Monday, September 15, 2008

Yep, I got bled.

I almost got it low enough. Last week, my red blood count was over 18. We want it down to 15. I got it to 17 or maybe a little lower. So, I got sent to the infusion center.

This is the first time I've done it in the daytime. I saw a lot of cancer patients and their spouses. At the check-in counter was a little basket of crocheted "cancer caps" for women who've lost their hair. In the bathroom over the toilet was a sign that said, "If you're receiving radioactive therapy, please flush twice."

Before going there, though, the first stop was the lab. They poked my "other" good vein but she couldn't get the blood to flow. "You have a lot of scar tissue here." Hey! That's supposed to be the vein that has the LEAST amount of scar tissue. Anyway, she painfully wiggled the needle around until she finally got a blood flow.

After labs, I saw Dr. Richard and apologized for being a "bad" patient last week. He said not to worry, that if it was something urgent or really dangerous, "I wouldn't have let you say no."

"I figured. Anyway, I'm ready to submit today."

He gave me a great big hug. (Must remember to do this more often!)

"So we'll do the phlebotomy. Then, come back in a week and we'll see if we have to do it again."

And I thought, is this going to be an endless string of bleedings? How many weeks am I going to have to do this? Forever?

With the band-aid on the first arm, I walked into the infusion center with its high ceiling and beautiful fish tank and rows of easy chairs set with pillows. I got poked again. This time farther up on my right arm over the bicep.

No scar tissue there, but it was still hard to get the blood flow and, once again, she dug around while I just gritted my teeth and tried to breathe, whining and trying to just get through it. Once the flow was established, it stopped hurting. The needle was set and, after draining me, she set up the saline solution to re-infuse.

Since there was nothing to do but sit and wait, I brought a book with me. I'm reading "Mississippi Sissy" by Kevin Sessums and I love it. I adore it. The two hours of re-infusion passed quickly. I even slept a little until the beeper went off, letting them know to change the bag.

Just then, an older woman came in with a stylish turban barely covering her wispy, almost non-existent white hair. She grabbed the pillow in the seat next to me and threw it into the chair next to that. Then she sat in that chair like she owned the place.

The nurse came in with a couple of large bags of fluid hanging off an I.V. tree.

She asked, "Now, is this the three medications or just one?"

The nurse responded, "Just one."

"Sorry I'm late. There was a car wreck on the freeway and it took me three hours to get here. Usually, it only takes two and a half."

"That's okay."

"I did all right on that last dose. It didn't make me that sick."

I was admiring this woman's steely take-control attitude. I also realized that as I was sitting there bemoaning my fate, whining about the needle in my arm with its still prominent (if scarred) veins, I watched them as they tried desperately to find one good vein in the woman. Finally, it worked and I watched them pull blood of out her with a huge syringe before starting the infusion.

I couldn't even imagine the pain she must be in. And did I hear a single whine? A single complaint? Nope.

And I thought, you know, sometimes I just need to shut up and look around. No matter how badly I might think my situation is, it's nothing compared to what this woman was dealing with -- and nothing compared to what most of the other people sitting around this room was dealing with.

Lesson learned? We'll find out next week.

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