Monday, May 21, 2012

Hospital Chronicles, Part 5 - More Of The Same

I slept fitfully in my tiny cramped room, waking up every two hours or so when the blood pressure cuff squeezed my arm to take a reading. My new nurse came in around eleven a.m. to check my IV and unhooked me from everything so that I could go to the bathroom. An hour later she brought me a lunch  of mystery meat on top of a bed of rice, flaccid broccoli and a wilted salad. I told her I was vegetarian, and she told me to just eat around the meat. Which I did but I wasn't really very hungry. I hated being in that room, and I could tell that the nurse hated coming into it because she had to put on a mask which messed up her hair. She told me that I would be moved upstairs as soon as a bed became available. By then I was on to them; I knew that it would be hours and hours before a bed was ready for me. My cell phone did not work in that room but the nurses let me use their phone to call Sparky. I had to wear a mask every time I left my room so that I wouldn't infect anybody with whatever it was that I had. I told Sparky that somebody needed to tell my parents what the hell was going on, and he said he would call my sister. He promised to visit once he found somebody to watch Bee.

I went back to my airless room which I though of as my prison cell, and fell back to sleep. This time I was able to sleep for a solid three hours because the nurse forgot to hook me back up to all the machines. And then I was woken up by a familiar voice yelling at everybody to fuck the hell off. It was my friend the homeless guy from the waiting room! He had finally been given a bed but wasn't very happy about it. I heard some scuffling outside in the hallway and some more swearing, and then chaos ensued. It took about twenty minutes for the poor guy to be contained. My nurse came in and she was really mad. She told me that she had been there for over twenty years, and she could not believe some of the patients that they admitted. If it were up to her, that homeless guy would have never been let in. She clearly had seen too much over the years and was now solidly cynical. But she was nice enough to me, and I liked her despite her telling me to just eat around the meat. She told me that she hoped that I had TB because it was very treatable, and far better than having cancer or some fungal infection.

Then Sparky was there and I was immensely happy to see him. He told me that my sister had told my mother, and I was relieved that my parents finally knew what was going on with me. He stayed with me until visiting hours were over, and when he left I gave him back Green Lambie because Bee was really missing it. In exchange, he gave me one of Bee's stuffed animals that she had picked out for me. It was one of her favorites - a little white and gold unicorn which made me smile.

By then it after seven p.m. and the nurses were changing shifts. My new nurse came into greet me and told me that they finally had a bed for me upstairs! He said that they would move me in about twenty minutes and he offered me some dinner. I told him I was a vegetarian and he said he would try to find something from the cafeteria. Five minutes later he had a collection of fruit, juice, milk, and crackers. It was not the most substantial of meals but I quickly ate it as I was starving at this point. I noticed that my new nurse wasn't wearing a mask and he told me it was because he didn't think I had TB. Great. The other nurse had hoped it was TB for my sake, and he was telling me that it wasn't. He then started an abstract conversation about death and dying, how it was something we all had to face, and blah blah blah. What the hell was he talking about? The whole thing seemed nonsensical, gibberish, and I did not want to get into a discussion about this topic. It was freaking me out. I believe he thought he was in a Ingmar Bergman film. Luckily for me another nurse showed up just then to take me to my new room, and I happily said "so long" to the philosophical male nurse and the hospital horrors of solitary confinement.

(to be continued...)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hospital Chronicles, Part 4 - Hospital Bed

A hospital bed! I could not believe that after almost 10 hours of waiting I was finally taken upstairs and given a hospital bed of my very own. A kindly nurse gave me two hospital gowns to put on - one that tied in back, and one to wear like a robe that tied in front. The gowns are just as bad as you think they are; wear just one and your backside is left totally exposed.

