On Thursday I thought Chad was going to die.
We had a few close calls during his 2nd transplant this past December, but this one was the worst one yet. We were both home and sick with the Swine Flu. For the first time in years I was so sick all I wanted to do/could do was lay on the couch and have someone pet me, get me tea and make the aching go away. Not really an option when the person who should be petting, fetching and loving is worse off than you are. And when I say worse off, I dont mean, he’s coughing more than me, or he’s more tired than me, I mean, his heart is fluttering, he cant stand up without dipping in and out awareness and is starting to cry because he’s getting weaker and weaker by the hour. (And when you see a 34 year old man, with tattoos, who is a total rock start to cry because he’s panicking – its not a good thing)
After attempting to get Chad comfortable laying on the floor (cause sitting up was making him dizzy), we called his nurses, and his doctors and tried to figure out what the best thing to do was. Thinking, thinking thinking….we thought I could drive him to the clinic. Nope, he was too weak to make it to the elevator and down to the car. Ok, next option. Do we just wait and see if he feels better in the next while, then take him in. Nope, Chad knows his body, and when he starts to panic, its time to do something. So by advice of his nurses, we called 911.
I’ve had to make calls like this before when he’s been too sick to call the clinic to ask for help/advice etc – but the second the dispatcher asked ‘whats the problem’, and the words “My boyfriend is a blood cancer patient, and he has the Swine Flu…” came out of my mouth, the reality of the situation set in, and the tears started flowing.
As I am tearfully explaining the situation, Chad is telling me what to tell them in the background, I answer the dispatchers questions, “yes he is conscious, yes he is breathing, yes he has tested positive for H1N1, yes he is talking, no he is not vomiting blood” – (what the hell? I just said, yes he is talking, how would be vomiting blood if he was talking to me dumbass?!?)..
After I hang up the phone, I start gathering his things that he’ll need…meds, hoodie, shoes, wallet. Ive choked back my tears at this point, and switched into operations mode. As Im getting his things together, we can hear the sirens coming to our apartment. Chad lightheartedly says ‘oh, here they come, they are coming for me’ – I look over at him saying this, and as if he has just realized what he said, he has his hands on head and tears coming down cheeks. My heart cracks a little more each time I see him cry. For such a strong person, when he cries, I know its really bad.
The paramedics arrive and it seems as though they have brought the fire department with them (why do they do that? everyone knows firemen cant do more than make a big scene and give CPR, so why do they come?) Anyways, they sho the firemen away, and once the paramedics realize Im sick with the Swine Flu the throw on their masks. Im starting to feel like our apartment is from the set of ET with all the masks and people around. The nice paramedics run down the laundry list of questions for Chad, still laying on the floor. Chad goes over the same answers about his cancer, when were you diagnosed (9 years ago) when was your last transplant (December 19th, 2008), what treatments are you on now (a trail drug called Revlimid), are you confirmed to have H1N1 (yes)…
Anyways, I follow him on the stretcher to the elevator, and realize that if I go with them, as I’ll be stuck at the hospital. I decide to follow behind in my car. I walk back into the apartment to make sure I have everything, and realized what had just happened, the tears started again. Here I am by myself, crying, I still havent gone to get my own flu dealt with, still stick, still coughing, my boyfriend en route to emergency and an empty apartment. This sucks.
I arrived at emergency, put mask on, sanitized hands and went to look for Chad. The emergency is filled with fellow face mask-ed people, coughing and looking sick – its gross, and I am sure hoping they’ve got Chad in a room cause he cant be around this many sick people. I walk down the hall of Lions Gate Hospital Emergency (all the while ignoring the pot-bellied jerk nurse who’s scolding me ‘if you are sick get home, you cant be here..’ I feel like spinning on my heals, with my teary eyes and screaming at him – “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT MY MORNING HAS BEEN LIKE?!?!?” dick.) I see Chad laying on a stretcher in the hallway. Nobody really around him, no doctors, nothing. What. the. hell.
Im standing there, making sure he has his meds, waiting to hear what the plans are, thinking to myself, “I wish you were at VGH (Vancouver General Hospital) – they know you there, your doctor is there, they know what to do, they know your file there – they wouldnt leave you in the hall”. Chad is very trusting off most of the people who take care of him, so he is assuring me that they have things under control here.
*Lions Gate Hospital is the closest hospital to our house, so naturally the ambulance takes him there, not to VGH
Anyways, Chad tells me to go home, I cant be there if Im sick, I need to get myself to a doctor and he is fine. The paramedics come by and tell me the same thing, and tell me that they have a bed ready for him, but I cant go in. Nobody can.
Great. Just great.
Although I understand why the nurse and Chad are telling me to go home, it still hurts to be sho-ed away, when all I want to do is be there and make sure he gets better.
We have a quick tearful kiss on the cheek goodbye and they wheeled him away. That was it. I walked to the entrance of emergency to wait for my mom as dick nurse is still snipping at my heels.
Im so tired and so emotional at this point Im just pacing in front of the Emergency waiting for my Mommy (funny how when something is wrong, ‘Mom’ turns into ‘Mommy’). She comes…and I cry harder. I also realize through my tears that nobody asked for my information, if something happens and they need me who will they call? How will I know?
Mom quickly fixes that problem and takes me back in, (I pretend I dont see jerkdick nurse glaring at me) nobody is around to do that, so I’ll have to come back later.
Mom and I walk around to go have coffee, go pick Chad up some food and go back to the hospital.
She goes in to see Chad, and give him his food, while I sit in the waiting room looking like a blond terrorist with a hat on, hoodie over my hat and my mask.
