Sunday, August 10, 2008

I See You in I.C.U.

We have finally made it to Sunday...tomorrow begins a new week. This past week has been very trying for the family. With the start of school looming over us, nationals just 2 weeks away and Darling Hubby's car still not working (despite the $200 part) all of this paled in comparison to what lay ahead.

Wednesday morning, about 2:00a.m. D/H awoke to a nasty bout with "the big D" (and I don't mean Dallas) only to find that it signalled the possible return of our old adversary The Bleeding Ulcer.

He called in sick to work and sent me on my way to work in the one car we are currently sharing. The children had orientation that night and he didn't want us to miss it. The plan was to call the gastro doctor and see what he should do. He promised to have either his brother or our oldest carry him to the emergency room should things worsen. I told my boss what was happening, just in case I had to leave work early. Having not heard from D/H, I assumed that everything was fine.

Why is it that men can hear the plan, agree to the plan, but never execute the plan?

Needless to say, the kids and I sped through orientation (which was completley unnecessary because both had attened the school the previous year and were sufficiently oriented!) and then rushed home to carry D/H to the emergency room. We arrived about 7:30pm.

At 11:00pm it was decided that he could indeed be suffering from another bleeding ulcer, his 3rd, and that he was to be sent to ICU and given blood because his blood count was 26 ( around 40 is normal), a procedure that could have been avoided had he remembered "the plan" and come to the hospital earlier in the day. It was agreed that I would go on to work Thursday, because while he was in ICU, I would only be able to see him for 15 minutes ever 2 hours. I could be more productive ( and less worried) if I were focused on my work. He was taken to M.I.C.U. and the first of 2 units of blood were started.

I came home, arriving about 11:30pm and unable to sleep because darling hubby was not in the house, watched t.v. and played a bit on the internet. I thought about the conversation I'd had with Heath just last Friday, after our company benefits meeting that outlined the insurance changes effective September 1st. When I got in the car that day, I'd joked "If you are going to be sick again, you've got to do it before September 1st" Little did I know he'd take me up on it! I drifted off to sleep just in time for my alarm to wake me just in time for the first day of school.

Traffic the first day of school in our little town is bedlam. There is always a traffic jam and at least one wreck, which happened this time at the end of our street. I made it to work almost 10 minutes late, but still managed to find a parking place in the same zip code as the building.

I sent an email to my boss asking to work through my lunch hour in order to leave early. Most of the day, I had to defend our choice for me to come into work, rather than sitting around the hospital, wasting time and wringing my hands. I was focused on my work which made the time pass quickly and productively. I kept hearing ..."well, if it were me..." and I felt like I would explode. I felt bad enough without everyone trying to make me feel more guilty! But I knew that I was following my husband's request and that we'd made the best choice.

As once mentioned before, one of my aunts has been a nurse for over 40 years (most at the very hospital my husband was in). It is a well known fact among our family that she will NOT visit the hospital unless specifically summoned. I always thought it was because she spent enough time there already, however, after my grandmother had summoned us both specifically to the hospital, she explained to me her reasoning.

"People come to the hospital to be well, not be entertaining" she had said. "They do not need a lot of people hanging around. That is why visiting hours are limited like they are. Patients need to rest. For some reason, people think they need to be at the hospital all the time, but really, unless they have a medical degree, there is nothing they can do for the patient that isn't already being done. They can do more harm than good, getting in the way of the staff and needlessly stressing out the patient. I know what it is like trying to care for a patient and having to deal with the family. When the care team thinks you need to be there, they will tell you to be there."

I had never really given that much thought before, but it made perfect sense. And coming from a seasoned medical professional, I took it as the general attitude of other seasoned medical professionals and my attitude toward hospital visits changed considerably. Many could benefit from this sage advice, including many a hospitalized loved one.

I tried to be light-hearted and joke about why I was not at the hospital, only to be told later that I hurt some people's feelings. WHAT?!?! As if I didn't have enough on me already, I , the wife of the patient, who had enough guilt and stress as it was, had yet one more thing to worry about! How sophomoric! Did anyone ever stop to consider what I was going thru?! I was immediately hot, flushing from my chest to the top of my head. I had a melt-down and had to excuse myself to the ladies room where I leaned against the cool, metal wall of the stall and cried.

I arrived at the hospital that afternoon. D/H was ill from the liquid-only diet and had commented on how many restaruant commercials there seem to be on t.v. He had just finished his 4th unit of blood in an effort to stabalize his counts. We did not get to see the doctor but the nurse told us the endoscopy was clear. An ulcer was located in the same area as the previous two, but it was not bleeding. No other source coudl be found in the upper digestive tract and that a colonoscopy would be performed the next day to check the rest. The Go-lytely arrived soon after. Anyone who has had Go-lytely knows that whomever invented it had a sick sense of humor because you are far from "going litely!" I left D/H to the evening task and again found myself unable to sleep.

It was again agreed that I would go to work on Friday, but it was harder to do given the previous days events. Hardly anyone asked about D/H and that helped me stay focused on what I was doing. I had planned to work through my lunch as before, but soon found myself unable to concentrate and asked to leave at 2pm instead. When I reached the hospital, I found D/H enjoying his first solid meal in 2 days. I settled in to wait for the doctor.

