My purse rattles with so many drugs as I reach in and pull them out, adding to the growing pharmacy on our dresser. A flow chart maps out which drugs are given when, what can’t be given with what, what requires water and food, what will make him nauseous, what will make him not nauseous… I look over and he is asleep again, next to him is his incentive spectrometer, which is supposed to incentivize him to breath deeply into his lungs. In the corner are his crutches and a crumpled ACE bandage. How quickly things can go from running shoes and climbers chalk strewn everywhere, to this.
Last Friday I found myself back where I was born. Not just the city, I found myself back in the exact hospital. I found myself at Northwest Hospital sitting in the diagnostics waiting room waiting to find out if Kyle had pulmonary embolism. It had already been a long day, which actually started out the night before when we visited urgent care, yet again, because Kyle’s back had gone into spasms. Since Kyle’s back goes into spasms about once a year we weren’t surprised, just in need of some muscle relaxers. The doctor agreed and sent us home with some. Which did nothing whatsoever for his pain. We spent a harrowing night awake, Kyle trying to sleep sitting up, confused and perplexed about his situation. The next day we went to a chiropractor who took one look at Kyle and said he was in too much pain to treat. He sent us to a spine specialist who said it could be a herniated disk and prescribed Kyle a steroid pack. Then later that day we visited his knee doctor for a routine checkup following the surgery Kyle had the week before on his torn meniscus (see the previous post). After witnessing Kyle’s pain for a couple of minutes the knee doctor informed us he didn’t think it was back spasms at all. He thought it was a pulmonary embolism, or a blood clot in his lungs and he wanted us to go to the hospital right away to get a CT scan. That doctor and that suggestion likely saved Kyle’s life, or at least kept it from being terribly altered.
Is there anything more terrifying than hearing phrases you have been taught to fear your whole life applied to you, or in my case a loved one? Words like blood clot, life threatening, and infarction of the lung tissue. When a nurse and a doctor returned to the waiting room to tell us the news I knew it couldn’t be good. Kyle was taken down to the ER where his initial treatment for his pulmonary embolism began. His blood clot. Saying it aloud, thinking it, realizing it is a real thing continues to scare me.
In the ER he was visited by a bevy of nurses and specialists, many of them rolling around giant machines to take ultrasounds, x-rays, blood samples, to give pain killers and blood thinners. None of the nurses that visited seemed to have any idea what was going on with him. Many of them would look at his knee and see that it had been operated on but then notice his labored breathing and a look of complete confusion would cross their face. Eventually we were taken to the fifth floor. My hope was that the higher up in the hospital you are the less serious your situation is and that seemed to be true. We spent a night in the hospital (comfortable for him because the beds prop you up nicely, uncomfortable for me because the cot had a serious bump right in the middle of it) and to our amazement were discharged the next day with a fast acting blood thinner that he could take at home.
And so begins a six month recovery with hopefully less bumps in it than we have had in the last few weeks. I can see fear, frustration, confusion, and anger in Kyle’s face from time to time as he struggles to stay positive and fight his way back towards health, towards all of our goals and hopes and dreams. Why these things happened to Kyle I do not know, so I just hold on to a quote from one of my favorite trilogies:
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “And so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” -JRR Tolkien
I don’t try to understand why, instead I am trying to open new doors and find alternative ways to spend this new time given to us.