There is a young girl about my age sitting in front of me. She had scars on her face and hoochie hoops in her ears. She looks even more rough than I do – I wonder what her deal is. Then I realize she’s got handcuffs on and there is a policewoman standing beside her telling her to sit down ‘we arent going anywhere, you cant just assault people’…followed by ‘do you think methadone is a good thing to be doing when you’re pregnant?’. There is one part of me that is like ‘shit – you got it rough’ and the other part of me wants to kick her in the shins and say ‘you think you got it rough? you chose this! Chad doesnt have a say that he’s sick! Give your cracked out head a shake!’
Anyways, I had to stop looking at her moaning and complaining and went to go say hi to Chad through the glass of his room (with my mom sitting beside him – Swine free). He starts saying through the glass – ‘go home, you cant be here, go get better’. Its too lengthy of a conversation to try and have through emergency room glass, but all that I want to explain to him is that I dont care that Im sick. He is what matters, and I want to make sure he is ok.
Mom and I leave to go to a walk-in clinic to get me Swine-drugs. After that she gives me mom-like step by step instructions. Go home. Put your pj’s on. Snuggle up. Get some sleep. Call me. Yes Mom.
Feeling better, that Chad is being taken care of, he has food and is comfortable, I am looking forward to having a night where I can lay on the couch and feel better that he is going to feel better. I swing by the video store on my way home and pick up about 12 hours worth of Gossip Girl. By tomorrow, all will be right with the world.
I put my pj’s on. Put on the first episode of Gossip Girl, talked to Chad, he’s getting tests done, we’ll be in touch. Good.
No less than an hour goes by and Chad calls. He gets out “Hi babes..” and then silence. All I hear is him choking back tears, saying “Im sorry, I just need a second…”. Fuck. I start welling up, and wait for him to talk.
“The doctors just came in to see me, and they are really really worried about me. I have pneumonia in my lungs, and my kidneys are failing and Im in congestive heart failure again… (*These were all the same problems he had last year after transplant, so we are well aware of how sick this means he is)
…they are going to run some tests, but the doctor just said
“Im sorry” I dont know whats going to happen. I love you so much, (sobbing uncontrollably) and I dont know, I dont know I dont know. I just want to come home to you, you know how much I love you right? You know when I get upset, its not me talking right, I just want to get better for you.”
I am pacing around the apartment repeating the same thing “I love you, Im going to come there, I love you, I’m going to get my things” (knowing I cant, cause they wont let me in). I ask him to promise me that he’s going to be ok. Promise me that you are going to come home to me. He says
“I cant promise anything, but I know if something happens you are going to be ok”
….Im not ok. Im not going to be ok.
Oh. My. God. This is not what I thought was going to happen to my life. I am supposed to grow old with this person, travel the world with this person, marry and have babies with this person – and here I am starting to say goodbye’s OVER A CELL PHONE!?!?!?
We are both sobbing. Eventually, we calm each other down, just saying that we’ll talk the entire night, and just stay on the phone, and we wont be alone. He says he needs to relax and will call me in awhile. At this point I am on my knees on the floor rocking back and forth. He hangs up and I just lay there on the floor.
I think this must be like when someone finds out a loved one has died in a car accident, or in a sudden tragedy. This unexpected feeling of ‘I didnt plan for this, I didnt get to say what I needed to, Im not there’. Understanding the statistics and severity of his situation last year during his transplant, I had to process the fact that death is an option, however, other than a few hours of fear, I never thought it would happen. I also thought that if it did become an option, we would always have time to discuss it, talk about it, and come to terms with it. Together.
If it ever were to happen, this is not how I imagined it. ON A CELL PHONE?
I called home in full sobs, asking Mom to come. Between the then and the time Mom arrived, Chad called again saying he had spoken with a new young resident doctor who made him feel better, and explained things logically. “You are on this drug for this reason. It will help with this.” Simple, logical and certainly not ‘Im sorry’.
When Mom arrived, Chad was feeling less scared. I was too, but that doesnt mean he’s not in trouble. Mom slips into survival mode pretty quick. She’s like ‘right. lets go get food. we went to go get food (as I haven’t been eating) and we get a bottle of wine – and you can get some sleep’. We eat a little, drink a little and watch a movie. Chad has told me he’s tired and going to try and get some sleep, so I try and do the same.
Yea right. This is my biggest fear. Im home. Chad’s not. I dont know if he is ever coming home. I am glued to my phone, worried that if I fall asleep I’ll miss ‘THE’ call. What if the doctors call and tell me I need to come because he is dying. What if Chad calls me scared. What if he is sleeping and dies in his sleep and we never got to say goodbye?
As Im writing this, I wonder if I was being dramatic. But no. Im not. This is real. These are the things I worry about because they are real possibilities.
I cried myself to sleep with Mom there. I havent slept uninterrupted for the past week because his heart has been acting funny, and he’s worried that he is going to have a heart attack in the middle of the night. Which means I am worried he’s going to have a heart attack in the middle of the night. If I havent been up with him cramping, I’ve still been waking up every few hours, just to make sure he’s still breathing. I’ll shift, to make sure he shifts. I’ll put my arm on him just to make sure he moves.
Anyways..exhausted, I am able to sleep, but wake up every few hours checking my phone. I text him at 5:30am to see if he’s awake. I get a message around 8am, saying he got some rest. Sweet. We made it through the night.
He says his kidneys’ have calmed down a little, and they are going to send him home today. I picked him up and brought him home.
I’d like to say that after the 24 hours we had, we collapsed into each others arms, told each other how thankful we are, have a passionate kiss and everything is better now.
Far from it. This is just the start of the week.