À l’hôpital

The rest of Friday was marked by ever-worsening feelings of malaise. The sores in my mouth and throat continued to increase in pain, despite the copious doses of codeine syrup, Tylenol, and lidocaine mouthwash I took. And the fever came back and climbed and climbed and climbed to 39.4, at which point I paged my doctor, crying out of pain and misery. He OK’d me to take two Advil to help bring the fever down (my platelets were low, so I wasn’t supposed to take ibuprofen, which increases the risk of bleeding) and told me to page him in the morning if the pain was still bad, and he would write me a script for morphine syrup.

Of course the pain was still bad because mouth and throat ulcers don’t magically become painless overnight. So I knocked on Natasha’s kitchen door (she lives upstairs from me and is my landlord, but more importantly one of the neighbours who helps me out) and asked her to drive me to the hospital, and she changed out of her pajamas, tossed her son in the back of the car, and thus I met Dr. R, one of the head oncologists on my case, for the first time at 10:30 in the morning at Princess Margaret outside the bank of glass elevators in the lobby.

We went up to the dark and empty 18th floor (my second weekend in a row doing this) and he pulled up my file. He called my pharmacy to make sure they had the right concentration of morphine for me and told me that my blood cultures from my ER visit on Thursday night had come back with a potential bug, and that if I continued to have fevers later on in the day, I would have to go back to the emergency room to be admitted for IV antibiotics. I’m sorry, he said, this treatment isn’t supposed to be so hard, but you seem to be having a round of bad luck and while this bug is a common one and we usually assume it to be nothing more than a skin contamination from the blood draw, we really don’t want to take any risks if you continue to have fevers after 24 hours on the antibiotics you already started. They won’t cover a staph infection, the only thing we can do for that is admit and treat you in the hospital. So page me if you get fever again later today.

I’m sure you see where this is going.

Natasha took me to the pharmacy and home, and I called my friend Colleen to run some errands for me and I took some morphine and waited for it to kick in, and I took some more and waited for that to kick in, and the pain got worse and my temperature started rising and rising and rising, and my head started hurting, and I felt dizzy and cold and achy.

I tried paging my doctor, but he didn’t get back to me, but I wasn’t worried — I still was waiting on Colleen, and I needed to shower and pack a bag before going to the hospital. Then Colleen arrived with the things I needed her to pick up, and she proceeded to clean my embarrassingly messy house without my needing to ask, and I took my temperature — 39.5 — and I tried paging Dr. R again, and still he didn’t answer, but I showered and called Natasha and asked her to drive me to the hospital for the second time that day, and she agreed and I hung up the phone and promptly vomited. Because apparently I needed to cross off another potential side effect off the list.

And then we were in the car and I needed Natasha to please pull over right now and I noticed Geoff on the other side of the street, but I didn’t wave to say hello because I was too busy vomiting on the sidewalk. Then to the ER where, once again crying, I called Jodi and asked her to come, and then hospital locating so I could reach the on-call doctor and ask her to try to reach Dr. R and she told me to calm down and that it wasn’t a big deal that I couldn’t reach him since I was already in the ER and the doctors there could take care of my and I sobbed, no, he TOLD me to call him, he said he would meet me here or speak to the doctors right away because he wants to tell them what they should prescribe and I want to talk to him because he said he would be here for me! and she was like, OK weirdo, I’ll email him (in her head, not on the phone) and she did and he called me about five minutes later apologizing because he hadn’t received my pages and assuring me that I was in no way overreacting.

So I spent the night in the emergency room, fever controlled, pain not. The number of sores in my mouth and on my tonsils doubled or tripled overnight and I cried a few more times. I’ve never had pain so bad in my head region before. I learned how to not swallow more than once every 10 minutes. I drank a lot of lidocaine to at least temporarily numb the pain.

And now I am in Princess Margaret, which is quiet and lovely, and where they stepped me up from morphine given at haphazard intervals to hydromorphone given every two hours. I have learned that I am not ready to go on a lower dose of the drug yet, lest I want the screaming pain to return. I have been toured around the ward by my chatty 73-year-old roommate. But guess what guys?

This morning I woke up with a cough.


About Alicia Louise

I'm a writer, editor, fact checker, storyteller, events organizer, chronically busy yet endlessly lazy, mildly neurotic (though I keep the neuroses well-hidden, one hopes) 32-year-old with recurrent ovarian cancer. I like people and good writing and straight talk. I have a hard time feeling sorry for people, including myself, but the people that I love, I love passionately; one may even say creepily. I try to keep that mostly to myself. I'd like to be charming, but I'm usually just a mess. I'm like a gull slamming into your windshield.
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12 Responses to À l’hôpital

  1. dusterbed says:

    I like your post. I dislike all of this side effect and bug badness.. ❤

  2. Michelle says:

    How incredibly damn miserable. I hope it clears up soon.

  3. Amy says:

    Heya Lady, everyone in my house started to cough and I have been in seclusion since…then I started to cough.
    I can’t believe what you’ve already had to endure and then all the crap that just keeps piling on. Words can’t really adequately describe feelings to which I feel for you and empathy really isn’t it although it may be part of it. I was going to ask you a question but I’ll wait until you’re better. Until they are 100% sure I have no cold/cough/flu I am not to go to PMH but am supposed to have treatment Thursday- so long as I am there Thursday and “healthy” if you’re still at UHN I will come to visit while getting chemo. After all, IV poles travel. I really hope they find something that clears stuff up really fast; you’ve been through the wringer and as I said- words really don’t cover it.
    lots of hugs, and I’m thinking of you!

    • Well, the cough isn’t too bad and it has nothing to do with my lungs, so that’s good! I’m getting a viral swab of my throat today to see if there is a viral infection brewing (they are already testing for bacterial). I feel much much much better now that I am on the IV antibiotics. And as long as I get my medication on time, my mouth pain is controlled. I’m totally loopy from it, but I’m happy because I can actually eat (sort of) now. Hope you get well super soon. xoxo

  4. Radiolab has an episode on pain: http://www.radiolab.org/blogs/radiolab-blog/2012/aug/27/pain-scale I don’t know what you would trade your pain for (like the woman on the episode), but I am sending you my blessings so that you may feel a bit less worse. Sorry for not commenting on your blog for a while.

    • Thanks my friend. I just listened to the Pain episode recently — I’ve been re-listening to all the episodes recently because it’s my favourite show and I find so many of the Radiolab themes resonate with what fills my head most these days — legacy, community, communication, the interaction between science and the inexplicable. No need to apologize for lack of comment; I am sorely behind in reading your most recent writings and need to catch up with you as well. Wishing you all the best.

  5. ohhhhh feel better soon …

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