Sunday, September 14, 2014

i have happy fingers!

i've no idea where the title for this post came from, but that's what i was merrily crowing into the air when i woke up -- that would be the first waking, around 5 am.

since last i wrote you, darling readers, so much has happened, and enough time elapsed between frustrations, that the tale should be told by a reincarnated james thurber.  it could easily rival the stories of his grandfather in the attic, the great flood waters on main street -- were a reincarnated thurber around.

i'll check the closets.  you never know.

another hospital stay, from which i was delivered last evening.  it was not so bad, except for the usual incredulities.  and the foot that looked like this on thursday --

now looks like this:

ah, but i flag already.  we're waiting on a cheery-sounding home health nurse named linda to trundle across the drawbridge with the magic antibiotic elixir encapsulated in those clever elastomeric devices.  fred will have the honor of attaching the medicine balls every day, and linda or a linda clone will check up on us, change the PICC line dressing every few days, and draw labs.  i already am having an allergic reaction to the overnight reaccumulation of med/surg supplies, delivered by courrier "stat": alcohol wipes, syringes of saline flushes and heparin flushes, and something called "lab in a box," about which we are beginning to create bad jokes.  

and fred's hands are already shaking, as PTSD shadow memories of the horrors of early 2012 creep back into both our heads.

so i quickly revisit my joyous cry that met the day:  "i have happy fingers!"

unfortunately, i was given the funereal announcement of "this is your new normal" regarding the changes in my right hand.  it's pretty close to non-functional and getting more painful.  the index finger, however, is making a valiant stand.  a wondrous OT named carol actually constructed a specialized brace at bedside.  it looked like a combination cooking demonstration and high school shop class.  she had a non stick frying pan and a supersonic hairdryer-looking thingy, and strange little molding tools.  she heated the brace material to 160 and molded it to my claw, then went to work like a mechanic-slash-sculptor.  when things cooled and hardened, carol deftly softened edges and covered the irritating parts -- and that would be... every part -- with some sort of moleskin.  we drew a crowd of admiring spectators.

so it's neurological, part of crps, this nearly overnight reconfiguration of my hand into a claw.  hence the funereal "new normal" crap-out.  that phrase is like fingernails run across a chalkboard and gets no reaction from me except contempt.  no treatment to try?  nothing?  just this blithe "new normal," as if further disability to an already disabled person must be no big deal.  it's just my dominant hand. that leaves a damaged left hand, which, they don't ever recall, is at the end of a limb that lacks an anchoring shoulder.  so while it may work, it has a very limited range of motion.

"new normal." i'd like to bop someone on the nose, the sad, ineffective person who came up with that defeatist phrasing.  see, once that phrasing becomes the adopted line, any reaction from me that betrays my contempt for the wussy concept can then be labelled "denial," allowing the health care practitioner to go "tut, tut."

"tut, tut," goes the health care practitioner.
"bite me," responds the frustrated patient, waving her fugly hand around, hoping to land a lucky jab or a consciousness-depriving haymaker. Health care practitioners have glass chins.

then there were the physical therapists intent on telling me that i cannot possibly wash, dress, or feed myself, and wouldn't i be happier "somewhere else," rather than in the luxurious but demanding surroundings of marlinspike hall?  that's when i cry.  blubbering fool, i say intelligent things.  "not yet." "i can do it, i can do anything."

then i am saved by laughter, because the inevitable arrives:  "you simply cannot live with this much pain -- you just can't!"

part of the reason my pain levels were off the available charts (when we zoomed outta there last night, there was a bevy of nurses working feverishly with poster board and sharpies, making new charts to accommodate a revised pain scale), was due to a medication error that we decided not to divulge, preferring to laugh in the hyena manner.

a lovely, pragmatic group of hospitalists spearheaded the attempt at my care.  they decided that i was grossly undermedicated for pain, bless their everlovin' hearts. the first prong of the attack was intravenous dilaudid which made me grin like a perfect fool, and enabled a marvelous nap.  the heart of the new design, though was to begin bumping up the dose of the fentanyl pain patches i wear for three days at a time.  my usual dose is 100 mcg.  we decided to go to 125 mcg, and to be more liberal with the amount of breakthrough medication i could take.

at the time of these pharmaceutical decisions, i had a very nice RN who was, however, attached to The Big Book of Nursing by the hip.

"i have your new patch here, would you verify your complete name and date of birth, please?" she exhaled in a single breath with a friendly mouthcentric smile.'

"alter ego to bianca castafiore and januarymumblemumblemumble," i proffered.

then the idiot in me said, "you do know i am wearing a 100 mcg patch already, don't you?  should i take it off?  it just went on yesterday..." (they're also kind of pricey.)

"oh, goodness me! remove it immediately!  we cannot let you use medication from home! tut, tut!"

so i ripped it off and she disposed of it using universal precautions and a brow-furrowed, lip-pouched face of disdain.  then, wrinkles smoothed, order restored, she applied the new patch to my upper right arm, which i cannot reach with my left hand, but no matter!  here we were, nurse of the Big Book and i, improving my plight by mutual admiration.

my pain levels went wild.

that's about as descriptive as i care to get.

when we dumped my backpack and rucksack on the bed, i began the task of sorting through paperwork and cats, getting back on schedule with my meds, dissuading buddy from playing tether ball with my new PICC line, the usual. i made a pile of "important papers to look at when i'm able to read at a first grade level."

one caught my eye -- a prescription.  it was for several boxes of 25 mcg fentanyl patches, "to be added to her supply of 100 mcg,"


after having fred peel off the latest patch, it did indeed turn out to be a 25 mcg patch.  The Big Book of Nursing accords "doctor's orders" the reverence of the tablets of law descended with moses from mount sinai. so i'd been given, not a 25% increase in fentanyl, but a 75% decrease.

anyway, i'm home again.  that's progress.

postscript:  it was a cindy and not a linda who trundled over the drawbridge, right on time and neat as a pin, smart as a whip, pragmatic, and satisfyingly swift in the completion of her duties. plus, the new abx can be injected over 2.5 MINUTES.  piece o'cake. she did an early dressing change and so won't have to come back until wednesday.  an excellent cindy. all interested siblings and other sweetie-pies, i spoke with lumpy, the former grader boob, and he sounded better than he has for a long while. by which i mean there was some laughter, more specifics supplied about his lumps, and some elaboration of the 15 days straight of palliative radiation he's starting next week.  true to form, he has concerns for the techs who will have to work weekends radiating people's lumps. oy!  he retains world master status at deflection and minimization arts, as well as at owning my heart.  he's already had round one of student conferences, and hearing his lively tone, i hope he can hang in there with classes, somehow, someway, because he was himself again. he was living.

brayden martin's memorial was yesterday -- i had planned to plan to try to go, but couldn't. i saw a video of it that served a purpose.  kate mcrae's surgery went well and she should be out of ICU this weekend.  in very sad news, ethan hallmark went to clinic expecting to get chemo and instead went home on hospice as they discovered "hundreds" of tumors in his abdomen.  ethan may only live a few more weeks.

i hate cancer.
but i have happy fingers!

© 2013 L. Ryan

1 comment:

  1. Happy for your happy fingers!
    Boo for nurses who check your birthdate but not your dosage...

    And, may I say, you have cute toes.


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