my regular appointment with Dr. Broski – another trip back into St. Catharines – we managed to get through the day despite the fact that we were both still trying to recover from the past events. We were both starting to feel as if we were in constant motion, having been on the road back and forth to St. Catharines for three days. I made it a point to hit the hay early to get a good night’s sleep. Friday I was going shopping with Bonnie at Limeridge Mall and I was looking forward to it, despite the fact my body was crying out to stay in bed.

Bonnie and I had a great time, as always. I found a couple items of new clothing, while Bonnie found some great jewellery. After a nice lunch and getting caught up on family  news, we wandered around the Mall again for another hour and then headed home. Despite the fact that my body struggled to take another step, I enjoyed the outing. I knew some ‘time off’ from thinking would do me a world of good, and it did. Thanks, Bonnie!! So now Nat and I will try and get back into a somewhat normal routine until October 2nd, when this whole thing of tripping back and forth (only this time) to Hamilton begins again!! Can’t wait until this exhausting nightmare is over!

With all of the past events I’m going to sing the praises of my husband. His patience, his ever-abiding love and attention, his worry and concern were evident at every moment. With my past medical history (the dialysis, the transplant, the ever-constant doctors’ appointments), this man has been through a lot and has steadfastly been there through thick and thin with support and unconditional love. Despite the fact that this past week was a nightmare, this man is definitely my dream come true.