Two hospitals, two IVs, two legs, four paws, and a tail. That is the short version of the last 2 weeks.
On the morning of May 15th, a few days after a week of intense finals, I drove Meghan to the hospital so her interventional radiologist could have another go at the vascular tumor buried deep in her right thigh. This ridiculous, relentless beast has situated itself adjacent to her sciatic nerve, and it’s nestled way too deep for removal. This incredible interventional radiologist is truly a class act. He is wise, compassionate, and empathetic. He is patient-focused and his passion for his field of work is evident as his desire is to help. All the time.
This same doctor worked on this tumor in May 2022. That was a layered procedure chronicled in detail here https://beatingcowdens.com/2022/05/ And while his work was helpful, the pain returned this spring with a vengeance and it was time to go at it again.
While we waited for the procedure, we passed the time as we always do. We shared some random conversations and made small talk with anyone who could help us place our nervous energy anywhere but on each other. We have been in the pre-op staging area so many times that every crevice and every sound are more familiar than you ever want to know, and we have a healthy respect for the emotions it evokes. Without those types of experiences people might think our photo ops are utterly bizarre, yet like so many things in life; if you know, you know.
On that day we were exceedingly grateful that the doctor’s daughter who was due with his third grandchild on 5/20 had not gone into early labor. The little things are the big/ huge things, and truth be told, his fervent love for his own family is infectious, and no doubt makes him a better doctor, at least from where we stand. His desire to communicate with Meghan, 1:1, by directly texting her has elevated him to near saint status in my eyes. A doctor who cares as much about his patients as is humanly possible undoubtedly generates the most positive outcomes possible. By the time he came in for consent, it was a mere formality as they had hashed out all the potential risks and benefits multiple times.
When they left for the procedure room, Ella and I grabbed a seat in the waiting room where I would pretend to play solitaire and candy crush for the next few hours. When the doctor called to let me know he was finished and that it went, “as well as I could have hoped from my end,” we headed to recovery. Her arrival in the recovery room was delayed by an hour due to severe pain when she woke. By the time she arrived in the recovery room, she had been knocked out with pain medicine.
The recovery room dance is one we have perfected and I know she’s awake when she asks for her glasses. It takes a few hours of monitoring, post-anesthesia coherence, some ginger ale, her GF bread, and a strategy for pain management before they consider a release. And as we were getting her situated in the car for the 90-minute ride home I sighed again with the ridiculous things this disease has forced us to normalize.
It was more than a decade ago when we stopped both taking the day off work on surgery days. Years ago our budget could just not afford it, as my husband is paid hourly and only when he goes to work, but now, when we could swing it financially, it just makes little practical sense. That sounds terrible even as I type, but the reality is we have normalized surgery. And we know it makes more sense to alternate days in case she needs post-op care.
Except, she really doesn’t. She also has normalized things to a point where she can get her own basic necessities pretty early in the recovery process. The first 72 hours are always the worst. It is in that window that her body is clearing the anesthesia and figuring out the new sensations. Once that dust settles and the swelling starts to subside we get a better idea of what the recovery timeline is.
Although my girl, a young woman now, understands 21 surgeries in that recovery goals must also allow “real life” to continue. And the harsh reality, and an incredibly ironic situation in my opinion, is that she needs to work to get “patient care hours” to apply to PA school. I believe the purpose of those hours has a great deal of value. Medical professionals need to be able to speak to patients in ways that are not demeaning or judgmental. They need to be able to listen to and respond appropriately to the people they treat. Except, this girl had BEEN the patient her whole life and is literally pursuing medicine to listen to and HEAR her patients. But, that is irrelevant because the criteria must be uniform.
So, dealing with swelling, residual pain, as well as numbness, nerve pain, and altered sensation in most of her leg, my girl said goodbye to her boyfriend who had been keeping her company for the week and prepped herself to begin her new job as a medical assistant the following Monday, May 22.
The day was challenging in so many ways. It was also painful and draining. I was most concerned with her when I came home from work at 3:45 that day. I saw her unwinding with Ella, sharing some tears with her BFF and I headed off to acupuncture, in my newest search to overcome the residual pain from my 2019 foot injury. In my haste, I forgot my phone. I called home from the office and told them I would be home in about an hour.
That was DEFINITELY the last time I will forget my phone anywhere for quite a while. I am used to 3 tails and 12 paws greeting me at the door. There were none. Ella was laying on the bed in Meghan’s arms and Jax and Buddy were trying to offer comfort to their sister in distress. My husband gave me a look that I knew meant swift and decisive were my only moves. So when Ella did not even thump a tail for me and choked on a small piece of food, (Ella is the girl we sometimes love to hate with the appetite of a linebacker and the waist of a supermodel) I knew we had to move.
We called the vet from the car letting them know we were coming. Within an hour they had an IV drip in her and her temperature had come down from a mid-106 to a low 103. She had a little bit of a wag when she came in to see us after that IV, but she was not being discharged. She stayed in the vet for 48 insanely grueling hours. She had virtually no white blood cells, which equates to precious few platelets and neutrophils, and little ability to handle an infection or a scuffle with her brothers. She was started on two antibiotics.
Two days later her WBC had increased 20-fold, and she was released. We still do not have a reason, and Ella’s follow-up visit is Thursday. She is still taking those antibiotics but has returned to her antics and last night wiped out both of her furry brothers with her pouncing and running in the yard.
Meghan’s pain is still significant, but we hold a bit of cautious optimism as it is “different” than the tumor-meets-sciatic-nerve hell that she was enduring pre-operatively. Ella is back by her side and it is more evident than ever that these two were made for each other. The bond they have is beautiful and indescribable.
This weekend the sun is shining where we live. People are out and about, socializing and enjoying the start of summer. We have already been to urgent care to treat Meghan’s sinus infection (allergies clashed with 4 weeks straight of untenable stress). We opened the pool and picked up some groceries. We have not really left the house at all.
That is the story of two hospitals, two IVs, two legs, four paws, and a tail. This insanely crazy medical life has left us pretty blissfully content to do absolutely nothing when we can.
…today #beatingcowdens looks like this.