Thursday, March 13, 2008

The next chapter: Red Man

It’s 24 hours later, Greg is ready for his fourth dose of IV antibiotics, the one where they decide if he can graduate. It’s 2pm, and if all goes well, it will take less than an hour. If all doesn’t go well, I want to be there, so we go together and worry about who will pick up the kids at 3pm later. He’s a regular at the ER now.

The doctor comes in, “So what, is this your second dose? Third?” “Uh no, this is my fourth.” The doctor is not pleased. It’s another call to the infectious disease specialist for a recommendation. Another hour of waiting.

The recommendation is to go for the big guns, vancomycin, the drug that is used for MRSA, the drug-resistant variety of staph (even though it is likely this infection is strep, but only way to know is to try different drugs until one works since there is nothing to culture). This drug requires a specially timed pump and it will take one hour to go in. We call to make alternate arrangements for the kids. Easy, given our wonderful network of friends. Rees has band rehearsal ("The Hooded Brothers," more on that another time) and Kadin will go to Samuel’s house instead of Samuel coming over to ours. We’re good ‘til 5pm.

In 24hrs again, we’ll know if he can graduate to oral antibiotics.

I watch the ml dripping in on the timed pump. Out of 250 ml, it hits 125ml. Half-way there. Every drop fighting those nasty bacteria. Greg starts itching his head. Lice? I don’t think so. “I’m going to let someone know,” I say. “It’ll go away,” he says. It doesn’t. He looks flushed. I tell the nurse. She comes in, stops the pump, says it is a common reaction called, appropriately enough, “Red man.”

So it’s a shot of benadryl, a dose of pepsid, and a wait of another half-hour and then we’ll try again, but twice as slow as before. We’re here for the long haul tonight. I take Mona up on her generous offer to watch and feed the kids after 5pm. Doctor really wants this drug to work. We really want this drug to work. It seems it’s one thing after another.

Oh yeah, and did I mention that Greg is scheduled for surgery next week in California? Behind all of this there has been a blood chemistry imbalance caused by an over-active parathyroid. This wayward gland (one of four small glands located on the thyroid) is telling his body to put too much calcium in his blood. Symptoms are negligible, but can include fatigue and confusion. His PHT (Parathyroid Hormone levels) are about three times higher than normal. His bone density about 89% of normal. His urinary calcium is normal, so his kidneys have been working overtime to keep up with that.

His body is fighting a blood imbalance, eczema, second-degree burns, strep throat, and a raging infection in his leg, and he is walking and talking and doesn’t even break a fever.

My theory is that once his blood chemistry goes back to normal, he’ll have the full repertoire of resources to fight everything else off. I have been counting the days until his surgery, thinking that will be the beginning of the end. The reason he is having the surgery in California is that there is no one who does the minimally-invasive parathyroidectomy surgery (that not only has fewer side effects but also has better cure rates) in Colorado. The doctor in California not only does the minimally invasive version, but does over 100 of them a year. It seems the way to go. Greg even lined up the surgery before he had all the testing done by the endocrinologist here.

If he can make that surgery on Tuesday, the root cause of all of this might be cleared up.

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