The kind nurse inserted an IV line into my vein and expertly taped it for me. I then meet the first of the many doctors I would be seeing over the course of my stay. She was one of my favorites. She was nice, young and pretty and had a caring and gentle bedside manner. If Bee had been there she would have called her a Fairy Princess Doctor, or F.P. Doctor for short. My F.P. Doctor told me that it was her opinion that I didn't have lung cancer, but rather tuberculosis or maybe a bacterial or fungal infection instead. Something was going on in my lungs and my platelets were still extremely high, but she really did not think it was cancer. This immediately cheered me up. She told me that they would do multiple tests on me in order to find out what was going on. She left me, but for the first time on that extremely long day I felt hope. Then three lung specialists came in and immediately burst my bubble. These officious pulmonary doctors told me that they were very concerned with the lesion on my lung and that there was a possibility that it could be cancer, TB, or a fungal infection. My stomach did a funny flip when I heard lung cancer being mentioned again. I wanted my F.P. Doctor back. They asked me if I had a family history of lung cancer. My grandfather had lung cancer, but he was a heavy smoker and a fireman who had been in a lot of burning buildings full of smoke and asbestos. He had passed out from smoke inhalation multiple times and had to be pulled out of the flames by his firemen brethren, which can't be good for your lungs. Sparky's dad had also died from lung cancer. He too was a heavy smoker as well as a soldier in World War II who spent his tour of duty to his country on an asbestos lined submarine. Sparky and I had both watched our loved ones die from this deadly disease, and we knew firsthand how devastating it was.

The doctors said they were going to take more x-rays, which immediately concerned me. I had already had two chest x-rays done that day, plus one from a week ago. Weren't all of these x-rays dangerous? One of the doctors told me that flying in an airplane exposed you to more radiation than the x-rays did, which made me feel better. They wanted to do multiple x-rays from different angles in order to get a more complete picture of my lungs. Then they would do a CAT Scan. And they would also do a TB skin test as well as three TB sputum tests, which consists of spitting up mucus from your lungs into a cup. How lovely. And sometime in the next day or two a surgeon would perform a bronchoscopy on me. This is done by inserting a flexible tube with a camera down your throat and into your airways in order to take pictures of your lungs. It would be performed under general anesthesia. I did not like the sound of this. And then the doctors told me that my high platelets were a concern because they caused the blood to be too thick which meant that blood clots could occur. This condition is known as thrombocytosis. In order to thin my blood I would be given a daily injection of medication into my stomach. I was told that I was also very anemic and would have to take supplemental iron pills. And a hematologist would meet with me later in the week to further discuss the problem. But the first thing on my agenda was to get those chest x-rays.

It was now about four in the morning. I suddenly remembered that I had Green Lambie with me, so I took it out of my bag and held on to it. It somehow made me feel more secure, and I understood why Bee loved it so much. My nice nurse came and wheeled me down to radiology. The radiologist had me pose standing up, laying down on each side, and then flat on my back. It was uncomfortable and seemed to take forever. I was then wheeled back up to my room were I waited some more. I was too anxious to sleep so I just numbly sat on the bed waiting for the next procedure. At 5:30 I was wheeled down to get the CAT Scan. I was placed onto the table of the machine and a liquid was injected into my IV. Suddenly I had a metallic taste in my mouth, I felt a warm flush across my chest, and I had the sensation that I had peed my pants. A computer voice told me what to do: "Hold you breath for three seconds. Now breathe." Scans were taken of my lungs as the table moved me inside of the machine  And then it was over. Luckily I hadn't really peed my pants. As I was wheeled back up to my room I felt a bit like a helpless kid tightly clutching my daughter's Green Lambie. Back in the room one of the doctors gave me the TB skin test and I was told that I was going to be moved into a contagion room. Just in case I had TB they wanted to keep me away from others so that I wouldn't infect them. This room was self contained and everybody who entered it would have to wear a mask and gloves. 

My nice nurse came into the contagion room with me and hooked me up to various machines: electrodes were place on my chest and attached to a heart rate machine; my IV was hooked up to bags of antibiotics; a blood pressure cuff was strapped around my arm and its machine measured my blood pressure every two hours. My nice nurse was getting off her shift so she said goodbye to me and wished me luck. By this time it was seven in the morning. Then my F.P. Doctor came in and told me that I would be moved upstairs to a permanent bed sometime tomorrow, and then they would perform the bronchoscopy. She turned the lights off and told me to get some rest. I was suddenly alone in this tiny, dark, cramped windowless room. The machines beeped and hummed. I held Green Lambie and the emotions of the day whirled around in my mind. Why did some doctors say I might have cancer while others said I probably didn't? Was it just a matter of semantics? What was wrong with me? How long was I going to be in here? How were Sparky and Bee doing? How could I ever sleep in this goddamned noisy room? Why were my platelets so high? Why had I lost so much weight? Was my F.P. Doctor right? Or was I going to die? That thought scared me the most, but I know that death is inevitable and there is not a damn thing you can do about it. But somehow I fell into a dreamless sleep, and thankfully didn't have to think about any of it for awhile.

