March 26, 2014
I paused, took a deep breath, and rang the call button from within the bathroom. I heard the door to my room open and Carrie call out.
Jill? You OK? A sincere tone of concern in her voice.
Uh. I don’t think so. You’d better come in here and see. I say.
Carrie entered the bathroom and took one look at the toilet bowl.
Oh man. She exclaimed. That’s definitely blood. Like, Franks Hot Sauce type-blood. Not even digested.
Huh? I wonder. Frank’s Hot Sauce? Is this a nursing term?
Carrie looked me over quickly and ushered me to bed. I was standing so I guess I was OK enough to make it that far.
What are you feeling? She asks.
Now? I have a pretty good ache in my gut but it’s better than it was. Before I went into the toilet I had a searing twisting pain. Like white-knuckle pain. I barely made it to the washroom. I reply.
I am going to page the cardiologist on call tonight. I suspect you have a bleed in your GI somewhere, Jill but we shall see. She says with complete authority and calm.
I would come to love Carrie’s calm authority … and that she says my name. Often.
Here’s what you need to know about Carrie. She’s the boss. I mean, she takes command of a situation LIKE A BOSS. I think it’s her red hair, or her freckles, or her Scottish heritage, or the fact that her and I could be cousins or something. Whatever it is – I firmly believe she saved my life then … and repeatedly through the coming hours.
And. She calls me Jill. Mad. Respect.
All this happens as Nick arrives. I immediately relax. It’s so easy to relax when he’s around. Carrie and I tell him what’s going on. Poor Nick. I cannot imagine what must be going through his mind. I know that my own mind is trying to race – down the dark rabbit hole of “what if insert worse case scenario here” so I am actively trying not to think about anything … I just focus on Nick and on breathing … because it is all I can focus on. This is what I can do. This is ALL I can do. It’s that or lose it completely. I have resolved that THAT is not an option. Period.
Carrie leaves to page the on-call cardiologist. Nick settles into the lonely chair in my room with a look of intense concern on his face but he speaks as though nothing is wrong.
Carrie returns. The doctor is on his way. Dr. Bains is on tonight. She says. He’s one of our Fellows. She says all this while hanging blood plasma.
Damn. I thought Dr. Toma would be on. I state. He’s my guy.
Carrie laughs. No. He’s off tonight. Dr. Bains is good. Don’t worry. She says reassuringly.
Oh, I’m not worried. I smile meekly in return. Nervous as hell.
Thinking Why of all nights does he have to be off tonight? Sigh.
I glance up at Carrie beside my bed as she hangs a bag of yellow looking fluid.
What’s that you are giving me? I ask.
Blood plasma, she replies. To keep your volume up, just in case. I have also ordered blood from the blood bank as well. You may need it.
I swallow. I feel a lump of fear form in my throat. This is bad. I think. Really REALLY bad. My eyes search the room for Nick.
I am going to bring in the Commode for your Jill. The washroom is too cramped and I need to be able to get to you easier in case I have to. OK? Carrie asks.
OK. I say. You’d better hurry though. I think it might be coming on again.
As if on cue, another nurse comes in with the Commode. As predicted, my intestines began to twist, on came the pain. I called out to Carrie and told Nick he probably didn’t want to stay for this. He scrambled out of the room.
My poor husband, I think in anguish at all I put him through.
Carrie sprung into action helping me onto the Commode. The other nurse that brought my throne in was still there.
It was then that everything came unhinged. I damn near filled the basin.
As nurses do. They studied the contents of the commode. #NursesBeLike
It’s full of blood.
Jill? Carrie asked. Can you make it back to the bed?
No. I reply. It’s coming again. Fresh twists of pain.
OK. Carrie said. Don’t worry, Jill. Just let it come.
The pain subsides and my bowels calm down.
Carrie looks me straight in the eyes. Jill, I need you to take off your clothes. I need to put a gown on you. Do you need me to help you? Carrie calmly asks.
No, I say as the last of my dignity is stripped away with my clothes. So much for that, I thought. Goodbye Lulu’s…
I sit there for a heartbeat, naked on my throne. Carrie in front of me and another nurse behind holding up a powder blue gown.
Carrie asks, Jill, can you stand? I need you back in the bed.
I think so, I reply. Looking directly in her eyes. As if in mutual understanding, we both know this the beginning of a very long night. I could see that she was in charge, that she knew what she was doing. I immediately felt better. Reassured.
