A New Language …

… And a Bump In The Road

Well, it seems I am adding to my medical knowledge more than I am to my linguistic one.

A lot of Hebrew is coming back to me after more than 40 years of its absence but the one thing did come back, I didn’t want.

I was feeling weaker rather than stronger last week after waking up for the first day after my first week of dialysis and soon had a recognizable pain in the chest. Fearing another embolism, my sister rushed me to the ER where I was assessed and taken to the haematology ward with an extremely low white cell count, amongst other issues.

Their first course of action was a biopsy to determine why my bone marrow was so inefficient at producing necessary white blood cells, platelets and haemoglobin and so my next day was the wait, the painful extraction of bone marrow and the brooding dull affects thereafter. By this stage, I was on Oxygen and a drip had been moved to a luxury suite, replete with its own tv, mini fridge, lazy boy recliner and aircon. Home luxuries in the hospital?

It was like being upgraded to first class but it was more about isolation due to my susceptibility to infection.

I also had had an X-ray and CT scan of the lungs after the marrow biopsy but there was nothing that stood out other than the new bout of pneumonia and so the only way to establish some sort of idea of what was wrong, was to go in with a needle and extract a sample. I don’t want to hear the word biopsy again. Ever.

Using the CT scanner as a mapping device, the pulmonologist guided the giant needle through my chest, mm by mm (inch fraction by inch fraction for those still stuck in Imperial measurements), each time sending me back into this spaceship of a machine to see if it was still on track. I can feel the track of it throbbing as I type.

After an eternity of discomfort, he reached his mark and sent in the claw to snatch a sample.

But it didn’t end there. To be sure about an answer, he went in six times, each time driving the thing in deeper and deeper. I won’t get too descriptive about the pain.

After about 40 min, he was done and it was time to take the steel straw from my lung chamber, which he did like plucking a sword from the chest of his enemy.

As he did so, he applied extreme pressure to the site to prevent bleeding and to close the hole. Only I did bleed and it had nowhere to go but the lungs and suddenly I couldn’t breathe, and trying to inhale, I managed to suck in a bit of air til I spasmed and choked on the blood filling my chest. Coughing it up and out expelled any air and I had to suck in hard but the pain and the blood wouldn’t let me get air so I choked and coughed up blood til the pain stopped me there. This went on and I felt like I was drowning. The world scrambled around me and my mind was telling me all was alright but my body wouldn’t let me breathe as it filled my lungs with blood.

After some 20 min or so I managed to calm myself down enough for short enough breaths and the bleeding had stopped enough to get me to ICU. By late afternoon I was tethered to a bank of screens and machines behind me with at least a dozen tubes, pipes and wires in a busy open ward, with 10 other people balancing precariously on the same little ledge of life.

I was In danger in two fronts now, the almost non-existence of white blood cells and platelets and a serious lung issue.

But things work fast here and although the language barrier is huge, things went well. That, despite my growing distress at all the tethers that had me so bed-bound, they were my lifelines to the proper treatment and care.

By Saturday morning I was sitting up and was moved to a chair next to the bed, delighting the spaghetti monster no doubt (damn the Pastafarians and their idol), as I got so entangled in all the wires and tubes they had to rewire me.

Having not slept a wink since being admitted and having had meds of note for pain the day before, I fell asleep last night, Saturday night and have had more sleep than a teenager since.

Earlier today I was set free from all restraints and transferred up to the pulmonary ward for assessment. My white blood cell count had returned to close to normal and I feel better than when I arrived in the country. I feel good. I feel confident that things will get better soon and I will be exploring soon. Exploring outside, not the different departments of the Meir Medical Centre, I have seen four different wards now in a week, it is enough!

So thank you for your prayers, they work.

Thank you all for the good wishes. They work too.

The universe knows how to distribute energy.

I’ll be fine.

My medical lexicon is full enough.

Sending out Lots of LoooovE!

My life living with wildlife at Mopane Grove, deep in Mopane veld of the APNR in the heart of the Kruger National Park