Monday, May 9, 2011

Patience and Inpatients

The definition of a patient is someone who receives medical care. An INpatient is someone who is kept at a medical facility for more that 24 hours. On my 33rd day in the hospital, I am upgrading my status to an IMpatient.

We had been hoping I would be going home today or tomorrow, with an acceptable white blood cell count. It's been at 0.2k / 0.3k for the weeks since the chemo reset my bone marrow's ability to produce blood cells. We need the white blood cell count to be at least 1,000 in order for me to be discharged (a healthy person's is 5,000 to 10,000). Today we saw a small bump to 0.4k. Unfortunately, not good enough, especially for an Impatient Inpatient.

This evening and tomorrow I will be receiving an injection of a drug called Neupogen, which is designed to boost white blood cell production. The oncologist said it might or might not be effective, but is standard procedure for patients whose WBC production hasn't returned by this time. I asked: if it doesn't work, when do we start to worry? He said we don't; he commonly has patients who don't see count improvements until 40+ days post beginning of chemo treatment. That's a relief to hear.

In the interest of preserving sanity, I am choosing to focus on that positive instead of the possibility of 10+ more days of hospital room service. Although I have the menu memorized, I still use it each time I order, so that I feel more sophisticated (and to verify the dish I pick doesn't have any of their nasty shriveled peas on it.).

I also asked the oncologist if there are any side effects of the WBC stimulator they are giving me today, like oh, say, losing your hair (never mind, got that one covered). He said the only common one is bone achy-ness. That I can handle. I've gotten very good at putting my cap in my hand and saying, "More narcotics please."

If my counts progress this week, I might be out of here by the end of the week. I am hopeful of that possibility, though staying a little guarded in case it doesn't happen. Once I am discharged, there will be a few weeks of recovery and then phase 2.

I know a lot of Inpatients for other diseaseas have much longer stays for which they must feel even more like an Impatient. I admire their courage. I shouldn't complain about my own stint. In that spirit, here is a much more positive take on Impatiens: