Wednesday, May 1, 2013

IWSG & The Parathyroid Adventure

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The Parathyroid Adventure

I’m participating in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group Blog Hop. This is my first post. What am I insecure about? Mostly of what/where/when to promote. I’m an indie author and all marketing is on my shoulders. I’ve tried a plethora of avenues: ShoutLife, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, GoodReads, Google Plus, forums, interviews, emails, book signings, newspapers, book trailers, business cards - and this is only the beginning.

Plus, I’m also supposed to find the time to write.

And in the meantime life happens.

Such as my husband being diagnosed six months ago with parathyroid disease. I’m curious. How many of you have heard of this? I hadn’t. Thyroid disease, yes, but not parathyroid.

For years he complained of extreme exhaustion, mental confusion, grogginess. Last summer he knew something was wrong other than just ‘growing older’. Since there were still several months until his yearly checkup with the VA doctor, we visited a walk-in clinic. Labs were performed. The nurse practitioner made the statement, “Your blood calcium is a little high but it appears your thyroid is a bit out of whack.” She prescribed medication.

The symptoms remained and my husband felt no better.

When the time came for his annual with the VA, the doctor noted, “Your calcium has risen for the last three years that I’ve seen you. Let’s take more tests.” A chest x-ray was ordered, an EKG, a 24-hour urine specimen.

This alerted me that obviously too high blood calcium was not a good thing so I went searching on the internet. And sure enough, the doctor confirmed what I learned - the culprit was more than likely a tumor on one of the parathyroid glands. 

The diagnosis meant even more tests. A bone scan/density, ultrasound, nuclear medicine. And the tumor was found on the lower right side of his neck. To be cured, surgery is the only option.

With the VA you’re scheduled only as they’re able to fit you in. Though the four-month wait was bad enough, the distance we had to travel to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville was worse. The continual trips grew exhausting.

Before I relate of the events of April 18, 2013, let me state right here: Everyone at the hospital was fantastic. Each doctor, nurse, technician, volunteer -anyone that I asked for help willingly and patiently gave their assistance. And I thank them all.

April 17 - The night before surgery. While we rested in a motel room about 20 miles away, we watched the local Nashville news. Yikes, there was a bomb scare only about a block from Vanderbilt Hospital.

My husband had to fast after midnight. He doesn’t do fasts well. Next morning, light-headed and weak, he drove to Vanderbilt. And we met gridlock traffic. Miles of cars on each enter ramp fought to merge into our lane. What should have been a 30 to 40 minute drive took an hour and a half. 

Knowing fore-casted severe storms threatened later that evening (we would spend the night in Nashville), we sought a parking garage to shelter our car. We chose the only one we saw across the street. No attendant was anywhere to be found. The money machine said each business day started at midnight. Another driver walked up to pay for his parking slot and we explained our situation, asking were we supposed to be present at midnight to feed the machine its required $10??? He suggested we get a permit from the hospital.

Once we arrived at the information desk, what do we learn but that Vanderbilt has their very own parking garage for free and the covered walkway connects right to the hospital.

Hubby walked back to where we left the car and spent fifteen minutes driving around on the different levels as he sought to find the ‘exit’.

Before his check-in, we visited a social worker office. We inquired for assistance with booking a motel that night. She said she couldn’t do that unless and until he actually became admitted. (the surgery was termed as out-patient) But we were assured that shuttles ran continuously to deliver us to the downtown hotels.

Nothing to do then except to check-in. Surgery was scheduled for noon and about ten minutes past they called us to pre-op. Hubby scowled when he learned that he had to strip off and wear the famous split-tail gown. When he wrapped that cloth around him, plus plopped on the ridiculous shower-type cap, and having a face full of unshaved whiskers, I collapsed to my knees in helpless laughter. Because my cell phone didn’t have a camera, that was a missed Kodak moment.

Male nurses came in, asked all the usual questions, hooked him up to wires connected to machines that beeped, buzzed, and blinged. At fifteen minutes to one they wheeled him to the operating room.

I had no choice but to sit where they directed me. Waiting in the main lobby where all the busy traffic of family, veterans, vendors, and service dogs meet in one noisome knot is sheer Babylon to a hearing-impaired person like myself. And I’m supposed to listen for a surgeon’s phone call in all that chaos?

