Saturday, August 25, 2012

Chemo IV with a dramatic interlude

How my hands would look 
if Laura didn't exist.
Photo by dawn pavli.
Chemo today with Padmatara. We didn't bring the whole house of food, movies, electronics and books. We were proud. And unlike what you might expect, I was kind of looking forward to it, or at least not dreading it. Because I am now more than halfway done with chemo. Two more infusions, six more weeks 'til the last one - Oct 5.

David was in good form. During
Chemo 5, he'll be cycling in Tuscany, but then he'll be back for my last one. PT and I were marveling at how he gets up at 5:00am on workdays to go to the gym. Could we ever do something like that? PT said it's supposed to take three months to establish a habit...I got inspired and signed up for a 7 day free trial at his very gay gym on Market street!

Flyer in bathroom at Grub
There wasn't a private room available, so we ended up in the group room (there are three chairs in it) with just one other person who was asleep. At some point she left and Griz and his wife came in. They were probably in their 60's (70's? - I don't know). He was a big guy, tall, and referred to himself as "an old hippy." He was the friendliest other patient I've come across, at first, but then I think his Benadryl kicked in and he didn't talk much. And, we were watching a movie (Son of the Bride, Argentina, it was pretty good).

David takes his time putting the needle in my hand. He wraps a heating pad around my forearm for around 10 minutes. He touches the vein and follows it with his finger a few times (not sure what he's doing there!), taps the vein, he's very slow and methodical which I REALLY APPRECIATE. Others just stick the needle in. As I may have mentioned, I had a big bruise on my hand for about two weeks after the last chemo.

I mentioned to Griz's nurse how nice everyone in oncology is. She said she had worked in a lot of places and that people in Kaiser oncology seem the happiest and most satisfied with their jobs that she had met.

A lot going on behind this curtain
After PT went down to the cafe to get us an egg salad sandwich, Griz slumped over in his chair and, according to the alarmed nurse who then yelled "Help!",  stopped breathing. He had no pulse.

Suddenly four more people appeared, including David and Dr. Nelson. Apologies to those of you who haven't seen the show Nurse Jackie. I feel that I refer to it frequently. It is my main experience, if I may call it that, of hospitals. The main difference this time was how calm the folks on the show are in an emergency. Of course their context is an emergency room. But Dr. Nelson seemed super stressed out. They don't see this kind of thing very often in the infusion center.

I looked outside the door and his wife was standing there looking completely freaked out and sad. Our welled up eyes met for a few long moments, then someone led her out of the room.

They closed the curtain between Griz and I so all I could see was the feet of the people closest to the curtain. But there were a lot of different voices over there, paramedics showed up, then the fire department. Before that though Dr. Nelson said several times, He's not breathing, we need to get him on the floor [for CPR]. He's not breathing, we need to get him on the floor. At that point, there were only two somewhat diminutive women there, and he was a huge guy (172 kilos [380 lbs] as someone mentioned later), so there was no way they could move him. Then they couldn't find the epinephrine! (Apparently there had been a drill the week before and someone hadn't put it back.) Then they couldn't find the mask that went with the oxygen bag. I'm sure Kaiser's lawyers would be very unhappy that I am writing this. They did find the stuff very quickly!

Fried egg flower
Once everything was found and the burly guys showed up, they gave him the epinephrine and he started breathing again. All these different voices kept saying,  "What's his name?" Griz's nurse: "Griz". Then: "Mr. Griz, you're OK, do you know where you are?" Griz's nurse: "Miller, his last name is Miller." "Mr. Miller, Can you hear me?" He was still very groggy from Benadryl.

It was all over in about 20 minutes and the room was empty. Four different people (Dr. Nelson, Dr. Lui, David, and someone else I can't remember) came up to me at various times, after the main crisis was over, and asked if I was OK. I was alone on the other side of the curtain with tears welling up in my eyes. I felt calm, but there was an enormous amount of stress I was listening to, and Griz being pretty much dead for a while and the nurses searching for the things they needed to help him was kind of upsetting. And apparently they wouldn't let PT back in (there was no room for another person anyway.) Someone then went out there and told her what happened and let her back in.

acupuncture hand
*            *             *
Acupuncture was great. Misha's been putting a lot of needles in my feet, which sends all this energy pulsing through my feet, and I went into a very deep sleep.

*            *             *

Dr. Nelson didn't write me back yet about travel. I was going to buy my ticket to Mexico anyway on Friday but I guess I'll wait 'til Monday. The retreat in Mexico starts 3 1/2 weeks after I finish chemo...

How my hands look 
because of Laura. 
Photo by Dawn Pavli.


  1. I think everyone who starts IVs or draws blood has their own little good-luck ritual. Mine is to say, "Good vein! Beautiful vein! I know you're in there--come out, come out so we can admire you!" And I stroke the area and send metta. The hot pack is good, too.

    That's a scary thing, hearing activity of a dire nature behind a screen. Must have been a poignant moment for you, witnessing it. And probably scared the crap out of poor Padmatara for a little while!

    I walked in on a whole team of people doing CPR on my aunt. I was in scrubs, having heard a 'code blue' over the PA in the nursery where I worked, and my uncle had just popped in to say Aunt Mickey had been admitted. I just knew....and all you can really do is send love, but that's not insignificant.

  2. Sorry to hear you've got cancer. I really enjoyed our volleyball games at last years convention. I hope that the people taking care of you are sensitive, give you the respect you deserve, and that you come through it all and get better.

    You are In my thoughts!

    Lots of love,