Monday, July 20, 2009

U of Michigan Hospital - Our Temporary Home Last Week

We had a difficult week last week, but we are adjusting.

After Tom's un-stroke on Sunday, we went for his scheduled chemo on Tuesday. After learning about his trip to the ER, his oncologist felt she wanted to know why he has had brain problems, physical weakness and walking instability, so she postponed chemo in favor of a referral to one of U-Michigan's neurologists.

She's good at getting appointments - inside of two hours, we were sitting in the neurologist's exam room. After a battery of physical tests and questions, the neurologist recommended that Tom have further testing. If we wanted to do it on an out-patient basis, it would probably take a couple of weeks to schedule.

Or . . . she offered to admit Tom immediately to the hospital, guaranteeing him all the tests he needed within the next day or so. Well, heck, we were already there, and Tom wanted to get it over with, so he was admitted and scheduled for tests.

By Tuesday noon, he was in his hospital room, and within two hours he was off to get an EEG (I think that's what it's called - anyways, a brain scan). The next test was an MRI, which came at 5:30 am Wednesday. Tom hates MRIs. But he managed to get through it, all that pounding noise giving him a headache, and was fairly chipper by the time I showed up Wednesday morning.

By early Wednesday afternoon, they performed a spinal tap. In his room. And I was allowed to stay with him. Actually, I should describe it as spinal taps - because the first one they attempted didn't take. More neurologists and nurses were called in, plus more morphine, until they were able to make the second spinal tap work. What is supposed to be a less-than-one-hour procedure took more than 2 1/2 hours, and a whole lot of morphine and local anesthetic. Tom needed to be awake during the tap, which is difficult since this procedure is so terribly painful. He toughed it out, and when it was done, was even able to laugh a bit with his comedian-neurologist.

Afterwards, he didn't remember the pain. The brain definitely knows how to block bad situations, and he'd completely forgotten the intense pain he'd endured.

By Thursday, he was released. None of the possible problems they were searching for were found. That's the very good news. Prayer works.

However, that means we are back to Square One. No one can explain why he's stumbling and falling, nor why his brain is sometimes - but not always - so foggy he can't talk more than one word at a time, comprehend questions, add simple numbers, and why he shows Parkinson's-like symptoms. The only possible explanation they've offered is that he possibly has "chemo brain", which may or may not clear up on it's own. There apparently is no treatment for chemo brain.

Tom's oncologist has suggested that he take a few weeks off from chemo, hoping that he will strengthen physically, and that his brain will return to normal. Since last week's hospitalization, he's only been noticeably wobbly once, but hasn't fallen. His brain is still foggy off and on, and we're not seeing any major improvement yet.

We are staying strong. Time will be our friend. He's had eight grueling chemo treatments; his brain needs a vacation.

Thank you all for your prayers. God does listen.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tom, the Ambulance Guy

Lately, Tom's been struggling with brain fog. It comes and goes, sometimes severe and sometimes just minimal. Then there's times when all is working, and our life seems normal. Well, Tom-Pulsipher-normal. It doesn't seem like anything we do these days is normal compared to most other people.

Around 4 am yesterday morning, Tom returned from trip to the bathroom, but didn't quite make it to bed. He became dizzy (not an unusual occurrence), and before he had a chance to steady himself his legs buckled and he fell.

He landed on his back, and was in quite a bit of pain, so I gave him a couple of pain pills. He told me he didn't hit his head, and just his back hurt. Eventually, he was able to get up on his own power, and then into bed.

I hadn't gone to sleep yet that night - can't really explain why. Just wasn't sleepy, I guess. But an hour later, in the dark I heard noise from Tom, not really words but sounds that I couldn't interpret. Turning on the light, I found him dazed and confused. He didn't know who I was. When I asked him questions, he couldn't answer - he was unable to speak anything other than one-syllable sounds.

Fearing that he'd had a stroke, I spent a few minutes determining what the next step was. Because of my own experience stroking just a year ago, all of it came back to me. It was surreal, all those not-so-fond memories of that day rushing back, but since decisions had to be made quickly, it was something I just had to deal with.

Asking him to squeeze my hands produced only mild strength from him, not the usual strong grip he has. He didn't understand my questions asking him to smile, or tell me what today's date was. Nothing was processing in his brain, yet he kept trying to get out of bed and I was having a difficult time convincing him he needed to stay there. Try getting dressed, finding the phone, and keeping a determined man in bed when he didn't want to be - guess I should take a course in juggling.