(to be continued...)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Hospital Chronicles, Part 3 - The Wait

When we got to County-USC we had to go through a metal detector. I was the first in line at the front desk but the nurse in charge was on her break. By the time she returned ten minutes later, a rather large line stretched out behind me. Fortunately, because I had all of my records and my chest x-ray CDs, she was able to check me in right away and I didn't have to wait in that enormous, cavernous room full of the whipped and resigned. I got to hop to the front of the line! They were soon checking my vitals: blood pressure, temperature, heart rate. (I would soon find out that these would be checked ever two to four hours during my entire stay.) Then I was called in to talk to a nurse practitioner. I handed her my records and CDs and explained to her what I had been through already. She scoffed at the idea of lung cancer, but then saw my palette count and actually said, "Holy shit!" She said there was no way that they could be that high and maybe the machine at Sunset Medical was somehow not working properly. She ordered another blood test for me (my third of the day), and told me that they would get a bed for me upstairs as soon as one was available. I was then told that I would have to wait in a "patient only" waiting room, and that I should send my husband and daughter home as they weren't allowed to be with me. I tearfully said goodbye to Sparky and Bee, and went off to get my blood drawn again. And then I was ushered into the room where I would spend the next nine and a half hours of my life waiting.

I chose a seat against the wall that didn't have anybody next to it on either side. I was very naive at this point, thinking that I would be there for an hour or so tops. I looked around me and observed the other patients. Some of them looked sicker than others, and one poor old man in a wheelchair looked positively out of it. There was a desk staffed with three or four nurses as well as two tables against the opposite wall from me. In between there were about fifty seats and a dozen lounge chairs for those who had IVs in their arms. They were the lucky ones as they got to actually lay down and possible sleep, which was probably hard for them due to the awful overhead florescent lighting. About twenty minutes after sitting down, my name was called by a nurse at one of the side tables. She checked my vitals and asked me what my pain level was on a scale of one to ten. Then she showed a chart with the number one and a drawing of a happy face which led up to the number ten with a crying, very sad face. I was in no pain, so I told her I was the happy face, which made her happy. She told me that I had made her day. I suppose a lot of people in there were in a lot of pain but I actually was feeling pretty good. I did not physically feel like I needed to be in a hospital. But my blood pressure and heart rate were too high which was not good. (And of course those bloody red platelets were too numerous, and there was something still on my lung.) I went back to my seat and waited some more. A little bit later my name was called again, and as I started to get up I was told to sit back down, she just wanted to make sure that I was still there. I guess some patients just take off from time to time. It was kind of like roll call in school.

My cell phone didn't work in this room, but there was a phone that we were allowed to use for local calls only, so I called Sparky and told him that I was still waiting for my room. I had been waiting for over two hours by this time, and finally realized that I might be there for awhile. I started talking to a nice Korean woman sitting a couple of seats away from me who told me that she and her uncle had been there since 9:00 that morning! Her uncle had pancreatic cancer and was having stomach issues, and he didn't speak English, so she was there as his interperter. She told me that they never had to wait like this in Korea because they had good healthcare there for all of their citizens. We both lamented the terrible state of healthcare in America. I then went up to the front desk to find out how long of a wait I was in for. They told me about ten hours from the time I checked in, which was about 5:00 p.m. Jesus. Then we got into a discussion about healthcare in America and they told me some horror stories. It is the law in this country that no hospital can turn away a patient based on their inability to pay. But rich hospitals do it all the time. Like Cedars Sinai for instance, who routinely dump their poor patients off on County-USC, who sees every single patient who comes through their doors. Hence my ten hour wait. I liked the nurses quite a bit and spent some time chatting with them because A: it made the time go by faster and B: it made me forget about the reason why I was there in the first place. I somehow felt safe in that room, and suddenly didn't really mind the ten hour wait because I could put off dealing with what actually brought me there.

