The year I nearly spent Christmas in the hospital…

Those two rough weeks I had just a little while back? They’ve been topped. Oh how they were topped.

Saturday, December 21st: The cold gets worse

I was having my usual low-energy-five-days-after-chemo sort of day, where I just wanted to sit around and do nothing much. My cough and cold I had picked up from the girls was pretty bad, so I mostly did exactly that, other than a short trip out to North Vancouver to buy a new backpack for Lyra and pick up Adam’s brother to bring back to our place for a visit. Even that seemed like it was pushing it, though, so we went home and relaxed for the night.

I felt worse as the evening progressed. My cold hadn’t been getting better — I had been coughing so hard my stomach muscles were killing me. But the doctor had told me on Monday to take anything I needed to for the cold. I took some NyQuil and went to bed, hoping I would feel better.

The first time I woke up was because I felt off. As I lay in bed listening to my body, it suddenly told me that it wanted to remove all traces of sushi dinner from my stomach, via the route it entered. I obeyed, and spent some time in the washroom throwing up into the toilet. It was unpleasant.

And then I started wondering if I had a fever, but was too out of it from NyQuil haze to really keep that thought in my head. I crawled back into bed with Adam, and went back to sleep for a little while. At least until I woke up again with the feeling of needing to puke again. So I did. And also had some diarrhea. It was even more unpleasant than earlier.

Adam took my temperature and confirmed that I did, in fact, have a fever. I curled up on the couch and coughed a lot and felt generally terrible, occasionally puking into a bowl. Adam phoned the Oncologist’s pager to find out if he should take me to emergency, and I guess she could hear me coughing in the background and I did not sound great. She said yes, and told him that the hospital near our house (Eagle Ridge Hospital) would be fine to take me to. We weren’t sure, because they don’t have a cancer unit there so they don’t necessarily have experience dealing with cancer patient care in emergency, but she said if they had questions they could call her.

I threw up at least one more time, had some more liquified poop fun times, and discovered that my period had started. Fun. I changed into the most comfortable clothes I could find with the expectation of staying in hospital for who knew how long, we woke Jordy up, told him he was in charge of the children until further notice, and Adam whisked me off to Eagle Ridge Hospital (one block away), where the ER was almost empty.

I felt terrible. Beyond worse than I can remember ever feeling. Absolutely at my lowest, and fighting some vague despair that had me wondering how people could keep the will to move forward through feeling so bad. I went away mentally for a while so I wouldn’t have to deal with the despair. It was the lowest of my low points.

I registered with the ER admissions nurse in a combined haze of NyQuil and feeling the worst I have perhaps ever felt in my life. Adam gave them my Bleomycin lung damage card (the one that says I can’t get Oxygen therapy because I’ve had to take Bleomycin for chemo) and showed it to every subsequent nurse or doctor who had anything to do with my care. I’m glad he was attentive, because I was not particularly. I remember thinking, and possibly articulating to Adam, that I felt worse than I had ever felt in my entire life, and I did not like it. Not one bit.

I got moved into a room in the ER, and IV’d up. They sent me off for chest x-rays and then installed me into a very small room in the ER. I drifted in and out of coherence throughout the whole thing, and was thankful not to be throwing up any more. At one point the doctor treating me said he was going to put me on an antibiotic and left the room to get it set up. He poked his head back through the door after a minute, saying “I’m going to put you on a different antibiotic because I looked one up that’s specifically for chemo patients, so that’s what I’m going to put you on, and you really don’t care what antibiotic I put you on do you?” I half-grinned at him and said “Nope, whatever you like”.

Adam updated Facebook with a message to let people know what was happening with me:

I’m starting to dislike feeling so at home in hospitals. Two trips to Eagle Ridge ER in one week for two different family members will attest to that.

Jenny spiked a fever and immediately started throwing up last night (serious stuff when chemotherapy is involved and the immune system is suppressed), right on the day of the lowest point in her chemo cycle. A quick call to her oncologist at 3am confirmed she was to report to the closest hospital ER immediately. Lucky for us Jordy was staying with us so I was able to leave him with the kids. I hadn’t slept all night as it was so was awake and pretty much ready to go.

