The Unexpected Present

Ugly Thunderstorm Cloud Ahead

IV stand graphic

We had a near miss these past ten days. Yuri got a hospital infection that led to pneumonia, and the Dragon reared its ugly head on the first day at rehab. Unable to get the Rehoboth spot, we conceded that this highly recommended rehab was the right place. A mistake. The day I brought him there on Tuesday, he sat up in good spirits, smiling with a DQ milkshake. It was a different story on Wednesday. When I got there, he was delirious, burning with fever. His entire body was shaking, curled in a fetal position. 
 The nurse said, “He was tired from dialysis.” 
 “I never saw him this way after a treatment.”

The Respiratory Therapist took me aside as Yuri’s lungs filled with fluid and whispered that I should demand immediate transport to the local ER. There was no time to lose. Upon my request, the EMTs got there fast; however, Yuri was in bad shape. They were making him “comfortable.” I followed the ambulance to the local hospital, a regional facility feeling the Deja Vu creeping down my spine. The ER nurse went into action to bring the fever down, surrounding his body with ice packs. Hours later, the ER doctor countered that Yuri was ready to be sent back to rehab unless the labs returned with something serious going on.

We waited late at night until the news that he would be admitted. Twenty-four hours later, Yuri’s system goes haywire– heart Afibs and a speeding rate that could kill a beast. His breathing was rapid and shallow, and his lungs filled with fluid overload. The Dragon had him in its grip. It was Friday. I feared the weekend: staff shortages and empty desks in the nurses’ station. Standby doctors covering for work week schedule.

No one can get Yuri’s medical records because we’re in a different state (albeit neighboring), not to mention the state of mind and different computer systems. I have the timeline committed to memory.

By 4 p.m. I am in a crazed imagination reel where the worst-case scenarios smash into my brain, a kaleidoscope of sharp angles. The nurses told me since morning that Yuri was in dialysis treatment, an ongoing therapy since the Fourth of July hospital visit for a severe injury to his kidney. It was five hours before they brought him to the floor. He was swaddled in blankets and set up in a shared room, cramped, wired, oxygen whirring, orders of picc lines and IVs. The admitting doctor walked in. Knock out runway model, tall, statuesque, and brainy.

I thought I was back in the teaching hospital in Westchester. It could have been scenes out of Grey’s Anatomy. I’m waiting for Meredith to step in and save Yuri from the inexperienced internal medicine doctor. Still, I immediately listened to her calming voice and measured words to understand what was happening. She apologized for not answering my request to speak with her sooner. Recognizing the urgency, dialysis treatment was started to protect his kidney and remove the fluid. Not enough.

An ICU pulmonary specialist was summoned into the fray. I briefed him on Yuri’s medical history. He tried to hide his horror at what was happening as we stood in front of the images of Yuri’s lungs two days ago and where they were Friday night. It looked bleak. He instantly formulated a plan and wanted my consent. It would mean intubation. I know Yuri’s feelings about that because repeated intubations hurt his vocal cords. The doctor’s response was cool and calculating. It was decision time.
“The damage has already been done. Stay strong; There’s no time to lose.” Battlestations.

When doctors come in on a Friday night, it has to be for a special case. No one has seen this before, especially in a regional hospital. Dr. V, internal medicine and infectious disease specialist in Dover and six other locations, was called in. I sensed the admitting doctor might have contacted him. Nurses whispered with reverence that The Doctor was assessing Yuri’s case. Did I not see him? He’s the man in the Wheelchair. I hadn’t, and I didn’t for the next days of stormy weather ahead in Yuri’s system. I stayed and held Yuri’s hand, his eyes on me, waiting for a sign from any facial expression that could betray my optimism. Stay the course. Keep the faith. Pray for a miracle.

Too many things were happening at once. Without an intubation procedure, they cannot know what bacteria invaded, causing the pneumonia. A Guessing Game was going on, so Dr. V ordered a gazillion antibiotics for Yuri, a slew of intravenous cocktails – Vancomycin, a tricyclic glycopeptide antibiotic derived from Streptococcus, also for bacterial infections, gram-positive, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) treatment of septicemia, and lower respiratory tract infections.

Yuri was tested, tested, tested. When the first attempts failed, his arms were covered in bandages and bruises from the pokings. Labs came back for adenovirus; four different Coronaviruses (229E, HKU1, NL63, OC43) Metapneumovirus, rhinovirus, influenza A, influenza A H1, A H3, A H1-2009, and B, parainfluenza virus 1, 2, 3, 4; Respiratory Syncytial virus, Bordetella pertussis, Parapertussis; Chlamydophila pneumoniae; Mycoplasma pneumoniae; and SARS-CoV-2—all NEGATIVE.

The entire week, I was demanding the best for Yuri. While in the Waiting Room at end of Week 2, Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel Thursday, I sat across from the elevators. Instead of Raymond Burr from Ironsides, I watched Dr. V roll up to the elevator doors.
“Excuse me, are you the doctor caring for my husband?”
Surprised but delighted, he expertly maneuvered his wheels beside me and shook my hand. “And this all happened due to the Covid vaccine.” “The second shot did it.”

He told me that when he first saw Yuri a week ago, he didn’t think he would make it.
“This man could not possibly survive what was going on, but he’s doing very well on the antibiotics. He’s a fighter.” You betcha. Somehow, he was okay; it was nearing the weekend, but on that day, I felt good about his medical and hospital care. Now we can arrange for discharge and a higher level of care near Baltimore rehab without being surrounded by fields and fields and fields of corn.

Dear God, how does one survive such trauma? Only my Yuri. Over the weekend, his doctor called me with updates and stopped to see us. He was curious about how and why Yuri had returned to his previous physicality, albeit totally exhausted. All functions are coming back to normal, heart, lungs, and kidney. It’s as if a huge thunderstorm roared through, laying waste where it finds the weakest point, leaving wreckage that sometimes you can’t get back from.

I was on a rollercoaster. (I hate rollercoasters) and there are many things I have no control over (water temperature control where a hot shower turns into an ice bath without warning), but it keeps me on my toes and might be beneficial healthwise. I will keep that in mind for Yuri when he comes home.

Many thanks for all of the thoughts, prayers, and good wishes. I apologize to our friends for not getting back to them in some way after so many wonderfully supportive email messages and notes. It helps so much. Every time there was a breather, more grass pollen and burning air pollution filled the surrounding environment setting off the latest scenario. I hope it will be the last. Keep the faith.

Noise Reduction 2.0

Yuri is still working. Coming soon a selection of tunes for CD Love Songs from the ICU.

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