Freddy: Darling Elizabeth: Taffeta, darling. Freddy: Taffeta, sweetheart. Elizabeth: No, the dress is taffeta, it wrinkles so easily. Freddy: Oh. ~ Young Frankenstein
Rich and I have always loved that movie and that scene in particular. Whenever one of us is sick and we want to avoid passing on our germs, we use those phrases. And like the characters in the movie, touch elbows as the last resort of contact. Elbows it is now as we continue along.
Settling into our cozy room, that is the one glaring difference in the routines to date. Before we even get into the room, there are two doors to go through, each with its own hand sanitizer station.
Once in the little hallway of the stem cell unit, a thirty second hand wash is next. Then the gown and gloves go on. For now, no need for masks. But hugging and kissing is verboten. Where, during in-patient chemo, Rich and I would both squeeze onto his bed to watch a movie in the evenings, now his space is a sacred germ-free zone. Guests are not allowed to perch.
When you leave his room, gown and gloves come off and another 30 second hand wash is required. Sanitize again at each door. No transmittal of cooties from one hall to the next.
Life in a medical gown and rubber gloves makes for an interesting sleeping experience. Changing gloves throughout the day helps keep hands from getting prunelike.
Fresh flowers or live plants are not allowed, not only in our little room or little hallway, but on the 7th floor of the Lymphoma/Leukemia division as well. Food is limited to what is on the menu and thankfully it’s a very impressive menu! Sealed packaged foods, homemade food, cooked under the proper conditions, can be brought in as long as it has been cooked and eaten within twenty-four hours.
We are encouraged to waste food and disposable cups, plates, utensils with abandon. While it goes against the grain, the logic of it can’t be denied. As we continue to accept beneficial poisons, we also have to accept that they will remove Rich’s immune system and those proverbial starving kids in China won’t benefit from any other course of action in our efforts to keep any unwanted bacteria from forming. It’s important to eat what you can and try a little of everything so as to be sure to have food that will stay down and that you get enough calories. Leftovers are not allowed. A new drinking cup should be used every few hours to keep bacteria at bay.
The first leg of our isolated journey is behind us… magic potion #1 is complete and we’re cleared for potion #2. Three days of this and then we begin the last… magic potion #3.
Despite the restrictions, there is a nice life to this unit. There’s just the right mix of quiet and liveliness to allow for rest and stimulation in balance. The staff are all accommodating and work very hard to keep Rich happy and healthy. And it’s all working. There’s a constant tweaking of the meds to get the right balance to minimize side effects. There’s a team of stem cell nurses and doctors who stop in and discuss options and plans. It gives us comfort. We’re all partners on this track.
But for all the togetherness, we miss the physical connection of even a simple hug. So our elbows touch… Taffeta Darling!
(Hug-Free Visitors welcome… North Shore University Hospital Monti 7 Stem Cell Transplant Unit Room M715)