Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hospital, Day 7…and Counting

"One more day," the doctor told Jimmi when he asked if he was being released from the hospital. That was five days ago. He's still there.

Let me start where I left off last week.

Jimmi was admitted to the hospital early Wednesday morning with a strange infection that was causing extreme swelling and pain in his knee. He was treated with a few different antibiotics to try and knock out the infection but, since nothing was growing in the culture of the fluid the doctor extracted, they couldn't pinpoint the exact bacteria, which made treatment more difficult. And, while Jimmi no longer had a fever and the infection seemed to be staying localized, it definitely was not going away. The promise of "one more day" was made on Thursday and, on Friday, that hope was dashed upon the morning's examination. At that point, I decided to call the emergency veterinary clinic about my dog, Valentino, who was admitted Tuesday night when he choked on some turkey and was found to have aspiration pneumonia. "He's doing great!" the doctor said. "I want to do a few more x-rays and then I'm hoping he can go home later today." 

I went to see Jimmi in the hospital before the boys came home from school. I took a look at his knee, which was much redder and much larger than it had been. Plus, the swelling was beginning to creep down his calf and into his ankle. "I have a cankle!" Jimmi joked but I wasn't laughing. Why weren't they doing anything to fix my husband? Going from one antibiotic to another was clearly the wrong answer, as he'd been on five different kinds and none of them had helped. "Can't they drain it?" I asked. Jimmi shrugged, "They don't think they need to." I wasn't convinced. I wanted to speak to a doctor but I could never seem to find one during my visits. Then I remembered, "Oh CRAP!" Jimmi looked at me with curiosity. I explained, "You're supposed to take Dylan to that concert tomorrow night!" I was referring to Dylan's favorite band. They were playing a show an hour from my house the next night, in a standing room only venue, with four other bands. Being both short and now fragile from radiation damage to my bones, general admission shows were not my cup of tea and I avoided them at all costs. Plus, these bands fell under the category of "screamo," which, according to me, sounds like zombies attempting to sing…loudly. But I couldn't let my kid down; especially since my best friend's brother had gotten Dylan passes for a private meet and greet with the band before the show. "I guess I'll have to take him myself," I announced, knowing I had no other choice unless I wanted a very sad kid on my hands. And that's when the commode was brought in for Jimmi's roommate, who wasn't allowed to use the actual bathroom because they were afraid he'd fall. At that moment I realized how little the curtain between the two beds actually matters. While I was trying to be sympathetic for the man on the other side, it was nearly impossible as the stench drifted across the room, breaking all barriers of privacy and dignity. "Why didn't they wheel him out and bring him somewhere else to do that?" I whispered under the strained grunts. Jimmi shrugged, trying to go with the flow, but I was mortified. I understand people have problems that can't be helped, but this man was essentially taking a dump right in the middle of the room he shared with Jimmi, and we all got to enjoy it. "This is NOT ok," I complained again before jumping up and finding someone who could do something about it. An hour later, Jimmi was collecting his belongings and moving across the hall to a large, private room, complete with DVD player, couch and a small table and chairs. I know how to get things done!

I was eating pizza with the boys that night when my phone rang. It was the vet. "Hi Suzanne. I'm releasing Valentino so you can pick him up at any time." I searched for the correct emotion as I stammered, "Ummm, well, how late can I pick him up?" She replied, "We're open twenty-four hours, so whenever it's convenient for you." I felt the need to explain, "My husband is in the hospital and I was going to bring him pizza and visit for awhile after dinner. I can pick him up after that but tomorrow is going to be difficult. Will Valentino be on a lot of medications?" The doctor answered me, "Yes, four different pills, some once a day and some twice a day." She must've sensed my hesitation and continued, "Why don't you leave him here another day? You need to concentrate on your husband and we love Valentino so we don't mind! I'll switch him to medical board so it won't cost too much and then you won't have to worry about him." I was so grateful for her suggestion, "Thank you so much. I'll call tomorrow morning to let you know when I can pick him up." She was very nice, "We'll keep him as long as you need us to. Just worry about your husband." As much as I didn't want to leave my fur baby at the hospital any longer than necessary, I also didn't feel comfortable bringing him home and then leaving him alone all day right after a major respiratory episode. I'd work it out to pick him up on Saturday.

