This morning was harder on my wife than on me, I’m sure. She’s the one whose veins nurses could not find to draw blood. She’s the one who ambulance paramedics loaded onto a stretcher and, after the in-ambulance, pre-trip protocol they follow, took her to the emergency room. And she’s the one who sat in the ER hallway while hospital staff drew blood, had lab work done on it, and determined the rehab facility nurses’ concerns about the possibility of a critical deficit of potassium were unfounded. She’s the one who was spirited back to the rehab facility without being given the opportunity to see or speak to me. But I can still feel the stress and the fear, even after watching Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and drinking the better part of a bottle of Spanish wine.
I got a call around 9:30 this morning, Thanksgiving morning, from the rehab center, telling me the staff could not find a vein to draw blood to compare current labs to an earlier set. An earlier set of labs, they said, suggested the possibility of a drop in potassium. And they thought the labs might indicate other issues; they needed current labs to make a determination. So, I was told, they were calling an ambulance to take her to the hospital. They asked, to which one did I want her sent? I told them, then said I was on my way and would call when I arrived to check to see if she had already left for the hospital.
I rushed to the rehab facility, arriving just before she was loaded into the ambulance. I drove ahead to the hospital; the ambulance arrived about 20-30 minutes later. I was told to wait outside until she was in an ER room; they would call me. Finally, I went inside to inquire. “Just a few more minutes. You can wait by the doors; you don’t have to wait outside.”
A few minutes later, as I waited, I got a call on my cell from a California number I did not recognize; I answered it, just in case. It was one of the paramedics I had spoken with as they loaded my wife into the ambulance. He said the hospital staff had determined her lab work checked out and she was okay; she was being sent back to the rehab facility.
When I received the initial call, my sister-in-law and I had begun initial work on readying the kitchen to prepare our tapas meal; the non-traditional meal. She went home when I headed to the rehab center. When I got back home around 11:15, I called my sister-in-law and she returned. We sped through the process and ate our tapas. We packed samples of the dishes made and took them to the rehab facility, arriving around 2:30. My wife was asleep when we got there, but the staff woke her and helped her connect with us by phone. Because she had been sleeping after a grueling morning, we opted after a very brief conversation to leave the tapas and let her sleep, hoping she would be able to try them later. I told her I would try to call her later.
I called the rehab facility around 6:30. The staff said she was resting. I told them to let her rest, but to let her know, when she wakes, I called to check on her.
One of many unfortunate realities of my wife’s illness is that she finds it harder and harder to use her cell phone, thanks in large part to issues of edema (fluid retention) that makes it hard to use her fingers. So, she is rarely, if ever, able to make calls; nor can receive them without help. And she can’t write email messages and cannot easily retrieve them. And, of course, I cannot be with her to help. Facility staff is overburdened and can only rarely offer assistance to her. She increasingly is cut off from most of the outside world. May daily visits are, in my view, inadequate (in large part because she is so weak and tired she often cannot stay awake for long).
I would bring her home immediately except for the fact that it is difficult, if not impossible, to monitor, at home, her physical condition for several issues that are increasingly common and likely. Yesterday and today, when the facility could not draw blood for labs, gave examples of the challenges; those issues demonstrated that even facilities equipped with medical equipment and staffed with professional cannot always do what is needed.
I am frustrated, but almost certainly not nearly as frustrated as my wife. She has spent the majority of four-plus months in hospitals and rehab facilities. In spite of my frustration, I am glad the hospital ER visit today was a false alarm. How much more, though?