Friday, August 21, 2009

How I got here PT II Life after Motorcycles...

August 10, 2006:
That day I rode my trusted, two wheeler (a 2001, HD Superglide. The color is called, by the manufacturer, DIAMOND ICE PEARL) to the hospital and back. At the end of the ride home that day, the odometer read 88,427 miles. Today 3 yrs later it reads 88,427 miles.
I was hooked up to a constant flow infusion pump that contained, daunorubicin, and given another bottle full of the a fore mentioned ATRA. I wore this infusion pump for an entire week. A week off with pay! Who could ask for more? The doctor's orders were to avoid crowds and people who had been in a crowd. My immune system was going to be "Depressed" by the drug and a simple cold or flu bug would be all she wrote for the good guy.
My children were in school and my wife worked in a public facing office. So I was not supposed to get too close to them. I have always been a hugger (but not all touchie, feelie), and that week was almost insufferable.
I returned to the hospital on Sunday August 17, 2006, to drop off the pump. I returned home (in my lovely wife's car both ways) with new instructions. The others were still in effect. But, now I was to monitor my heart rate and temperature. This would be easy. After raising 2 children I had always had several thermometers around the house. And after the earlier concerns about my heart, that lead to diagnosing my leukemia, we already owned a sphygmomanometer. The most important point emphasized by my doctor, was, "IF your temperature rises to 100.6°, drop everything and get to the emergency room immediately. Don't call first or don't wait for any reason."
The next three days dragged slowly past without any significant incidents. But while taking an after dinner nap on the 4th day, I started to feel warmish. I took my temperature, 100.8, Oh great." I thought and forced myself to tell my wife. I really did not want to go to the hospital! I had never gotten any good news in one of them. My entire blood family was gone, with the exception of my younger sister. Burying your siblings and parents and grandparents SUX. The only thing worse I can think of would be to bury one of my children.
Anyway! I went to the hospital and checked into the emergency room. That is the last thing I remember until sometime in late August 2006. This part of the story comes from people I trust who visited me in the ICU. Apparently my immune system had not been "Depressed." It had been crushed, smashed, eliminated. GONE.
A bacterial infection, had crossed over and turned my blood poisonous. The condition is called sepsis. But you may have heard it called "Septic Shock." And in a reaction to self preserve, My body went comatose. This was not the only reaction. To stop pumping poison to my vitals, my brain tried to help by making my heart pump inefficiently, lowering my blood pressure to almost ZERO. That led to a no circulation condition in my legs, and at least two strokes. In an attempt to overcome the low blood-pressure, the ICU responded, quite correctly, by intravenous water (saline) infusions. I have vague memories of my sister (who had actually driven from Kentucky to be with me and she says she did the things I recall) leaning into a smoke filled room(my mind) and telling me "I am here with you. And I will protect you." And several of my wife holding my hand and asking me "Are you still with us?" and saying "I love you." But when I tried to reply I couldn't make my voice work. So, if anyone tells you that people in a coma can't hear what you say to them. Feel free to tell them I said "BS." It was dream-like and surrealistic. But I heard and remember hearing them.
When I finally became aware of myself again, I was stoked up on enough morphine to cause hallucinations. I know it sounds like a real party. But it was exquisitely frightening. People who came to visit were mixed into the most extreme situations that even Quentin Tarantino couldn't visualize. I had an elaborate imagination already. And back then, it was in overdrive, with an unlimited fuel supply.
In my mind I was tied down on a pallet unable to move (the strokes had left both sides of my body paralyzed) and I would plead with visitors to untie me. And curse them when they wouldn't. This unnerved my 19 year old son to no end. I actually told my wife (The gentlest, most sensitive and loving person I know), that if she would not untie me. I would divorce her as soon as I got loose. I suffered a constant barrage of these cartoon episode reactions. So much so, that after I became aware of what was really happening to me I apologized vociferously to every visitor who came through the door.
The hallucinations continued for a long time, because my pain was so intense I was on round the clock morphine injections (sepsis causes such acute intense pain, my eyelashes burned with pain, and I would scream and freak out whenever someone touched me and the feel of the bed linens on my skin was excruciating).
The hallucinations eventually became more sporadic, but way more realistic and frightening. I would ask visitors who had come in alone, to identify for me, the people who had come in with them. Sometimes they would just laugh. Other times they would spin around to see if anyone had followed them in. And my dreams at night were so complete in there emotional reality, I would awaken screaming for help. But I had not awakened from the hallucination. And the nurses unwittingly became victims of my unconscious terrors.
This was my world until late September 2006.
Next time reality sets in and Phobias realized.


Blasé said...

What you've experienced makes you appreciate a Good Day more than most will, I'm sure.

Purdy Bike!

Kelly Combs said...

Merci beaucoup. Je parle anglais, ma Frère.

KrippledWarrior said...

==>KC, you are welcome. And very well I might add.

Kelly Combs said...

This story is riveting and I can't wait to continue reading. The good news is that I know it ends "happily ever after" since you're writing the post. :-)

AmyK. said...

Sepsis is very scary...and the pain you describe is terrifying.

But that you heard people while in coma is reassuring. I will always remember that. Thank goodness you had your wife and sister with you to help pull you back.