Chasing my Pot 'o Gold

Against better judgment I'm writing this week. The question was many pessimistic, negative posts I can write before it sucks for me (by which time it has long sucked for you)  I somehow convinced myself that this was an update not just bitching. Here goes:

Last week was as tough a week as I've had. My entire right side hurt because of the new liver drain they put in. I was constantly exhausted to the point of not moving for hours, and then when I needed to only for short trips. Walking the steps felting like running a marathon (and yes I've run a few marathons.)  On top of all this, I had my 24-hour IV pump. I got the carry the large new pump in a fanny pack. Home Health Care stopped by a couple of times, but I was primarily responsible for maintaining the pump.

The Big Effing Pot of Gold at the end of the hospital stay and awful week was Sunday night, when the IV would be disconnected, my port deaccessed, and my life would be like it was before this whole ordeal started.

Late Saturday afternoon after a very nice nap, I took my temperature: 103.2. Oh. shit- on the weekend that means an automatic emergency room visit. Another measurement: Shit. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. We all packed clothes, packed in the car, and went to the ER, they dropped me of to handle my stuff, and she took the boys to my in-laws. I Got into the ER, but with my run of you luck, you know I wasn't going home. On Saturday night I was admitted to the hospital again.

I was moved to the IMCU spent Saturday night talking to a lot of new people, none of which knew anything about my last stay here a week ago- so there was a lot of 'splaining to do, not sure it helpful. The most peculiar thing was that even though no one could tell me a thing about what was going on with me, they could all tell me with certainty that I wasn't going home for at least several days...which is bullshit.

I spent Sunday doing nothing, literally nothing. For the people in these places, the value of time is lost. None of the doctors, or nurses or anyone cares- what's a day? waste a day, why not, I've got plenty. For someone on the clock like me, a day is precious, precious gift. A full day of life spent in the IMCU was a tragic loss. I did, however, over the course of the day, get to a see one familiar face and he outlined a game plan. Get a biopsy, then make a plan.

I woke up Monday, and they wheeled me out for the biopsy. By the time I returned to my room I had another liver drain and another little sack of bile that I get to carry around with me every day. Apparently, the aspiration returned some pus, so that Dr. thought is was best drain me again. I'm not sure if this process ends when the drain tube company goes out business or they run out liver to drain.

So here we are, in the hospital indefinitely, at the whim of men (and women) who don't understand the value of time. We do not seem to have a plan to treat whatever is going on with me. We do not seem to know what is going with me.

This one has taken a lot out of me.


History May Not Repeat Itself, But It Rhymes

Let’s just jump in and get you updated. Last Friday morning, after a long week of fairly hard work (both physical and mental), I dragged myself out of bed and got ready to go to work. I went downstairs, had a seat and started having kind of attack- I started shaking, my breathing was labored and uneven, I lost color, was exhausted, I became a little disoriented, and I started throwing up. Normally, that’s something I might wait out for thirty minutes or so, then head on into work. Thankfully, in a rare moment of common sense, I asked Denise to take me to the doctor. Once I got there, they got me hooked up to an IV and administered whatever, started running labs, and I fell asleep almost immediately. When I woke, I was still tired, but otherwise fine.

The doctor came out a few minutes later and had the gall to tell me that he was admitting me to the hospital, on a Friday! After having worked a hard week, I was looking forward to that weekend at home with the family. I argued my case, but lost. I had an awful feeling about this hospital admission. It was only supposed to be for the day- but the last time something like this happened was last Fall in Houston. You may recall that I was supposed to go into the hospital for a day, and came out almost a month later and 35 lbs lighter. I also got the parting gift of all sorts of new hardware inside and outside of my body. It’s fair to say that I didn’t want to do this. I actually considered making a run for it, but D was driving so we ended up at the hospital. 

We arrived at the hospital, checked in, headed to the room, got my gown on, and before I could get my non-slip socks on, a crew of folks bum-rushed the room, and said “we’re going to ICU…now.” Which is fine by me because (not to sound too callous but) the customer service is better, as is the information you get. Once they got me plugged into all of the sensors, probes, monitors, and collected some data, and get some lab results, they made the call – sepsis. Yes, ladies and gents, for the second time in less than a year, I was in an ICU fighting for my life (dramatic, huh?) against my own body. Sepsis is pretty serious business. As with last Fall, however, after a couple of hours of working all manner of IV meds and administering some pressors, they were able to stabilize me. The funny thing is that in both cases, I don’t remember feeling particularly bad during the “fight for life”, in fact, I think I was texting people this time around. 