I returned to the hospital with two large pizzas, one plain and one pepperoni, and dropped them off at the nurses' station on Jimmi's floor. "Enjoy!" I said to the nightshift before walking down the hall to my husband's room. "I brought movies!" I announced as I entered the room with a collection of rockstar favorites. 
I dropped a DVD into the player, walked over to the bed and commanded, "Move over." Jimmi scooted a few inches to his right and I squeezed into the tiny bed next to him. For two hours we almost forgot we were in a hospital as we watched a movie and cuddled as if we were home on our couch. But, when the film was over, instead of heading upstairs together, I put my coat on and got ready to drive home to an empty house, alone. The nurse came in to check on him right before I left. She looked at his knee and said, "That's not getting any better, is it?" I couldn't contain my concern any longer and I had to ask, "Is it possible the sac in there will burst and the infection will spread all over his body and kill him?" She blinked a few times then focused her gaze back on the the swollen area. "I mean, it's possible," she shrugged, "but it's really not likely. He doesn't have a fever anymore and nothing is showing up in his blood so it seems like it's really encapsulated in there. That's probably why the medications are having such a hard time penetrating it." I was still worried. "I hope you don't think I'm crazy," I started, "but you have to understand where I'm coming from. He's not hooked up to any machines. If something happens in the middle of the night, no one will know until it's too late." She could see how upset I was. "Would it help if I promise you I'll check on him every hour through the night?" she asked. A lot can happen in between those hours but it was better than nothing. I thanked her then I kissed Jimmi goodbye, opened the door and started walking down the hall. It was 11:30 PM, long after visiting hours had ended, and, as I passed the nurses' station,  I felt like a college girl doing the Walk of Shame. 

I woke up on Saturday morning and waited for some good news. Jimmi finally texted with just the opposite of that. "I need to stay another night because my calf is still swollen. The doctor said my knee looks better but he doesn't like that my calf and ankle are still red." I sighed impatiently, "This is ridiculous. Can't they just drain it so it goes away?" Jimmi said, "Actually, the doctor told me I dodged the bullet on having to have surgery. He said it's going in the right direction." It just didn't sound that way to me. He kept telling me that he had a splitting headache and Tylenol wasn't cutting it. Then he abruptly stopped texting me, mid-conversation. I waited a few minutes, then tried to call him. No answer. Five minutes later, I tried again. No answer. I started putting the clues together and I didn't like   what I found. Infection, headache, lost contact. Oh, my GOD! He had a stroke! I called the main number of the hospital and asked to be directed to the 5th floor nurses' station. It felt like forever before they answered. "Hi, my husband is in room five-oh-one. We were talking and he said he had a headache and then he just disappeared. He's not hooked up to any monitors and I need to make sure he's ok." She asked me to hold and I waited impatiently for her to come back. Two minutes seemed like two hours before I heard, "He's sleeping. Totally out cold." My paranoia forced me to ask, "Are you sure he's just sleeping and not, you know…" She let a small giggle slip out, "He's fine, hon. Just sleeping."

I got myself ready and ran through the day in my head. I would need to go to the hospital early because Dylan's dad was dropping him off at 3:00 so I could take him to the concert. But what about Valentino? I tried to come up with a plan for our petsitter to stay with him but it just didn't feel right picking him up from the vet and leaving him immediately. What if he had a relapse? I'd be too far away to do anything about it. I called the vet and explained my situation. "Don't worry!" she said. "I know you want him home but it's better for him to stay here so we can watch him. He'll be fine for one more day. Tomorrow you can pick up your husband then pick up your dog and everyone will be home together." That sounded like a good plan to me. I arrived at the hospital early enough to stay a few hours before my next adventure. "Are you sure you can't just get up and take Dylan to the show?" I joked with Jimmi. He knew how much I was dreading taking a 13 year-old to a crowded club where neither of us would be able to see and neither of us would survive if we happened to get caught in a mosh pit. 

