Monday, February 23, 2015

Alive for Now

A few weeks after publishing the previous post my weakness and fatigue and periodic painful episodes of what I identified as indigestion still plagued me. I suspected heart disease and diabetes were responsible. My lack of any medical insurance but medicare part a made me wary of getting involved in a search for answers. Finally, on October 18 my daughter Nancy, an MD, decided I should go to the emergency room. She suspected atrial fibrillation. She drove me to The Allen Wing of New York Presbyterian Hospital, a small hospital just south of Spuyten Duyvil Creek and The Bronx. Within minutes my pulse and blood pressure were being taken as I was admitted. Next I was led into a room where blood was taken and an EKG administered. Next I was led into a curtained area to wait on results of the various tests. Blood pressure normal, pulse normal, heart normal, but then the emergency room physician returned in something of a hurry. "We've found the problem. You have about 30% of normal hemoglobin and are severely anemic." I was given two units of blood then taken to a room. I discoved that my roommate was a Mormon woman from Puerto Rico named Liria Cruz-Pacheco and we enjoyed a lively conversation. When her problems with obtaining oxygen supplies were settled after a few days they brought in a young woman who had attempted suicide. She apparently resented the cheerful noises made by my visitors who included three granddaughters and a baby grandson with their assorted parents and requested a different room. She was taken to a room across the hall where the other patient moaned in evident pain or called for nurses. Before long she changed back to my room. Over the next few days I was given various tests includind a simultaneous endoscopy and colonoscopy. I was sufficiently aware to watch the monitor that showed the progress of the camera through my large intestine. I saw the narrowed opening and heard the radiologists confer about the blockage that prevented them from exploring any further. That night I was taken down to radiology again for a CT scan. An 'apple core' tumor, so named because the tumor left an apple core shaped opening which had less thana centimeter opening. I realized that my bouts of 'indigestion' resulted from temporary blockage. Surgery was recommended and I agreed. My son-i-law Lata and his home teacher gave me a priesthood blessing. The tumor was causing bleeding and would eventually close off my gut completely. I was taken to surgery on Friday evening,October 24. The anesthetist introduced himself and indicated the cross he wore around his neck. "I'll be praying for you." he said. Later, in the operating room, the nurses found that they had somehow misplaced a mat under me. They asked me to lift my hips and shoulders off the mattress at the same time so they could shift it down. I said I no longer levitated and I would lift my shoulders, then my hips. A few months later several of my young grandchildren demonstrated that they could balance on their heels and head with their bodies lifted. I'm simply not young and lithe enough. Meg came up from Virginia and waited through my operation and recovery then sat up with me all night and chatted, sharply reducing mystery use of self administered morphia. I finally released her from my thrall and she was able to return to Nancy's apartment for sleep, returning later with avocados and sea weed to relieve my awful post surgery diet of 'clears'. My attractive young surgeon stopped by on Sunday morning and said I was his favorite patient. On Monday, two and a half days following my surgery I was released from the hospital with a few very small scars. The laparoscopic surgery had removed half of my large intestine from the exit of the small intestine to the center of the transverse section at the top of the square shaped loop, including much of the omentum with 30 lymph nodes and the associated blood vessels, all through a three inch long incision just above my navel. Several 1/2" incisions were made for various cameras and surgical tools including a stapler to join the edges of my shortened large intestine with the small intestine. I didn't feel the need to use the prescribed painkiller or laxative once I returned to the apartment. With a month old baby and a heart patient already in residence I knew I would have to see to my own needs, but I had not required nursing in the hospital. My recovery was rapid. I am using alternative methods to subdue whatever cancer may remain in my system but my doctor called with a pathology report and only three of the thirty lymph nodes removed showed signs of cancer.

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