The cell phone was closest, and I called 911. They sent both the local fire department and an ambulance. Before long, there were six burly guys standing in our bedroom, trying to help Tom. Eight people in our bedroom was a whole lot of people. But around here, when you call for help, the best people in the world come running - and I am so thankful they came.

His condition hadn't changed any - still confused, unable to speak, not responding to questions. A quick check of his blood sugar proved to be normal. He couldn't comprehend why all those strangers were in his bedroom at 5:30 in the morning, and I had the feeling that he didn't want to have anything to do with them.

Quickly it was determined that Tom needed a trip to the hospital, and that he would have to be carried downstairs in a special chair paramedics use when the regular gurney won't work. It took nearly 20 minutes for us to convince him that he needed to sit in that darned chair; he didn't want to go anywhere, and definitely didn't want to go to some unknown place with strangers. But eventually he did, and off we went.

We were all convinced that Tom had suffered a stroke. The ER doctors immediately ordered a CT scan. Tom was still not able to speak, until the nurses tried to take blood samples and hook up an IV. Suddenly, the language skills kicked in, but unfortunately, the wrong language - he told off those poor nurses in no uncertain terms with words he never uses. He was so angry I thought for a moment he might take a swing at the nurse inserting the IV, but I was able to distract him enough that he calmed down.

He definitely did not want blood drawn, and he most certainly did not want to be hooked up to an IV. It was sort of a good news/bad news kind of moment - good that he was talking again, but bad news because sudden change and drastic of demeanor can indicate bleeding in the frontal portion of the brain.

But more good news (thank you, Lord!): the CT scan showed no bleeding, and no signs of stroke.
Alas, it gave no clue as to what was going on with Tom's brain.

But as the hours ticked by - and when you are sitting in an ER exam room, they tick by very, very slowwwwly - Tom began talking again, could answer some but not all questions, and his anger disappeared. After consulting both the ER doctor and the ER chief, we mutually decided that Tom could go home. Initially, they believed that he should be admitted, but after seeing him improve, they decided there wasn't much they could do for him other than to observe him, and I'm already pretty good at doing that . . .

So today we are saying prayers for the positive results, and thanking God that it wasn't a stroke. Today, he doesn't remember anything about yesterday other than the ambulance ride. (That figures - he used be a volunteer driver for the local ambulance service.) But he's home, a bit brain-foggy today, but not bad. And he's stroke-less. Good news comes in strange ways.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Chocolatea - Knitting with Chocolate is Good, Spinning is Better

After a very successful Knit-in-Public event a couple weeks ago at the local chocolate/tea cafe "Chocolatea" (hence their name) - we had more than 40 knitters/crocheters attend, beyond my wildest dreams - we decided to do it again.

Chocolatea is a specialty shop from heaven if you happen to like tea - they have more than 140 choices. Or if you like chocolate, or coffee, or fancy desserts. It's fairly new in town, so the curiosity factor brought out many of the K-i-P knitters. There aren't a whole lot of non-yarn shop knit-in-publics during evening hours, and since evening hours tend to be slow in many cafes, it's a perfect place to plunk down and enjoy a few hours of gabby knitting.

Or, in my case, spinning.

What's spinning, you ask? It's not the bicycle kind of spinning. This kind of spinning is what you do when you want to turn fleece into yarn. Some people do it with a spinning wheel, but some like to use a drop spindle - it's much more portable.

Shannon, of SpinSanity on Etsy, had joined us at Chocolatea, and brought some of her drop spindles. After watching her for a few moments, I asked if she would show me how. She had me spinning in under five minutes!

>>> I'm sorta getting it . . . but have a long, long way to go before this stuff looks like yarn! (photo by Karen Lason) >>>

Ummmm . . . well, maybe I should describe it as "attempted" spinning. But I had fun learning, so Shannon loaned me a spindle and gave me some wool to play with. I'm still messing with it, but now I have my very own customized spindle from Shannon. Shannon makes them to order, and also has ready-to-go spindles that can be ordered from her Etsy shop. They're all finely painted, signed and dated, and she carefully hand finishes each one. She'll even toss in a bit of fiber with your order to get you started.

She loves to make special spindles, and you can see some of them on her shop blog - Or, you can describe in an email to her what you'd like, and she'll give it a whirl (okay, so pun intended . . .)