5/3/17 The Pneumonia Menace

After having had a good time at The Alabama Folk School, I returned home, more tired than I perhaps should have been. While I did not keep raucous hours at Camp McDowell, since I don’t keep raucous hours, I did not get much sleep. Sleep for me, is sometimes as elusive as Bigfoot. Have you seen Bigfoot lately? No? Well, I haven’t slept much lately, either. By Sunday, April 23, I had zero energy level. I slept fretfully, woke up for an hour, went back to bed, woke up for an hour or two, slept fretfully some more, and generally slept fretfully off and on the whole day. Being tired is not unusual, but I noted that this was exceptional.

Monday, I loaded up later than normal and went to Oxford to check on the progress of the men working there. They were in good shape and I was relieved that they did not need me, but had things well under control. I felt so bad, I told Canaan I was headed to my camper and would be back the next morning.

You don’t look so good, either,” he cheerfully added. “I’ll check on you later.”

When I got to my camper, I hit the bed. As the afternoon and evening progressed, so did my bad feeling. I passed one of the worst nights I ever had. I went from chills to sweats, back to chills. I knew I had fever, but I didn’t have a thermometer. A couple of times I felt so bad, coughing, I thought about going to the ER. My abdomen was so sore I wondeed if Mike Tyson had not crept into my camper and pummeled my midsection during my delerious sleeplessness. I was too stubborn for the hospital, but it did cross my mind more than once.

Tuesday morning, I decided that I must go to the doctor, that if I had seriously entertained going to the ER more than once during the night, I certainly needed to see a physician. Canaan had visited a physician in Oxford, a Dr. Willis Dabbs at The Urgent Care Clinic on Belk Road, so I got the info from him and decided to go there. They were very nice.

They took one look and determined that I was pretty sick. I hate it when that happens, though I reckon they are as good at spotting sick people as I am at spotting a bad insulator in a substation. They made filling out the paperwork easy.

A quick listen with a stethoscope and Dr. Dabbs said, “There it is! You’ve got pneumonia in your left lung, and the beginnings of it in your right.” I explained my CLL to him as he noted my fever, and he said, “I should put you in the hospital.”

I don’t want to be in the hospital in Oxford. Give me some medicine and I’ll go home,” I replied. After an X-ray to confirm the pneumonia, Dr. Dabbs gave me some prescriptions which I had filled at the Fred’s Pharmacy just a couple of blocks down the road. I drove from there to the camper, to rest, I thought.

I called Hemosapien. He was very stern. He said for me to get home and get home now, or go back to the hospital in Oxford. I told him I didn’t think I was able to drive myself home. He said get an ambulance to take me to the Oxford hospital or get someone to come get me. Now, Oxford is a place where I am not without some resources. A dozen people would have driven me home with just a phone call. Two dozen would have come picked me up and taken me to the hospital. A dozen more would have driven from home to come get me. As it was, I called Canaan and He and Cody came to my camper, picked me up, drove me home, and returned to work in Cody’s company truck.

After I got home I got in the bed. I got a text from Hemosapien wanting to know if I was home, what medicines I had been prescribed, and was I actually in bed. I told him all the details. He said stay there and as long as my fever was 101°F or less, stay in the bed and plan on coming to the hospital the next morning for tests and x-rays. If my fever got over 101°F, go straight to the emergency room. I remember once before, during chemo and a severe bout of neutropenia (or a neutrophil count of near zero, which is itself life-threatening) I had flirted with death over a 102°F fever and a pure male obstinacy. I may have grown up a bit since then. I did what Hemosapien told me. Though I still did not head towards the hospital, I sent him another text when my fever hit 101.5°F. My phone rang immediately.

Go straight to the ER,” he said. “They will be waiting for you.”

I did, and they were. Though the admissions people in the front were not actually waiting for me, the ER doctor on call was. By the time I got to triage, the nurse was on it. I had to do nothing from there other than be cared for.

X-rays confirmed pneumonia in both lungs, which Dr. Dabbs had already done, but Hemosapien felt I had been a bit under-treated. This is not a reflection on Dr. Dabbs since he does not deal with compromised immune system leukemia patients every day. I was served well by Dr. Dabbs and his staff, who actually called me to follow up when their radiologist confirmed the pneumonia. They wanted to know if I still in Oxford or was at home getting additional care. They were very nice. I am thankful for them and glad I found a physician I can use when I am in Oxford, since I am there a lot.

