Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Day 8: Crazy Day

Today was the craziest day. It started last night with Krista not sleeping well partially due to another headache. They managed the pain better, but she got pretty groggy and may have said some things incoherently that were misinterpreted. Krista's goal has been consistent with the pain management specialist's goal -- to keep the pain under control before it gets out of control. Somehow the nurses interpreted things she said while waking up and wanting to go back to sleep as that she just wanted to be knocked out with drugs. Not! We cleared that all up this afternoon. The pain specialist came by again today and put her on a PCA (Patient-Controlled Analgesia) to cut out the middleman. That's the machine where she pushes a button and gets a small dose of pain meds. So far it's working well for the pain management.

Back to the craziness... This morning when I came back from my morning meetings, Krista was in tears. She was having incredible pain in her sternum area, radiating outwards. She described it like a horrible sunburn, both inside and out. The nurses have to respond to things like this to find out first if it is a heart attack. They took blood, x-rays, and EKG readings and all of them were conclusive that it was not a heart attack. Phew! But what could cause such a strange symptom? It could have been either of two causes: mucusitis or constipation. She was having problems with the dry mouth yesterday, so it could have been mucusitis, but she also hadn't defecated for three days. After she discovered that it got worse when standing, and that she felt a little better after vomiting everyone was in agreement that is wasn't mucusitis.

Normally they would treat constipation with all sorts of laxitives, stool softeners, etc. But the particular chemo that Krista received Saturday is notorious for causing diarrhea -- the most common symptom on the floor according to her nurse today. So the trick is to give her just enough to get her going again, but not too much to go to the other extreme. There was some progress made in the afternoon, so hopefully this will resolve itself soon.

Tomorrow is transplant day. Today, a kind young German man gave up some of his stem cells, which were packed up and shipped off to the United States overnight. The best they can tell me is that the donor's shipment is expected to arrive around 4 p.m tomorrow (Wednesday). After that it has to be counted to extract the right number of cells for her body weight and a few other things. They don't expect to do the actual transplant until the evening. It all feels a bit unreal.

Oh, another crazy thing happened too. I had to do some laundry today, since I only have 3-4 days worth of clothes with me.  They have a great facility for caretakers here, complete with showers, kitchen, tables, bookshelves full of books and movies, and washers and driers. I put my wash on and sat down to eat dinner and a woman came in and said, "Is your last name English?" I was shocked because I didn't recognize her. She turns out to be from Santa Barbara, and had recognized me from my picture in the newspaper from one of our fundraisers. She has been down here over a month dealing with her husband's relapse of MDS after a transplant.  (MDS is another blood cancer; the same one that Robyn Roberts from ABC-TV got a stem cell transplant for.)  They are trying to get it into remission with chemo.  Please pray for Jeff and Kathy as they continue to travel this difficult road.  I'll end with the psalm that Jews used to recite as they traveled the road to Jerusalem for Passover to remind us to look to God to keep us all safe on our journeys.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
(Psalm 121)

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