Friday, November 21, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #335

Nancy White Kelly

Emails tell me you want an up-date on the story of Murphy’s Law and the Living Lady. To briefly recap: I voted early on October 2nd. My foot caught some bad carpet that sent me to the Emergency Room.
Fast forward: orthopedic referral, MRI, total knee replacement on November 4th. The night after surgery came a scary life and death episode. Several drugs were administered in an effort to stop my adrenaline-pumped limbs from flailing for nearly an hour. After several days in ICU, I came home to nursing care and physical therapy.

Today was my first day out of the house following this recent hospital stay. My cardiologist compared his old cardiograms with the new ones. The evidence seems to say that I went to the very brink of a massive heart attack only to back away to a lesser one. If you prayed for me during that time, thank you.

Most likely I will be having a heart catheterization in the near future to better pinpoint the damage. I am hesitant to agree to that procedure. A couple of years ago I experienced total kidney failure following one. Maybe it was the contrast dye from the cath and/or a bone-building drug taken along chemotherapy for my metastatic breast cancer that caused the need for dialysis. All I know is that I don’t want a repeat. Being obligated to blood cleansing three times a week for the rest of my life is not my idea of quality living. My hat is off to those of you who must do it.
My condition reversed and I felt like I had a new lease on life. For those of you who prayed for me during that tenuous time also, thank you again.

I am now recuperating from the knee surgery. It wasn’t and isn’t fun, but I think the corner has been turned. I am looking forward to getting back to a normal life and teaching my new Sunday school class once again. I have a renewed interest in sharing preparation for life hereafter. All of us are just one heart-beat away from eternity.

My recent journey brought me in contact with interesting people. While in ICU, I became well acquainted with the nurses. All of the staff was unusually caring and personable. One particular nurse whom I shall call Iona spent several shifts with me. When I was awake, we talked endlessly about a multitude of subjects. The one thing that bothered me was Iona’s smell. Her clothes were rank with cigarette smoke. I would know that smell anywhere because both my parents were chain-smokers in an era when it was glamorous. They are both deceased now and I am convinced tobacco use was partly responsible.

One restless night Iona’s smock caught my attention. The broadcloth top had a multitude of colorful cats printed on it. Being a cat owner myself, I asked if she had one also.

Iona proudly proclaimed that cats were the love of her life. She bred and showed them and had rooms full of prize ribbons. Iona shared that cats were also the passion of her now deceased mother. Iona tearfully related that her cats were all that kept her going through that dark time following her mama’s death.

All this was inspiring until she revealed that she had 22 cats and that ALL of them shared the same bed at night…with Iona. My eyes popped wide open in the semi-darkness of the hospital room.
Here I was in ICU with a contamination poster on the door. That meant everybody coming into the room had to wear special yellow gowns. This was to prevent the possibility of spreading MRSA which is a staph infection that I once contracted from a previous hospital stay.

Yet, here was in Intensive Care with a primary nurse who admittedly slept with a herd of cats who was taking care of every inch of my body inside and out. I would have laughed at the irony of the situation, and may have reported it, except that I really liked her. What was done was done. Who knows? My heart goes out to her cats. Maybe I gave them staph.

While waiting for the cardiologist today, I read through my hospital records. The jargon used by the medical profession is amusing. An introductory paragraph said that I was a “pleasant” lady. Buddy, my daily and life-time care-giver since 1965, might disagree. He knows what most people don’t. I can be grouchy at times.

While continuing the reading of my medical records, I noted one place that said I had “denied” use of alcohol and tobacco. It sounded as if I really did indulge in those vices, but wasn’t being truthful. Jack Daniels and I have never even met, much less been on a first-name basis. I rode a camel once but never smoked one.
Another pithy sentence described me as “mildly obese.” Hmmm. I guess “fat” is too factual and terse. One line made me laugh out loud. One of the attending physicians wrote that “Mrs. Kelly has a sharp mind, times 3.” Okay, so maybe I am not a goofus.

Thanks for the emails, cards and other expressions of kindness. Warm hearts have given Buddy and me full stomachs and much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving season. God bless you all.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #334

Nancy White Kelly

The Living Lady is currently a resident of the Intensive Care Unit of a near-by hospital. This is my fourth day tubally attached to oxygen, pouches of blood, various antibiotics, and an ugly yellow bag. What began as routine replacement surgery for a badly damaged knee turned into a medical nightmare.

The orthopedic surgery went great. I awakened about three hours later in a regular room surrounded by family and friends. A routine pain pump was attached to my arm to administer pain medication at steady intervals. I had some pain, but nothing unbearable. Buddy went on home later after a long day that had started at 4:00 a.m.

A few hours later, I began to violently vomit. My limbs railed and thrashed. I had no control whatsoever of my muscles or bodily functions. Even with the new knee attached to a heavy, therapeutic, rowing machine, I kicked it around as easily as a piece of foam.

My muddled mind was still functioning, but only short phrases could be uttered, mostly “Help me, help me, please.”

The room gradually filled with staff. They cautiously backed up to the wall watching wide-eyed, and each asking the other if they have ever seen anything such as this. No one had. The on-duty doctor was phoned for instructions. In the meanwhile, an anesthesiologist who was attending a lady-in-waiting was unexpectedly called down for a code. It was three a.m.

In the midst of my unending thrashing, the number of spectators grew. The anesthesiologist asked me rapid-fire questions. I could only muster syllabic answers in a raucous voice. This was not me.

My body thrust forward as if doing unending sit-ups. My trembling hands rattled the bed railings. The crook of my inside elbows helplessly looped the trapeze bar above the bed only to jerk away again and again.

I knew what was going on, but was powerless to stop the frenzy. The doctors administered one drug after another to no avail. I felt like I was on the brink of dying.

In time, my exhausted body gave out. I awakened in ICU. The doctors informed me that I had apparently suffered a heart attack from the strenuous physical battle.
The current medical consensus is that I had a drug reaction from the medication in the pain pump that reacted to yet another drug. Several drugs had been administered before, during and following the surgery that day. You can be sure almost all those drugs are on my forever “no-no” list.

In the meanwhile, my new knee has patiently awaited physical therapy which was delayed. It is difficult now to lift my stapled leg even one inch off the bed without intense pain. The therapist assures me this is not a big problem and that we will make good progress in the days ahead.

Again, the Living Lady lives to write another day. Someday you will read my obituary, but not this time.