The actual gastro doctor never came, but the doctor in the unit read through D/H's chart and gave us the high points. The colonoscopy was also clear, which meant the only other place to check was the 25 +/- feet of small intestine. There are several options but the most interesting seemed to be the "camera pill." We were to wait for the final word from the GI lab, but in the mean time D/H would be moved to a regular room.

After a visit to Cyn's I arrived home, but was still unable to sleep, despite the the wave of exhaustion that was sweeping over me and a belly full of carbs (Cyn knows a double order of hashbrowns all-the-way is a surefire sleep aid for me) . The thought that they were unable to find the cause that resulted in loosing nearly half his blood volume kept me staring at the ceiling fan for several hours.

Saturday I was unable to function from lack of sleep, but I did manage to get up and head to Nancy's. I had been putting off gown fittings since I missed the first one Wednesday evening. While at Nancy's (where the gown is taking shape quite nicely) D/H called to say he'd been released!

By the time we crossed the threshold here at home, I was out, sleeping soundly for several hours.

We still do not know the cause of the bleeding, but D/H's upcoming doctor appointment should shed some light on that.

Thank you all for your continued prayers.

Meanwhile, it's business as usual.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

My Bucket List

I have decided it's time to compose a Bucket List. You know...a list of all the things you want to do before you kick the bucket. Okay, I guess it's obvious that I've just watched "The Bucket List" with 2 of my favorite actors Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.

But you have to admit, it's one heck of a concept, and it seems like the ultimate goal setting exercise.

I'm 41 so I figure, best case scenario, I have about 40 years (give or take a few) to accomplish everything on it. Well, that is if I take after my dad's side of the family. My mother's side of the family can't seem to get anymore than 10 days past their 70th birthdays.

No kidding. When we buried my mother's only brother, who died exactly 10 days from his 70th birthday a few years back, I remember being unnerved that everyone was walking across the graves of their parents. I was trying to be as respectful as possible, taking up a position behind my mother, which was coincidentally on top of my grandfather's footstone.

It was then I had a "movie moment" ... you know, those moments when everyone is intently focused on the clergy/speaker/wedding party, etc... and someone in the back says something really stupid, really loudly and everyone in the congregation turns to look? As I caught the heel of my shoe in the engraved Masonic emblem, I glanced down and saw that the date of his death was, get this, 10 days after his 70th birthday! I gasped...loudly...causing an awkward pause to fall over the graveside service.

So, worst case scenario, I have 29 years...and 10 complete the items on the list.

All my life I've joked about things I'd like to accomplish before I die. Silly, inconsequential stuff...learn to play piano, see Paris, learn converstaional Japanese, write a novel. Now, after having given it some serious thought (and a stroke scare in January), compiling this list of goals doesn't sound like a bad idea.

Once, a family friend attended a seminar about obtaining your dreams. After serving as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, Richmond became an attorney, but kept his pilot license current, serving as a helicopter pilot in the Reserves. His office was always fun to hang around and he told the most interesting stories, smattered with corny jokes. He was very smart and enjoyed expanding his horizons with classes and seminars and such.

At this seminar, the instuctor handed out 3x5 cards, on which he asked everyone to write down what their dream job would be if money were no object. Richmond jotted down that he would like to own his own helicopter piloting service. Then the instructor told everyone to write down how they would go about obtaining this dream job, still keeping in mind that money was no object. Richmond quickly mapped out what would be needed. Then the instructor told everyone their next assignment was to go out and obtain that job! He told everyone that money IS NOT a factor if one really wanted to reach a goal. Needless to say...Richmond began piloting for a helicopter service that flew employees back and forth to oil rigs in the Gulf. I do not know if he ever reached his goal of owning his own service, but I know that he was very happy from that point forward. A few years ago, he died from complications of sleep apnea.

This story springs to mind whenever I think of lofty goals and how I should not give up on them.

I read somewhere that when you are setting goals, you should have a few that you can't obtain. That if all your goals are ones that you can actually reach, that you don't strive for them as much. That contridicts the idea behind creating a Bucket List, since the list should contain obtainable items.

I plan to have a few items that are subject to interpretation to be crossed off as I see fit. I noticed that in places in the movie, the characters were creative with the items on their list. The whole discussion of the origin kopi luwak (which, conincidentally, I already knew about, being in the coffee biz myself) though funny, would not make me laugh til I cried, but it was a heck of a punch line.

Unlike the movie, I plan for my husband to join me in many of them. Probably the sentimental ones, like having 10 grandchildren (a project mainly for my children!) and watching the sunset from the porch of our mountain top retirement villa. There are sure to be some silly ones too...real "Lucy and Ethel" moments, as I intend my best friend Cyndi, 4 years my junior, to join me on quite a few items. What good would the list be if I can't share it with those I love?

As I start to compile this list, I urge you, my reader, to check out the book film writer Justin Zackham is publishing by the same name. Zackham compiled the Bucket Lists of indiviuals ( actor Morgan Freeman included) from a broad spectrum of culture.

I plan to share my list with you as it forms, because part of setting a goal is having others keep you accountable to them.

That said, here is the beginning of Joy's Bucket List: (in no particular order)

Write a Novel (and publish it!)
Write something that will be read widespread
Surf the North Shore
See Paris
Scuba on the Great Barrier Reef
Represent Alabama at one of The Big Three
See all 3 of my children find the love of their life
Own my own business
Enjoy at least 10 grandchildren
Drive on the track at Talledega
Meet Kathleen Turner
Run for political office
Restore an antebellum mansion
Go on safari's a work in progress...