Wednesday, September 13, 2006

5th Anniversary: The Prequel

Last Monday, Labor Day, was my 27th birthday. We celebrated with a barbecue. We ate cake and ice cream like at any party. Anne-Marie was midway between chemo treatments and was having one of her good days.

Around 10:00 PM, after everything settled down, Anne-Marie's temperature began to rise rapidly. I was walking down the hall at 11:30 when I heard what I thought was an alarm go off. I was only half correct. Anne-Marie had taken her temperature and the high pitched squeal from the digital thermometer in her hand was meant to warn that her 101.6 degree temperature was dangerously above normal.

By the agreement that we made with our doctor, we were obligated to call the 24-hour emergency phone number at Northwest Cancer Associates. When I got on the line with the operator, he immediately put me through to the on-call doctor. The doctor, thankfully, happened to be our own: Dr. John Smith. Dr. Smith ordered us to go to the emergency room at Willamette Falls Hospital in Oregon City to get a C.B.C. (complete blood count). "What an over-reaction!" I thought.

We arrived at Willamette Falls at 11:50 (still my birthday), and were checked-in to an empty emergency room. The ER doctor told us that Anne-Marie's blood count was dangerously low--she had 94 white blood cells and no disease-fighting white blood cells--and that she was at serious risk for developing a bacterial infection. She needed to be admitted to the hospital.

They gave us the choice of being admitted there or driving to Providence Portland Medical Center, where our Dr. Smith works. We chose to go to Providence.

We arrived at Providence at 2:00 AM. We got settled in the room by 4:00 AM in the 5th floor medical unit, because the oncology unit was full. The head nurse informed us that our nurse, "Angus," would be by shortly. (Not Agnes or Argus, but Angus.)

Angus was a short, medium-built, awkward sort of guy. He sounded like Jimmy Stewart: talking with his mouth mostly closed and then adding the obligatory, contemplative "...Yeah..." at the end of everything he said, as if he wasn't exactly sure if he was right or not. (i.e., "What Ah think Ah'm gonna do is, ahh, werr gonna give yuh this, ahh, Ah. Vee. ...Yeah... that's what werr gonna do.)

All in all, it was turning out to be a nearly normal day. One minute sitting around eating burgers with the folks; the next rushed to the hospital and placed under the care of a guy named Angus.

Dr. Smith came in at 8:00 on Tuesday morning and told us that we wouldn't be going home for "two or three days." He also attempted to tell the staff that the "Mask and Gloves Required!" sign on the door was completely unnecessary, because he was not concerned about Anne-Marie catching a virus, but that she would develop a blood infection. They, for whatever reason, ignored him. I sure felt bad when Pastor Gleason came in later that morning to pray for Anne-Marie all dressed-up in that stuff.

Phil and my mom came to visit during the next few days as they did blood tests and waited for the desired results. So did Brian, Angela, and the Harrisons. Mom ate dinner at the hospital with me. I tried everything on the menu. I think the food at Meridian Park is better.

Finally, on Friday morning, our 5th anniversary, I told the nurse, "I don't care what you have to do. Get us out of here!" Dr. Smith came in that morning and let us know that Anne-Marie's blood count still wasn't high enough, but that they would test again in the afternoon. If the count was up, he would release us.

It was, and he let us go. We left the hospital at 6:30 PM; got home at seven; left our house for Astoria at eight; arrived at our bed and breakfast at 10:30 PM. What a way to end my birthday and begin our anniversary!

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