4 hours later we’ve had a barrage of blood tests, an IV of antibiotics and she is finally asleep. I’ve snuck out of the room for a quick breather

Mission to stop the cold that ravaged my kids over the past three weeks from reaching my wife: Failed.

So far, not fond of Christmas this year. All I really want for Christmas is a return to some sense of normalcy, and about 3 weeks sleep.

This ceiling is starting to look too familiar.

I stayed in that little room with saline and antibiotics pumping in to me, drifting in and out of a very restless sleep while time stood still. They brought me a breakfast that I chose not to eat, because puking sucks and I didn’t trust myself not to do so. Adam sat with me and worried, I assume, but I think he felt better that I was at the hospital than if I was at home being sick. He didn’t sleep, and hadn’t slept much before we went in to Emergency. At some point a friend came to the hospital and sat with me in the tiny ER room, sending Adam home to get some sleep. He needed it.

They came to tell me they were going to move me up to a room in the hospital ward upstairs, and that they didn’t know how long I would have to stay. I didn’t like not knowing how long I’d be stuck in the hospital, and continued feeling pretty terrible. There were no windows in the ER, so I had no concept of time. I woke up sometimes and chatted with my friend Susan, but I wasn’t feeling particularly conversational, and kept falling asleep.

Sunday, December 22nd: My very own hospital room

Eleven hours after arriving at Emergency, they finally moved me upstairs to a room. I had seen at least two doctors who didn’t know what was wrong with me, had a couple of vials of blood taken for tests, and had no real answers about anything. But I was glad to be moving into a quieter, private space. It was 2pm.

This is Lyra's Dragon Hookfang. She thought he would keep me company while at the hospital.
This is Lyra’s Dragon Hookfang. She thought he would keep me company while at the hospital.

Susan was still with me when I moved, and let Adam know where I was when he woke up so they could exchange shifts. They continued pumping antibiotics and saline into me, and I continued feeling terrible. I hadn’t thrown up again, but I did have some more diarrhea, which was SUPER FUN when you’re dragging an IV around with you to the toilet. Plus I had my period to deal with, just to complicate matters more — extra cramping, general discomfort, and a nasty headache on top of all the rest. The nurse gave me some Tylenol for the headache, which helped, and Adam brought my hot water bottle with him to the hospital when he returned, which was good for the cramps.

I ate the first of my hospital meals — a turkey cutlet and some potatoes and vegetables. It was everything you expect from hospital food.

Adam left around 7pm after bringing me a dragon from Lyra to keep me company, and my friend Jenn came over at 7:30 for a short visit.  I had been going through some nasty nausea post-dinner and wasn’t sure it was staying down. Fortunately for everyone it did.

That night I slept in a few uncomfortable shifts, waking up because the IV was uncomfortable, or when the nurse came in to check my temperature and blood pressure, or give me more antibiotics. At one point I had a fever again, so the nurse gave me some more Tylenol to help bring it down again.

Monday, December 23rd: How long do I have to stay?

Jenny and Lyra in the hospital
Family time in the hospital bed.

I woke up to a hospital breakfast of scrambled eggs and moist toast and some more antibiotics that left a terrible taste in my mouth. I had not puked in a long time, but I still had liquid stools, which were really not much fun.

A doctor came in to see me, and told me that they still didn’t know what I had, but my tests would probably take another 24 hours to get all the results, so I was going to be staying for at least one more night, possibly more.

Adam somehow found people willing to help with the girls, since he had to work — and by somehow found people willing, I mean had people offering to help from all corners. Lyra mostly spent the day with him, since she could entertain herself as needed, but a friend took Pandra for the day (and then kept her for the night so Adam could get a real night of sleep).

Another friend, Steve, came to spend the day with me in the hospital, which was above and beyond what was necessary. I appreciated having company, though. It was nice to have someone to talk to in my little room. Adam and Lyra came by for a lunchtime visit, and then came by again at the end of the day to hang out with me before visiting hours were over.

