Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Peter and the Devil

Notes from the hospital.  A tale with a happy ending, as told on Facebook.  Illustrated with pictures of my celebratory Salvation Army finds after the event.

Peter's debate with Yama, Chinese god of Death

April 15.  Peter's in the hospital. Sudden mental confusion (he couldn't remember the names of the cats - that's when I called 911!), brought on by a bad kidney infection, high blood sugar, and now they've found very high calcium levels - which is the most likely cause of the mental confusion. The doctors seem good and we'll certainly be here all weekend, so that's where we are.

April 16.  Peter's condition unchanged this morning. Semi-conscious and confused, but he does understand what I say, and smiled when I said his cat Pindy missed him. He'll have an MRI today to see if it's been a minor stroke (nothing showed on the brain scan). It's the acutely high calcium level that's causing this, and he should come to himself when the level is brought down. High calcium usually comes from hyperparathyroid, which he doesn't appear to have, or from advanced cancer, which he doesn't appear to have either. Mystery wrapped in an enigma in a puzzle...don't you love it when six specialists agree on that! But when the tests come back we'll know more. The care here is superb. Our religion is stoicism and I am strong, but it has been very comforting to know that so many good people care about me and Peter and Paul and our three little cats (who are VERY angry at me for leaving them alone for such long, long days...).

Pindar, up to mischief in our Indian Bathroom

44 comments.  Ellen Moody:  I hope you've had some diagnosis by now so as to plan for the future and at the same time Peter has begun to improve. Think of that stoic, Mrs Sophia Crofts. As long as she was there with him ...

Thank you all for good wishes - you don't know (well, at least I didn't before) how they help. Even little FB messages are like the stubby beating of dwarf angel wings all around. Ellen, I don't think we'll know till Monday what caused the high calcium. If it's a benign reversible thing there's a future and I will soon be steering Admiral Croft around again. If not; not. 

Vera Nazarian:   Here all the angels, fae and powerful creatures of Faerie sent Peter's and your way to assist, encourage, strengthen, and HEAL!!!

Vera: I fear all the angels, and faeries you own, / Cannot heal a cancer that's gone to the bone. / I'm not a believer, a pragmatic cat; but we hope for an outcome that's better than that.

Blue glass plate

April 17.  "Peter on Sunday."

Tests are not back yet but the internist says it's not hyperparathyroidism, the commonest cause of high calcium and easiest to treat. It doesn't look like the spread of prostate cancer, either. However, Peter's kidneys are in very bad shape. They're not coming back yet, although all his vital signs returned to normal today. The calcium is coming down nicely, and he's becoming more alert every hour and asking why he's in the hospital and what's the matter with him. Eating solid food. The neurologist says the MRI shows his brain is fine. But his kidney function is way down and not improving (which is very bad). And we still don't know the cause of the high calcium. Renal failure doesn't cause high calcium. It's usually some kind of secondary cancer, but they'd need to do a full body scan to find any at all, and there's certainly no obvious advanced cancer. So the mystery continues. At least there are things they can do for kidney failure, and it beats a terminal prostate cancer diagnosis; but they just don't know yet. Monday tests will be back and more doctors around (though three specialists so far on a Sunday is pretty darn impressive). He's in good hands, and the doctors all say he won't be checking off the planet imminently.  So here I sit and wait. Peter's private room is so large, I can do six pique pirouette turns across it. At home, his smart little cat Pindar lies on Peter's bed with the most tragically anxious expression on her sweet face, waiting for her love to come back.

Alice Chico:  Ugh! Peter has battled many health problems for a long time. I'm hoping that this is one more that he and you can manage. This is when I'm sorry that I don't live closer --to offer meals, company, errands etc. You, Peter and Paul continue in our thoughts and prayers

Thank you, dear friends and cousin. We are equal to managing life with renal failure if that's how it has to be. Peter has started talking about his cats again, yay!

"Carnival" glass, marigold color

Mary Katherine:  Diana: many thanks for the updates. Will not pester you with calls or emails at this time, as there are no doubt many folks who want progress reports, but please continue to post here as you are able, so that I'll know when to stop chewing my fingernails. And let me know if you want an Amelia's delivery!