Yet I did hear a voice over the PA system call, “Code Red. Code Red.”

And I wondered what the ‘red’ meant. Not another bomb scare?

Five minutes later three uniformed police officers arrived. Tensed and alert, I sat and watched. If orders came to evacuate the building, how in the world could I reach my husband in the operating room?

But the officers merely chatted and laughed with a couple of employees. The PA system announced, “Code Red is all clear. Repeat. Code Red is all clear.”

I was told the surgery would last for an hour up to an hour and a half. Time crawled by and I continually glanced at my watch. When two hours passed, I approached the information desk.

“Is there any way I can find out if my husband is out of surgery?”

“Let’s check on that,” the man said and dialed a number on the telephone. He replaced the receiver and said, “He’s still in surgery. Just sit tight.”

I again looked at my watch. It showed fifteen till four. 

After another fifteen minutes, I again asked the man for any information. He dialed the same number and then said, “He’s in recovery. The surgeon is on the way to speak with you.”

I sighed in relief. Sure enough, the young surgeon stepped out of the elevator and came over. She said everything in surgery went well, that my husband’s PTH was now at normal and he should only be in recovery for perhaps an hour and then be released.

Again, I waited. The lobby cleared out as visitors and employees left for the day. The helpful man at the desk also disappeared. I was alone except for an occasional volunteer who strolled by.

The recovery room was supposed to call when they were ready for me. I scooted a chair over next to the desk so I’d be able to see the line light up.

A volunteer saw me and asked if she could help. I answered I was waiting for news from the recovery. She called for me and then reported, “He’s having a hard time waking up. It’ll be a few more minutes.”

I grew anxious. An hour had already gone by and he wasn’t awake good enough?

Another volunteer stopped and asked if she could help. Three times a phone call to recovery was made. Finally, a male volunteer said he’d take me down and allow me to speak with a nurse. That’s exactly what I wanted to do!

The nurse assured me my husband was fine, that he was fully awake and coherent. The only thing he needed to do was to urinate.

I could imagine myself throttling my husband and demanding, “You’re worrying me to death just because you aren’t using a bottle? Do it! Do it, do it!!!”

At least this time I was banished to a waiting room only a couple of doors down. About 20 minutes later I received the call - hubby passed the urine test!

Though awake, he felt awful. Because of how they must have positioned him on the operating table, his neck killed him. Another volunteer wheeled him to pharmacy to pick up his pain medication, then she left us at the front doors and called for the downtown shuttle.

The hotel was probably three or four blocks away and the drive no more then ten or fifteen minutes.

We waited for two hours!

A different volunteer called twice, I made 3 phone calls of my own. Hubby was in torment. He needed to lie down, but he was forced to remain upright. What kept that blasted driver???

It was now about 7 p.m. I saw a man walking from the parking lot and recognized his employee badge. I grabbed him and asked for help. He was in disbelief that we’d waited so long. He wheeled us to the Emergency department and had the worker there to call, once again, for the driver.

It took almost an hour -and a couple of repeat calls- before the van pulled up. This driver said he’d only received the call, so why the other driver ignored our calls, I don’t know. This driver was helpful and sympathetic.

Finally, finally, with dusk closing in, we reached the hotel. I’d tried to make a reservation earlier in the day but -you guessed it- I wasn’t in the system. I said, “Just please give us a room. I don’t care where, we just need one.”

We got on the top floor, the fourth floor and -do you believe it- the elevator didn’t work! 

Poor hubby, weak from hunger, weak from surgery, weak from pain, forced his legs to carry him up those flights of stairs. When I opened the door, I met darkness and cold air. It took several minutes groping in the dark to find a light switch. After flipping the temp control to heat, I helped eased hubby down on a bed. It was 8:10 before this man was able to get the rest he so needed.

So what does this parathyroid adventure have to do with insecure writing? Let me say this:

I’ll gladly handle the promotion/marketing insecurity of a writing job any old day as compared to the stress and worry of out-of-town/bomb scare/code red/garage hunting/urine testing/shuttle-driver-nowhere-to-be-found/elevator-not-working event that I endured on April 18.

And, oh…good thing we decided against a shower in that hotel room. There was no hot water.