Saturday, October 10, 2009

Final Chapter – Thrombosis Summer . . .

Venter’s Note:
Do I really have to say it? If you’re reading Final Chapter without reading the preceding three parts, then you should scroll down. Or perhaps you’ve arrived here accidentally, after Googling “sound of neurons firing” or John Spencer.

Either way, enjoy.

Thrombosis Hostage Crisis, Day 3.

I haven’t mentioned my hospital roommate, a man about my age with severe abdominal discomfort. He arrived a few hours after I did, after a much longer, much more uncomfortable stay in the ER. Diverticulitis, I heard a nurse mention, a condition I’m slightly familiar with because of my mother-in-law (she suffers from it; she doesn’t cause it).

I knew there was little chance I’d keep the two-bed room to myself, and while a bunkie with gastrointestinal issues wasn’t ideal, it beat the other selections I could have received. However, his arrival did make me regret the nurses’ decision to drop me in the bed next to the bathroom. Fortunately, his liquid diet made that concern moot.

As the sun rose on the third morning of my confinement, nine-tenths of me felt great. Thanks to a little assistance from the pharmaceutical industry and the kindness of my doctor (who I believe felt a bit guilty at proclaiming me healthy 72 hours before my admittance), I’d enjoyed a good night’s sleep, without any morning-after grogginess or the desire to drive or operate heavy machinery. Relief, thy name is Ambien.

And right after I woke, in came Ambien’s sweeter sister, Oxycontin, whose acquaintance I was always pleased to make.

My half of the room was quiet. While I waited for my wife to make her morning coffee delivery, I finished off the last few chapters of a novel with MSNBC on in the background. Over by the windows though, things were popping.

My roommate was being released, after promising to replace the bowl of mixed nuts next to his recliner with something less digestively aggravating. It was a happy day for half the room, less so next to the shitter.

When Rhonda arrived with my cup o’ Joe, I was deeply engaged in a Cosmic hissy, unfit company for anyone I might want to maintain a relationship with in the future. I didn’t want company. I didn’t want sympathy. I just wanted to pack.

I did, however, take the coffee.

Rhonda knew when to leave the grumpy man alone, and once she left, I spent the rest of the morning fiddling around online (the hospital had a wireless network, miracle of miracles) and bemoaning my captivity. After a noontime discussion with the dietician (during which I maintained that Caffeine-Free Diet Coke was called Caffeine-Free Diet Coke because of the lack of caffeine), I was visited again by the Ghost of Thrombosis Past.

The vascular specialist appeared pushing a cart carrying what looked like an Xbox. Sadly, his mechanical companion was a sonogram, so it was up with the gown, down with the shorts and let’s take a look at Steve’s circulatory system.

Dr. Veiny wasn’t stingy like the ER technician. He turned the device around so I could see the display, and explained what was on the screen. I’ll admit to a bit of queasiness at the sight of my insides, and I jumped when he pointed to an opening the size of the Holland Tunnel and said, “There’s the main vein that runs through your leg.”
If that was the route the clot would take to my heart, I figured I was a dead man. That passage was wide enough for a Volkswagen. Thankfully, Dr. Veiny only waited a moment before proceeding to explain the concept of magnification.

He swished the probe around my calf for another ten minutes, pointing out landmarks and describing blood flow (or lack thereof). In the end, Dr. Veiny concluded that my main vein was not the source of my problem (welcome words to any man), and explained the clot was lodged in a superficial vein. Serious? Yes, but not immediately life threatening. If that pesky clot wanted a trip to my pump, it’d need GPS and a couple of tanks of gas to get there.

We had to wait an hour for my doctor to confirm the updated diagnosis, but once he did, I got the best news of the week. No more IVs. No more shots. No more illegal coffee imports.

I was going home.

After the initial euphoria wore off, I was worried. My leg felt no better than it had when I was admitted. If anything, it hurt worse. It certainly looked worse. My dashing pinstripe had become a topographical map of the Andes, and the swelling had Bob Evans chefs camped outside my door, rolls of sausage casings at the ready. Hospital discharge presupposed a cure, didn’t it? If so, then somebody had some ‘splaining to do.

Relief took another week of rest. I spent the next seven days parked in my favorite chair, venturing out only once for a compression sock fitting (prescription, knee-high panty hose for the uninitiated). By my eighth day at home, I could manage to walk from the living room to the bathroom without tears or swearing. A week after that, an eight hour bookstore shift didn’t have me crying for my mama. By Independence Day, things were pretty much back to normal.

But “normal” is a relative term.

I’m constantly aware of that traitorous spot on my calf. I monitor it as I monitor my kids, vigilante for any deviations from the norm. I break out in cold sweats after every twinge. I assume the clot is gone (according to follow-ups with Dr. Veiny, it is), but the possibility of a recurrence keeps me awake at night.

No one can tell me what caused it. Theories? Sure. Weight, age, standing, sitting, walking too much, walking too little, smoking, and the option that made every M.D. I encountered nod and say “Ahhh”: Air travel. Quite a list, with no way to identify the actual trigger, all “ahhhs” aside. If it were up to me, I’d check the box for air travel and never step on a plane again, but Disney’s too far a drive.

And if another clot forms, I’m very uncomfortable about the whole “dropping dead as a warning sign” scenario. I want a monitor, or a beeper, or some kind of device to let me know when the ClotCom threat level rises. My doctor suggests I undergo a procedure to remove the incompetent vein responsible for my summertime blues, but his description of the operation sounds like something one of my Horrorfind friends came up with, and –what’s worse- he wants to do it in his office, using a local anesthetic.

I’m assuming the local is for him, since no one is ever taking a knife to me while I’m awake.

I’ll stick with my sock, thanks.

But Then Again, You’ll Have This . . .