Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I know what it is!

I have figured out why I have so many issues with the food here. Part of the problem is that it's mass-produced hospital food. But I've had dorm food for the past six years, so I should be generally used to it. The food's main deterrent for me is that everything is packed with sodium. Yesterday, I ordered oatmeal for breakfast thinking, "How can you mess up oatmeal?" There was so much salt in it I actually started gagging. I tried adding brown sugar to cancel it out, but oddly enough, that made the flavor worse. See, my family has never used salt in cooking. Well, we have never added salt -- many foods and marinades already have salt. So I can't stand added sodium. And now is not the time to try and force my taste buds to acquire a liking for salt. (Although I have a problematic passion for Baked Lays.) I am glad, though, that I solved that issue. (p.s., there might be a difference between sodium and salt, but I'm not sure and don't feel like researching the distinction. Thanks.)

I am stilling chilling out in my hospital room. My white blood cell count has bounded up to 0.3. The cells are growing, which is good, but they are being pokey, which is tedious. At least they have the right idea. I think all other counts are decent. I did some squats today to try and keep my legs in shape, and I didn't pass out, so that's exciting. Hoorah red blood. Ooh, also: I forgot to follow up on this. My doctor removed my catheter on Sunday. Correction: He yanked it out of my chest. He loosened it up a little around my collarbone, cut the sutures that were holding it in place, held onto the tubes with both hands, and pulled the tube with all of his strength. And out it came. I still have a bandage over the hole, but I think I'll be able to remove it tomorrow or Friday. I also kept the catheter, so don't worry, everyone will be able to get a good look. And no, it's not infectious. I checked. Now I just have an IV poking out of the top of my left hand, but it'll come out when I leave the hospital. Otherwise, just playing the Waiting Game, thinking happy white blood cell thoughts! and Happy Hump Day. Peace.

Monday, July 16, 2007

I think I shall procrastinate some more.

I have exciting news! The doctors have determined which bacterium has invaded my bloodstream. The gram negative rod causing all the worry is none other than E. coli. Aah, E. coli, what a strange relationship I have had with you over the past ten months. Coincidentally, it was one of the main organisms, along with staph, that I studied in my infectious diseases class. And now here I am, with both a staph and an e. coli infection. How's that for a strange twist? My friend suggested, and I agree, that I should get extra credit in my science class. But everything seems to be well under control. The antibiotics are doing their thing, and I feel pretty good. Hopefully I will be out of here by the end of the week. Hopefully.

Speaking of strange twists, here's a good one: Let's say a person, any old person, is attending a fairly large, generic university. Now let's say this person finds out he or she has a fast-growing, deadly illness. There is hope for this person, but only if he or she receives treatment for the disease immediately. So this person, through no fault of his or her own, is forced to take a leave of absence from said university. Unfortunately, this person found out about the illness at the most inopportune of times: one week before finals. Our valiant hero requests incompletes from three teachers whose classes had yet to be completed. The teachers graciously grant the request for incompletes, giving the person One Year to turn in the assignments.

Our hero leaves the university with a heavy heart and an uncertain future. Will the treatment be successful? Will our hero be able to return to school next year? Will our hero ever be able to return to school?

Flash-forward six months. Our hero has been told he or she will be able to return to the university in the fall. Sometimes this fact is the only thing that helps our hero through the trials (and pain) he or she has been enduring. But then, a snag! Our hero's insurance provider unexpectedly changes. Suddenly, the Hospital where our hero is being treated is no longer "in network." Concerns are raised about expenses, affordability, and whether or not our hero will actually be able to return to the beloved university. Our hero's strong parents work hard, make many phone calls with many hours spent on hold, and eventually figure out a solution to the insurance problem.

But then, another snag! A few short weeks later, our dear hero is informed that he or she has not received any financial aid from the university for the upcoming school year. "But why?" our hero queries. "Because you have three outstanding incompletes from last year and no grades from second semester," replies the questioned. "But they were wholly unavoidable." "Then appeal the decision." And so the decision is appealed. A formidable letter is sent, both from our hero and from our hero's Doctor, clearly stating the medical necessity of leaving the university. Assurances are sent back that the case is being reviewed and the outcome looks optimistic. And thank goodness, for once again fiscal questions had arisen regarding returning to the university.

And then our hero receives a phone call: "It looks like they won't fully review your case and grant you aid until your grades have been resolved. So, finish up your two final papers and your final exam, and we'll be all set!" Our hero is shocked. "But I'm still in the middle of treatment; I won't be able to finish my assignments until I get back to school." "Well then, you probably won't get any aid for a while. But make sure you pay your tuition by the deadline, August 16." Now what? Our hero is left with no choice but to try and write two papers and establish a timeline for the one exam as soon as possible, even though our hero had been under the impression he or she had until December 2007 to finalize the grades. Now, ordinarily, our hero would have no trouble completing these tasks. He or she is, however, also dealing with certain variables. Variables such as still undergoing treatment for a deadly illness. Variables such as unavoidable, debilitating infections. Variables such as not being able to reach a post office and teachers going on vacation. And with the tuition deadline fast approaching, our hero still doesn't understand why the nice people who grant aid don't understand that this is an extraordinary situation, and the incompletes really were unavoidable.

