Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Placement of the Filter

From the hospital waiting room:
We tremble when we’re nervous. Through all of this, Mom hasn’t cried in front of anyone - we simply don’t do that. But the shakiness affects her, leaving her signature looking wobbly and wrong when I glance at papers before tucking them in my bag. I filled out the privacy forms yesterday afternoon and held her hand in mine this morning to lend support.

I find myself completely alone, save the receptionist, in the cath lab waiting room. It’s decorated in greens and purples and there is classical music with ocean sounds playing. Out the window, I can see the tallest buildings in the skyline, still lit as they sky is still pink with the blushes of dawn.

“I wonder when it gets light out.” I asked Mom as we stared out into the darkness not long ago. She asked me if I could be ready in 10 minutes at 5:07 this morning. I dressed and brushed my teeth, pulled my hair in a ponytail and we made the drive in silence.

“I don’t know.” She offered to my observation after a moment of looking out the waiting room window. “I thought it would be light already.”

We arrived and parked, catching a ride on a nifty little cart at the entrance that took us to admitting. We then wove our way to the sub-basement levels that being built on a hill offers a structure and found ourselves in this room. It’s pleasant. And, after hearing the only other occupants say they’ve been coming here for 16 years before departing to sit with their person in the back exam rooms, I realized I must have been here seven years ago to sit while Dad’s angioplasty was done.

It was dark then too. Evening had deepened to night and I think it was early morning when Rachel drove me back to the apartment. I recall speaking to Elle when I arrived, then going to the shower to cry and cry.

This is much more civilized, I think. Neatly planned and politely executed. The people seem friendly and cheerful on this Tuesday morning. I sipped some free coffee without thinking about it, wondering too late if it was wise to dispel the sleepy haze that surrounded me thus far. I didn’t sleep well last night and struggled with a headache, but I feel OK this morning. Not overly nervous. Only mildly ill.

“I have dollar bills in my wallet.” Mom said as I stared ahead of me at the black machine offering Cold Drinks in white letters. There is a blue snowflake in the O of Cold.

“I have some too.” I said. “My wallet is in here somewhere.”

She packed a few items in the gray bag I carried in DC. It has a small tear in the front, which I suppose is reasonable since I bought it when I was interviewing for grad school. That was not long after Dad had his heart attack. She remembered to tuck my lip gloss in a pocket after seeing it on a coffee table. I also have her glasses and wallet and both of our phones.

“Can you tuck my laptop in its case?” I asked as I took Chienne outside to potty before we left. I returned and was handed my bag even as I took the collar off my sleepy dog. We like to be early, though the years I’ve worked on the fringes of the medical field should have taught me it’s unwise to arrive too far before your scheduled appointment. Yet the time has allowed me to read the scrolling words that ‘Your favorite coffee beverage is now available in a 14 oz size.’ I also know that, from top to bottom, the Cold Drinks machine has Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Diet Pepsi again, Mountain Dew, root beer, Aquafina, Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite and Diet Coke again. There is a water tucked in my bag - my parents said I drank too much soda last night when I was sick once again. Perhaps they’re right.

As we sat in the exam room yesterday, talking to the young man with impressive enough credentials who will, in 10 minutes time, begin inserting a spider-looking filter into my mother’s vein, Mom asked questions to which I knew the answers. I’d previously grilled his PA and was satisfied enough with his answers. If something goes wrong, he’ll fix it himself - he’s a vascular surgeon. There is a possibility of bleeding, yes, but the half life of the stinging Lovenox shots is 12 hours. So if she skips her mornings shot - which she did - she should be fine. The clots will break up on their own. No, she shouldn’t need the filter were it not for the damn knee manipulations. (I inserted the swear word - the PA didn’t curse.) He could damage the vena cava, but she’d never seen that happen.

I looked down at the list I scrawled on the back of a drug questionnaire and nodded. I don’t know what the right answer is. I worry that she’d get better care if I took her home with me. I feel I must balance Dad’s “let the experts decide what to do” confidence in our local doctors with some sort of skeptic expression. Doctors don’t impress me much anymore. Then again, I don’t know how to insert this filter myself.

“What if these clots break loose?” Mom asked. I didn’t make a face, though I wanted to.

“The medication keeps them from getting bigger.” The doctor said slowly and gently. I bristled that he might think us stupid, but tried to relax. “It doesn’t break them up. Your body will do that on its own most of the time.”

I wanted to remind Dad that I’d said the exact same thing, but I resisted that impulse too. But Vascular Surgeon answered the questions as they were answered online. So we moved on.

