Being in the ER as a stem cell transplant patient is a little different than for the general population. At least it is here at North Shore University Hospital. First, when you begin your treatments, way in the beginning, you’re instructed to carry a red card with you. When you come to the ER, you show the card at the triage desk. Immediately you’re given a mask, you’re kept apart in the waiting room from anyone else and, best of all, you get fast tracked to a private room in the emergency ward. There are so many more questions about dates, protocols, meds, timelines… you name it, it’s questioned. A few times. But that’s where the quick processing ends. Tests, always tests, are done. And always the same despite any different symptoms. Bloods, CT, X-ray, EKG… the list goes on and on. Then comes the waiting… for technicians to administer the tests, for the results, for consults. We’re thankful we do have the privacy we do and with the measles outbreak, it’s comforting to be out of the hallway of cooties.

Once again, we find ourselves in the ER. On SuperBowl Sunday, Rich was experiencing some shaking in his hand. We just thought that it was due to being at a get together after a lack of recent activity… tiredness. I remarked to Peggy that I thought there was a small improvement with Rich. Since he went off the Neulasta, his balance was much better and he was showing improved cognitive function and memory. He had more energy as well. His vision was clearer than it had been and he was doing small tasks around the house successfully. Although when I told Rich that I was telling Peggy that he seemed to have more clarity, he responded with “Claritin? 10mg… but I haven’t had any in a while.” OK, not so much.

Monday was uneventful.

And then came 2am.

The Magic Fingers bed, so long dormant, came back with a vengeance. Teeth chattering, body shaking, hyperventilating. No temp. Three hours later, we finally saw some relief in sight. Settling down for some sleep, we knew it would be a short night, but figured otherwise, back to our current normal.

Oh, how wrong! Rich’s balance was back to square one… face plant time. Thankfully, no obstacles to add to the Jackson Pollack artwork he’s currently sporting. As he sat to eat breakfast, the spoon/bowl combo was beyond his abilities. His hand could only go halfway to his mouth. Humor and amusement were plentiful as if it was some weird parlor trick. It continued with his total inability to get the spoon in the bowl… he was at least three inches outside of the rim of the bowl. His body just would not accept his commands… total mutiny. He kept saying, with a horrible imitation of an Indian accent “Backinbowl, backinbowl”… one of our favorite bits from Steve Martin’s movie “All of Me.” Of course, once we stopped laughing we looked at each other and said “ER.”

Lots of questions, lots of theories. The one that keeps on popping up is that the pneumonia from a few weeks ago has gone from viral to bacterial. The odd thing is, just a few hours before the bed, and Rich, started to shake, we were saying how his breathing is just oh so much better. Sneaky thing this pneumonia!

We have a flashback moment. When our daughter Emily was born, I was in labor at what is now Winthrop Hospital. My labors being long, I was dozing and turned the volume off on the TV in the room, the show was St Elsewhere. It was a very quiet night on the floor and the doctors would stop by the room, watch a few seconds of the show and then start calling out dialogue of what they thought the diagnosis and treatment was. “Rib spreader! STAT!” Here at NSUH, the staff lounge is right across from us. The TV is showing Scrubs. The sound is turned off. We imagine the staff creating their own dialogue. We smile at the memories.

Ultimately, we were back in the hall of cooties to wait for a bed… you don’t get to stay in the private ER room for long… there are others who need it as well. After the stem cell doctor stopped by, we were moved to a less busy part of the ER to try and keep Rich as isolated as possible. A mask is worn by our patient as a precaution. We’re told beds for those who are being admitted, for the most part, become available at two different times of night… 7:30pm and 10:30pm due to cleaning schedules. This holds true as close to 11pm we finally get back onto 7 Monti where we find, once again, familiar faces.

We’re not in the stem cell unit itself. We’re hoping this means a short stay. Get a diagnosis, some meds and get back home.

In the meantime, it’s good to be in the care of our angels in scrubs. I’m ready to hand off what our son calls the heavy lifting to someone else for a while. It’s been a long day. We fall asleep before the nurse is done talking.

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