Tuesday, April 03, 2012
When a Rose Bends -- Part Three
By Dr. Mel Waldman
Michelle and I need another miracle. I am struggling to make sense of what has been happening to her and to me. But like a Kafkaesque metamorphosis, her illness seems treacherous, uncontrollable and bizarre.
For a few weeks, Michelle seemed on her way to a full recovery. Since she had returned to the nursing home the evening of March 1st, Michelle showed me how mentally tough she is. I glowed with pride as she worked hard every day, a real champion, participating in physical therapy for two or more hours at a time.
On March 19th, the staff informed her that she might be ready to be discharged in three weeks. When she expressed concerns about being ready by this deadline, I reassured her. “Remain focused on doing your daily physical therapy. I believe you can meet this deadline.”
“But what if they discharge me before I’m ready?”
“Then I will climb stairs with you and walk with you as you trudge along with your walker. Until you can walk by yourself, I will be your constant companion.”
“Thank you, honey,” she said affectionately.
I felt optimistic and looked forward to our reunion, commencing on Michelle’s discharge date. Unfortunately, we faced more twists and turns on the labyrinthine road to recovery.
“Wake me up when the nightmare is over,” I keep muttering to myself.
On Friday, March 23rd, Michelle complained of stomach cramps. Still, I wheeled her twice around the block in the late afternoon, and she enjoyed the fresh air. When I took her back to her room, she seemed to relapse. Her stomach pains had intensified. She became forgetful and confused.
In the evening when I held her hand, it seemed very hot. And so did her forehead. I alerted the nursing staff. A nurse took her temperature. Michelle had a fever, and the nurse gave my wife two Tylenol. Or so I thought. Two hours passed. Michelle was burning up. I thought, perhaps, that the nurse was waiting for approval from the attending doctor and thus, she had not given my wife the pills.
But when I spoke to her, she confessed that she had forgotten to give Michelle the medicine.
Friday night, she had a fever of 99.8. Saturday morning, she had a fever of 103 plus. The staff gave her icepacks, cold compresses, and Tylenol. When I left her Saturday night, her fever was 101.8. She was incoherent and disoriented.
I spoke with the head nurse and recommended hospitalization. However, the nurse informed me that the attending doctor had authorized a series of tests, including blood work, a chest X-ray, and a stool sample. A P.A. also authorized an abdominal X-ray.
“Your wife cannot be hospitalized until the test results come back. The doctor will make a decision based on the results.”
On Sunday, she had no temperature. She walked with a walker. She was rational, coherent, and in good spirits. Unfortunately, her miraculous recovery did not last.
This week her temperature fluctuated during the day and between days. On the other hand, we got the results of her blood work. Thankfully, she does not have sepsis! Her stool sample indicated she has an infection. She has been prescribed an antibiotic.
I continue to watch over Michelle. And I sing love songs to her. Her face glows. Sometimes she sings alone or with me. She loves to sing. She is happy when she sings. And she loves the song, "Someone to Watch over Me."
This medical nightmare all began on December 19th when Michelle had what for so many people is a straightforward surgery: a total hip replacement. But in Michelle's case, there were serious complications.
She appears to have the same infections she had months ago. I fear that these infections may develop into sepsis again.
Is my wife safe? Is she getting the correct dose of the antibiotic she needs? How can the medical staff prevent her from developing sepsis again? What can I do?
I pray for guidance and strength. And I pray that my wife Michelle will continue to fight these insidious infections. I look forward to her coming home. In my mind’s eye, I visualize a healthy wife returning to her husband. I hold and caress that image.
Writer Mel Waldman is a psychologist, poet, writer, and artist. His stories have appeared in dozens of magazines including HARDBOILED DETECTIVE, ESPIONAGE, THE SAINT, and AUDIENCE. He is a past winner of the literary GRADIVA AWARD in Psychoanalysis and was nominated for a PUSHCART PRIZE in literature. He is the author of 11 books. This is the third in a series of articles; the first ran in MyStory on February 28th.