Saturday, December 15

Stories from Lisa

Hello, it's your friendly neighborhood Lisa, blogging for the hospitalized Ben.  I'm here to recount a bit of a crazy day.

It started with Ben groaning in pain, which isn't too unusual, but this was a little different and worse.  We soon cancelled our brunch plans with another couple we want to get to know better.  The wife is a nurse and was at M D Anderson for awhile, so she actually gave us some good advice on how to handle the situation of weird abdominal pains, stabbing chest pains, and only three days into a new chemo treatment.  Meanwhile, Ben was texting his doctor (who has been much more personally interested in Ben lately) who told us that this shouldn't be a side effect of Ben's new drugs and that we should get ourselves down to the E.R.

I heard this news while giving the parrot a shower, so it took twenty minutes or so to get completely ready to go with Standard E.R. supplies for both of us: warm sweaters (since it's almost always frigid there), water, hearty snacks (because we'd likely be there at least five hours), reading material and my ipad.  These days Ben usually prefers and is quite proficient at handling himself in the hospital solo, but his last E.R. experience wasn't so good.  He was neglected for a good 5.5 hours before getting a different doctor who actually helped him; I was determined to go with him and get in someone's face if need be. Anyway, it's Saturday.

Going through Triage, getting a room and seeing a nurse happened fairly rapidly.  Good signs!  Then the doctor walked in and we had a seemingly normal encounter.  After he left, Ben said "It's him."  He meant that this was the same doctor who hadn't done anything for him a couple of weeks ago.  What a scary moment!  We prayed then, for the doctor to try to solve problems this time, for any drugs to have extra effect, and for wisdom to know if I needed to go make a stink, and to whom.

And... God answered yes!  The doctor ordered tests!  He gave Ben 4x as much painkiller as he had started with previously, and just in time too.  Ben's ab pain rose to a stabbing "9" on the pain scale (top being 10) and he was really in agony.  But moments later the nurse walked in with the drugs and again, God answered our prayer and they had double the effect they normally would.  Pretty soon, Ben's pain was more like a "5". 

The rest of the afternoon we hung out, looking at some eye-candy blogs I follow (Urban Sketchers, Seattle Daily Photo, Talkitect), making phone calls and changing plans, watching Iron Chef and chatting with the nurse (who is from India and at one point said "God is awesome!")  It actually was a decent afternoon.

Then we were given the intel that Ben was admitted to the hospital for an infection.  No one seemed to have further information (since then we've found out that they want to keep him on IV antibiotics).  There's also a rumor the hospital nurse heard that the infection is Pneumonia, but that remains unconfirmed.  Ben was carted upstairs to a hospital room so fancy it looked like the Executive Suite and settled in with a menu, finally having permission to eat.

I rushed downstairs to meet up with a friend who had come straight from the Sunday School Christmas Party with dinner for us.  Sadly, we'd missed out on the tacky sweater competition and wacky White Elephant gift exchange (does anyone need a pre-wrapped White Elephant gift?) and time with friends, but they were sweet enough to pray for us and send us some food.  Thanks to my friend who drove all the way out to the hospital to share some cheer and eats, and experience M D Anderson's alleyways!

While at home, I thoroughly enjoyed filling my belly and then grabbed some things for Ben before heading back to the hospital.  Our new friends, another M D Anderson DSRCT patient and his wife, had recommended the "Observation Lounge", the 24th floor of the hospital tower with 360 degree views of Houston (and occasionally live music).  So, being in the same tower as Ben, I decided to check it out on my way back.  After a quick circuit (it really is fantastic) I was headed back to the elevator when I realized some people were trying to get my attention.

It was three Arabic men eating around a table.  They were urging me to come share their food.  It was almost 10pm and the lounge was due to close, but they looked pleasant enough so I walked over to say hi.  Well, I'd just eaten, but having snacked lightly through most of the day I was hungry again :) While I munched a delicious pita with chicken kabob, we talked about why we were at M D Anderson.  One of the men told me about their favorite Mediterranean restaurant.  Abdullah was surprised that at my age I have no children.  There were definitely some language gaps.  They drank cola from tiny mugs and tried to get me to take the rest of the food with me- a huge plate of chicken and some condiments.  Of course I declined, but when the lights went out (closing time) and it became apparent that the food was going to be abandoned, I let them pack it up for me.  

Here's some background: I don't know much about modern Arabic culture (and I'm sure that it does vary widely from country to country) but I do see a lot of people who come directly to M D Anderson from Arabic countries.  A number of them live in our apartment complex.  The men seem to be more group-oriented then Americans, and can often be seen talking by the pool with their big silver tea service.  There used to be a garage in our apartment complex that was almost a calm sort of Night Club, where older Arabic men would sit on rugs to play cards, while the younger men watched TV on couches, all their shoes piled up at the entrance.  Ben and I loved this glimpse into their lives as we drove by at night.  We wondered how alien we would be, and if these men would accept either of us into their circle.

So when I got up to Ben's hospital room again, I told him "I got into the Garage club, Ben!"  He thought my story was super-cool and it made us want to talk to our neighbors more.  I ate (again) and we played "Ticket to Ride" on his iPad since he was feeling the best he had all day.

Well, what a crazy day.  In conclusion, our Christmas plans are now up in the air, though we still hope to go to Colorado.  Ben will hopefully find out if he actually has Pneumonia tomorrow.  And I'll bring the fruit salad we were going to have for brunch today to church. 

P.S. When I drove into the apartment complex again at 11:30, there were some men on a corner talking.  It was Abdullah and Co!  Maybe our paths will cross again since they live nearby.


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