So those Hawaiian shirts… the ones we were ready with so we could take our volcanic leap of faith? Yeah, those… we packed them into a suitcase in the middle of the night on Sunday and went to the ER. Rich’s breathing became more labored, his O2 levels dropped to 81. Generally speaking, levels are in the 95 – 100 range. His had been at 90 – 92 range most of the weekend… aka: acceptable but not great. 81 puts you in the respiratory failure category.
Once there, some blood work and some x-rays for diagnostic purposes show no pneumonia. It’s thought that “just” an exacerbated asthma attack. We rest uncomfortably throughout the day. No meds are forthcoming, no nebulizer treatments until we ask. The request for Tylenol for the slight fever and considerable aches is acknowledged but never materializes. Sunday overnight is apparently not the time to be sick. Sleeping in a stacking chair in the holding hallway is a contradiction in terms. We are beyond exhausted.
Our pulmonary doctor finds us. He asks them to take a nasal swab for viral causes. Hours later, it is done. A few hours after that, we find out that Rich has what is called human metapneumovirus or hMPV. Again, it’s one of those, similar to the RSV Pneumonia he had before, that will give most people a one day sniffle. For those like Rich who are immunosuppressed, it presents as asthma, bronchitis or pneumonia. We know we’re lucky when we’re told it has not progressed beyond asthma although it is affecting the lower right lobe of his lung. The symphonic whistling, crackling, wheezing needs no stethoscope to be heard.
Finally, after fifteen hours of mind-numbing discomfort that morphs into pain, we get admitted and a room… and what a room! Everyone should, at least once, get a virus that requires you to be isolated and with any luck they will put you in the Cohen Pavilion at North Shore. These rooms are not only private, but they are appointed with beautiful details… very soothing with a comfortable decor and a caring staff to match. Dinner is brought in, we eat, and promptly fall asleep until we’re woken three hours later for meds. We promptly fall back to sleep until, once again, 11:30 meds. We negotiate to forgo the 2am nebulizer treatment and opt, instead, for sleep. We promise to ring if we wake up and/or need another treatment during the night. Our angel in scrubs agrees. Blessed sleep!
While it doesn’t make up for the day before, the sleep has allowed our new morning to start off with some added energy. Rich’s breathing is improved while he rests. As he putzes around the room, he begins to have difficulty. Despite that, there is improvement.
With the start of the new hospital residents’ rotation, we have been bombarded by doctors with questions. They are thorough… they are everywhere… they are young! One stops in early enough that we can chat before I head out for work. Nick works remotely while he stays with Rich.
Reports of the rest of the doctors’ opinions keep coming in. Thankfully it’s determined to be severe asthma brought on by this virus. We have to wait it out while treating the symptoms with, dammit, prednisone. Nebulizers almost round the clock keep the airways moving. Nick sends notes of all the doctors’ chats.
I leave work early when I find myself falling asleep at my desk. As I return to NSUH room C370, I’m thankful to find Rich has slightly improved breathing and strength. There is still a long road ahead, but we’re seeing some results from the bombardment of drugs.
Although the diagnosis is different, although we are no longer in the Monti tower where our familiar faces usually greet us, we are, once more, being cared for by people who we trust. We have a new family of caregiving staff. We are blessed.
One year ago exactly, we were here at NSUH while Rich was being treated for pneumonia, his illness of choice. His stay then segued into the first of his RICE chemo cycles. There is a sense of silliness about the coincidence of this. There is also a sense of awe as we reflect on how far we’ve come and how interesting the journey has been.
We don’t know how long this setback will take, but we feel that we’re headed in the right direction… we didn’t get the worst case scenario and for that we are most grateful. Our hospital stay is expected to end before this Fourth of July holiday weekend begins. Even if it doesn’t, if we have to stay longer than we hoped still, life is good.