Friday, 14 March 2014

When Intervention is Welcome in my Palliative Journey

Warning again of some more graphical medical content, so feel free to take a pass.
I have come to believe there is something uniquely precious about the men and women who gravitate toward the field of palliative medicine. Case in point was a home visit I received this morning from the amazing Dr. Ryan from the Victoria Hospice program who I had never met before - and a kindly palliative resident who tagged along to observe our session before he moves on to Calgary shortly for a permanent position. Dr Ryan spent almost an hour thoroughly and gently understanding my medical history and admitting his unfamiliarity with eating disorder patients - something that is all too familiar among the health care professionals I have encountered over the years. I say that not in a judgemental way - but even talking about the cohort of patients - men and women like me who are not teenagers but who have dealt with these illnesses for decades was instructive to both the physician and the resident. So in addition to a thorough and illuminating conversation about where I am and the bumps along the road - I felt entirely comfortable to share with these virtual strangers some of the most intimate details of this journey and the particular bumps in the road that I have experienced since January. But the most significant interchange was their assessment of two large and painful abscess areas on my chest where plastic butterfly ports used to administer medication had failed and had to be removed - were growing larger and failing to drain after almost a week. The prospect of the infection going septic was of sufficient concern that after we said our good-byes, the doctor immediately made contact with a general surgeon who agreed to meet me despite the madness spring break brings with it as staff enjoy time with their families. I was off to the hospital emergency room where a kindly general surgeon was able to thoroughly drain them and pack them with an antiseptic material before bandaging them up. Overall, and despite the hordes of walking wounded in the waiting room - I was in and out in a record two hours. Now I will be relying on the daily support of the palliative nurses to deal with the follow-up wound care for a number of days. I came home nauseous and in pain as the freezing dissipated...but a nap helped immensely and I am ready for a new little chapter. I underestimated how the prospect of them turning septic in my blood stream could actually shorten my life span - which despite my insistence on limited interventions - is something I couldn't justify in this time. So another adventure in health care land and my profound thanks to the remarkable physicians who took the time to treat a palliative patient with dignity, respect and a minimum of fuss. Again these physical trials come with the natural decline of my kidneys and are to be expected. But every part of this is accompanied by the support and love from my family - my sister who dropped everything to held my hand through the whole ER visit - my parents who dropped in to give their love and hugs and Kirk fussing around fixing tea, doing laundry and all of the household chores that happen without me right now. So again and despite the physical, I am grateful for this day...for the love and light and caring I have been fortunate enough to receive.

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