I had thought I was doing so well until my temperature hurdled the threshold for contacting the hospital. I have a little red book which gives a list of things to look out for with strict instructions to contact the Cancer Care and Haematology Unit (or the Cancer Ward at the Churchill if outside “office hours”) should my temperature go over 37.5 degrees (or below 36 degrees). Mine was 38.8 degrees and my face was impersonating a beetroot.
A little while later a friend was taking us to A&E at SMH and I can tell you that the fast-track pass (more correctly the Chemo Alert Card) really works – I am not gloating (although it was nice to avoid the Saturday evening masses who were just starting to come in). It is merely an indicator of how seriously infections in chemo patients are taken, intravenous antibiotics need to be given within an hour .
So in for a quick check of my obs (my vital signs – pulse, blood pressure etc.) and then down to a side room to have bloods taken. A nurse turned up and made holes in me eventually extracting enough of the red stuff which went off for analysis. When the cannula went in it was clear I wasn’t going to leave any time soon. Over the next few hours I was given three different intravenous antibiotics.
I was wheeled down to x-ray for a quick picture. I had the luxury of lying on a trolley (not as bad as it sounds, quite comfortable but a bit narrow) but I felt sorry for Liz who was sitting on a hard chair. Unfortunately there were no beds available in the hospital – when I say beds I mean beds on their own, not unocccupied beds in wards, so we agreed that Liz should get a taxi home. Unfortunately it clashed with the time Saturday night revellers were being wheelbarrowed out of town. A little time later I was told that a bed had appeared.
I was wheeled down to a ward which turned out to be the one adjacent to the one our daughter was in last summer and which shared an outside terrace which we used to go and sit on, once she started to improve. I remember walking down to the end of her ward and looking down into this ward and now I was in it!
I caught a couple of hours sleep before breakfast appeared and the last bag of antibiotic was dribbled into my arm. Regular obs and a check on blood sugar showed an improvement from last night. The blood test results were pretty much what would be expected at this stage in the chemo cycle – neutrophils (hey another new word to add to my lexicon) notable by their absence.
When in a side ward I felt in a world of my own, was there anybody there outside the room or was I the entire cosmos? In the side room in A&E there was activity and noise outside the curtain; in the side-ward it was much more remote with just a ticking clock marking the passage of time. People briefly came and went, all good humoured and helpful, but when they left the room did they still exist? Was time passing for them at the same rate as for me? “I’ll come and take your blood in a minute” was never a minute. At least the student midwife who looked after me at one point had heard of The Duckings Trust (no I am not pregnant, working on the wards is part of their training. Mind you the fact that I have been fitted in to my consultant’s breast clinic so as to be at SMH and with the hormone therapy reducing my testosterone I might start getting worried).
Just after lunch I got the news that I could go home, taking oral antibiotics with me. The cannula was removed (“Don’t do any heavy lifting with that arm otherwise it will bleed”) and I summoned a chariot. I left the side ward and had the confirmation that I needed – life was continuing outside with the people who had come in and out (and at the same pace as it was for me).
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