ONE way or the other, each one of us takes his/her own share of the world’s ills. Depending on our strength – gained or inherent – we either succeed or fail. But sure – we all fight in order to survive! Those who failed, I believe, didn’t gain enough “experience” to deal with the stress, or might have just started to have the experience and the problem being faced is already serious or life-threatening!
I consider myself blessed to have undergone a lot of trials in life and I’ve learned early on that I become a stronger person each time I overcome one. As in rainy days, my life’s “pours” come incessantly. Yet each pour has given me the experience to battle bravely the coming ones!
“I won’t be surprised if a bomb falls over my head right this very moment!,” I remember telling my husband after reading a report of my first post-operative CT scans. Complications, yes, but I tell you – not the first! Let me continue with my saga . . .
On the sixth day of my confinement at the Kuwait Cancer Control Center (KCCC), I was informed by the head of the Oncology Team assigned to my case, that my blood sugar was continuously elevated. This could be because of the intravenous fluids I’ve received, and was still receiving (his eyes focused on the 5% Dextrose currently running) or as a result of my body’s reaction to the stress. Oh, no, I said, unbelieving and dismayed, yet very aware of the possibility!
So, I have diabetes as well! I know that I got it from my mother, who, if you remember, had her right leg amputated last year because of a gangrenous foot.
It seemed that the list of my own share of the world’s ills was adding up by the leaps. Brittle bone disease (or Osteogenesis Imperfecta), deteriorating hearing loss, diminishing eyesight, cancer and now diabetes! Hmm . . . what next?
The rest of my 11-day hospital confinement passed by uneventful. The pains I endured from daily needle pricks; gradual removal of the various tubes connected to my body (with naso-gastric tube the worst of all!) and from the still fresh 18-cm long surgical wound on my tummy were all temporarily forgotten when I was finally discharged. Actually I asked to be discharged – ahead of the time-frame established by the onco team – because I was terribly missing my own bed!
You guessed it right. First thing I did upon reaching home was to connect to the internet. I was very excited about the emails which have accumulated in my mailbox. Although my husband had been supplying me daily (all throughout the 11 days I stayed in the hospital) with emails from known relatives and friends, a lot were still there waiting to be read, mostly from members of the three mailing lists I subscribe to. Of course, all the junk mails had already been deleted by my thoughtful hubby. He’s really an angel, you know!
When it was time for the stitches to be removed, I went back to KCCC, happy with the knowledge that I will soon be freed from the irritating dressing and tapes over my surgical wound. The first 14 stitches, starting from up (1 and ½ inches above my navel), went without problem. Grip, cut, pull, grip, cut, pull – so went the forceps and scissors continuously. I felt very less pain. Ah . . . but I was wise enough to take pain killers before leaving the house!
When the surgeon reached the last four remaining stitches, he felt something extra soft, pressed down the skin a little too hard and ‘snap’ went the third and fourth to the last stitches! Serous fluid then oozed out, a lot, believe me!
Voila! Good “new” diabetes was doing its job very well! With two pieces of gauze stuffed inside the opening, I was finally sent home with instruction to come for a daily dressing.
E. coli infection
The following day, I was informed that the culture and sensitivity report (from a body discharge taken prior to the surgery) finally arrived and showed positive for E. coli infection. Not again!
Ah well, I said, antibiotics can easily solve the problem – as it did to an E. coli infection of urinary tract I had over a year ago! The doctor prescribed antibiotics alright but alas not the tablet or capsule kind but the intravenous (IV) one, to be taken every 12 hours! Needle pricks again! Will I ever finish?
It really helped being a nurse. You know what I did? I asked for an IV line to be established – as I know I won’t be able to take the twice a day pricks into my veins. I already developed this “needle phobia” and besides, most of my veins were already collapsed. Now, picture me with this needle-guided thin plastic tube imbedded into a vein in my arm. The tiny tube was connected to a long bigger tube curled around and taped to the base of my left lower arm with a small plastic stoppage at the end. Each time I was due for the antibiotic push, I would remove the tapes, uncurl the tube, open the plastic covering the stoppage, and push the antibiotic solution via a disposable syringe, grimace a bit because of the pain felt as the cold solution passes through my vein and then do the action in reverse.
Oh, yes, I was doing it to my self at home – most of the time alone or with my husband’s assistance! Why not, I protested, when my husband initially refused for me to do the IV push in the house! It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last! I was referring then to the first one (in a series of many episodes) I did while serving a private hospital during the infamous invasion and occupation of Kuwait by Iraq. (Please see related stories A call of duty, Part 1 and A call of duty, Part 2). Because of the scarcity of staff and the lack of time to properly imbibe food, I resorted then to giving myself an IV shot of Vit. C with calcium – alone in the ward! The fastest way I know to regain the strength continuously lost by lack of sleep and food – just like I was a drug addict!
During one of those recent IV pushing actions, I experienced this profound feeling of self-pity. It was actually triggered by my difficulty in removing one of the sticky tapes holding the curled tube in place. I was already using both my right hand and mouth but each time I made a move I was feeling the thin tube imbedded under my skin moving out of place. Exasperated, I almost pulled the whole thing out, especially after my right elbow accidentally pushed the syringe – full of antibiotic solution I prepared earlier – down to the carpet! Luckily enough, I managed to stop myself. I cried instead and all those unshed tears in the past days suddenly gushed out uncontrollably! Oh God, please help me, I shouted! Help me overcome this insignificant difficulty and please take me out from this pit of self-destruction and self-pity!
After I recovered from that soul-searching episode, I got up revivified, to prepare another antibiotic solution ready for another try. When it was time to remove the sticky tape, I didn’t encounter any difficulty. The tape just went easily! Unknowingly, the tears, which flowed down earlier to my left arm resting on my lap, sipped underneath the tape.
Oh, what a wonder! I then smiled and felt this unexplainable peace in my heart!
Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published on: July 27, 2001