After they got me stabilized, they turned their attention to finding the infection. They sent all of my cultures off to a remote lab, but naturally it’s the weekend, so there’s no telling when those are coming back. We did however, have time for a CT scan to see if it could tell us anything. It did. The apparent source of my problem is an abscess in my liver. It’s basically a portion of tumor that the chemo has killed. What was left behind are necrotic cells, a pocket of air, and about 40 cc’s of fluid- prime breeding ground for an infection. 

On Sunday they went in and installed another liver drain (I’ve got a pair now!)  to drain the air and fluid. They sent some samples off for labs, and when they came back we found that I’ve got some form of gram-negative bacteria running around in there. Fortunately, there exists just the right antibiotic to treat my specific bacteria. Story over, we’ve got a diagnosis, a course of treatment, and I’m ready to go home, right? Wrong.

Monday: Sorry, you can’t go home, we’re starting the IV antibiotic that will fix you. For the next fourteen days you’ll get it every eight hours, and each dose runs about four hours. (Uh…excuse me? IV antibiotics? Fourteen days? Starting now?)

Tuesday: Sorry, you can’t go home, but we’ll let you out of ICU. How do you like your new antibiotics (giggles).

Wednesday: Sorry, you can’t go home (we just like saying that). But when you do, the deal still stands with the antibiotics- It’s an IV treatment for twelve days, every eight hours, four-hour doses. We’ll get you an IV pole and infusion pump. Don’t plan on leaving your house. (Uh…excuse me?)

Thursday: OK, we’ll let you go home, and since we’re in a generous mood, we might just hook you up to this new-fangled portable IV pump that runs for 24 hours. That will allow you to leave the house from time to time- but there’s a catch, you have to wear a large fanny pack. Oh, and we’re sending home health care workers to your house every day.

The final accounting for this 1-day hospital visit: 7 days in the hospital, 5 days in the ICU, and 6 lbs. lost. Not as bad as Houston, but not good. 

I woke up Friday morning in my own bed. Oh, the pure and utter joy of relaxing in the bed, enjoying memories of being reunited with the family the night before, as well as the familiar sights and sounds of the Rushing house. Later in the morning, I joined the conference call for the Design Studio Board Meeting. What a breath of fresh air- and literally the first time in a week I’ve spoken with people who aren’t in the medical field or related to me. As our Chairman was in the process of noting who was in the room, who was going to miss this meeting, and who was on call, he introduced me: “and from the small grey box on the table, we have our Executive Director, Christian Rushing”. To which I replied “Mr. Chairman if you refer to me as being in a small grey box again, we’re going to have a problem”. Hilarity ensued. (queue the laugh track).

This weekend I’ve been at home enjoying being with the family, wearing my fanny pack of IV chemicals, and meeting with a new home health care nurse every day. I’ve had some pain from my new liver drain, some general soreness, and considerable fatigue. On the bright side, each of those issues seem to be trending better. I now get to return from the bizarro-land that is American medicine, and resume LIFE. I’m not completely out of the woods, but things seem to be looking up. I’ve got the next 8 days to balance work and rest, and I’m going to try to try to maintain a balance…seriously…I mean it. 

I love ya’ll, and I hope you’re all well and enjoying your lives. Every note, text, email, and card you send is a blessing, and is genuinely appreciated (prayers especially). Ya'll are the best group of friends a man could ever ask for- I'm blessed indeed. So, until next time, ya’ll be good. 

Tune for the week. A very tough call, but in the end it’s got be something that expresses how angry I was for most of the week, and with a title like Waiting Room, the title also touches on the value of time. 


A Tale of Two Cities (yes, I know it's been done)

A problem that’s been on my mind this week is how newcomers to the blog experience it for the first time. For example, in last week’s post, I wrote about a tough stretch I went through- one could argue that I came across in a bitter, negative tone. If that’s the first post that someone reads, that’s going to be their first impression of me- that I’m a bitter, crotchety old cancer patient. This is at odds with the fact that I try to always express a positive perspective, because that’s who I am. In that way, as people get introduced to the blog, they have an understanding of the way I’m approaching the rest of my life. 

