Friday, November 10, 2006


So, last Saturday, Kendrie had a soccer game. It was cold that day, cold and windy. I layered her in several shirts, her uniform, her coat, with a hood, and put a stocking cap on her head to keep the wind away. She looked like the little brother in A Christmas Story, all bundled up and trying to run. However, because she is such a klutz like her mother star athlete, there were several occasions when she fell down while tripping over her own feet performing amazing feats of soccer genius, and the cap would fall off. And she would run around for a few moments in the cold wind with no hat on.

So, it was no huge surprise that when I left the ICU Wednesday night, and turned my phone back on, that there was a message from Grandma Betty that our little soccer star was complaining of an earache. Unfortunately, due to the time change, it was at that point almost 1am in Georgia, but being the hysteric concerned parent that I am, I called my mom anyway to see how she was feeling. It seemed that then, in addition to the ear pain, Kendrie was running a fever.

So, in discussing our options, that was about when we realized not only were my kids’ insurance cards still in my wallet, I also hadn’t left any sort of note, authorizing my mom to take my kids for medical treatment. Yessiree, preparation is my middle name. So I told my mom not to worry, I would take care of things. The phone lines to our doctor’s office on base open at 7am, and I would call on Thursday morning, explain the situation, and get her an appointment. I came back to the hotel, stayed up until midnight whining on the internet to all of you about Blaine, then realized that 7 am Georgia time was 4 am Seattle time. Needless to say, I thought it might be wise to set an alarm. So I did.

4 am – Call Tricare to request appointment; they take message and promise to call back; lay there holding phone for half an hour.
4:30 am – Call Tricare again; only to be told it’s a training day and no appointments available. Nurse will call back to discuss options; lay there holding phone for another half an hour.
5:15 am – Nurse calls back; authorizes visit to local MedStop.
5:20 am – Call Grandma to get phone number to MedStop.
5:22 am – Call local MedStop; explain situation; they agree to see ear-achy child without insurance card, but need copy of military ID.
5:30 am – Groan. Get up and shower.
6:15 am – Go to hotel lobby, make Xerox copy of front and back of military ID, fax to MedStop; call Grandma Betty and let her know ear-achy child can now be seen and give directions to local MedStop.

And that’s how I came to be in Blaine’s room early yesterday morning, having been up since 4am. Tired, and a little sleep-deprived. But relieved to know that we did the right thing, since Soccer Girl did actually have an ear infection, as confirmed by the doctor at MedStop. Props to Grandma for handling things on the homefront.

I was feeling a little fuzzy, having started my day so early. I was also discouraged to discover Blaine had slept very little and wasn’t feeling any better. That’s my gripe about a patient-administered pain pump. To actually *receive* the medication, the patient has to be awake to press the button every six minutes. So just how is he supposed to get any sleep? And if he inadvertently goes to sleep, and is unable to push the pain button for say, half an hour, then he wakes up, after receiving NO medicine, his pain level is worse than when he started. It’s quite the vicious cycle.

So I spent the morning fluffing pillows and helping suction and holding urinals and untangling drain tubes and changing disgusting oozing bandages and grumbling under my breath and reminding myself that Florence Nightingale most likely had a much better attitude. Of course, she probably slept more than four hours a night, and didn’t have those jerks from pain management to deal with. (Yeah, because back in her day, giving some guy a swig of whiskey and a bullet to bite was SUCH a better option ………… my gosh I am the biggest whiner on the planet) But bottom line, Blaine’s pain wasn’t improved at all and I didn’t know what to do about it.

His nurse offered to call Pain Management again, and I swear, a snort came out of my nose …. Oh, yeah. Like THAT’S going to do any good! (snort again for good measure) But the nurse said, “Well, I have to at least try. He’s miserable.” I rolled my eyes and thought, “Yeah. Good luck with that.”

Then, I thought, “What the heck is that ringing noise?” only to discover that in my sleep-deprived stupor that morning, I had forgotten the cardinal rule of ICU rooms --- I had left my cell phone on, and someone was now calling me.

A quick glance at the return number showed me it was the military base calling. I wondered if the nurse needed to talk to me about Kendrie again … maybe they wanted to find out what MedStop had diagnosed???? So I answered the phone, trying to be sneaky, worried all the while that some other patient’s pacemaker was going to quit working because of me.

And guess who it was? Blaine’s doctor (and mine, too) calling, I *thought*, to check on Blaine. Which seemed odd, but whatever. I mean, why else would he be calling? To wish us well? Discuss the weather? Read me my horoscope????

Oh wait, I know. How about to tell me I HAVE FREAKIN’ SKIN CANCER?!?!?

Yep, that’s right. The annual-physical-jamboree I did for my 40th birthday? I had a funny looking spot removed, certain it was nothing, glad it was gone because it was ugly, and I’m nothing if not vain, and it turned out to be skin cancer. SKIN CANCER. He wanted to call and let me know there would be a referral to dermatology when I get back from Seattle.

