23 July 2014 …first chemo: crash cart required

It’s fair to say we are both very anxious as we turn up at Day Therapy this morning. It’s 8 am and we are the first ones here. The reception area is a bright airy room, with a coffee and tea bar opposite the reception desk. The furniture is modern, in caramel and coffee colours and there are two widescreen TV’s showing the morning show. With glass walls everywhere, some of them stories high, it feels like you are sitting in a glass atrium. Later in the day unfortunately it feels a little like a fish bowl with everyone looking in – most are unfazed by the scene that will unfold, I’m sure many had seen worse. That’s cancer for you. I was petrified.
We sit for an hour before being called into Brendan’s cubical by a lovely chemo nurse. I call her M. She is the treating nurse today on Brendan’s team of three, who will all be checking in on him throughout the next 8 or 9 hours. She is pretty; very tall and robust with beautiful straight red hair and rosy cheeks.
Chick has arrived just as Brendan’s name is called and we all go in to get him settled. M has to go through the education again, which the NP had gone over yesterday. There is a fair bit of repetitiveness but for good reason I’m sure. We are newbys and they have to be clear and careful, making sure we understand what is about to happen. M then explains the remotes for Brendan’s chair, she tells him “one is for you and one is for us, don’t get them mixed up because this button is for emergency incline”. She then smiles, looks at me and the n back to Bren and says “you won’t need that.”
Brendan will receive two Chemo drugs; they will deplete his body of magnesium, so after the chemo infusions he will have two magnesium infusions to compensate. The drugs are infused one at a time over periods of time that range from 20 minutes to hours, and the side effects are explained for each at the time it’s administered. The first one is about to start; the possible side effects of incorrect administration are horrendous. It is vital that the cannula is correctly inserted into the vein and M assures us that they check for blood return 3 separate times before going ahead, to make sure the cannula is in the right place. If for some reason the needle goes into the flesh and not the vein, the drug will eat the flesh. If this isn’t treated immediately, plastics will be called…worst case scenario it could result in amputation. Shit!!
OK, cannula is in, first check, no blood return, shit! Second check, no blood return! Another team member is called to consult, checks…no blood return! NP is called, checks, gets a phone call, has to take it…excuses himself, comes back… checks again, no blood return! Checks the line and confirms that there is good flow so the drug can be given. Shit!! Double Shit! Brendan squeezes my hand — hard. Say “Just for today I will not worry” over and over in my head is not working at the minute. The first lot of poison enters his body; it’s an anxious 20 minutes as this infusion goes ahead. We all sigh with relief when it’s done, even M. She say’s “OK you get to keep your arm this time!” and smiles cheekily, then says “we’re all very good at this you know; none of us wants the worst case scenario on our conscience or our record.” I’m just glad that’s done.
The rest of the infusions can go head and seem breezy after that. Now we have time to kill. We chat and get to know the team better as each of them randomly come and go. The volunteers bring Bren and me ipads to pass the time, along with lots of fresh sandwiches, muffins, biscuits, juice, coffee and tea. It’s around lunch time so Chick takes this as her cue to leave, letting Bren have some quiet time. C  comes in and pulls up a chair; he is 2IC nurse at the front desk. He’s lovely. His dad lives at Harrington which is only 5 to 10 minutes from where I grew up, it’s a small world…I like him. He has a lovely face with really kind eyes and a gentle manner. He talks to us about how we are feeling and what we might need and lets us know that nothing is too much trouble, we are to ask if we need anything or are unsure about anything. He asks about the kids and our family and reminds us that this situation is hard on everyone and that there are psychologists and councillors available for everyone who needs them, at Lifehouse.
C then looks at me and says “and how are you? This is hard on you too you know, because everything is going to fall on you! You will be taking on double the load. When he sleeps through the day, you need to sleep as well. You have to take care of you too!” We chat for a little longer and then he goes back to the desk.
Bren is starting to fade in and out a bit, he is now receiving his magnesium infusion and it seems like the drugs are starting to take affect. I ask if he would like some Reiki and he says yes. I stand behind the chair and place my hands on his forehead, I feel the energy flow, within minutes though I notice that Bren is starting to sweat and he tells me he feels like throwing up, I stop what I’m doing, grab him a vomit bag and we press the nurses bell.

 

I’m too impatient to wait and go to get C from the front desk. He comes in takes one look at Brendan and calls M. I see a bit of anxiousness; they are both now on their phones and M hits the big Red emergency button, as C gently takes me by arm and quietly whispers “come with me sweetie”, he guides me out of the room, I feel like I’m moving in slow motion. Now it’s all kind of surreal, like it’s not happening to us. The small room has filled with nurses, and if I didn’t know by the 15 to 20 nurses that had filled the room and hall that this was serious, I knew when I heard someone call for the “cart”. At some point early in the commotion the emergency incline button was pushed on Bren’s chair and all I could see were his feet.
All the while everyone in reception waiting for treatment, along with their family and friends had a front row seat to the show; I thought how scary that must have been to see all this happening from their vantage point, as they waited for their turn to be called into a cubicle…no curtains on the glass walls may have to be re thought.
I could feel tears on my face as I was trying to remember to breathe, C was standing near me taking down numbers as they were being called out by different nurses, he kept looking at me mouthing “he’s ok. He’s ok.” The Sister in charge of the ward, and the NP were now here too, along with the prettiest registrar I’ve ever seen. She looked like she’d stepped of the catwalk to be there. Tall and willowy with long sandy blond hair pulled back in a pony. She was wearing a pencil skirt and striped collared shirt with a black sweater. I thought … crap Brendan might look up and think he’s gone to heaven…it’ll scare the bejesus out of him.

 

The sister came over to the cart, where I was standing and grabbed the defib paddles out of the case. I thought I might pass out. Then she disconnected them from their leads and attached the cords to Bren to get a clear trace on him. OK, that’s not so bad! I saw him crane his neck to find me and he gave me the thumbs up, then I heard him laughing and I knew he was OK.
He recovered incredibly fast and when all his readings were back to normal the sister told him that she wished she had an ECG like his. I later said to him “what did you think when you saw that beautiful registrar?” he said “aw she was alright, but when you have a group of people looking after you like that — they all look pretty good.” That’s my boy!

I have to say that this whole ordeal probably unfolded in a matter of minutes; the response was phenomenal and the rest of the treatment went without a hitch and with many, many jokes from pretty much every nurse that walked past, about our drama queen. They are an exceptional, kind and gentle group of people all with a wicked sense of humour. And I am very, very grateful that they all know exactly what they are doing.
It appears Brendan had a reaction to the magnesium. So this will be adjusted for the next session.
That’s Chemo No#1 done and dusted…thank God!

 

Cal xx

 

NB: this is an archived post written in 2014 transferred from a previous blogging format

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