Dylan's dad dropped him off with enough time for me to blow out and flat iron his almost shoulder-lenth locks, which were naturally frizzy, just like mine. We both changed into black jeans and black hoodies, which, I was told was appropriate attire for this type of show, then we headed out. Knowing Dylan was only interested in the headlining band, I normally would've left much later to avoid standing through the four support acts, but, as I mentioned, my friend's brother works for the band and had us set up with a private meet and greet at 6:00 PM. After an hour in the car we arrived at the venue. I was surprised that parking was so readily available until I remembered that most of the audience was being dropped off by their parents since they were too young to drive themselves. And then I saw the line of people wrapped all the way around the perimeter of the parking lot. A giant train of hot pink and electric blue hair, piercings and black clothing. "Do we have to wait in that line?" Dylan asked as I pulled out my phone. "I don't think so," I replied. I texted the band's tour manager, "We just parked the car. Will wait in the parking lot for further instructions." Luckily, it was 66 degrees that day so hanging out in the lot didn't bother me too much. My phone rang and the man told me to meet him at the front of the line, "I'm wearing a jean jacket and backwards baseball cap," he said. We shot past all the people in front of us, who were obviously wondering why we were so special, and found the man in question. "They're with me," he told the security guard as he flashed his All Access laminate. The security guard nodded and waved us through and I had flashbacks of the days when I worked in the music industry and had the same power myself. I missed those days. "We're gonna go right up to the dressing room, if that's ok with you," the tour manager's assistant told Dylan, who nodded in silent awe. We were escorted up the familiar backstage stairs, which I'd ascended a few times for various other acts, and I hoped the smell of weed wouldn't greet us like a smoky wall as it had the last time I'd been up there. Amazingly, the air was fresh as we padded down the hall to the band's dressing room. Mr. Jean Jacket stopped us before entering and asked, "What are your names again? I want to introduce you." Dylan finally spoke, "I'm Dylan." Then the man looked at me and I told him, "I'm Suzanne, but that doesn't matter. It's all about him." We entered the room, where eight guys were sitting on two couches working on various electronics or stuffing their faces with whatever Craft Services had provided for dinner. My son's face showed pure excitement as he took in the scene. I scanned the room, not knowing which of these men were actually in the band and which were roadies or friends. Finally a very tall, very skinny and very tattooed rocker boy stood up, wiped the mustard from his mouth and walked over to Dylan. In a thick British accent he introduced himself as James. Dylan couldn't speak anything other than his name and he just stood there with his eyes wide and his mouth hanging open. I must admit, I was a bit speechless myself because, damn, that boy was hot! I had to remind myself that I was not only married, but also, most likely, at least 10 years older than the guy standing in front of me. James, who was coincidentally a drummer, called over a red-headed, bearded bloke named, Danny. "He's the singer," Dylan whispered as Danny made his way across the room. Again, Dylan's vocal chords forgot how to work so I stepped in and suggested a quick photo.
Danny excused himself and Dylan and I stood there, awkwardly, with James until I asked if the rest of the band would be joining us for a group shot. "I'm not too sure where they are," James replied. A few more minutes of forced conversation ensued before the assistant tour manager finally came back. "Ben and Sam are on the bus," he said. Then he turned to Dylan and asked, "Do you want to see where we live when we're on tour?" Dylan nodded emphatically, still not sure how to get his mouth to work. We trudged back down the stairs before we were told that Cameron, the fifth member of the band, was still in New York City with family so we wouldn't be able to see him. I was a bit disappointed for Dylan until I asked, "Is that ok, Bud?" More nodding told me my kid was perfectly satisfied with 4 out of 5. We exited the back door of the venue into the lot where the bands and employees parked. We walked past two tour buses until we neared a third, which was custom painted with the headliner's name. In front of the bus were the two other band members Dylan was about to meet. Of course, I only knew who they were when I saw Dylan's face light up again. Then I noticed the cigarette in the cuter one's hand. Shit! I thought. Dylan is super sensitive to cigarette smoke and he tends to be dramatic and gag whenever he gets near one. This was gonna be interesting. "Hello," said the rock stars to my son. "Hi," Dylan squeaked. This time he was able to get out one, single sentence. "You guys are my favorite band." And, miraculous, my son was able to ignore the cancer stick in the musician's hand without so much as a cough. I snapped another photo, they told Dylan to enjoy the show and we walked back around the building to join the rest of the crowd, as if nothing interesting had happened.

