(Excerpted from Life, Love… Leukemia)
Passing out equals zero fun. This morning I have a regular appointment at the cancer center to get my blood levels tested, but while I’m here they want to take care of the blood tests required for the bone marrow transplant. I don’t mind at all, since I still have the PICC line in my arm, bring on the blood work. As long as there are no needles involved, I’m game! The nurse comes over with a literal tray of vials, telling me she has to take 16 for the numerous tests for the transplant. Holy guacamole Batman!
No sweat, I got this. I give her my arm and she starts filling vial after vial of blood. I keep watching the little TV, trying to avoid watching the blood as she takes it out. She finishes up after what seems like an eternity, and wishes me well as she walks away. That was pleasantly easy. As soon as we get the results back for today’s levels, I should be good to go home.
My head starts to get heavy, bobbing down a few times. My muscles relax suddenly. My eyes start to glaze over and my breathing slows way down. At this point, I realize I’m about to pass out. There are no nurses in sight. There is another patient on the other side of the curtain to my right, but we can’t see each other. Across the room, there is an older lady patient in a recliner watching T.V. I try to raise my hand to get her attention, but I can’t lift it. I open my mouth to call for help, “I’m…going. … to… pa….” My mumbled, slurred words are inaudible, and as they’re leaving my lips, my head falls limp and I go out cold.
I wake up to a million people fussing around me. They’ve reclined my chair putting me all the way in a laying position, someone is putting a blood pressure cuff around my arm, and another nurse is in my face calling my name. All this commotion is embarrassing; I try to sit up and they lay me back down telling me not to move. “I’m fine!” I try to convince them but it’s a lost cause.
Two men in uniforms come in the room pushing a gurney and announce they’re here to take me to the E.R. What? I get defensive now. “Oh come on, I’m fine! I only passed out because I had so much blood taken. Any person would after that much. I’m fine, I can go home, really.” I plead, I beg, I try to reason with them and in the end, I fail. They insist that I’m going to the emergency room. Not only am I going, but I’m riding the gurney to get there. The EMTs reach out to help me out of the chair and onto the gurney, but I tell them I’m okay and get on by myself. I can see in their faces they agree with me that this whole thing is a little overkill – but its protocol. They strap me on the bed and start wheeling me towards the front door.
Outside, there’s an ambulance. “Are you for real? Do we really have to take an ambulance? I literally can see the entrance to the ER over there.” I point behind me where the driveway to the ER is about 200 feet away. Again, I’m told this is protocol. They lift me into the back of the ambulance and pile around me. Because of the street we’re on, we have to actually circle the whole hospital, driving practically back to where we started so that they can park in the ambulance dock. We chat the whole way around the building. “Well, at least I got to ride in an ambulance for the first time,” I joke.
I am put into an air tight little room in the ER and hooked up to an IV right away through my PICC line. (Thank goodness for this thing today!) No one really knows what to do with me. I don’t need treatment, just monitoring. They leave the blood pressure cuff around my arm, setting it to go off automatically every fifteen minutes. They check in, asking me if I’m in any discomfort, to which I answer, “Yeah, from this cuff squeezing me so much.”
I’m sitting up Indian style on the bed munching on a strawberry pop-tart when Doctor Ricci comes in. I love Doctor Ricci; he is the comedian on the staff and always has a wisecrack up his sleeve. I was he who arranged for me to be released with the PICC line still in. I’m happy he’s the doctor on call today, maybe he can bust me outta here.
“What are you doing back in here? Couldn’t stay away?” he asks.
“They took so much blood for the transplant tests, I passed out. No big deal, anyone would have passed out after losing that insane amount of blood.” I take a bite of my pop tart.
“Wow, pop tarts, I haven’t seen those things in ages! What flavor is that, strawberry with frosting and sprinkles?” he asks.
“Mmhmm,” I nod, then with my mouth full. “It’s the best flavor next to s’more pop-tarts, but you need a toaster for those, it’s the only way to eat them.”
Doctor Ricci laughs and leans back on the wall. “I hate to tell you, but we have to admit you again. Because you passed out, coupled with your low platelet count and the bloody noses you’ve been having, it’s probably best. You’re going to need some transfusions, so we might as well keep you over the weekend while your counts build instead of having you come back and forth every day.” I tell him I understand, say goodbye, happy I at least have my pop tart.