The case of the incredible shrinking woman

Last week I spent time with my girlfriends, happily painting woobs. This week is somewhat different. Still not learning from the idea that I cannot plan a single day without things potentially going awry, I whizz off to my oncology appointment, telling Mr Mason that it will just be a normal appointment with nothing to worry about. I get blood taken and am called in to see the registrar as my consultant is on holiday. She asks me how I am and I tell her my breathing isn’t too good. I have noticed over the last few days that going upstairs makes me feel really out of breath. She is immediately worried and questions me about my temperature and any other symptoms. She decides to have my blood oxygen measured immediately and also to get me an emergency ct scan but first to go and get an x-ray to see what fluid is in my chest. Luckily, my friend Ms Marsden is on hand to keep me entertained and hold bags and clothing. The x-ray technician recognises me as is happening increasingly often, even in a hospital of this size.

The x-ray technician shows me a copy of the x-ray compared to the last one done in July and we agree there is less fluid there than before. He also comments on the camisole I am wearing in that the straps have plastic attachments whereas the ring which holds the straps is metal and therefore shows up on the x-ray. He tells me this is to do with costs and maximising profits. I wonder if he is doing a business degree in his spare time. We trot back to the oncologist who sees me again and she arranges for a nurse to insert a canula for a ct scan. The nurse who inserts the canula is friendly and comments on the bruising already on my arm from the blood taken earlier in the morning. Ms Marsden and I grab some food from the cafe and go to the ct scan area. Once inside, I am laid on the table while the iodine contrast is pumped into my arm. Now, with a ct scan you can feel the iodine go around the body as a flush which ends up by making you feel as though you have wet yourself. This happens within seconds but doesn’t happen this time and I can feel the iodine going into my arm but not the vein. I call out to get them to stop and the technician comes and rather techily detaches the iodine pump and tells me to sit with my arm up and an ice pack on. Then come the words I don’t want to hear. “You are going to go up to 6 South”. Aaarrrggghhh! This is a precursor to being kept in overnight which I really don’t want. I ask them to bring Ms Marsden in and we sit and make small talk until the porter arrives. He is also familiar.

Up on the ward, a nice oncology doctor, James, comes to see if he can canulate me. He removes the canula and puts a dressing on it. I seize the moment and nip to the loo only to find blood coursing down my arm and dripping on the floor, soaking my gown and causing me to shout “Oh, shit!” which Ms Marsden says was clearly audible from the ward. I grab a wad of paper towels and holding my arm up, make my way back to James who is slightly alarmed to see all the blood. He tries to clean me up and stop the flow of blood. The next thing is to put another canula in. But where? Another oncology doctor arrives. I have no idea of her name but she points to areas on me as though I am a piece of meat, taking my shoes off an examining my feet. i want to tell her she has to actually communicate with the patient rather than look at me like something on a slab but I am tired and really can’t be bothered to tell her something she should know.

Mr Mason arrives and relieves Ms Marsden who has stayed with me all day. The canula is inserted in my foot, an arterial blood sample is taken from my wrist and after the results come back, I am wheeled down to the first floor for another ct scan. The technician is tetchy, it being midway throuh the evening and she is even tetchier when she seems the canula is in my foot. She thinks this might not work but will grudgingly have a go. At least the iodine gets round my system this time and the technician says she thinks it will have worked well enough. I am back to the ward and Mr Mason goes home, without me. As there is no room on the proper oncology ward, I am left on the assessment ward but they give me a nice side room of my own and only disturb me 3 times during the night to monitor my vital signs and to give me a blood-thinning injection which hurts.

The next morning I am desperate to get out and go home. I don’t feel ill, just breathless, and I’m sure I can have a much better rest at home. Also my phone and ereader are rapidly running out of charge so I find myself resorting to reading an old copy of Chat or something similar and going over all the wrong answers on the crossword page. The consultant comes in to see me to say there is no blood clot, which is a relief, but that they don’t know why my breathing is so bad. They think it is damage from chemotherapy but that could be from a previous time or the 2 sessions I have had recently. It certainly means there will be no chemo today which is a bit of a blow. They are going to put me on steroids to try and help my lungs and then I may be able to have chemo the following week. Mr Mason arrives with toiletries and chargers and I clean myself up and plug in all the essentials. The registrar comes back at 3pm to say I can be discharged and we then wait, wait and wait some more. Finally, at around 7.30 I am given the all clear and we are on our way home. Why it takes so long to discharge me is not quite clear but apparently involves the length of time it takes to get drugs from the pharmacy. I am also being given antibiotics for what they think is a fungal infection which might account for the pain in my osophaegus when I am having steroids. We shall see.

I arrive home to find a copy of a letter from my consultant written to my GP. She updates her on what had been happening (although the letter is now out of date) and tells her that my weight has dropped to 1.4kg. This is a shock even to me. I know my weight has been dropping but to be the size of a very small cat is beyond even my capabilites. Just another case of the incredible shrinking woman, I guess.

One thought on “The case of the incredible shrinking woman

  1. Aw, bless you. To help you understand discharge taking so long: 1. the doctors have to do their bit on the computer. The the discharge letter and the drug chart get sent to pharmacy where it should all be checked. Half the time the doctors (because this job usually gets palmed off to the juniors) make a mistake. If you are lucky, pharmacy find it and ring the ward, so the nurses (like me! Yay!) can chase the doctor who wrote the discharge letter in the first place to change it and the whole thing starts over. If you are unlucky, pharmacy don’t notice or don’t ring and the nurse (like me! Yay!) finds the mistake, chases the doctor etc. Because pharmacy have lots and lots of discharges to deal with from about 3 o’clock onwards (typical) it takes a while till they get to yours. I don’t know how pharmacy work in Chelsea, but here they close at 5:30. So if you are really really unlucky here, by the time someone finds said mistake, pharmacy are closed and you will stay another night.

    Thinking of you lots! xx

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