Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Anchovies, In the Dining Room, with the Poison

Ok, so for the second time in my life anchovies have sent me to the hospital. And yet I don't hold this against them. Meanwhile I will never touch Cadburry chocolate again and that was a stomach flu, Cadburry bore no responsibility. But it was the last thing I ate and I have a sick memory of it. Now it could easily have been the broccoli and I have no problem vilifying broccoli, but I'm pretty sure it was the anchovies.

Wednesday night we had dinner at my house, there were five of us. Four of us partook in a dish of sauteed broccoli and anchovies. Don't knock it, it was delicious. Fortunately my mother-in-law didn't eat it and while she was spared what happened next, she ended up holding down the fort while the rest of us all went to hell. And that was not easy plus my house broke her toe. No really, it did.

I got hit first, because I have no immune system. Well it's just suppressed right now cause of the chemo. So when my body realized it had bacteria in it, I got violently ill. Well not violently ...yet, just suddenly. It was shocking, but I felt great for about 20 min later so I was like, ok no big deal. My parents get here and we call the onc on call at Sloan. He says, "it's not the chemo, it's probably just something she ate. Keep up her fluids. But if she can't stop you get her to the ER."

So I'm laying down and for the next hour every time my father walks into the room I go running to the bathroom to throw my guts up. I am finding this rather funny actually. Until I start to suspect that this might not be over as quickly as I thought. So I say, ok let's head to the ER. I am thinking to myself, I'm sure I'll benefit from a nice bag of saline. Had I made that decision just 20 minutes later my family would have had to call an ambulance.

I can not adequately explain what happened to my body between getting in the car and arriving at the ER. I am trying to figure out exactly how much to put on here because as honest as I enjoy being, I also don't want to horrify my audience. But the truth is that for the next 12 hours I had no control over my body, it did things I couldn't stop, medicine couldn't stop. I just had to wait until my body was hydrated and enough of the bacteria was out of me that I could some regain some control over my being.

I really don't know how I remained conscious through all of it, it was pretty insane. Think of the worst stomach bug you've ever had, multiply it by 1000 and you might come close to this. What made the experience so much worse was that the nurse that was assigned to me, who was about 12 years old, and couldn't wait to tell me that her name was also Jaime, thought our situation was "really gross" and literally did nothing to help us.

Now you guys know I love nurses, I think that are gods and goddesses and I have mad love and respect for them. So anything I say about this young woman is entirely about her and her alone. Now I don't know if it was because she was young or new, but she abandoned me and my husband to fend for ourselves for about 7 hours. It took her forever to give me an IV and then when she realized I had a port was going to find someone who can access it (that would have required I wait at least another hour) and I screamed at her, forget the port just give me the damn fluid.

She puts in my IV and it's awkward and she lectures me that I have to keep my arm perfectly straight. I am violently ill, my body is retching horribly but I need to understand that my arm has to stay perfectly straight. She is also in no rush to give me any of the meds the doctor is screaming that I need, cause he's really worried for me. But as much as he understands the situation, since he sent us someone who has no desire to carry out his orders, it is a fucking nightmare. My husband dealt with things that "in sickness and in health" totally doesn't cover. And in case you're wondering we did complain and holler and yelled and no one cared. It was insanity, and when we found out much later that they were worried that I had a parasite that they thought I might be in danger of spreading to others, it was even more shocking. The fact that we were left in charge, yeah we would have killed everyone in that part of the ER.

As all of this is happening we find out that now Sophia is throwing up back at home. So John now has to worry that what is happening to me is about to happen to his daughter. Fortunately she just threw up and she seems ok.

Finally there's a shift change and we meet Christine. Christine is horrified at my situation, she pushes the doc to give me more meds, she takes incredible care of me and she gets us everything we need. It is on her watch that I finally stabilize and I start to think, ok I'm going to get through this. By morning I feel great and foolishly think I'm on the other side, but it turns out I was only through phase 1, phase 2 would begin in about 24 hours. But since they had no intention of letting me go home, I was in the right place for that to happen.

John leaves to go home and get some sleep and my parents take over. John intended to come back after sleeping for a while but when he gets home and both he and his father get hit by the food poisoning. So now it's official, this isn't a bug it was something the 4 of us ate. John can't come back so my parents do an 18 hour shift with me while John is home battling the same demon and cleaning up after his daughter who is now sick again because after all she has it too. And my poor father-in-law, who ate the biggest portion, is pretty damn sick. The only difference between him and me is that he has more blood cells in his arsenal.

So after almost 24 hours in the ER I get moved to a holding area because there is no room available in the place upstairs that I need to go. Well they put me in the weirdest room I've ever seen. It has a metal door, nothing in it and this strange screen on the wall. I have no idea what this screen is for, it's not a TV and it can't be one of the things to look at x-rays because you'd need a ladder to reach it. I just keep waiting for the Exalted One to appear to tell me that the jewel on my hand is about to light up. It's a freaky fucking room yo.

So everyone has decided that the port would be better than the crappy IV, so they have to find the one nurse qualified to do it. In the insanity I forgot her name, but I love this woman. She has to try two needles because it's unclear which gauge the port needed, but I honestly didn't feel a thing. Plus as she's accessing the port (which is an oddly intimate experience, she's hovering over my right boob and I have to turn my head so as to not breath in her direction because the field must be sterile.) she says, "ok this room is crazy, let's get you a better one".

She gets me off the table and walks with her arm around me to this nice room with an awesome bed! I never give up this bed for the rest of my stay. When I wake up the next day, phase 2 has begun. Phase 2 is annoying, but I'll take it over phase 1. But it is frustrating me. No one will give me any meds and I'd like someone to explain why there are 3 drugs fighting my cancer, but I can only take one Imodium to stop my crippling diarrhea. I mean really? Maybe instead of ACS cancer walks, we need to raise more money in the fight to stop loose stool? WTF?