So, I quickly fell into a routine. Every two hours I was called to check my vitals. And then a little bit later my name was called to make sure I was still there. And then I would call Sparky to let him know that I was still waiting. By this time the room had filled up and there were no empty seats at all. I sat next to the Korean woman who was very nice to me and saved my seat every time I got up to do something. Every once in a while she would get up to complain to the nurses about her uncle's long wait, but there was nothing they could do. She was told that patients were not seen in the order in which they arrived, but rather the order of urgency. I found out from the nurse who took my vitals that there were three tiers of patients. The number 3's were the ones who were the worse off so they were seen the soonest. Then there were the 2's, who were second worse off, and finally the number 1's who weren't quite as bad. My analogy for it (which the nurse agreed with) was that the 3's might die today, the 2's probably wouldn't die until tomorrow, while the 1's weren't going to die until next week. She told me I was a 2, which meant that I had priority over all the 1's, but not the 3's.

I had packed a small bag when we had stopped at the house, and I was kind of surprised by what was in it. My iPad. Bee's green blanket that was decorated with elephants that she has had since she was a baby. She called it her Green Lambie, and slept with it every night. I knew that she would be upset without it, but somehow was glad that I had it because it comforted me. My sister had given it to her, so I felt like both my sister and my daughter were with me. And there was a pair of clean underwear and socks. Why had I packed that strange mix of things? I called Sparky to tell him that I had Green Lambie, and that I was still waiting. Poor Sparky was at home worried to death about me, and I felt a strong need to reassure him and let him know that I was okay. But every time I thought about the reason why I was there I felt that funny feeling of fear in the pit of my stomach and I pushed it away by simply not thinking about it. As long as I stayed in that room I was safe because I could put off the inevitable.

I did not feel like reading on my iPad as I didn't have the concentration for it. Instead I observed the other patients around me. There was one woman whom I had noticed right away who was dressed conservitaly in navy blue pants, a navy sweater and navy shoes, with a white blouse underneath. She had short hair and looked like some sort of office worker. I couldn't figure her out. She was the only other white woman there besides myself, and seemed like she didn't really belong there. If she had an office job, then why didn't she have health insurance? And then her friend came in to take her to get something to eat. (We were allowed to leave that room as long as we checked in and out with the nurses.) Her friend was dressed identically to her, and that's when I realized that they were Scientologists. Which surprised me. Didn't the Scientologists have their own hospital or something where they used e-meters and stuff as treatment? Weren't they anti-medication? I didn't get it. All that stuff flies out the window when your life is on the line I guess.

Then there was the young prisoner patient who was wearing an orange jumpsuit and had shackles on his feet as well as handcuffs. He was surrounded by two guards who talked and joked around with him. They seemed to be having fun together, and I wondered what this kid had done. He didn't look dangerous or anything, and he must have been a number 3 because he didn't have as long as a wait as the rest of us. I noticed that he wasn't the only one who had people with him. Some of the other patients were sitting with their loved ones, and I particularly noticed a very pregnant woman who was trying to sleep leaning against her partner. Every chair in that room was taken, but some were more comfortable than others. For instance, the chairs not against the wall wouldn't allow the occupants to lean back and rest their heads. I felt kind of sorry for them. And then a patient got up and complained to the nurses that there were non-patients taking up valuable real estate, so a nurse went around and kicked all of them out of the room. The Korean woman got to stay because she was the interpreter, but the poor pregnant lady's husband had to leave. I couldn't believe that that patient had tattled, but there always seems to be a rules stickler in every group of people. And this happens every day of the year, every year...

