Friday, March 13, 2009

Kicking Hodgkin's Ass!!

Sorry folks...I got sidetracked.

Right now, this very minute, I'm receiving the last dose of chemotherapy tonight. We got a late start. We started with some Decadron (steroids), then Zofran (anti-nausea) and then four chemo drugs: Adriamycin, Bleomycin, Velban and DTIC.

So...unless you're on're probably wondering why I'm sitting in Mt. Clemens Regional Medical Center room 409 getting chemotherapy. Well...I guess it's time for a little story.

This story starts some time back, the exact date is unknown but a good guess would be within the last year or so.

In an unfortunate series of random events or periods, I was having some issues. Fevers, night sweats, aches and pains, flu-like symptoms, tiredness and a increasingly more forceful dry cough (after I quit smoking the day after Thanksgiving) were popping up here and there, along with other mundane complaints. I took care of them the best I could, but in retrospect, there were a lot of those kinda things that occurred too frequently to be merely circumstance.

The shit hit the proverbial fan this past weekend, on Friday (March 6). It may have even started the night before. I became short of breath. I really couldn't breath really well at all. In EMS circles we know the patients that have a history of emphysema or bronchitis that get really bad have the same problems: they get winded after taking a few steps, they can't lift or carry things without getting winded, they can't talk for very long without getting out of breath. That was me. It wasn't too bad at first but it got worse as the day went on.

I had considered talking with one of the ER docs but I really didn't exert myself too much and toughed it out (stupid me). I was going to go to my personal physician on Saturday morning after work, but I ended up having a late call and then I was exhausted when I got home. I fell asleep and never made it. In fact, I slept a good portion of the day. I toughed it out Sunday and went back to work Monday. That was a busy day and I was hurting bad. I was constantly out of breath, but I kept on plugging away. I went to my doc's first thing after getting off of work Tuesday morning. I was out of breath just driving to my doctor's office.

I immediately had a chest x-ray at my doc's office. He pulled me into the consult room and threw up the x-ray. "Holy Shit" were my exact words. Dr. Emerick said he had said the same thing. The right side of my chest looked pretty normal (nice and black). There wasn't any black to see on the left side of my chest (white is bad--it usually means fluid or other (bad) stuff in the lung). The left side was totally opaque (white) and even more disconcerting was noting that my mediastinum was shifted to the right side of my chest instead of being in the middle like normal (the mediastinum is a loose term for the area in the middle of the chest under the sternum and includes the heart, the aorta, and the superior vena cava. Not good at all.

Up to that point, I was pretty certain that all I had was pneumonia and that I'd get some steroids, some antibiotics, maybe an updraft and possibly an inhaler. I'd go home, have a couple of days to get better and I'd be all fat, gum and happy. After seeing the x-ray, I knew that would not be the case. Something was waaaaaay wrong. Dr. Emerick called ahead to Mt. Clemens Regional ER and I was on my way. Stupid me, I decided that I'd drive to the ER rather than take the offered ambulance ride.

I got to Regional's ER Triage area and I didn't even make it to triage. My friends Jason and Pam recognized me, ordered me to a wheelchair and threw a pulse ox on me (I think it was reading 87-88%)and wheeled me into the trauma room (where they treat their priority one patients).

Let me tell you now being a paramedic doesn't have many advantages, but this is one of those times that it does. The response, the generosity, the love and the caring has been overwhelming. I can't compare it to anything that I've ever experienced in my life. I hate to compare it to the stereotypical "rock star" life (since I'm so NOT a self-centered ass like most of them), but that's what it feels like. I haven't wanted for anything. You guys and gals have been tremendous!

I got fast-tracked almost immediately. IV, O2, ECG, 12-lead, chest x-ray (again), IV steroids and breathing treatments in a row. Then I went for my chest CT. That's when we became concerned. The CT revealed a mass (approximately 11 x 13 cm) "wrapped around my heart and my aorta" and compressing my pulmonary arteries and bronchi leading to my left lung, collapsing my lung. Basically, I'm functioning on only one good lung. The mass itself is not completely encircling the heart or the aorta, it's more like if you were to pick up a glass with one hand and the fingers go around the glass to hold onto the glass properly to prevent it from falling.

At that point, I was on the A-train to intensive care. I spent a few more hours down in the ER while they debated a few orders and had all the primary doctors come in [oncology (cancer), pulmonology (lungs), cardiology (heart), internal medicine (organs) and hematology (blood)]. I was wheeled up to ICU 17 and I got settled a little. I had full monitoring of all vital signs, ECG, and pulse oximetry. Basically chained to the bed. As I start to right this (two days later), technically I still am; but what they don't know won't hurt them either.

I've been having a steady stream of visitors as the word gets out. All the ER personnel, nurses, doctors, techs, x-ray, labs, RT's, security...everybody. Mom and Dad and Nicole are at bedside. Dad's freaking out but he still has time to ask if all the pretty ladies are available for number one son because he still wants more grandbabies. So I'm going through all of them as they come by...married, two kids....married, three kids...single, seeing someone....single, might be available...married, no kids, etcetera. That's my dad. Middle of a crisis and he wants more grandbabies.

I was NPO from the minute I entered the ER (Nothing Per Oral for you non-medical types). Can't eat or drink anything and I'm starving. My stomach was full...full of air. I had finally noticed that my breathing was so bad that I was overcompensating...I was trying to breath so hard that I was gulping the stuff besides breathing it. Burping all over the place. My coughing fits were frequent and painful too. But everybody was keeping me laughing and making me talk too much. That caused my nurses to run in and pipe me down because I kept on desatting, my pulse ox was dropping like a rock. Then everybody got into the act. I start talking too much (like that was hard to do) and then everybody was telling me to zip it. My pulse ox never made it past 94 the rest of the day.

Kimmy kept me company on her breaks, God bless her sweet soul. She'd come up from the ER for her half hour and sit at the bedside and hold my hand. I don't think I slept at all that first night.

First thing on the agenda for Wednesday was the most important thing that could be done...find out what the heck was sitting in my chest. I saw most of my doc's that morning and then I went down to CT for a CT-guided biopsy. I got wheeled down for that, got a couple of milligrams of Versed and don't remember anything after that. I woke up with a hole in my upper chest and a nice little bandage covering it. Wonderful drug!

I was finally off NPO status, so I got to eat lunch and dinner before going back on NPO status for a test the next day. Wasn't really great food, but it wasn't bad either. It was food was the important part. And I had some wonderful coffee!!!!

Ok...gonna publish this one...otherwise it will be another few days before you all see something. Look for part two soon.

1 comment:

  1. Ahhhh Mikey, Mikey, Mikey. Pick up another cigarette (which probably had nothing to do with this) and I swear you will pull back a bloody stump. I feel horrible that I haven't been up to see you. I am glad that you have had an entourage of people there.

    If you were a... how did you put it? Oh yes, a "Self-Centered ASS" like some of them, you wouldn't have all these groupies. lol.

    Thank you for your constant updates. I would be climbing the walls without them. At least I know you are "somewhat" vertical and doing quite well! I am fully confident we are going to beat this sucker.

    Lemme know if you need anything, BIATCHHHH! :o)