I'm furious. I tell John on Thurs. afternoon I'm done with Staten Island University Hospital, call Sloan. John is like, ok calm down and I snap. "Look if they don't help me soon, I'm putting on a diaper and I'm heading to Sloan. If that fucking astronaut can make it from Texas to Cape Canaveral, I can make it to the Upper East Side." The nurse (a new one, I've gone thru a million shifts at this point) hears me and calls for the doc. I am just tired of being told I'm so sick I have to stay in the hospital but not sick enough to have any medication. I finally see a doc who explains to me what they are waiting for. Basically the doctor tells me that the tool in the fight will be a nonstop diet of rice. And I should start to feel better by Sunday. I was like, what? Rice? Really?

But the doctor is nice and disarms me and I can't use my Astronaut line again. Grrr. The other problem that I'm having is that every doc that sees me is utterly fascinated by my cancer diagnosis. So they'll ask me "when did you symptoms start?" and I'll say "well I started throwing up at 9 pm Wed" and they'd say "oh no I mean the cancer symptoms?" I was really starting to get pissed off. Except for that one kid who came in to ask me some background questions. He was nice about it, felt bad for intruding and he really was afraid that if he upset me my Uncle Louis, who was standing behind him, was going to snap his neck. His questions I answered, I found him adorable.

On Friday night after waiting forever for an actual hospital room, they tell us that they are closing the holding ward and I have to go back to the ER. And they want to put me in the hallway. I am on isolation to protect myself and others, but it's ok to put me back in the ER. My family loses their minds and start screaming that I will sign myself out. So they get me a room in the ER and everyone who is stuck in a hallway wants to know what I the hell is wrong with the girl with the purple face who got someone thrown out of their room. My mother-in-law gets on the phone and gets us a room upstairs. While waiting for transport, Adam, the PA from the day I was diagnosed finds out I'm in the ER and comes running in.

"You look fantastic!!!" he yells. I love this guy, he's wonderful, he's caring, he's freaking out that I've been here for 2 days and still no room. He wants to know everything that Sloan is doing and he is happy. He's positive and he makes me feel good. I want to hug the hell out of him. And then I finally get to my room.

When I get upstairs I hear a nurse yell "Who the hell is this?" and I'm thinking great, I'm here 4 seconds and I'm already pissing everyone off. They literally shove me into an isolation room (my bed was too big it takes this adorable transporter and my dad to practically smash the door in to get the bed to fit). The nurses come to meet me and are totally confused as to why I am arriving with my own supplies. Since we had been left on our own John had scavenged for all the things we needed to survive and then while we were in holding we got nurses to steal stuff for us too. No really we did. The new nurse Christine (completely new Christine, not ER Christine) is like, "these are from ICU how the heck did ya get em?" I was like "look, it's a war zone down there."

The nurses are lovely and finally explain to me how vital it was for me to be isolated from people. And everyone who comes into my room has to wear a yellow smock and I have to have my own BP cuff and thermometer. And I'm def not allowed to leave the room. I sit with Christine for an hour going over my entire situation, all my drugs (that I have with me at all times and Christine can not believe that in 48 hours no pharmacist has gone thru these meds to make sure I didn't smuggle any narcotics in), my linens haven't been changed, they don't understand why no one wants to give me Imodium. I am furious because it's clear to me that I belonged here all along. These women know what they are doing, they run a tight ship, they are in charge of an entire ward of cancer patients who they need to care for and protect. And now I'm one of them and they are just shocked.

They are totally baffled that we want to make the bed and that my mother and husband are entirely prepared to take care of me. Then they start going over with me what is written in my chart and I understand why nothing has been making sense to me for two days. The doctors who are seeing me are telling me one thing and then writing the opposite on my chart. There were things that simply weren't true. And soon under the care of the women of the cancer ward, everything starts to get straightened out and that's when phase 2 starts to subside. This is not a coincidence. I spend two nights in my isolation room waiting for all of my toxicity tests to come back. My mom and I spend two nights bonding over PBS and a awesome Hoarders marathon. Mom: "OMG these people are nuts!"

Saturday night I find out I'm not toxic and all the precautions are over. I finally turn a corner and we're all agreed I can go home Sunday morning. I can't sleep cause all I can think about is playing with Sophia. I haven't seen her since Wednesday night and I hate that she's been sick without me. All I can think about is all the ways I want to hug her.

Well it's all over now and I'm totally fine. It was just a crazy ass 4 days. And I really did fold myself in half with the bed, fortunately John missed it, but I did kinda lay there jackknifed for a second laughing my ass off. My other favorite moment was the other night when my dad asked "what did the doctor say today?", "he said my magnesium was a little low, but he wasn't worried." Dad: "You know what has magnesium? Prunes." He wasn't joking, he actually thought I should eat a couple of prunes.

As bad as my week was, my husband's was a thousand times worse. Cause he had to deal with his wife, daughter and himself battling food poisoning. All while on his vacation and his reward is that he gets to go back to work tomorrow morning, bright and early. Ugh! And for the record after all he did this week, if he goes the rest of his life unable to sort mail, it's ok. I actually should never get mad at him again, but that's not gonna happen. But I figure I'll post it here so there's a record of it he can refer to and say "You see, you even said it yourself Jaime." He deserves it.


  1. Omy! I need to know, which SIUH is this? North or South??

  2. O boy...they have a new ER unit too...supposedly state of the art and all that jazz...