We are both 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 bright and airy 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.
We sit in the waiting area for an hour before being called into Brendan’s cubical. by a lovely chemo nurse. She is the treating nurse today on Brendan’s team of three, the treatment will take 8 or 9 hours. She is pretty; very tall and robust with beautiful straight red hair and rosy cheeks.
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’re 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 that one remote is for him and one is for the nurses. She warned not to get them mixed up, as their remote is for emergency incline. She then smiles, looked at me and then back to Bren and said “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 drug was read to go; 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. Carl 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. 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 the first. Now we have time to kill. We chat and get to know the team better as each of them randomly come and go. Cory 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 anyone who needs them.
Cory looks at me and asked how I am? 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 Brendan sleeps through the day, you need to sleep as well. You have to take care of you to. 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, he says yes. I stand behind the chair and place my hands on his forehead, I feel the energy flow. Within minutes 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 go to get Cory 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 Cory gently takes me by arm and quietly whispers, “come with me sweetie”, as he guides me out of the room, I feel like I’m moving in slow motion. It’s all kind of surreal, like it’s not happening to us.
The small room has filled with nurses, 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.I felt faint and was sweating, I thought I was going to throw up. i had no idea what was happening or how bad it was.
I could feel tears on my face and my breathing was rapid. Cory was standing near me taking down numbers being called out by different nurses, he kept looking at me mouthing “he’s ok. He’s ok.” carl and the the Ward Sister were now in the tiny cubical 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 his heart. 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 ” she was alright, but when you have a group of people looking after you like that — they all look pretty good.”
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 thin Brendan had a reaction to the magnesium. So this will be adjusted for the next session. Chemo one is done.