Mary Katherine, I'm stopping at Amelia's every morning on my way to the hospital. Warm buttered cinnamon bun, cappuccino, and kind sympathy. However, you will all gauge the severity of this situation by the fact that I have not been to the Salvation Army in three days! :-O

Abigail Reynolds:  Thinking of both of you... and of the time my son (age 8 at the time) was in the hospital and I smuggled his cat in so he could see her...and his doctor walked in and pretended not to see. That was when I learned that cats can be in duffel bags. Sending good wishes to poor Pindar too.

Abigail: You take the prize! I have not laughed so much (or at all), all day! Gee...wonder what the Six Specialists would say if they heard a little Mew from a duffel under the bed! "Hm...this case of renal failure has something distinctly feline about it..."

JASNA NY:   Just as long as Pindar doesn't play with the intravenus lines, I'd be tempted to smuggle her into the hospital. You two need to book some "girl time" together and comfort one another.

(Struck by appalling vision of what Pindar's three-inch dagger claws would do to the tangle of IV lines surrounding Peter - not pretty!)

Blue and marigold

April 18.  "What is there of good to be expected?"

"Well, and what news does it bring -- good or bad?"
"What is there of good to be expected?"
- Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice

No news today, and likely won't be for a few more days. They are bringing down Peter's calcium levels and he is improving; his brain is fine, though he is still confused, and believes that when he was unconscious he was being held in a terrible hospital in Mumbai being experimented on by sadistic Indians. He has kidney damage from his Indian excursion but the kidneys are expected to recover somewhat. The difficulty lies in discovering what caused the whole episode. (One thing is for sure, it's not likely to have been triggered off by an excess of good health.) The parathyroid having been ruled out, the probable cause is still some kind of cancer. It's very bizarre, though, since Peter has been clear since his prostate surgery and a spread of that to the bone would be slow, hardly come on in such a dramatic sudden incident. Speculation, however, is useless at this point, and whatever is the culprit, it will be known fairly soon.  I'll be at the hospital 15 hours a day for the duration. Pindy continues to grieve terribly, it's heartbreaking to watch, poor little thing. But at least, whatever the diagnosis proves, Peter should be home once the calcium is lowered, and she will see him again.

Penny Klein:  no news is good news

More marigold carnival glass

April 20 "The Incident of the Hallucinatory Dog and a Deficit of Delight"

Peter continues to improve and will go home soon. The scan showed that his kidneys are now functioning normally, and no kidney cancer either. The nice Pakistani kidney specialist says that the more things they don't find, the better. He's mentally improving, too, though it was hard for me sleeping at the hospital because he talked about his global political theories all night. He talks the ears off every nurse and every doctor, trying to discuss Chinese literature with the most unlikely people, and when I told him that the Armenian woman drawing blood really didn't want to talk about Li Po's invented structures of poetry, he said, "But that is what you must do in these situations. You must try to personalize yourself to the hospital staff - and they to you - so they see you as a person and more than a hunk of meat." Couldn't argue with that, and it shows his return to his characteristic kind of self-preservational functioning, though he hasn't quite matched the speeches to his audience yet. He was regaling two husky young orderlies with tales of clubs he knew in Turkey, and they perked their ears right up and asked, "oh really? Were they strip clubs?" Later he wanted to give a copy of his poetry book to a nurse, and started writing an inscription that seemed to be turning into a treatise on world literary history. Finally he handed it to me to read, and it was all chicken tracks! Fortunately we're assured this is transient...

There was one funny moment. Peter was gazing vacantly at the wall and said, "I see a dog." He doesn't have his glasses, and I said, "no dear, that's the wallpaper." "No," he said vaguely, "a dog." I figured it was another hallucination, like when he said we were fishing in Kamchatka last weekend, but about ten minutes later I saw this woman walking in the corridor with a POODLE. She was a volunteer bringing the patients animal therapy. So he did see a dog!