The most excitement we had that night was caused by a thirty-something homeless guy who came in swearing his head off. Apparently, he had lost his fucking baseball hat in the other goddamned waiting room and he wanted his motherfucking hat back. This he said at the top of his lungs. The nurse took him out to find his fucking hat, but it was long gone. They finally convinced him to sit in one of those lounge chairs and stuck in IV in his arm where he continued to loudly swear until he finally fell asleep. About an hour or two later he suddenly awoke, shouting that he had to fucking pee. So the nurse unhooked him from the IV and instead of going to the bathroom he went out the exit door. They ran after him and found him peeing in the second floor stairwell. They dragged him back to the waiting room, called a janitor to clean up his mess, and tried to get him to sit back down in his chair. But his was really fucking mad this time and he started yelling and calling them names. The security guard called backup as she wasn't able to subdue him and six cops with guns came bursting through the doors. He started screaming at them, the cops told him to calm down, and somehow he did. He sat back down, they put the IV back in his arm, the cops left, and everybody in the room sighed a collective sigh of relief. I got up to get my vitals checked again and on the way back the nurses told me that I was next. I called Sparky to tell him the good news. It was almost 2:00 in the morning and I was exhausted and I was finally going to be next! And then at 2:20 a.m. they called my name. I got up, and felt guilty because they had called me before the Korean woman's uncle who had been waiting way longer then me, for over 17 hours. But I was a 2 and he must have been a 1. I didn't really want to leave that awful, hideous room with the horrible lighting because I was too afraid to find out if I really did have lung cancer. I wanted to stay in blissful ignorance. I nervously walked with the nurse to the elevator and went up the four floors to my room to finally meet my fate.

(to be continued...)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Lucky Tiles

I had to take a break from writing the Hospital Chronicles because Friday's entry made my stomach hurt and I had to keep getting up from the computer in order to pace around and shake it off. So today I'm just posting my new batch of Lucky Tiles. I think my favorite is the Tree Of Life in the center.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Hospital Chronicles, Part 2 - Big C

On a cloudy Tuesday, a couple days after being back home in Los Angeles, it was time for me to go to a doctor for my post-pneumonia checkup. I was feeling better at this point and imagined that the checkup would be no big deal. Sparky and I decided to go to Silverlake Medical where we could pay out of pocket. After dropping Bee at preschool we headed over there. With my paperwork and the CD of my lung x-rays from the emergency room doctor clutched tightly in my hand, I was pretty confident that I would be in and out of there in no time. I was just looking for confirmation that I had licked the pneumonia and could continue with normal life. 

The first thing the nurses did was take my blood pressure and heart rate and declare them both too high. Duh. I always get nervous in these situations. I was then given a bed in a large room that contained other beds. I didn't have to put on the dreaded hospital gown, but rather laid on top of the sheets while they closed the curtains around me. There were other people in the room and none of them seemed to be in very great shape. One lady was wearing an hospital gown and slippers, and was pacing up and down the floor and around her bed, moaning and groaning about how much pain she was in. I'll call her "Junky". Nobody paid any attention to Junky as she complained for over an hour. She finally took off her gown and replaced it with her street clothes and disappeared out the exit door. She was still wearing her slippers. I guess Junky figured the nurses were on to her and decided to hit the streets and score on her own. The guy next to me I thought of as both "Hungry" and then "Poopie". He kept repeating over and over again: "Nurse, I'm hungry." He must have said it at least a hundred times. Finally a nurse told him that he couldn't eat anything because of his ailment - stomach problems. Poor guy. And then he started repeating this over and over again: "Nurse, I shit my pants." Poor, poor guy, I really did feel badly for him. A nurse finally came over and helped him to the bathroom where I assumed they cleaned him up and outfitted him with adult diapers. The other two people in the room were unconscious so I've no idea what was wrong with them. (This whole situation did not freak me out as much as I thought it would. I just chalked it up to healthcare in America, the anti-socialist country where only the lucky workers with job benefits have decent insurance.)

While all of this was going on around me, I was being attended to by Dr. Nelson, who looked at my records and decided to give me another chest x-ray and draw some blood. She also thought that I was too skinny and asked me if I had lost a bunch of weight lately. Of course I had because I had been so nauseous while I was sick, and prior to that I had been on a Vegan diet for the purpose of trying to lose some weight. (My mother, by the way, blamed my bout with pneumonia on my Vegan diet, and made me promise that I would go back to being just a Vegetarian.) Alarm bells started going off in the good doctor's head, and when she looked at the new x-ray she decided that she did not like the "spot" on my lung. So another chest x-ray was done to see if they could get a better shot of it. Dr. Nelson then told me that my red blood platelets were way too high. They are supposed to number in the thousands and mine measured in the millions. She thought that maybe there was a mistake so she ordered another blood test drawn. She also asked me if I ever smoked, and when I said yes but I had long since quit, she made me give her details: for how long, how much, when, etc. I was starting to get nervous at this point and called Sparky to come back. He had left to pickup Bee from preschool and had told me to call him when I was ready to come home. 

