Sunday, July 8, 2012

Hospital Chronicles, Part 8 - Bronchoscopy

I woke up early Friday morning feeling anxious about the bronchoscopy. I wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything, so I waited nervously for my transporter to take me to the operating room while wishing for a cup of good strong coffee that would never appear the entire time I was there. My wheels soon arrived and I had to wear a mask again to keep me from contaminating anybody with my deadly tuberculous germs. I could have walked to the O.R. just fine, but at County/USC you're always made to sit in a wheelchair as though infirm, regardless of your condition. As a side effect, this brings feelings of helplessness and a sense that you're really as sick as they think you might be. If I had been allowed to simply walk it would have done wonders for my outlook, but instead I complied with the transporter and played the role of the ailing patient. 

When we got to the operating room, I was greeted by two nurses, and was helped up onto a gurney. One of the nurses attached fluids to my IV. She asked if I had had anything "by mouth" in the past twelve hours. I hadn't, but wondered why they always say "by mouth" as though you could drink or eat using another orifice. They let me take off my mask as they were both wearing these crazy space age helmets to protect themselves from catching my virulent disease. The room did not look like much of an operating room to me, and I started having doubts about this whole bronchoscopy business. Then a doctor was standing above me, peering intently into my face. He was wearing a paper mask which somehow made me feel better. He asked me in a German accent if I had ever been really sick, if I had ever felt like something was going on in my lungs. (The fact that the doctor was German also made me feel better as the first bronchoscopy was done by a German back in the late 1800s, which I knew because I had looked it up on my iPad the night before.) 

I told him that when I had pneumonia I had felt really sick. He asked me if I had been really sick some other time, and I said no. He asked me was I sure? Surely, I must feel what was going on in my lungs? I shook my head no, and felt slightly bad that I couldn't remember because it was evident that he very much wanted me to. Then he patted me on the forehead and said not to worry, that he was going to put the camera into my lungs and find out what was going on in there. He said that if it all went well he would do a couple of brush biopsy, but if things were trickier he would have to do a needle biopsy which would take longer and was more dangerous. He said he was pretty sure that it would just be the brush biopsies which were much safer. I hoped he was right. Then he kind of patted me again, and I realized that I was feeling slightly floaty and that the medication running through my IV was starting to kick in. He turned to the nurses and asked them why they were wearing those crazy space helmets, and then scoffed at them when they replied that it was because I may have TB. "She does not have tuberculous," he said with great conviction, "and I am not going to wear one of those ridiculous helmets." And that is the last thing I remember until I woke up and found myself back in my hospital room. 

I had no idea how I got there and realized that I must have been really out of it. After the operation. you are wheeled into a recover room and remain there until the anesthesia subsides. Then a nurse looks you in the eye and talks to you to make sure all is okay before you're sent back to your room. I had no recollection of the process and I wondered it I had just dreamed it all. Before the 'oscopy I thought my throat would be sore, but it wasn't. How could that be? And I found that I was suddenly starving as it was almost noon and I had had  nothing "by mouth" since the night before. Very soon an orderly showed up with my lunch: salad, pasta, vegetables, roll, milk and juice. And no salt to speak of, so everything was really bland. God, I really hate hospital food. I found my self continually singing the Eels song "Hospital Food" to myself at each meal. If you write a song about hospital food it means that you have spent way too much time in the damned hospital, and I was quickly reaching that point as well. How much longer was I going to be here, and what the hell was wrong with me? Those seemed to be my constant thoughts.

A little later, Sparky came to visit which cheered me up. And my sister called to inform me that she, Mom and our little brother were coming out to Los Angeles to visit and to help out! Yeah! That news made me so happy that I almost cried. I really needed them right now, and thankfully they were able to be there for me. I suddenly felt very lucky for a potential cancer victim.

A little bit later, Dr. Pop came to visit me. Sparky was out getting something to eat, so it was just me and the good doctor. He informed me that the bronchoscopy had gone exceptionally well and that they were able to get three good brush biopsies, so that was good news. He seemed to be pretty happy about  the whole thing, but then again he was just an upbeat kind of guy. And then he rattled on, saying that if it was a fungal infection that they would try to treat it with antibiotics, but they might also have to remove part of my lung. What?! It was the first I'd heard about about that kind of drastic, invasive direction. My insides sank with that cold hard free fall of bad hospital news. I asked him how much of my lung would be removed, and he said a quarter, maybe half. Wow. This news was made even worse because I had been rooting for the "fungal infection" diagnosis the whole time - it beat cancer in my mind any day, but now I was filled with dread about all of the options being offered. I asked him if I could run a marathon with half my lung missing, and he seemed surprised by my question. He asked me if I was planning on running one, and I said  no but you never know, I liked having the option of running one. He told me that the pulmonary dudes would be by to see me later and I could ask them. But he said that we should just take it one day at a time and figure out what I had first. Right, one day at a time. And then he told me that they would be doing all kinds of tests to see if there were cancer cells anywhere in my body. Tomorrow they would do several sonograms, and later I would be given a pap smear as well as a mammogram. And of course they were still awaiting my tuberculous sputum test as well as my skin test, and at the end of next week they should have my lung biopsy results.

The rest of the day was uneventful, which is what you want when you are in the hospital. Sparky came back and we hung out some more. I talked to my mother who was in much better spirits as she was going to be coming out to see me. I did not tell her about what Dr. Pop said regarding a fungal infection as I didn't want to freak her our anymore than she already was. Then Sparky left to go feed Bee her dinner and I was also fed my delicious hospital dinner. After that I read some, took my tranquilizer, and tried not to think about fungal infections.

Hospital food,
Want some Hospital food,
Hospital food,
Delicious Hospital food...

(to be continued...)