Posted by: Ken Wheatley | August 8, 2009

Pain, Infection, and DNRs

What a night…

As the saying goes, it’s always darkest before the dawn. The nights here seem to last forever. The darkness in and outside the room just persist for an interminable time. I don’t know why the nights are the worse for Sheila, but last night was another very difficult one for her. She was nauseous, throwing up, in severe abdominal and lower back pain, sweating but cold to the touch. The nursing staff and on-call doctor tried to do everything they could to comfort her, but it was impossible.

The amount of drugs she’s taking are incredible. Right now she has 4 IV bags hanging plus a morphine syringe. And that’s in addition to the numerous pills and patches.

Dr. Popa told us this morning that Sheila may have a bacterial infection in either her intestine or stomach, so they’ve instituted contact control – anyone coming into contact with her has to be gloved and gowned.

She’s muttering a lot now – something about going to get a massage with Mo, and my car being towed.

I put my headset on her. She loves the rainforest thunderstorm track that I have on the iPod she gave me. It helps drop her heart rate. It’s down to 97 at the moment.

Dr. Carpenter (we think that’s her name) came in a little while ago to check on Sheila, and I asked her about the conversation Dr. Test had with Sheila yesterday, and whether there was something we needed to know about the severity of Sheila’s condition but hadn’t been told.  Dr. Carpenter said she’d call Dr. B and find out.

Dr. B relayed that the reality is, Sheila’s in a very bad place now versus where she was 3 weeks ago, and most lung cancer patients don’t get past this many challenges. If she was put on a breathing machine there would be nothing to do that would allow them to take her off the apparatus, unlike someone who is suffering from pneumonia. With the multiple clots, multiple tumors, enlarged heart, and fluid around the lungs Sheila has – and she also started coughing up blood this morning, so it’s possible that the tumors in her lungs are bleeding –  the odds are stacked against her. So the question would have to be asked, then why do more if the (negative) outcome is pretty much predetermined?

Sheila and I have talked about it in the past, and again this morning. Quality of life is very important to her. She doesn’t want any extraordinary efforts done to keep her alive. Just keep her as painfree as possible.

I am so afraid and so saddened by the mere thought of losing her. My heart is already hurting. I cry every time I go home and see all her clothes, and our photos and she’s not even gone. So I can’t imagine what it would be like if she was never coming home again. I want her to come home now.  Today. To sleep with me. To shower with me. To sit on the couch and watch movies. To sit at the kitchen table and read articles to each other. To work in the yard together. Our oranges are just now coming in. And she’s been so looking forward to the apple tree bearing fruit. She is so kind, so sweet, so loving, so perfect. I have been, and continue to be blessed by her grace and presence in my life. She completes my every day. I love waking up every morning and seeing her face. I love going to bed every night and seeing that ever present smile just before I turn the lights out. I love how she holds her pillow when she sleeps. (I brought her favorite one to the hospital in hopes that would help her.) I love how she always chases after me in the grocery store and grabs and hugs me from behind. I like her “proximity” moans when she knows I’m in the vicinity or hears me coming down the hall, or when she hugs me from behind. She likes the color purple. And Costco lemon cake is her favorite. We haven’t gone on our honeymoon yet, but we want to go to Australia and New Zealand. And there’s the Long Beach Lodge Resort on Vancouver Island near Tofino that we want to visit. And we haven’t been to Kauai together yet. Or Napa Valley. She’s never been and she loves red wines. I promised to take her. And while were were up there we wanted to stay at Ventanna Inn. I’ve only stopped for a tour during a drive down the coast many years ago and have always wanted to stay there. She’ll love it.

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Responses

  1. Oh Ken I am just sick, i read the new update just now. I’m a nurse so I know how fast things can change, but I also know they can change for the better. Consider talking to a hospice if you want Shiela home. They can still do treatment as pallative care vs curative care, and home may be good for Sheila. I cannot imagine your heartbreak right now, but keep that hope going, Drs are looking at the odds. Tammy

  2. Hi Tammy,
    You hit the nail on the head. The fact that things do change so rapidly makes it very difficult to fully relax and enjoy the moment, let alone the day. The tension and anxiety is always present. It may moderate in intensity, but it’s always there.

    I did talk with the nurses and some friends who have used hospice, but fortunately she doesn’t require it at this point. It’s probably come up in the future, but I’m still hoping that it’s a distant future need.

    Thanks for writing, Tammy…


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