Dr. Nelson brought me a Vegetarian lunch which she procured herself from the employee cafeteria. I forced myself to eat most of it even though I was too nervous to be hungry just to prove to her that yes, I did have an appetite again. This made her very happy, and she rewarded me by letting me sit out in the waiting room with Sparky and Bee once they arrived back at the clinic. Sparky and I sat side by side with a wall mounted TV blaring CNN nonsense, as poor Bee watched a cartoon on the iPad. We didn't talk much, but quietly held hands while time slowed. Everyone who's been in this situation knows the fact of "hospital trouble" warping time. Nothing can make it move correctly, and each passing moment feels more anxious than the next. Something was definitely wrong, really wrong, and waiting for Dr. Nelson's diagnosis was our only option. 

We were finally called back inside where I sat on my little bed with Sparky next to me. One of the nurses kept an eye on Bee while the doctor spoke to us. Dr. Nelson said that her colleagues had all seen the x-rays and agreed that they looked very suspicious. The second blood test came back with the same high platelet number, millions instead of thousands. And I had had a rapid weight lost. She told me that it looked like I may have lung cancer. Lung cancer? WTF? Did she really just say lung cancer? Fear welled up in the pit of my stomach and washed over me; I felt both cold and hot at the same time. I had to remind myself to breathe. But it could be something else, right? What about the pneumonia? She told us that she wasn't there at the emergency room so she did not know if I'd even actually had pneumonia. This did nothing to quell the grip my fear had on me. I was holding Sparky's hand so tightly, as though I needed it to bind myself to the earth. Sparky asked her some questions but I suddenly couldn't hear what they were saying.

She then looked at me intently and told me that I had to go to either USC or UCLA immediately. There was fear on her face - a very troubling thing to see in your physician. Go right now, today, which one? I asked where she'd gone to school and she replied "UCLA - USC is our rival!" This made us laugh nervously - nothing is funny at this point. Dr. Nelson then said that they were both good teaching hospitals and either one of them would take great care of me. Our laughter actually helped and I immediately decided on USC because it was far closer to our home in Echo Park. She made us promise again that we would go as soon as possible. We agreed. She gave me all of my records and the CDs of my x-rays so that I would be checked in right away. (Dr. Nelson, knowing we were without insurance, whispered to us that we wouldn't be charged for the extra round of tests, just the basics. She could see that we were headed down a dark expensive road illuminated by nightmares and personally wanted to make it as bearable as possible.)

After a brief stop at home, Sparky, Bee and I piled into the car for the trip to County-USC. I felt oddly calm and decided to call my sister Kiki (who is my most favorite person in the world) because I had to tell someone. I could not tell my mother, who had called me multiple times already to see how the appointment was going. I answered my mother's first call before anything was determined and promised to call her later with news, but I never did. How could I? What parent wants to hear that their child may be gravely ill? So she left messages for me which I had to ignore. My sister answered her cell and I told her what the doctor had told me. I matter-of-factly talked about the suspicious x-rays and my abnormal platelet count, my weight loss, etc. She freaked out a little bit, but I stayed calm and told her not to tell mom yet. I wanted to wait and see what happened. She agreed, cried a little bit and told me she loved me.

And then we were there, in the parking lot of that monstrously huge facility of modern medicine that is County-USC. We'd seen it from the freeway for years and years, always hoping against hope that we would never draw a turn there as it was a place where the uninsured went to die. But there it was, and it was our turn, and there was nothing else we could do about it.

(to be continued...)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hospital Chronicles, Part 1 - Elvis Costello and Pnemonia

My story really starts on April 12th, when my little sister Kiki and I went to see Elvis Costello at the Paramount in Seattle. Kiki bought my ticket as a birthday present for me, and Bee and I flew up to the PNW for a week to visit my family and so that I could see this show. My sister and I had seen Elvis Costello some 30 years ago at the Paramount, so we were quite excited to be going again. On the day of the show we took a bus to downtown Seattle with plans on meeting up with some old friends for pre show drinks and appetizers. The problem was I wasn't feeling very good. Bee, Sparky and I had all  been under the weather with colds and coughs and were tired and a little bit grouchy. I wasn't very hungry, I was actually feeling a bit nauseous, but I rallied myself because it was Elvis Costello! and I had been soooo looking forward to this concert. So I picked myself up and managed to nibble some appetizers and half heartedly sipped my drink, thinking that I would most certainly feel better by the time the show started. Once at the concert I found myself having a great time, even though I couldn't stop coughing. Elvis Costello had a giant wheel-of-fortune-type-wheel-contraption that listed his top songs, and he invited guests from the audience to join him on stage to spin the wheel which would determine what song he would do next. It was pretty awesome. Elvis has a huge repertoire of songs - he is exceedingly prolific and it was great hearing him do such a wide variety of numbers. 