When Dylan was finally able to form words again he turned to me with the biggest smile I've ever seen and said, "That was SO cool!" I put my arm around my son, gave him a squeeze and said, "Let's go get our tickets now." Dylan seemed confused, "Don't we have them?" I shook my head, "Not yet. We're on the guest list so we have to go to the will call window." His eyes were like saucers and his jaw dropped to the floor, "You mean we're on the list?" I could tell by his reaction that he'd heard the phrase, "on the list" before and knew it meant we were important. "Yes," I answered. "Well, I am. You're my plus one." He furrowed his brow in disappointment then shook it off quickly. "What happens if your name isn't there?" Dylan asked and I laughed, "Oh, that's happened to me a few times. But don't worry. I can always talk my way in." We headed to the window and I dropped my license into the slot. "Which list are you on?" asked the girl. "We're with the band," I said. No matter how many times that line has come out of my mouth, it never seems to get old. The girl skimmed the first page, then the second. When she got to the third and fourth pages I started to panic a little bit. "Asking Alexandria's list," I specified, forgetting that there were five bands and we could've been with any one of them. "Yeah, I looked there," she said. Oh, please don't let me look like a fool in front of my kid! "Maybe the record label's list?" I hoped. She shook her head, "I looked on all of them." That's when she lifted the first page again and I caught sight of Jimmi's name, clearly printed on the page. "There!" I exclaimed. "My husband is in the hospital and they were supposed to change his name to mine but I guess they forgot." She smiled and crossed out Jimmi's name, "Whew! I was worried for a minute!" she said sweetly as she handed us an envelope with two tickets and two backstage passes. "If it's not too late when it's over we can use these to meet the band member you didn't see before the show," I told Dylan, who was clearly not concerned.

The building was stuffed to the gills and the show hadn't even started yet. I knew my way around the club very well so I was aware of the only area in the entire place that was elevated to give the short people a shred of hope that they might see some of the action taking place on stage. But I couldn't even get through the wall of teenagers to check it out. Finally I parked Dylan in a relatively safe location and instructed, "Don't move! I'm gonna go check out the spot with the railing and the bench and I'll come right back." He nodded and I pushed my way through the crowd using my hands to physically part the people and make a path. As I climbed the three steps to my secret location I was stoked to see the space was almost empty. I caught sight of one open spot on the railing and ran to it so I could check the short person's view the view of the stage. Once I'd established visual satisfaction I turned to the couple next to me and begged, "Can you please save this spot for a minute? I'm going to get my thirteen year-old." They didn't say a word but the man unlocked the hold he had on his woman and moved himself into Dylan's place so he could save it with his own body. "Thank you!" I called out as I hurried back to get my kid. I found him exactly where I'd left him and I motioned to him to follow me. I parted the human sea again and we made it safely to the railing. "Stand here. Can you see?" He nodded. I handed him ear plugs, pointed to a seat on the bench behind him and said, "I'm going to sit right there. As long as I can see you, that's where I'll stay. If it gets too crowded up here I'll come and stand with you." He gave me a thumbs up and I proceeded to the bench to sit with the other moms. I'll admit, once the first band was out of the way, I didn't mind the rest of the music. When the headliner started I went to stand with Dylan so I could watch the pure excitement on his face. As worried as I was about Jimmi, I was so glad I didn't cancel the night for Dylan. He had a blast. The show ended at 11:30 PM and I was relieved when Dylan decided he didn't want to wait to meet the remaining member of the band that he'd missed. I needed to go home. I was exhausted.

On Sunday morning Jimmi called to let me know they still weren't releasing him from the hospital, but they were about to do an MRI to see if the infection had gotten into his joint or bone. I was getting incredibly annoyed with the doctors because, since Jimmi had been there, all they'd done is change his antibiotics. I think we were on the seventh one, at that point, and nothing had worked. I realized I couldn't wait for Jimmi to come home before picking Valentino up from the vet; it just wasn't fair to the dog. I dropped Dylan at his dad's and headed off to get my pup after a 5 day stay in the hospital. The tech gave me a rundown of Valentino's medications. There were four of them and some were to be given once a day and others were twice a day. She explained that we needed to change his diet so he'd lose weight and handed me a bag of special food. And then I saw the bill. I tried to keep myself from screaming, "Are you CRAZY?!" as I looked at the final number on the bottom of the page. Instead, I forked over my credit card and quipped, "I wonder who's gonna cost more, my dog or my husband?" Then, finally, they brought my fuzzy friend out from the back and we were on our way home. One down, one to go.
After I got Tino settled at home I needed to get to the hospital to see Jimmi. I made sure our petsitter was available to come to the house while I was gone and off I went. Jimmi's knee didn't look any better, upon my immediate inspection, and my fists clenched tightly as I demanded an answer from the nurse as to why the doctors were still playing with this infection instead of just cleaning it out. She couldn't give me an explanation but I could tell she agreed with my frustration. The MRI had been done at 10:30 that morning and I was glad I'd gotten there before the results were given to Jimmi since I wanted to be there to speak to the doctor myself. It was 3:00 now and I figured he'd be back any minute. But the hours dragged on and still no visit from the doctor. I asked the nurse what was causing the hold up. The only answer she could give was, "It's Sunday." Which wasn't acceptable to me. At 6:30 I asked for the doctor's phone number. Jimmi called the service and explained his situation. "MRI results aren't an emergency, sir. The doctor will probably just tell you tomorrow." What crap! Why did he even order the test today if he wasn't planning on doing anything about it until the next day? I stayed with Jimmi until 10:00, when The Walking Dead was over, then I went home to crash. 