At five minutes to seven, the happy nurse came to fetch me and I went to sit with Mom in the busy room in back. There was only a single man in one of the many beds that were separated by curtains in some busy pattern. I sat for only a few minutes before the nurse - not the cheerful man but a blonde woman - came to wheel Mom away.

“So I’ll put you on the bed, then he’ll be here in 10 minutes.” Nurse said as we began to move. “You follow me.” She said to me. “I’ll take you around this way. So,” she turned back to Mom. “He’ll be here in 10 minutes and that’s how long it takes me to get you all set up and situated! Wish her well.” She instructed me.

I hurried forward, pressed a kiss to her cheek, told her I loved her and would see her soon, then blinked back tears as I saw she was crying just the smallest amount. “You’ll be fine. I’ll see you soon.” I repeated.

“Well, hello!” Two women approached having waved at Mom as she passed. “You don’t remember us.” One said, but I didn’t give her my attention until the doors of Lab 4 closed behind Mom and Nurse. The women were both mothers of girls I knew in high school. I engaged in distracted conversation with both of them, offering one of them my business card (since I carried this bag to DC, I had some with me) when she noted she was writing a paper on some of my research. I tried to attend to their updates on their children. One has four children, the other is planning her second wedding.

“I’m not married.” I said, glancing back at the door. “Will someone let me know when she’s done? This isn’t supposed to take long, right?”

They went back to work, and I walked slowly toward the waiting room again, reclaiming my chair that reclines and has a footrest. A crowd of people had congregated in my absence, and I believe they all belong to a tiny girl. She was wandering toward the rest room when I proceeded toward the waiting room.

“I’m scared, Mommy.” She told the woman at her side.

“It is scary.” Her mother agreed as she tugged the child around the corner and into a bathroom. “But they’re going to fix you up today, then you’ll be all better.”

I’m glad we came early though - the quiet darkness seems more appropriate to the occasion than the bustle and noise that currently encompasses the waiting room as people move to get their favorite coffee drinks or make a selection from something cold (with a snowflake in the O). I continue to watch the clock in the corner of my laptop screen. This should be over soon, I keep thinking. Perhaps she’s almost done. In 10 minutes, I’ll start to worry. Someone should get me soon.

From home:
At 7:45, a girl came to the door to call my name. I hurried after her, having put my laptop away so as to be ready to spring into action. The small girl's name was Ashley. I believe this to be true even though she responded to the nurse calling her with a firm, "No!" Her parents went to the back with her and I hope she does very well today. Poor thing.

“Is everything OK?” I asked as I followed a different nurse back to the room with all curtains and beds.

“Sure. She did fine.” She said and I saw Vascular Surgeon when I walked in the room, still dressed in his lead jacket. I took the paper he handed me and glanced at it before craning my neck to see around the edge of the curtain. Mom looked fine, so I gave him my attention.

“For your Christmas card.” He smiled and I nodded impatiently. “That’s the filter and this is the vein.” He explained, tracing the edges with his finger when I couldn’t figure out where the boundaries were. All I could really see was the spine from the x-ray. “She did just fine and we’ll see her again on Monday.”

I asked a couple of questions about medications, shook his hand again and thanked him, then moved to hold Mom’s hand.

“He was late.” She told me. “It only took 10 minutes, but I was in that room waiting for a long time. He didn’t get to the hospital until 7:30 and my appointment was at 7.” I nodded and squeezed the hand I held.

“Doctors are often late.” I explained while she frowned in disapproval. We’re habitually early in my family - waiting is hard. But wait we did while her vitals were checked a couple of times. I talked to Dad, then Brother, then Aunt. The nurse - as it neared 8:15 - took out her IV and allowed her to dress. I helped, removing clothing from the plastic bag under her bed and holding it for her to put on. I smoothed her hair and told her she could take off the sticky lead thingies when we got home. I then asked for a wheelchair so we could make the hike to the garage.

We stopped for breakfast on our way home, both of us eating just a bit before stopping at the store. There are fresh tomatoes from the fence garden and Mom likes them with cottage cheese. I then drove home - honking once at the idiot in the left lane who was going too slow while he talked on his cell phone.

“Your horn is magical!” I told Mom happily when he sped up to get out of my way. “I can’t believe that worked!”

“Congratulations.” She told me, beginning to blink sleepily. We came inside and sat in the living room.

“It’s good to be home.” She sighed, then asked what I was going to do today. She nodded when I told her my meager plans, then wandered down to her room, closing the door so she could nap in peace.

We’re home. It went well. One procedure down. One more to go. Now I think I'll nap too.


Lucy said...

I'm glad it went well.

ppb said...

I'm glad it's over!

Psychobunny said...

I'm glad it went okay. And I hope the knee repair goes just as smoothly.

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