I had Adam phone the other Hospital, Royal Columbian, to tell them what was going on with me at Eagle Ridge. My medi-port surgery was scheduled for the next morning at 9am, but I didn’t really think it was going to happen, all things considered. Royal Columbian called Eagle Ridge and spoke to my nurses and doctor, who then came and talked to me about it.

They told me that, if I wanted to go through with it, they could send me to RCH under a patient transfer, where they would take over my care. I didn’t much like the idea of moving hospitals, and my stomach was still not right. The more I thought about going through with a (albeit minor) surgery while still trying to recover from the cold and fever, the less I liked it. I told the doctor that I really didn’t feel up to going through surgery after everything, and he agreed that it was probably for the best to put it off.

Otherwise, it was a quiet day, filled up mostly with random conversation and really hating the taste that the antibiotics left in my mouth. You take the bad with the good sometimes. A few people joked about getting some time away from the kids to rest, and it was somewhat true, but they all knew as much as I did that I’d rather be at home.

That night I had a lot of trouble getting to sleep, and really started feeling like the antibiotic was messing me up as much as everything else. I still had the diarrhea issue, but no nausea any more, and no throwing up. I woke up often throughout the night, though, and it was not nearly as restful as one might hope for. I spent a good part of the night on the internet after failing to fall asleep.

Tuesday, December 24th: Christmas Eve

I woke up on Tuesday morning feeling almost human again and ate another hospital breakfast. I also hadn’t had a fever all night, which made me happy — no fever meant a higher chance of going home, and being home for Christmas.

We had completely missed our opportunity to do our last-minute Christmas shopping. We were going to go on Sunday, but my hospital visit threw that off. We got lucky though; friends ran errands for us, delivering groceries and some Christmas treats for the girls. But I was ready to go home, and be at home with my family, and I think they were ready for me to come home. I anxiously waited for the doctor to show up and give me an update.

He arrived around 9:30am or so and told me that they hadn’t found any C. Difficile in my tests, and no signs of any bacterial infection, so I could come off the antibiotics (yay!). He also said my bloodwork came back saying that my white blood cell count was really good, especially for someone on chemo. There were some other tests that would take about a week to come back — for different parasitic infections — but he didn’t think that would end up being an issue for me. So basically I just got hit, really hard, by a viral infection that gave me a fever. And fevers are bad for me while I’m on chemo, which was why we went to the hospital in the first place.

Since none of the tests came back saying anything really bad, the doctor told me I could go home any time. I thanked him and sent a message to Adam letting him know that I could come home, and he should come get me soon. He was as happy as I was, and said he’d be there within the hour, so I started getting my stuff together and cleaning up my room.

The happiest moment was when the nurse took out my IV. I was so tired of that IV. I was tired of the antibiotics making me feel crappy. And I was tired of hospital food. I wasn’t yet 100% better energy-wise — I was tired and still felt crappy, but not nearly as terrible as I had a few days before. When Lyra and Adam arrived to bring me home, I was glad to leave the hospital. They were really quite nice and treated me well while I was there — all the nurses were kind and friendly, and I never felt like an inconvenience, even though they had to put on extra protective gear (goggles and a paper robe and gloves) just to come into my room so that I wouldn’t get more sick from them. The doctors were also pleasant and easy to talk to. I would recommend Eagle Ridge Hospital to anyone who needed care.

And so I got to go home for Christmas Eve with my family, and was home for Christmas day. I wasn’t stuck in the hospital on Christmas day, and for that I was thankful. A lot of friends came through for us, either visiting me or helping Adam with the girls or delivering groceries or whatever else needed to be done, and they were awesome. It’s impossible to thank them all enough.

Christmas itself was quiet and laid-back. I still wasn’t feeling normal, so we kept things really low key. We had a tasty turkey dinner at yet another friend’s house on Christmas day. It didn’t really feel much like Christmas for me, but I did my best not to dwell on it.

Next Christmas, though, is going to be absolutely amazing. And there won’t be any hospital food.

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