The phone rang on Monday morning and Jimmi's voice was frantic, "The culture finally grew. It's staph. They changed my antibiotic again since they know what they're treating now, but I have to have surgery to clean it all out." I spit out the toothpaste in my mouth to ask, "When?" His answer didn't give me enough details, "Sometime today." I was on autopilot as a finished getting dressed, fed the three cats and two dogs, texted the babysitter/petsitter to come over after work and called my mom, who was visiting her sister in Arizona, to tell her what was going on. "I'm sorry I'm not there with you," she said with pain in her voice. I assured her I'd be alright, but she and I both knew I was lying. I arrived at the hospital at 10:30 in the morning, just in time to hear the nurse say, "We're still not sure exactly what time you'll have surgery, but we know it'll be sometime after five." Ugh! I looked up at the clock then down at the bag in my hand, "I'm glad I brought my baby shower thank you notes to work on. Looks like it's gonna be a long day!" Minutes turned to hours as we waited for information. Then I asked the nurse if the MRI had ever been read. "There's no report in our system," she said and I was starting to lose my temper. How long does it take to read an MRI? When is this surgery going to happen? Why has Jimmi been in the hospital for a week without anyone doing anything to fix him?
At about 2:00 Jimmi was taken downstairs to have a PICC line inserted into his arm. He was told he'd need to be on IV antibiotics for at least two weeks after surgery and the PICC was the only way he'd be able to do it himself. An area on his upper, inner left arm was numbed, then a small catheter was inserted into a vein then threaded down right by his heart. The other end of it was taped and an access tube was left open for infusions. We'd learn how to use it later.

Finally, at 6:38 PM, a man arrived with a gurney. "I'm here to take you to the O.R.," he announced and handed Jimmi a gown. "Take everything off and put this on." Jimmi obliged, then he got on the bed-on-wheels and I followed as he rolled off to the elevator. My sister-in-law waited with me as Jimmi was prepped then they called us in to wait with him until the took him away. Jimmi's knee was sticking out from under his gown and I could see the word "YES" written on it with marker. "Is that to make sure they don't operate on the wrong one?" I knew that actually was the case, which kind of scared me. All of a sudden a nurse came running over, pulled Jimmi's gown down between his legs and laughed, "You're giving everyone a show!" My husband blushed and flattened his legs to the bed, "Oh, shit! I forgot!" A minute later the same nurse came back with a blanket. "Oh, it's warm," Jimmi said as she draped the heated cover over him. I couldn't help myself, "She must've seen that you were cold." 

The surgeon came in and I finally laid eyes on him for the first time all week. "Hi, I'm Dr. H," he said to me then he turned to Jimmi and explained, "The procedure is very simple. You'll be under general anesthesia and I'll make an incision, remove the infection and clean the area with saline. Then I'll stitch you back up and the antibiotics should be able to take care of the rest. It should only take about twenty minutes. You'll go home with the PICC and you'll give yourself antibiotic infusions for at least two weeks. You'll need physical therapy to get your knee in shape again and you might have some lasting pain and tightness. You also won't be able to use that left arm much while the PICC is there." I'm sure that was exactly what my gym-buff, athletic, drummer husband wanted to hear. And then, at 8:30 PM, it was finally time. I took Jimmi's glasses, kissed him on his plump lips and left the pre-op holding area.

Barely a half an hour later the surgeon appeared in the waiting room to let me know everything went well and I'd be able to see my husband soon. As it got later and later I realized my babysitter had to leave by 10:30 and there was no way I'd make it home by then. I texted my friend, Tina, who didn't hesitate when I asked if she could relieve the sitter until I got home. With that stress off my mind, I finally went in to see Jimmi. I was surprised but happy to see him so alert and talkative. Soon it was time to follow the wheel-a-bed back up to Jimmi's room. As the nurses got him settled I ran downstairs to grab some food and coffee for my husband, who hadn't been allowed to eat or drink anything all day. I set the soup, sandwich and cookies in front of Jimmi before leaving the hospital after a 12 hour day. 