But then about half way through the show I started burning up. It felt like my face was on fire. I went to the bathroom to wash my face off with cold water, and then decided that I felt like absolute shit and there was no way that I could go back inside and sit in my seat and be in such close proximity to others. My back ached and I felt like I was going to throw up. So I sat inside the lobby of the theater where I could still hear the show. I sat there for an eternity and felt bad. I could not believe how long the concert went on, it seemed to last forever. All I wanted to do was lie down in bed. Finally it was time for the encore, which lasted for I swear to god at least forty minutes. I truly wish that I had been inside the theater next to my sister and old friend Teena, enjoying the show instead of out in the lobby feeling like death. It was so unlike me because I hardly ever get sick. And then finally - finally the doors of the theater opened, people spilled out into the lobby, and the concert was over. Oh, happy days! I looked for my sister and spotted her in the crowd, and she was shocked that I was feeling so crappy. She wondered what had happened to me, and she helped me to the parking structure where Teen had parked her car. I threw up in the bathroom, and Kiki told me that some women were looking suspiciously at my stall, probably thinking that I had had too much to drink. I wish! We drove home without further incident, but I proceeded to vomit some more once we landed. I told Kiki that I was sorry, that I never should have gone to the show, and she should have brought our little brother instead because he would have enjoyed it way more than I did. At this point I still just thought I had the flu, but it turned out to be more than that.

The next day just got worse, and I still couldn't hold anything down. I was afraid I was getting dehydrated, and everyone wanted me to go to the hospital. But I still just thought it was the flu, and that I would be fine in a day or two. Then my back started aching and every time I coughed my chest hurt, and I started having difficulty breathing. I also had a high temperature. My mother insisted I go to the emergency room, and I finally agreed. So on Friday the 13th, my mother, sister and brother drove me to the hospital where I was promptly seen and told that I most likely had pneumonia. The doctor did a chest x-ray, and told me yes indeed, I had pneumonia. I was also dehydrated enough to warrant an IV of fluids, and given an array of prescriptions to take home with me. The doctor told me that I had a sort of bubble full of fluid in my right lung that most likely was due to my pneumonia. This kind of freaked me out but he didn't seem too concerned, so I assumed he knew what he was talking about. He also thought that it might be tuberculosis so I was given a TB skin test. Luckily I didn't have to stay overnight in the hospital, but I was told that I was too sick to fly in a few days and that I would have to change my flight.

I spent the next week recuperating on my parents living room sofa, propped up on pillows which enabled me to breath better. I was so congested that I could hear a sort of crackling in my lungs whenever I laid down flat on my back. Poor Bee had to do without me (and her daddy), but my parents managed to keep her entertained while I recovered from my bout of pneumonia. I was still nauseous and had to take anti-nausea pills to keep what little I managed to eat inside of me. I did drink a ton of fluids but I had no appetite and no energy, and felt utterly run down and out of it. I slept a lot. Slowly I started to feel a bit better and Bee and I flew back home to Los Angeles on a sunny Saturday. My parents were happy that I was on the mend, and damned happy that I was no longer camped out on their couch.

Since Sparky and I don't have insurance, we knew that we would have to pay for the emergency room out of pocket. I also had to pay more money to change the airline tickets even though I had a note from the doctor (airlines really have no mercy for travelers with emergencies - none.) My trip to Seattle ended up being a very expensive trip. But at least I was on the way to being healthy again. I was told by the emergency room doctor that I would have to see a doctor as soon as I got back to Los Angeles, just to make sure that the pneumonia was gone. No problem, I thought, it will be a breeze to go to a clinic and be given a clean bill of health. I was anxious to get back to my life, and assumed that everything was fine. But I was wrong, so very, very wrong.

(to be continued...)