Friday, August 31, 2007

"That rabbit's dynamite!"

Your substitute plogger for today is Marty.

Those of you who've seen the now-classic "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" will surely remember the scene where the Knights encounter a rabbit, guarding a cave. It was no ordinary rabbit. Well, his stronger, meaner brother was used to make the serum that was infused into Patricia over the course of this afternoon and evening.

For the first 3 hours, Patricia and I kept up a fairly steady banter combining humor and q&a about the transplant with the nurse assigned to her. Apparently a nurse is assigned to be with the patient constantly during the entire infusion of this immunosuppressant, ATG, a serum made from bunnies. At the 4th hour, the bunny knocked Patty down for the count. The next 4 hours saw high fever, headache, chills, the rigors (pronounced RY-gors), or uncontrollable shivering, and delirium. The nurse reassured us that this was "normal." As normal as it can be when you are chemically bombarding your body to destroy your bone marrow so you can replace it with some "goo" that's been squeezed out of a leftover umbilical cord or two.

Most of the management of the infusion is done with drugs, but to help bring the high fever down, the nurse placed some ice bags in Patty's armpits. Not the most comfortable, but she was so wiped out, she barely noticed. Also, considering all the electronic machinery attached to Patty right now, the ice bags seem like a home remedy. "Simple, but effective" was the answer the nurse gave me.

One moment of pure hilarity came this afternoon as they prepared Patty for this infusion. The nurses had double-teamed her to get 5 leads on her chest for the heart monitors, 2 pumps for the infusions into her heart, a cuff on her arm for the automatic blood pressure monitor, and even a clip on her earlobe to check her blood oxygen levels. At this moment, as we're watching the 2 nurses trying to keep the 8 electrical wires and 2 infusion tubes from becoming entangled with Patty's arms and legs, a young physical therapist backs into the room, dragging an exercise bicycle, and announces with a big grin on her face, "Okay, here's your bike!" About 5 seconds of dead silence, and then we all break into hysterical laughter. All except the poor young woman, who just stands there asking "Didn't you want an exercise bike?"

It is now about 10:30 pm. Patty has thrown up, had a round of the "shakes," her temp has peaked and is finally starting to come down, the ATG is done until Sunday, and Patty appears to have fallen into a deep, almost peaceful slumber. I look over at the exercise bicycle. Maybe tomorrow.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Of Compromises, Victories & Hangovers

The day started early, too early, 5:30 to be precise. That's when the nurse came in to do the daily blood draw, take my vital signs and hook me up to my first bag of intravenous meds, an anti-nausea drug. No more sleep for me. So, after reading a bit, I got busy checking email, reading the Times on-line and then designing a new exercise program for myself because they won't allow me to have my legs weights or my floor mat. Meanies!

By 8:30 I was starved. And cranky. I'd gone 3 hours without my morning coffee, for crying out loud. I rang the nurses station and asked when breakfast was coming, thinking they'd forgotten me. Turns out, breakfast saunters in around 8:45. Well, I don't want to start every day starving and cranky, so I did two things. I asked if I can bring in a coffee maker (answer: no), and I squirreled away little goodies from my various food trays (crackers, pie, cookies, juice) so I have a nice stash for the morning. As a compromise of sorts, I'm allowed to request that a nurse's assistant bring me a cup o' jo at 7:30 am when they first make it.

So, I sorta fixed the snack/coffee issue, but I had another fish to fry. My television didn't work, and normally I wouldn't mind but the Yankees were playing the Red Sox at 1 pm and I had to see the game. I mean, we're talking quality of life here. I mentioned the problem to my day nurse, and she said she'd call Maintenance. Around noon, a guy came in to see if he could fix it. He immediately informed me it couldn't be fixed but that he'd bring me another one. In time for the game?, I asked. Definitely, he said. By 12:30, I had a brand new flat-screen TV perched on the wall. Turns out Mr. Maintenance Man is a Yankee fan, too. Naturally the Yanks won, but that made the nurses (who kept popping their heads in every time Marty and I screamed or clapped, not to check on the patient but on the score) very sad. Sigh.

I'll whip this place into shape yet.

But I have to take my licks, too. Once the game was over, and once the chemo drug they gave me during late morning had thoroughly circulated throughout my system, I suffered a bit of a hangover. I took a nap, and that helped. I feel great at the moment, eating a slice of pie from the snack stockpile as I type.

Tomorrow I get the rabbit drug, which makes me a little anxious. What on earth is a rabbit drug? You'll have to check back tomorrow to find out.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

My Heart's Different Than Yours

Greetings from the Family Waiting Room at Brigham & Women's Hospital where I'm waiting to be admitted. Marty and I left the house at 5:00 this morning and headed to Boston for a pre-transplant procedure scheduled for 8:30. The plan was that I would have two catheters implanted in my chest, through which I'll be receiving the many drugs that will prepare me for the stem cell transplant. However, due to an extremely rare (but not harmful) anatomical quirk with where one of my carotid arteries enters my heart, I received just one catheter. According to my doctor, this will not pose any problems with my treatment. The catheter has three lines coming out of it instead of the usual two. One catheter or two, I still feel like Frankenstein.

Since my room on the Transplant Unit wasn't ready (what is this, a hotel with 3 pm check-in?), Marty and I went out to lunch a couple of blocks from the hospital. This was an unexpected pleasure and certainly beat eating mystery food off a tray. I made sure to choose henceforth forbidden foods: lettuce, fresh tomatoes, raw carrots, smoked turkey and blue cheese. I will not be dining in restaurants for a long time.

There's nothing else to report at the moment. Tomorrow's my first day of chemotherapy. Let's hope it doesn't make me too bilious.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Welcome to The Plog

I started writing The Plog as a personal journal in May 2007, just after relapsing from a one-year remission of acute leukemia. Keeping a journal was a way to pass the time during my subsequent 26-day hospital stay. Recording my thoughts, feelings, symptoms and (mostly) misadventures was therapeutic, too.

The Plog is shorthand for Patricia's/Patty's log. It also rhymes with "slog," which puts one in mind of a tediously slow and difficult journey.

I'm entering the hospital once again on August 29th to continue my journey. I hope to post daily in The Plog, now appearing here as a weblog. Marty may step in as guest contributor from time to time, particularly if the slog bogs me down.

Stay tuned.