All seemed well at home, when I arrived, until I heard Dylan's hoarse voice calling out to me, "Mom!" It was almost midnight and I didn't have enough energy to hear the words, "I feel like crap. My throat hurts and my nose is stuffy." I walked across the room and felt his forehead, which was cool, but a bit clammy. All I could muster was, "Can you try to sleep and we'll see how you feel in the morning?" He agreed and we both passed out in our respective bedrooms. My alarm went off at 6:15 the next morning and I stumbled into Dylan's room for the health verdict. "I still don't feel well," he croaked. "Are you going to school?" I asked without the strength to argue whatever answer he gave me. "I'd rather not," he said. I felt his forehead again, which still seemed fever-free. He went back to sleep and I got Justin ready for school. As I went to make his lunch I realized there was absolutely no food in my house. I couldn't even remember the last time I'd gone to Shoprite or actually cooked a meal. I checked the school lunch menu and was relieved to see one of only two choices Justin will actually eat listed as the day's special. I found $5 in my wallet and stuffed it into his pocket. Once he was safely on the bus I gave in to my exhaustion and decided to take a nap. I wanted to wait a few hours to see how Dylan was doing before heading to the hospital anyway. The sound of sneezing woke me a little while later and I could tell it was the right move keeping Dylan at home. I took his temperature and it was normal. "Will you be ok if I go to the hospital?" I asked him. He was halfway downstairs to the Xbox when he called out, "Sure!" After a quick trip to the bagel shop to get breakfast for Dylan I was out the door and on my way to the hospital.

Jimmi's mom was sitting on the couch when I entered his hospital room but he was nowhere to be found. "Bathroom," she said and I heard the toilet flush. My husband opened the door and barely made it back to the bed. It was difficult to bend his right leg at all and he said the pain was so unbearable during the night that he needed morphine. He had just asked the nurse for another dose but it hadn't arrived yet. That's when the physical therapist came in to show him some exercises to strengthen his knee. "Lift your leg from the hip," she said. Jimmi tried but nothing happened. "I can't" he winced as he used his hands to pick up and move his leg. After a few attempts he was doing better and the therapist suggested a short walk before his next dose of pain medication knocked him out. "I think you might benefit from crutches," she told Jimmi. But before she left to get them I reminded her that his PICC line was under his arm, pretty high up. She took a look and her expression changed, "Oh, that won't work with crutches. You're right. I'll bring you a cane!" It was slightly amusing watching my 32 year-old husband walking around with a cane, but as long as it helped him get where he needed to go I decided to stifle my wiseass remarks and leave him alone. That's when Dylan texted me, "My temp is up to 101.4"


"I need to go," I announced as I jumped up and grabbed my coat. "Dylan's getting worse." I kissed Jimmi goodbye and darted out the door. By the time I got home the fever had climbed to 102.4 and I dosed him up with Advil. A half an hour later we were up a few notches to 102.8 and my nerves were shot. I got Justin to bed and allowed Dylan to stay up long enough for me to see the number start dropping as the Advil worked its magic. Once he was under 101 I sent him to bed. I couldn't wait to snuggle under my covers but it's hard to completely relax when you have a sick kid. I must've fallen asleep pretty quickly, though, because the next thing I remember is waking up this morning to the lovely sound of vomiting. 


"Mom!" I was already halfway down the hall when he called me. "Are you ok?" I asked as I opened the door, looking around carefully for any regurgitated puddles. "I'm puking," he said with his head in the toilet. Thanks, Captain Obvious. "Be careful," he warned. "I didn't quite make it." As I cleaned up the nasty mess I realized the money spent to rip up the carpeting and replace it with hardwood was worth every single penny. When he was finished and rinsed I took his temperature. It was back up to 102 so I brought him some Tylenol and sent him back to bed. How could I leave him today? What if Jimmi is released? How will I pick him up? It doesn't matter, I thought. The nurse told Jimmi he was in too much pain to be sent home anyway.

Ring! Ring! It was Jimmi.

