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» Tuesday, September 19, 2017How We Spent Our [Sudden] Summer Vacation
Wait, didn't you once say you didn't take vacations in the summer anymore? Yep. Let's say it wasn't much of a vacation, either.
So the day we got back from DragonCon James went to see his cardiologist, who took an EKG and said it all looked good and to come back in six months. On the 15th he saw his GP, who renewed his prescriptions and gave him a flu shot.
Friday morning the 16th he forgot to take his pills with him. I was a bit ticked off because he's done this once before and he will get chest pains if he doesn't take them. I was going to take them to him at noon, but he called me saying he didn't feel good, would I bring them immediately. So I did, he went back to work, but came home after lunch not feeling well. He confessed he was having chest pressure. He took a nitroglycerin and the pain went away, he got a violent headache, and then the headache was gone and the pain was back.
He had changed clothes, so we got him back into trousers and shoes. While I was making a pit stop, I looked mutely up to heaven and asked "What do I do? Give me a sign, please!" The books sitting in the little shelving unit on the stool promptly fell over. Well, that was clear enough.
Wellstar was the nearest emergency room, so there we went, taking encouragement in the fact that they didn't bring us to the back right away. Well, this was an oversight. The EKG was showing an irregularity and the blood they drew was showing enzyme markers that weren't good. So we sat there in the little cubicle in the back expecting to do the usual wrangling with Kaiser, and eventually to have an ambulance to ship James off to Northside.
They didn't do it. [Insert mind-boggled sound effect here.]
We were told to stay at Wellstar (unless James needed actual surgery) and that is where we have been since Friday afternoon. Because it was the weekend, they didn't do much Saturday and Sunday except keep him on blood thinners, watch for pain (it pretty much disappeared after his first dose of blood thinners), get his medicine straight, and keep consulting Kaiser. I went home at night and slept (no sleeper chairs in the rooms, just a hard recliner) and then came back in the morning after breakfast. Finally Sunday Kaiser told them to do the catherization here at Wellstar as well, and to put in any stents needed. (We were still shocked; Kaiser's never done that before. Always it's been the ambulance ride to Northside, usually at the worst traffic hour of the day.) At midnight on Sunday (Monday morning) he got put on nothing by mouth (except for sips of water and water needed with his meds) and we spent a nerve-wracking Monday first because they said he would go downstairs before noon, and then it crept to one, and two—James growing ravenous as the minutes ticked on. An emergency case came in and that person had to go first. Finally they took him downstairs about 3:00 with me trotting behind, and then he went back to the cath lab at 3:45.
Now it was my turn to wait. At first this was fine; they warned me it would take "about an hour." So when 4:30 ticked by, I noted it and kept reading my book. At 5:10 I started checking my watch. By 5:30 I was starting to get a tad upset. I asked a person in the waiting room to let them know I was in the bathroom as I retreated to use the facilities. But still no word when I got back. Finally at 6:10 someone came and got me. The cath lab was slammed, she said, and she was sorry, but he was okay; the procedure had just taken a little longer than they planned. James was lying on a gurney at the end of what looked like the longest telescoping hall in the world.
The doctor explained that they had had to put two other stents in another main artery, although the actual pain from the heart attack was caused by a little capillary that had actually closed down. There was still a tiny capillary that was blocked, but they weren't able to see it clearly and it was minor. The only problem was that they had been in longer than they planned and there was a good chance there might be a kidney reaction because of having to use more dye for a longer period. James was blinking sleepily at me with his blue eyes and the utter relief that he was still here and all the medical information was too much to process. I started to cry and then to hyperventilate and someone had to get a chair for me because I could not quit gasping (although there was a teeny corner of my mind shouting furiously in my brain "What are you doing? You can still breathe!"—it was surreal). So both of us got a ride upstairs and I wrapped myself in the scarf blanket and watched the nurses plug in his oxygen and set up his IVs. Once he was settled I rose on very wobbly legs and was able to help him order some supper and then rush downstairs before the cafeteria closed since I hadn't eaten anything since a bowl of cereal at noon.
He had pain sometime longer this time than last time, presumably because of the length of time they were poking around in there. Luckily they went through his wrist this time instead of his femoral artery, so he did not need to have people keep pressure on the spot for a half hour or to lie flat for six hours. I was actually able to feed him some broth and sherbet and he could eat a turkey sandwich. They gave him a small dose of morphine and the pain subsided and so far has not returned. Anyway, it was a bit of a rough evening for him, although by eleven he was pretty much back to normal. I managed to sleep in the awful recliner for two nights with the help of a duvet cover and two pillows and the scarf blanket. The worst part was when they came in to check him and had to turn on the overhead light. Very bright. Pain.
Today has been quiet. I went home this morning to walk Tucker (Aubrey Spivey was "a brick!" as they say in Victorian children's novels and did reveille and bedcheck yesterday) and shower and bring back some clothes. It's been quiet today. His creatitine level is still high (it went up even before the cath, the result of not getting to drink properly for fourteen hours), but if it doesn't spike they say he can go home tomorrow. So, we'll see.
Except for yesterday, it's been a much more positive experience than last year at Piedmont. The staff know their business at Piedmont, but it's like a big factory farm. Here at Wellstar we have seen a doctor (both cardiologist and nephrologist, not to mention the house physician) every single day. At Piedmont we were lucky if the Kaiser doctor wandered in every two days. No one told us anything. Even the techs here tell you everything, and they are all lovely. When we call the nurses or the "care partner," they respond, even yesterday when we realized that Saturday and Sunday were just quiet days here and on Monday bedlam breaks loose. They bring ice, they bring water, they close doors, they even moved the bed once. Someone comes in—over the weekend it was a lovely man named Jean and now we have had Candace—every day to sweep and clean the room and they are friendly, unlike Piedmont, where the cleaning staff was surly and left a "biological spatter" in the bathroom from the time it happened till James checked out, a period of over a week. James has a nice menu to choose from, just counting his carbs to keep them in range, and his food has looked and tasted good (okay, he didn't enjoy the curry chicken all that much, but he said the turkey melt was outstanding). Hell, the cafeteria is good! They not only have had edible (and not overly salted) meats and veggies every day (including teriyaki wings, beef brisket, barbecue ribs were just some of the main meats), but you can get a meat or panini or burgers from the grill, there's a salad bar, three kinds of soup (although they seem not to know what chicken soup is), a "freestyle" soda machine, a yogurt machine and toppings, a bakery case, a juice case, pre-made sandwiches, chips, hummus and dips, cereal cups and chips, candy (if that's your bag), and also stuff like pancakes, sausages, two kinds of bacon, yogurt, etc. for breakfast. The only thing they don't have is bread. You can't get toast or a bun or a biscuit, only bread with the pre-made sandwiches or if you get a burger from the grill. The cashiers, the cooks, and the staff are friendly.
If you have to get stuck in a hospital and use up your vacation days, certainly better off here!
Sadly, we missed going to Taste of Smyrna—no drunken pork for us—and the Beatles Tribute concert on Saturday with the band "The Return." Juanita was able to find homes for our tickets (all the while juggling fraud on her credit card) and they had a lovely time; she dedicated a song to her husband and Aubrey was able to capture the set on her phone, so we could at least be part of that event. I need to do laundry badly (am running out of underwear), but on the way home to wake up the fids this morning I did stop at Publix to grab milk and some twofers. Saw another Christmas magazine!—a welcome sign since the weather since Irma cleared has gone back to hot. And Alice and Ken came to visit tonight, which was sweet, and we have been "lifted up" by messages of love and prayers from friends and family on Facebook.
We shall see what tomorrow brings. Please God that it is something hopeful.