The downside to that approach is that those of you who have followed for me a while would quickly get bored with all of the happiness. Also, it wouldn’t be a true representation of life- everyone has up downs, whether they have cancer or not. It’s a conundrum. I haven’t figured out the answer yet, so you’ve wasted two paragraphs of your time on something that doesn’t have a conclusion. Sorry about that. 

You may recall from a post a couple of weeks ago, that I was the proud recipient of a personally addressed and autographed album from my favorite musician, the one and only Noel Gallagher. There is more to this story. In the telling of this story, I only use first names. It’s tough to tell who likes or doesn’t like having their business put all over the place. There is, however, one of a certain celebrity whose positive ID is crucial to the telling of the sorry, so I must apologize to him.

When I was a freshman at UNM, my fraternity brother Smiley was a senior. As an aside he was an architecture major and one of the influences that pushed me into the field. To his eternal credit he left the architecture world and now practices law in Boston. In addition to his design and professional prowess, Smiley is also a talented musician. It is because of his musical acquaintances that the Noel connection was made.

Through his music, Smiley made Steve’s acquaintance. Steve is a multi-talented, Grammy Award winning house music vocalist, and by accounts an all around top guy. He is also buddies with a gent named Neil (and Noel, I believe). Neil happens to be Noel’s Tour Manager. One day as Smiley and Steve were chatting, he shared my story, my hero-worship of Noel, and passed along one of my Noel-centric blog posts. Being an awesome guy, Steve set things in motion with Neil and Noel, and the result is my priceless personalized, autographed album from The Man. What can you say- all of these guys all have tremendous demands on their time. That they would pause to read some random stranger’s blog and make time to do something meaningful speaks volumes about the quality of their character.

Generally speaking, Noel makes it to our part of the globe once every couple of years. Whenever he’s close, I go. I never miss anything in the Southeast. I also go further afield when the spirit moves (see Oasis at Madison Square Garden in 2005.) What a coincidence that two weeks after I got the signed album, he started his North American tour with back to back shows at The Tabernacle in Atlanta, and the Ryman in Nashville. True to form, I went to both. Friday night I went with my wife, a few of members of the circle, and my youngest brother. Saturday night it was just me and my oldest- his first ever concert.  

Friday afternoon before I left Chattanooga, Smiley surprised me with a text that had Neil’s phone number in it. When we got to Atlanta I gave him a call and we arranged to meet before the show so I could shake his hand and thank him for the album. He’s a super nice guy that somehow found the time to chat with a stranger an hour before the opening of the tour he’s managing. We chatted about our friends, results of the afternoon football (soccer), the start of the tour, and the fact that his father-in-law is actually a Birmingham City legend (KRO!!). I thanked him for looking out for me, and asked him to pass along my thanks to Noel. The show was really good, especially considering it was the first night. The set list was solid (although I missed “Do the Damage”). Somewhat surprisingly, he played as many Oasis tunes as he did those of NGHFB (not that I’m complaining). The outstanding song of the night was The Mexican, it came along at the perfect time, was well executed, and loud.   

He doesn't know that it'll never get better than his first concert.
Saturday morning I cruised back up to Chattanooga, grabbed the boy and headed for Music City. Just before the show, Neil texted me and we met out in the lobby. After making introductions, he presented the boy with a set list that Noel had personally signed in honor of his first concert (I got one too). It was another fantastic gesture from these fantastic people. Unbeknownst to us, however, it was a tough night for Noel as one of his close friends died from cancer that afternoon. It wasn’t until he dedicated an exceptional version of “Half the World Away” to Ms. Aherne that I understood he was playing with a heavy heart. 

...and there you have it...
Unfortunately for the boy, he’s now pretty much ruined on concerts for the rest of his life. To wit: few venues measure up to the Ryman as a place to see a show; he’ll probably never again get a signed set list from the artist just before the show; and given the dwindling number of real rock stars, the quality of the performer will be tough to match.

To borrow his words, the last of a dying breed.
So that’s pretty much it, kids. The moral of the story: sometimes people are awesome. In this case the awesome people are named Smiley, Steve, Neil and Noel. (and good lord, if I’ve missed anyone, somebody let me know.) I’ve got my hands full for the next two weeks, so I may have to take some time off from the blog. In the meantime, ya’ll be good, and know I love you.

Music of the week: Half the World Away, Days Go By, The Mexican