We spent most of the day in hospital on Tuesday last week, having a stent put into my husband’s bile duct, which was being crimped shut by the growing pancreatic tumor.
Normally, this would have been done endoscopically, easy peasy the doctor said, but because he’d had stomach cancer 17 ago that rerouted the attachment of ducts to his duodenum, that option wasn’t available. It was, the doctor said, too cramped a space to perform the procedure.
But there was an alternative. It’s called interventional radiology. And so, the stent was inserted, and after 3 hours in recovery, we went home to begin 3 days of agony.
By late Friday afternoon, my husband was incoherent, staggering, unable to hold a cup to drink. By then he’d lost nearly 40 pounds, and, because he wouldn’t let me buy him jeans that fit, those were hitched precariously to his hips via a belt.
We argued over going to the hospital. Clearly, he needed treatment. He would not. It was only when I threatened to call our village’s emergency group and have them remove him on a stretcher that he agreed to let me drive him to Emergency. It was a pathetic image, this cadaverous man staggering into Emergency on my arm while I gripped his jeans in my fist to keep them from falling.
The Emergency nurse took one look at him and had him in a room within minutes. That was lucky, for he was writhing in pain almost instantly while I explained about his cancer, the stent put in days before, the pain medication he was taking. They took his temp, checked his blood pressure, heart rate, and took blood.
That proved crucial. Even as they administered dilaudin for the pain, he was given IV fluids and antibiotics for the raging infection he had. When one dose of pain meds wasn’t enough to keep him from writhing and calling out, a second was administered. That was too much for his compromised physical state to bear. His blood pressure plummeted, heart rate soared.
Before I knew it, the room was filled with doctors, nurses, med techs and machines. It was a scene from any TV medical drama series. Only missing were the cameras. The ER doctor called for a drug reversal, an EKG, and medications to slow his heart rate. This doctor, whose name I never knew, saved my husband’s life. When I have a minute to breathe, I’ll hunt him up and thank him.
By the time I left Saturday morning after 2AM, my husband was stable, and was admitted, only waiting for a bed in ICU.
At home, I left my dogs out and fell into bed, only to awaken at 6am. Force of habit. There are dogs to let out and feed even though my daughter had come to stay with the dogs for the weekend. I called the hospital and headed back.
After wending my way through corridors that would challenge rats experienced in threading mazes, I found the ICU, and my husband. They’d taken new blood samples and fluid samples from the point of the stent’s incision to culture. Both grew bacteria, different kinds–ecoli and a complex staph bacteria. Furthermore, the external drain of his bilial stent was draining massive amounts. This meant the internal end of the stent was blocked and not doing its job, but nothing could be done until the infection was under control.
He remained groggy, sleepy, hallucinating grasshoppers on the wall, seeing our dogs running in the hall. Sunday was a repeat of Saturday, with a gradual return to consciousness, but the hallucinations continued though he was aware they were hallucinations. He was alert enough to ask for his glasses and cell phone from home. Monday he was more alert and wanted foods from home, while I became more aware of his slurred speech. His antibiotics were changed to better suit the infection, and the gabapentin being administered deaden the pancreatic (and abdominal region) nerve pain was reduced.
He had another EKG to be sure the infection hadn’t damaged his heart. All is well there.
He continued to improve, and last night was moved to a telemetry room–that’s a regular room to you and me. He could get out of bed with help,now, a small but personal victory as the bathroom could be accessed.
And today, as I write this post, he will have a new stent placed–longer, with greater circumference to allow for better internal drainage of the bile duct.
I’ll know how successful this procedure was when I speak to the doctor. Fingers crossed. I remain optimistic, though as yet, he still has received no chemo or radiation.