"I'm getting out!" he said. Of course he is, I thought. "After you pick me up we have to go right down to the infectious disease doctor's office for a two-hour lesson on how to give myself antibiotics with the PICC line." How the hell am I gonna do this? The Tylenol had brought Dylan's fever down but he looked terrible. Pale, glassy eyes and a red nose. His stomach was fine, at that point, and I figured the vomiting was a fluke side effect of swallowing mucus all night. But, still, I didn't feel comfortable leaving him. "Let me figure out how to make it work," I told Jimmi. Then there was a knock at the door. My friend from seventh grade, Jacquie, came by to bring me a venti iced coffee and a large bottle of vodka, a request I'd made only half seriously. After hearing my dilemma, Jacquie offered to stay with Dylan until 2:00, when she needed to leave to pick up her daughter. I texted my sister-in-law and she was available from about 4:00 to 5:30. That left a window of only two hours when Dylan would be alone. It wasn't ideal but it was definitely doable.

I got to the hospital to bust Jimmi out at 1:00. The wheelchair arrived and the nurses wished him well.  He was finally going to breathe fresh air for the first time in eight days. 
Ten minutes after leaving the hospital I parked the car in front of the infectious disease doctor's office. We didn't wait too long before being called in by a young nurse with a brown ponytail and blue eyes. She led us back to an area with a tiled floor and explained, "This is the infusion suite." I had only taken about two steps into the private cubicle when I stopped short with panic. I looked at the green chair with its attached arm table and the IV hanger next to it and my body froze. I started to tremble and my palms began to sweat. I tried to shake the horrible memories of chemo from my mind but they were flooding back in full force at the sight of the familiar furnishings. But this time Jimmi was the one sitting in the chair. My mind went fuzzy and I couldn't hear what the nurse was saying. Focus, Suzanne. Focus! I pulled myself together and watched as Jimmi's PICC line dressing was changed and the area was cleaned. That would only happen once a week and it would be done at the office.
Once the new dressing was applied it was time for our infusion lesson. Everything we'd need was placed on a sanitized table in front of Jimmi. Two syringes of saline, one bulb of antibiotics and one syringe of heparin in SASH order - saline, antibiotics, saline, heparin.

The nurse explained the importance of flushing the line with saline both before and after the antibiotics, then finishing with heparin, a blood thinner, to keep the area from clotting. I already knew all of this from my four long months of chemo, but I listened respectfully anyway. Because saline can be pumped into your veins repeatedly without harm, Jimmi was told to clean and flush the line a few times himself.

 It wasn't time for his antibiotics yet, but when it was, the nurse explained that the bulb would run for 30 minutes once it was hooked into the line. It was pretty simple. Then I asked, "We're supposed to fly to Minnesota next week for four days. Is that ok?" She thought about it, "Well, the medication needs to be refrigerated and there's a lot of it. He needs an infusion every six hours, at twelve AM and PM and six AM and PM, so you'll need to get a pretty large cooler to bring on the plane. Other than that, it should be fine." And then she showed us the amount of supplies we'll need for just one week. 
When the lesson was over I grabbed our goodies and walked out of the office. An appointment was set up for next Thursday, when Jimmi will have his dressing changed, get another week's worth of supplies and meet with the doctor. We drove home in rush hour and I told Jimmi I'd drop him off first, then go back out for his Percocet prescription and some pizza. As we neared the house I called my sister-in-law and asked her to let our dog, Chloe, out in the backyard. Chloe is the sweetest pit bull, but she's a jumper. Since she hasn't seen her daddy in over a week I knew she'd be anxious to greet him and I didn't want her to hurt him by accident. We walked into the house and I made a b-line for Dylan while Jimmi hobbled over to the couch. Dylan's fever was back up over 101 so I medicated him again. I didn't bother to take off my coat since I was going right back out, but I let Chloe back into the house after closing the gate to the family room. She came charging over at the sound of Jimmi's voice but she seemed to know something wasn't right. She jumped a little on the other side of the gate and then got down on the floor. I figured it was because she didn't actually have direct contact with him. After I got back with the food and drugs I helped Jimmi prepare his first self-infusion. Once we got it going he told me to let Chloe into the kitchen, where he was sitting, to see what she would do. I was amazed to watch my spastic puppy walk over, sniff Jimmi then immediately sit down by his hurt leg and stand guard over him. 

After the medicine had finished and dinner was cleared, my ex picked up the boys and I cleaned up the kitchen. Everything was quiet for the first time in over a week and I was able to sit down and breathe for five minutes. When I went to check on Jimmi I found him relaxing, too.
I think we're both ready for this week to finally be over! 

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