They asked me on my final chemo if I wanted to part with the hardware in my arm. I decided that I should probably keep it a bit longer, just in case I ended up in hospital. Then maybe since I was meant to have an MRI in a month, I should leave it in for then too. It’s a bit annoying – not being able to shower/bath properly, not able to swim, having to go in to get it redressed every 2 weeks, but I figured it was worth holding onto it for a little longer.
Well, when my temperature went above 38 degrees on Saturday night (day 11) and I took myself to hospital, I was rather grateful to still have my PICC line. All hail the PICC line. So I was straight on to some IV antibiotics pretty much as soon as I was taken in, I finally managed to hunt down some paracetamol to get the temperature down (it always amazes me that nurses can’t give paracetamol, a doctor has to be asked to prescribe it), then I settled in for the good old long night in A&E. I got to there at around 8:30pm and got into a bed pretty quickly. Then they moved me around to a room with a door to shut me off from the germs. Bloods taken, covid swab, ECG. I was zoomed down the hallway for a chest xray, where I got to catch up with my favourite A&E radiographer (‘hey, I remember you!’). Then I got to catch up with a doctor who I really like (‘I met you in the middle of the night quite a few weeks ago…’). We were both surprised to see my neutrophils were in fact 1. Which is low, but not ‘super scary’ low like it’s been the other times. I wasn’t technically neutropenic (just).
So basically, Clarence and I just wanted to get back in and see my mates, so we orchestrated this situation where I’d get a temperature, so we could have an adventure…
I told my doc that I’d like to be home by Wednesday please though, because my parents turn up on Thursday. She said right, yeah, let’s do everything we can. My haemoglobin was a bit low, so a transfusion was on the cards for the next day. She was honestly so awesome. She was all clued up on my history (part from remembering but I imagine part from reading my file too) and I felt like she had everything sorted. Plus, it felt like seeing a friend, and in a time when you can’t have visitors (not that I would have anyway), those interactions make a huge difference.
I tried to doze between about midnight and 2am, in the incredibly uncomfortable A&E ‘beds’, around people popping in for one thing or the other, or loud announcements being made over the radio. A voice came over the intercom, reaching into my head saying that for all non emergencies, there would be an 8 hour wait in A&E. 8 hours… It was 2am.
I guess I was feeling grateful that I was an emergency…
Just after 2am, they came to tell me they’d found a bed for me in a ward; not in the usual Oncology ward T13 because they’d been closed after a Covid outbreak. The doctor had also requested a normal flu swab too, and protocol dictates that you have to be isolated until the results come in. So that combined with my neutrophils being low meant I was zooming up to my own private room on the 16th floor, looking out onto the BT tower. I managed to grab a couple of hours of sleep before they came in with my antibiotics at 6am.
On Sunday morning, I saw the consultant, who I hadn’t met before (that I remember, though that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve not met… I must say, people seem to remember me better than I remember them at least at first). I liked him immediately. Some people just have the right vibe, and he did. He basically said yes, good work for coming in, that was necessary. The morning’s blood test had shown my neutrophils were still going up (as expected, they’re usually trending up at this point), but my haemoglobin and platelets had gone down (perhaps due to the fluids they’d given me overnight, perhaps just chemo life). So they wanted me to have two (maybe three) packets of blood over the Sunday. Yep, cool.
He then said basically there are two options. Due to the fact I’m not actually neutropenic, they have no real reason to keep me in. So either I could stay for the transfusions, have a final bloods taken on the Monday morning, then go home (with some new antibiotics), or the other option would be to send me off after the blood on Sunday, though they’d still want me to come back in to check my bloods again just to make sure. I said I’ll do the extra time. Keep me in for one more night, check all is looking good, then off I’ll go after spending only two nights in hospital. Yes please.
Once again, I’m so grateful for the blood that someone(s) donated to me out of the good of their heart. I’d been told that in the US they pay people to donate blood (though people are telling me that’s not the case everywhere), whereas here, people just do it. A couple of nurses have also mentioned that there is never a shortage here, whereas in their home countries (which I know for at least one, and potentially both, was the Philippines), there are shortages more often than not, and if you need a blood transfusion you need to go and find someone (of the right blood type) who will give it to you. I honestly can’t get my head around how scary that must be – less so in my situation I guess, where the blood is helpful, but it’s likely my haemoglobin will come up again on its own, eventually. But what about emergency situations where someone has lost a lot of blood and needs some quickly… I’m always grateful for an individual giving me their blood but after these stories, I am also grateful that as a country, this hasn’t been an issue we’ve faced. Hopefully it will stay that way.
Anyway, my Sunday nurse is awesome, my HCA (Health Care Assistant) is super cool, my room has a TV in it for me to watch the Formula 1 on, there’s a fridge, though I have nothing to put in it (Clarence is still against going in). I feel ok, and it looks like I’ll be back home almost as soon as I left. Plus, they do a brilliant chicken salad here. I don’t want to jinx it by commenting on it being an easy stay, but certainly no complaints from me thus far.