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Diary: 23rd July 2014
Brendan will receive two Chemo drugs today. 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. One will take 20 minutes, and the other, plus the magnesium, will take around 7 hours. The side effects are explained for each drug when administered. The first drug, which takes 20 minutes, if not administered correctly, has horrific side effects. The cannula has to be inserted into Bren’s vein precisely — there is no room for error.
Reg assures Bren that they check for blood return three times — before going ahead with the infusion to ensure the cannula is in the right place. As a part of the education, Reg has to explain that if the needle goes into the flesh and not the vein, the drug will eat it. If this happens, the area needs to be treated immediately. Plastics will be called in — and in the worst-case scenario, it could result in amputation. Shit!!
OK, the cannula is in; first check, no blood return, shit! Second check, no blood return! Another team member consults, and he checks — no blood return! Ken consults, gets a phone call, has to take it — excuses himself, comes back, checks again — no blood return! Shit! He double-checked the line and confirmed that there was good flow and that the infusion could start.
Shit!! Double Shit! Brendan squeezes my hand hard. The first lot of ‘get him well‘ poison enters his body; it’s an anxious 20 minutes as this infusion goes ahead. We all sigh with relief when it finishes.
“OK, you get to keep your arm this time!” Reg says, smiling cheekily. “We’re all very good at this; none of us wants the worst-case scenario on our conscience or our record.”
I’m glad that one is over.
The rest of the infusions can go ahead. Now we have time to kill. We chat and get to know the team better as they come and go. The volunteers bring iPads to pass the time and fresh sandwiches, muffins, biscuits, juice, coffee and tea to Bren’s cubical for both of us. We are feeling well looked after.
Carey comes in and pulls up a chair; he is the 2IC nurse at the front desk. He’s lovely. His dad lives in Harrington, 5 to 10 minutes from where I grew up. It’s a small world. I like him.
Carey has a lovely face with really kind eyes and a gentle manner and is here to help in any way he can. He asks how we are feeling and what we might need. He chats to us about our kids and our family and reminds us that this situation is tough on everyone. Psychologists and councillors are available through the hospital for anyone who needs them.
After handing me some pamphlets, Carey looks square at me and asks how I am. I tell him I’m OK.
“This is hard on you, too, because everything will fall on you! You will be taking on double the load. When he sleeps through the day, you sleep too. You have to take care of yourself!” He says compassionately.
We chat for a bit longer, and then he returns to his 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 taking effect. He looks pale. I ask if he would like some Reiki, and he says yes.
I stand behind his chair to place my hands on his forehead and feel the energy start to flow. Within minutes I notice he is sweating. He tells me he feels like throwing up. I stop what I’m doing to grab a vomit bag and press the nurse’s bell.
Too impatient to wait, I get Carey from the front desk. He takes one look at Brendan and calls Reg. I sense anxiousness; they are both on their phones, and Reg hits the big red emergency button. Carey gently takes me by the arm and whispers, “come with me, sweetie,” as he guides me out of the cubical.
It feels like an out-of-body experience as I watch everyone move around quickly in slow motion. The small room fills with nurses, and they spill into the hall. Someone calls for the ‘cart.’ This is serious. I feel my heart stop.
The emergency incline button was pushed, on Bren’s chair, early in the commotion. And all I can see are his feet.
Breathe, breathe, I tell myself as tears roll down my cheeks. Carey is standing beside me, writing down the numbers being called out by different nurses, as he mouths to me, “he’s OK. He’s OK.”
The Sister in charge of the ward and Ken are in the room now. Along with the prettiest registrar I’ve ever seen. She looks like she has stepped straight off a catwalk to be here. Tall and willowy with long sandy blond hair pulled back in a pony, she is 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. She’ll scare the bejesus out of him.
The sister came over to the cart near where I was standing. She grabbed the defib paddles out of their case, and I thought I would pass out. Obviously, I’ve watched too much ER over the years. She disconnected them from their leads and attached the leads to Bren to get a clear trace from his heart. OK, that’s alright! 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 fast, and when all his readings were back to normal, the sister told him that she wished she had an ECG like his.
“What did you think when you saw that beautiful registrar?” I asked him.
“Aww, she was alright, but when you have people looking after you like that, they all look pretty good,” he said.
That’s my boy!
This ordeal unfolded in just a matter of minutes. The response was phenomenal. And the rest of the treatment went without a hitch. However, there were many jokes that afternoon about our drama queen. It helped to lighten the mood for the rest of the day’s treatment.
We know now that Bren reacted to the magnesium infusion. The team will change the prescription before his second treatment.
Chemo No#1 is done — thank God!
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