Beautiful Russian Rooster (gift from Vera, who is moving)

Later the attending physician said he was looking good and they've found nothing so far, but the main cancer marker test isn't back yet. The high calcium episode had to come from somewhere, so he'll have to go to an oncologist for scans and tests to find out what is lurking. No doubt, a cancer, and maybe a nasty one, but since they can find no sign of it, hopefully it'll be something that's treatable, and at least he does have kidneys left to fight with. He'll be able to do the tests as an outpatient. So he really will be going home to see his cats soon, which seemed almost impossible a few days ago. He is desperate to come home. Even though it's such a state-of-the-art great hospital, he says that having to be there leaves him with a complete "deficit of delight."

Alice Chico:  Great news. I more than 'like" it, I love it. Also, you may find that just being at home in familiar surroundings will help Peter be less confused. Good luck with the next phase of this medical adventure.

Alice, he's really returning to strength physically, but the stronger he gets the more obvious the confusion is. He's very adamant and angry that the hospital has taken over our home and he keeps trying to leave! The nurses can't do anything with him, I have to be there 24 hours a day, and we spend it arguing about what's delusion and what rational. It's all a conspiracy. I am not equipped to handle this and I'm getting more worried and exhausted.

A crystal star
April 20  "The news is good!!!"
The news is good! After extensive cancer marker tests, the oncologist says they have found NOTHING!!!! Kidneys are good, the mental confusion is expected to clear 100%, and Peter is expected to completely recover. He will still have to have a full bone scan to be sure there are no abnormalities, but if they do find anything the oncologist says it would have to be small and treatable. This case remains, rejoicingly, a Riddle wrapped in a Puzzle wrapped in an Enigma. I won't say Hallelujah quite yet, not wanting to jinx it, but to everybody who has held us in their Quaker light, recited Jewish prayers, lit Catholic candles, stirred Episcopal churches into action, and just wished us well with all their hearts - THANK YOU.
Mary Anderson:  Excellent news. I'm sure you have a strong and loyal support group, but if there is anything I can do to help, don't hesitate to call.
Mary, this is my support group and you're in it (grin)
Curzon Tussaud:   Elaine (Dove) and I met for lunch today in Spitalfields and were saying how brilliant Peter's recovery was! Onwards and upwards.....
April 22.  I managed to write my Austen Authors post while in the hospital and made it all about cats and Peter. He's going home today (they kept him an extra night to watch his hemoglobin) after eight days in a $4000-a-day hospital! The incident is thought to have occurred because of a combination of being dehydrated, having lowered kidney function, and taking Tums.

April 22.  Peter is home.  With his cats!

Cally Perry, Claire Bellanti, Anne Finkelstein, and 53 others like this.
Peter comes home
April 24  It may be Easter to you, but it is Thanksgiving to me and my family, and I am roasting a big turkey with all the trimmings, to celebrate! Andy, if you wanna come have some turkey and Brussels sprouts (low carb), it comes out of the oven at 11 PM.

April 25  I asked Peter what it felt like to be dead, since he was in a coma for three days. This is what he remembers: "I was in what seemed to be an adversarial position in a courtroom. My opponent, much like Yama the King of Death, was dressed as a playing card. While both of us considered the matter at hand to be trivial, this did not stop us from taking it very seriously. I was losing what seemed to be a string of arguments, and became very angry, saying, 'You just used an argument you have already proved is specious!' To which the sneering Devil replied: 'Fool! I wrote the laws. I am always right.'"
May 3  Today I got a $67,000 hospital bill and a $13 book royalty. Lucky I don't have to pay the former or live on the latter.

So it's back to the Salvation Army as usual, and here are my latest finds and acquisitions!

Beautiful Limoges vase, with sweet peas

Beaded lamp, left, gift from Vera.  In the aftermath of the Devil incident, nervous energy led me to dust every book in the house...and get all the books off the floor of my study!

Chinese slippers, with mother-of-pearl inlay

Fabulous "Suffragette" bags made by my friend Penny Richards.  Her website:

A Chinese philosopher king of the Tang dynasty, reduced to $3 at Goodwill

Pindar, a cat who knows what she wants (and gets it).  In her own chair, having just devoured her own specially sauteed chicken liver.

Marsh-wiggle and Tully comfort each other during the trauma (which may have passed rather over their heads)