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Wednesday, December 10, 2003

I am delivering my update from the hospital where I was sent roughly five seconds after my last update. It happened the day after Thanksgiving to be exact. My husband came into the bedroom annoyed asking, "Why are you moaning? Does it make you feel better?" Funny, I hadn't realized I was moaning. The more I thought about it, I was not only moaning but twisting the sheets.

When I have the flu I twist the sheets. My ankles nearly screw themselves off as my legs writhe all over the mattress. My arms and shoulders practice unending jerky movements, a sort of pseudo chorea. All of these things were present. In addition, I was freezing while dripping bullets of sweat. I took my temperature. Bingo. Fever. This is not a good sign on a PICC.

When my thermometer read 101 it was time to call my doctor who naively gave me his pager number, God bless him.

"You know what this means."
(I do?)
"You have to come back to the hospital."

I hung up and prepared to leave when I got another phone call. A family member was killed in a car wreck early that morning. He was his mother's only child, and now she wanted to die. A surreal, devastating blow.

By the time I got off the phone and pulled into the hospital parking lot I had a temperature of 103 and was puking up blood. This was no streaky emesis. It was bold, fresh, solid-red puke that quickly turned brown when mixed with bile and gastric acids. Scary puke.

"You know what this means." started Dr. Keanu.

I must confess I'm never totally sure what anything means, but when he starts with that sentence I know it's nothing good.

"We have to pull the PICC."

And pull it they did. Then they hooked me up to a peripheral (regular IV) for fluids and antibiotics. Pee tests confirmed that I had one heck of a nasty bladder infection. It was so nasty in fact that the doctor half doubted that I'd done it correctly.

"We should have put a catheter in to test it," he said, "but I didn't want to torture you."

This from a man who stuck his finger up my butt.

In addition to the bladder infection the PICC grew staph when the tip was cultured. I.e., the PICC appeared to be infected too.


The second day in the hospital I still felt like death. While my nurse was changing my sheets I sat there puking, peeing and having glycerin diarrhea all over myself in a chair. She stood me up, and I told her I was going to pass out if I didn't sit back down. After being told that there was “no physical reason” why I would be passing out (what?!) I crawled into the bed. The nurse stood over me annoyed with my "behavior" before finally shaking her head in genuine disgust.

"Ashli, Ashli, Ashli," she stated with disdain, "Pregnancy is a normal part of life."

I was completely dumbfounded.

"Do you think I am doing this to myself?!?" I asked incredulously.

"I didn't say that," she said. "I just think you're getting yourself all worked up."

Holy smokes, people! She takes the cake. She stomps all over the sandwich nurse. She wins the Pulitzer of unbelievably asinine comments. On day three I began to feel like a human being again. I got rid of the nurse.

How do you solve a problem like starvation? Put in another PICC of course. That's right. Number four. It is the biggest PICC I've had and was a major pain to get in. The IV therapist shoved and shoved this thing up my vein, but it kept crimping.

"What's happening?" I wanted to know.

The reply: "The introducer is hanging on some kind of nerve or tissue or something."

”Some kind of nerve or tissue or something.” These words in this succession—well, let's just say it's not the kind of thing that relaxes you and helps you get a 5 French tube up your arm, around your shoulder and into your chest. No siree.

At that particular moment, even the rectal started to look good in comparison. He leaned on my left arm, forced the confounded line in, and by golly, it finally took. One X-ray later the placement was confirmed and TPN was once again started. Personally, I think it's a little too far into the vein and possibly is pressing on the heart valve or something, because when I lie on my left side I have a tendency now to get heart palpitations. Weird ones too. They feel kind of...deep. But at least for now I'm not telling my doctor, because you know what that means.

Back in my room I lay in bed thinking about the events and my poor Martha, the mother who had just lost her precious son in a car wreck. Soon I began to hear wailing in the hall outside my door. Wailing, wailing on. I couldn't integrate it until the words became loud and intelligible.

"Oh God, he was purple! My baby came out purple! Please God, I want my baby back! My baby's gone! My baby's gone!"

A stillborn son at 38 weeks.

A picture of Martha, thoroughly medically sedated and crouched in the corner of her hotel room, superimposed the event across the hall, and at once I heard these mothers wailing in tandem. An image of a world of wailing mothers lanced for a moment my safe bubble of sanity allowing the infection of death and grief to penetrate. I pressed my ear to the door willing compassion to be felt through the wood, through the hall, through the heart of this wounded, wounded soul.

"My baby! Purple and dead, please God, please! I want my baby back!"

I slid to the floor and cried until spent. Ambling back into bed I couldn't help but wonder if I would revisit the freshness of such grief in my own life. Would this child I carry make it or be born purple and dead too?

I have today, and today s/he is kicking quite plainly. This is my treasure. I will keep today no matter what. I'm 16 weeks on Monday, and they're trying to figure out what to do with me. I need to stay here longer if I'm going to start steroids. But hey, I've got a blog and a laptop; It doesn't matter how long I stay now.

Husband update: He's being nicer because he's less stressed not having to raise a child single-handedly and play nurse to me at home.

Son update: He had his fifth birthday at a kiddie pizza place. The woman assigned to his party table (I like to call them "Chuckie Wenches") was dancing and getting the birthday boy to do what she was doing. "Swing left, swing right, now jump!" She began to jump, and he just stood there like a deer caught in the headlights. Literally. On the video tape I could see the objects of his mesmerization: the Chuckie Wenche's perky, bouncing boobs. Oblivious she cried, "Jump! Jump!" In a mad birthday frenzy the new five-year-old bounded into the air, lunged forward, and cupped both tiny meat hooks around fistfuls of firm, ripe university flesh.

"AAAiiiieeee!" cried the Chuckie wench as she crossed a shield of arms over her violated anatomy. The look on my kid's face asked, "Did I just do that?" For a moment he was shocked. I I thought he might cry, but instead he hid his mouth in his hand and giggled.

I hope all of you are doing better than I am. I have taken pictures of my PICC lines, which I intend to use to horrify you later. Horrifying people is an art and takes a certain degree of health to fully master, so you will have to wait.

In the mean time I'm going to sit here in the hospital while all my healthy caretakers continuously horrify me with their in, out, up and down procedures, and comments like,
"You know what this means," dance like arsenic sugarplums in the hollow of my puking gourd.

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