Yesterday morning was a lazy one. M’s mouth soreness kept him from sleeping well the night before, so we weren’t in a hurry to get up in the morning. I only slightly regretted this decision when Dr. DiPersio popped in a little after nine. I would have preferred him not see me in my skivvies, hair all a-fuzz…but, whatever. I smiled largely from behind my covers to greet him and told myself that I’m sure he’s seen worse.
He always greets Mitchell with a solid, amiable handshake; it is a gesture fit for partners, friends joined in a quest.
I like that.
He asked how M was doing. “Doing OK, other than that sore throat?” Because he hurts too much to talk at any length, Mitch nodded. “Want a new throat? We can get ahold of that guy, your donor, and then you wouldn’t reject it!” he suggested with a smile. M grinned, amused and seemingly comforted by Dr. DiPersio’s joviality. He continued, “You’re doing really well. You’re actually about two-thirds of the way done. Keep this up, barring any complications, you’ll be out of here in seven, ten days max.” We both perked up at this because it meant we were closer to the end that either of us had realized. It also means we could be “free” for my birthday! Wouldn’t that be a gift? Freedom from our first hospital stay for M’s 27th birthday, then freedom from (hopefully) our last for my 26th. Grand Design.
This morning, however, is rough. After experimenting with Morphine and Dilaudid last night, M finally got a bit of relief from his mouth pain. Dilaudid is the stronger of the two and seemed to work better for him. He’s needing it so frequently, though, that they’ve put him on PCA – a button at the bedside that allows him to release his narcotic as he needs it. Dilaudid, we’ve discovered, can cause nausea. And since he’s not eaten much over the last few days, he’s feeling very weak. Even before I could eat breakfast, I was grabbing his bucket and wetting a wash cloth for his head. A rush of stomach acid surfaced; his stomach is empty. A happy dose of Ativan (our favorite anit-nausea/relaxation drug) ensued.
I hate this.
His eyes are dark and red, his body is limp with weakness, his lips are chapped and bruised. He’s dehydrated and hungry, but his spit isn’t even allowed to glide down his throat because it’s too painful. He’s started coughing, we think from the saliva that tries to trickle down. Nurse Carisa has ordered a chest X-ray just to be sure he’s not developing pneumonia. Since his platelets are low, the coughing causes nose bleeds. He got his growth factor shot in his belly and, in the last few minutes, his temp registered at 101.5. This means more antibiotics and blood cultures, which means in the next few seconds, he also gets a stick in the arm.
Watching this is hell. Even though I have Assurance, watching him tiptoe around death is too much to ask. Yet, here we are. His body is supported by the half-dozen bags hanging from a pole sitting ten inches from his motorized bed.
I know it will get better, I’m just ready to see it; to be it.
We’re almost there. He knows it too. As he lays heavily, with his bucket and spit rag, a zillion cords and a fever, he looks over at me.