Frustration. Money. Business. Drugs. Insurance. Money. Fear. E. coli. Will our hero prevail against the odds? Will the papers miraculously be completed? Or will the nice people who grant aid experience a burst of understanding and review our hero's appeal and grant aid now? Stay tuned for the continuation and resolution of our hero's saga. Also, if you'd like to share your thoughts, comments, or write your own ending, e-mail me, the objective narrator, anytime at

Seriously. If commenting here isn't your thing, I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

My B. read the bottom post first.

I guess I shouldn't have blogged so early because I already have an update that can't wait until tomorrow. According to the doc, two new cultures have grown a different bacteria. I already knew about the gram-negative rod, but now they seem to have found gram-positive cocci! Hoorah! And the cocci (so-called because they are round) showed up in two different culture bottles, so they know it's for real. They think it is one of the many variants of staph. Now, I've gone on and on about how catheter sites are perfect breeding grounds for bacteria, specifically staph infections. I was all uptight about keeping mine clean and dry and whatever. But now it's gone and gotten itself infected. The site doesn't look or feel infected, but I guess if the doctor says there's staph there, then, well, there must be staph there. So what this means for me: They are removing my line! That's right. Today (possibly tomorrow). The doctor is going to come in and literally pull it out of my chest. I am experiencing a variety of emotions right now. I thought I would be overjoyed when this day came. I sort of thought its removal would symbolize my completion of chemotherapy, but clearly that isn't happening. Also, I've had this thing hanging from me for seven months now. I've grown accustomed to seeing the bulge above my right collarbone, to occasionally poking it when I got bored, to cursing it when I wanted to wear a low-cut shirt. But hey, now I'll be able to shower!! I'll let everyone know how the extraction goes, don't worry. Also, there may be more updates as the day progresses. It's just that type of day. Peace out.

I had a..... weird? dream last night.

Yes, friends, I am still alive. And kicking. But first my dream: so, there were many parts, but the main one I remember is running into a guy I knew/know, and I was crying. He held me and said something like, "Here, feel my platelets going into you." It sounds creepy, but it wasn't. Anyway, we started kissing, and I was feeling better until the guy I had been kissing earlier ran by and saw us. So I got up and ran after him. There was a lot of running in this dream. But at least I got platelets? Anyway, I woke up sort of sad because it was just a dream, and I hadn't actually kissed two (possibly three) guys last night. Haha.

Anyway, so I am in the hospital. On Friday, when my infection first showed itself and I was admitted to the hospital, my white blood cell count was 0.1. My platelet count was 2, and it should be over 150. My hemoglobin was 7.0, when it should normally be over 11.5. I don't remember exactly what the hemoglobin measures, but it's the main determinant for receiving blood. Anyway, my blood was quickly running out. I received an antibiotic while I was in clinic, waiting for a bed. Once I was admitted, I received two units of red blood cells, and that evening, I received two units of platelets. I also went for a chest x-ray and a CT scan, to check for "spontaneous bleeding" on my brain. Luckily, that test came back negative.

When you come in to the hospital because of an infection, the first thing the doctors do is order blood cultures drawn. Basically, the lab techs come and draw blood into specially cultured liquids in which bacteria can grow. And bacteria certainly grew! I found out yesterday that one of my cultures had grown. My doctor confirmed for me that I did have bacteria floating around in my blood stream, which is bad, and that those bacteria are specifically gram-negative rods, which is really bad. Now, I'm not going to lie, I was kind of excited when he told me that because I was like, "I know what those are!" Once again the biology class, whose exam I'm supposed to be studying for, came in handy. Basically, gram-negative rod bacteria are rod-shaped, they stain either purple or pink (I don't remember which) in the Gram stain, and they are more virulent than gram-positive ones. They won't know exactly what the bacteria is until they let it grow some more and do more staining.

The good news is that I am responding well to the antibiotic. I haven't had a fever in over 24 hours, and I feel much better. I also received two more units of blood yesterday, so I am back to --relative-- normalcy! At least I'm not getting dizzy anymore. But now comes the dreaded waiting. Once again, I probably won't be out of here for a while. Not only are my white blood cells too low, but now I have an actual infection, and my doctors will want to be certain that it's gone. I don't know how long that could take. Hopefully not too, but we'll see what happens. Either way, I'm doing better now, and that's the important part. Stay tuned tomorrow for an update on the ongoing saga of the ridiculousness of bureaucracy! Pax.