Aaaaaahhhh, I have skin cancer!!

{OK, you do understand, right, that I’m being totally tongue in cheek? He reassured me that it’s the most commonly diagnosed kind, the most easily treated, and I am not one bit concerned about it, so don’t you be, either. I just think this is the most perfect example of irony I’ve ever seen …. And I’m still laughing about it. He doesn’t think the dermatology guy will even need to do anything else, but he’s sending me just to be sure. Hmmmm, wonder if I can get some botox while I’m there? Or maybe a chemical peel? Do they DO those in the Air Force?}

So I was basically giggling about the whole thing, because how funny is that? I’m in the hospital with my husband, who has just had reconstructive surgery as part of his cancer treatment, when my own doctor calls to tell me I’ve got skin cancer ….. come on, you’ve got to admit, that’s pretty hysterically ironic, in a sort of “what the heck is going on in this comedy of errors that is my life” kind of way. And I decided, I blame the wind. If it hadn’t been windy on Saturday, Kendrie wouldn’t have gotten an earache. And I wouldn’t have had to get up at 4am to make her an appointment. And I wouldn’t have been tired when I went to Blaine’s room, and wouldn’t have forgotten to turn off my cell phone. And my doctor wouldn’t have called, and I wouldn’t have found out I have skin cancer.

I blame the wind.

And decided to go grab some lunch.

This is part 2 of the story, and it’s the best part. I was down in the cafeteria, where I decided, what with having skin cancer and all, that I was entitled to thumb my nose at my diet for this meal. So I’m sitting at my table, nose in a book, HUGE plate of food in front of me, and this girl walks up to my table. Now, they’re doing some remodeling work in the cafeteria, so about half the eating section is closed off and there aren’t as many tables available, so for a split second I thought maybe she was going to ask if she could share the table with me. But no, she says, “Excuse me, is your name Kristie?” and all I could think was, “Holy cow, first I’m in trouble for falling asleep in the private consultation room, and now I’m in trouble for leaving my cell phone on??!”

Turns out, she’s a local Seattle-ite (Seattle-ostonian?) who follows along with this journal. Her name is Heidi, and we had corresponded by e-mail a few times these past few weeks, when she had kindly given me some sightseeing suggestions, and told me to contact her if I needed anything while I was in Seattle. (Actually, several people from this area did that ….. you Washington people have been so kind and helpful!)

Anyway, Heidi thought I could maybe use a visitor in the hospital, and sat with me the rest of my lunch so we could chat. You guys, it was twenty minutes of grown-up conversation that didn’t revolve around blood clotting and antibiotic ointment and drain tubes and urine output ---- it was great! I felt like a human being again!

Then, spreading goodwill and humanitarian effort, she left me a care package --- are you ready for this? A 24-pack of Diet Dr. Pepper (I could literally feel my central nervous system tingling in anticipation) ….. STYROFOAM CUPS to drink it with, a great book to read …………… AND A FLAT IRON!!! HEIDI BOUGHT ME A NEW FLAT IRON!!!!! No more Medusa-head for me!

Heidi, not since Angelina Jolie visited Africa has such benevolence and kindness been shown. I can’t even tell you how much I appreciated it …. I know you’re married and have a son and another one on the way, but I think I might just love you a little bit.

Then, it just keeps getting better.

I returned to the room, to find out pain management had come to see Blaine. A different doctor, who apparently looked around and said, “Well, this is unacceptable” and suggested we try a new medication. She explained it wasn’t a quick fix and might take a day to accumulate in his system, but that he *should* start feeling better. Hey, it didn’t even matter, she could have done a rain dance and shook feathers at him. Just knowing someone took him seriously and was willing to TRY, made a huge difference. Both to him and to me.

And I think, maybe, possibly, just a little bit, by last night, he was in less pain. I mean, he wasn’t skipping around the room or doing cartwheels or anything, but there were a few brief minutes yesterday when his eyes were clear and he seemed resilient again.

I came home last night, pooped, but happy. I drank three, count ‘em, THREE Diet Dr. Peppers from my Styrofoam cups (Heidi, I'm not even kidding. I love you) and collapsed into bed, knowing that when I go to the hospital today, Blaine should hopefully be feeling even better, I will feel rested and human, and best of all, most importantly, my hair will once again be sleek and shiny.

It’s a good life I have, skin cancer and all.

1 comment:

jadine said...

I don't know what to say. This entry had it all! Worry for little Kendrie and her ear, happiness that your Mother's such a pro, frustration with the time-diffrences and red-tape involved in getting Kendrie access to a doctor, white-hot-fury-about-Blaine's-pain-turned-to-relief-that-a-non-prick-doctor-took him-seriously-and-hopefully-some-pain-relief, WTF?! about you being diagnosed with skin cancer?!?, and exhaltant cheers for Heidi for the visit, DDP, foam cups, AND flat iron!!!!

Holy crap! After reading that, I'm fricking exhausted!