She’s got this, I thought. Because I sure as hell don’t.
In one swift movement I stood, a gown was wrapped around my front and I was in the bed in an instant. A diaper had been placed beneath my bottom.
Wow! How’d that happen? Nurses, that’s how. They know their shit. Cough.
Carrie left the room briefly. Nick returned to the room looking ashen. I guess Carrie, or someone, must have spoken to him, and walked over to squeeze my hand then stepped back into the corner. Carrie returned with bags of blood with Dr. Bains on her heels and what looked like a tall lanky kid. His name is Dr. Julian so and so. I didn’t catch his last name, he has a friendly, concerned face, and he’s a resident and looks about 12. I call him Julian, might as well since I’m basically naked.
Carrie hooked up the blood to where the now empty plasma bag was and began forcing the blood down into the tube attached to my IV.
Carrie, it’s cold. I say. It burns!
I know, Jill. But I have to do this. You need this blood, OK? She states. It’s important that I get this into you as fast as I can. You bled a lot that last time.
OK, I reply. I look over at Nick who is standing in the corner looking like he is about to throw up.
You’re going to be OK, Nick says. Just listen to Carrie.
Dr. Bains begins asking questions. Sometimes of me, which I answer, and sometimes of Carrie, which she answers. Soon I think she starts to answer for me, I’m not entirely sure. I don’t remember what Bains asks, I only remember feeling cold. And scared out of my mind.
It’s coming again, Carrie! I exclaim.
Just let it come, Jill. Just let it come. She replies, still forcing the blood into my arm. We will need more blood, she says to the room at large. Someone leaves. The room is full of people.
With the pain … and the smell. I whimper.
You’re doing great, Jill. Carrie says.
Don’t leave me, Carrie. I say. I feel like I am gong to cry I am so afraid. I am really going to lose it! I think.
I’m not going anywhere, she states.
Two more people come into my room, they are supposed to find more veins because the two IVs that I already have aren’t going to be enough.
They try other areas of my arms. Nothing. They try my hands. Nothing. They try my feet. Nothing. Two IV nurses down. Another one is called.
I’m so cold.
More blood arrives. Carrie hooks it up and keeps on pushing it into my vein.
More people show up, I think. At some point my mom and brother arrive. Nick takes them outside and I suspect explains everything. He returns a few minutes later saying my mom and brother are waiting outside.
At least, I think that’s what he said. I was kinda busy.
It’s coming again, Carrie! I exclaim.
OK. Just let it come, Jill. She says.
We have a pattern of communication now. We understand each other. I tell her what’s happening, she says it’s OK and says my name, and someone leaves to get more blood.
I learn a new word – Bolus. Which basically means ‘get that blood into her as fast as possible.’ because ‘we need to keep her volume up.’
This is actually happening. I am bleeding uncontrollably. I can see how worried they are. Carrie is standing next to my bed forcing blood into my vein. Her hands grasped around the bag of cold blood squeezing.
I don’t recall how many more times this happens. Probably not too many more because at some point shortly thereafter Dr. Bains says they are moving me down to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU). Preparations are made.
I might die.
There is a very good chance that I might. actually. die.
I find calm.
As they begin to move my bed, I look over at Nick. I realize that in that moment I have never loved him more than I have loved my Nick right then. I am filled with peace.
I love you Nicki. I am a happy woman. I want you to know I’m happy. I say with finality. I reach out my hand, he grasps it. His hand is freezing cold.
Fuck you! He says. This is not how this ends.
There it is. The acknowledgement that we are both afraid. This might be it. I might die tonight. Without question, this was a definite possibility.
I think and smile to myself. God I love him.
I don’t know how I am going to do this, but I have to. I think. I can’t leave, yet. I’m not ready, despite how bad my body feels right now. The pain, the exhaustion. The overwhelming sense of doom.
It ain’t over. This shit just got real, is what it did. I thought. Because, you know, it wasn’t real before. #Sarcasm
I’m so cold. I say. Not expecting an answer. I just say it out loud trying to will it to go away.
My head begins to feel light. Despite this, I am still wide awake thanks to the continuous flow of my LVAD. Nothing is stopping Vlad.
Good ol’ Vlad. Well, at least one of us is working, I think as I wrap my arm around Vlad a little tighter.
Off to the elevator we go – down to the CICU. Carrie is there squeezing more blood into my arm and speaking reassuringly to me. I have no idea what she was saying – her voice was just reassuring.
And every so often I would hear her say my name.