The radiologists, radio-logic technicians, nurses, nurses assistants, kitchen staff, physicians, and everyone else at Jeff Anderson Regional Medical Center in Meridian were wonderful. Hemosapien blew in on Wednesday morning, somewhat angry that a few protocols had not been followed, but he remedied that, promptly.

I told him I was not about to start whining about being in the hospital. “You will not hear once from me about, ‘When am I going to get to go home?’ I’ll go home when you say I can go home, I’ll stay here and follow orders, and then follow them when I get home.” He looked skeptical, but seemed to be satisfied.

Have you let them know at M.D. Anderson that you are in the hospital? Since you are on a clinical trial, they will need to know.” he said. I shook my head no. He frowned. “Call them now,” he admonished. I admire this new role Hemosapien has grown into in the nine years he has been my hematologist/oncologist. He has grown rather sure of himself, though he still allows me some liberties I expect he does not allow of other patients. He and I have matured in nine years, he as a physician, me as a cancer patient. Though he must maintain the patient/physician clinical separation, particularly due to the nature of his business, I know better than that. He loves me. It is returned. I was one of his first patients in Meridian. He certainly was my first oncologist. We have grown together. I am willing for us both to grow some more.

He was as unwilling to put me on prophylactic antibiotics as I was to take them, and I am allergic to penicillin, so cultures were required to determine what, if any, antibiotics may be needed. These cultures take time. Eventually, IV Levaquin was required, though I daresay I had a pretty severe reaction to it. I itched so bad I asked for a wire brush. Eventually some other medications alleviated my itching (I expect I got some heavy steriods) and I was well on my way to getting the medicine into my veins, particularly after they slowed down the delivery.

Hemosapien let me go home on Friday afternoon.I had to raise my hand and give scout’s honor that I would go home and stay home, and not leave for any reason until Wednesday, 5/3/17. That is today. I still feel like I have been run through an old wringer washing machine, which washes better than Debbie’s old (well, old, now, but recently new) Whirlpool Cabrio, but less well than her new Speed Queen. You may or may no be familiar with Debbie’s one person crusade against Whirlpool’s disastrous engineering design of a washing machine, but since she started, she has discovered hundreds of people who are furious about their Whirlpools, the lunacy of the advice Whirlpool gives to those of us who were so unfortunate as to purchase one, such as toting extra buckets of water to put in them so the clothes will all get wet, etc. That is another story, but a fascinating one. If you have had the misfortune or purchasing a Whirlpool Cabrio, Debbie would like to hear from you to add you to the growing list of dissatisfied customers Whirlpool swears do not exist.

If you have leukemia and suffered with pneumonia, or any difficult secondary infection, I’d like to hear from you. Pneumonia and recurring infections are par for the course for leukemia patients, but this is the first time I have had such an event. As Hemosapien said, I have been very fortunate to have had this first incident nine years after my diagnosis. In the end, it is seldom the leukemia that claims us outright…it is a secondary infection just like the one I am recovering from that sneaks up on us, runs amok with our compromised immune system, and we go septic and shuck this mortal coil far easier than Whirlpool can explain to Debbie why it is her fault the one shirt she placed in her Cabrio washer didn’t even get fully wet, twists up like an attempt at Tie-Dye, won’t wash the detergent out, and that there is nothing wrong with her washing machine, but her technique, her water, her detergent, her electricity, her . . . you name it, it is everyone’s fault but theirs.

The pneumonia? It is no one’s fault. My failure to follow doctor’s orders? Well, that would be completely my fault. That may happen in the future, but it did not happen this time. I had more good doctors looking after me than you could shake a stick at, but since they seemed to be holding all the sticks and shaking them at me, I decided I better play by their rules.

Thank you, everyone, for your prayers to Almighty God, your warm spiritual thoughts, your agnostic/atheistic well wishes, even your entreaties to deities of whom I have no present or future knowledge or relationship. I receive them all in the spirit in which they were intended. I know my source. I also know the depth of your cares and concerns. I am thankful for every kindness extended to me.

I am nearly as good as new, though not planning on entering a foot race anytime soon.

©2017 Mississippi Chris Sharp

I had great fun with this sign that was posted to my door. Hemosapien made them take it down after he noticed the card I had posted adjacent to the sign. I was as much of a fall risk as anyone walking around on two feet. It was the source of much amusement for the nurses and visitors alike.

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