Hospital 2.0

Happy Halloween! I’ve missed my goal of posting every day this month of October for breast cancer awareness. But um, I was in the hospital because I had cardiac enzymes in my blood, and we needed to find out why.

Remember the last time I visited the ER? I needed a blood transfusion? I hoped that was the fix I needed. The tests didn’t show that a transition would change how I felt; Hemoglobin was fine. However, they found something else. Cardiac enzymes.

Cardiac enzymes can appear in your blood after your heart has some troublesome event. What might a common example be? After a heart attack. Cardiac enzymes show up after a heart attack. And other things too, but goodness, that was the first example the doctor gave. There was no reason to believe I had a heart attack, the EKG had come back perfectly normal hours earlier.

Immediately, though, the concern fixated on my heart. Lungs were fine, or at least there was no embolism or severe illness. Cancer was stable, tumor was a non-issue. Baby bump was doing okay, the fetal heat rate monitoring was perfectly fine (when she was sitting still). The first difficulty was figuring out where to admit me for more testing.

You see, at that time, I was 27 weeks gestation. The hospital that I went to had a policy that it doesn’t admit pregnant people between 24-31 weeks pregnant. (That hospital had a great maternal wing for full term deliveries) Those second trimester people have to go downtown where they are connected to fetal specialists. Pregnant people generally make non-OB or non-L&D medical people nervous. Policies are made to funnel us into specialized care, even if the inside baby is doing fine, and it’s just the mama.

So I end up at Buffalo General hospital. At first they didn’t have any room. But then they found me an ambulance ride at midnight to a private room with a nice view. Upon refection, I think that room gets reserved for fancy VIP hospital patients. It didn’t have an option to share the room, it was tucked away from other patients, and the view was very nice. I watched the sun rise on colorful leaves of trees for two days before they blew to the ground on my last morning. My dad recounted stories of his youth spent driving here and there in various snow storms; I’ve heard the stories dozens of times, but never with a bird’s eye view of the destinations. Nick and I dreamed of vacations as planes took off and landed: Fly a short trip to visit auntie in the city, fly somewhere cold to see the northern lights, fly somewhere hot and sunny where I can add to my sand souvenir collection. It made me a little sad sitting in dirty clothes and having gone days without a proper shower.

I’ve made so many memories this year. So many memories I wish no one ever had to make. But some memories have changed me for the better now for the rest of my life. At the time, in the hospital room, the emotions were far too fresh and intense to examine. So Nick sat with me and we watched movies cuddled on the tiny hospital bed. I felt very safe and brave against his chest.

We waited a few days for my turn with the echocardiogram tech. The team of cardiologists, oncologists, respiratory therapists, and maternal-fetal specialists took great care to monitor these cardiac enzymes, lungs, and baby. At first they made grand plans for a second CT to take a detailed view of my heart, not just my lungs. But they agreed to wait a few days between doses of radioactive contrast for the baby’s safety. This prolonged my stay. But in that time they were able to monitor me and confer among themselves to decide the next steps.

Cardiac enzymes were always about the same. Elevated, but not trending up or down consistently. They had admitted me not knowing what to find, but they all heard hooves. They all seemed to have got excited and began planning tests to search for interesting zebras because there were hoof-beats. But by the end of the second full day, with no concerning changes, improved lung function, and the normal echocardiogram, they all eased up and realized the most logical explanation for elevated cardiac enzymes was probably staring then in the face: I’m pregnant, with cancer, and chemotherapy, and asthma, and I’m a working mother with a toddler. Each one of these things might be enough cause for a person to have a stressed heart. I have all of them all crushing me holding my head under water.

For many weeks I had felt like I was only just treading water. I was suddenly submerged and overwhelmed by the compounding factors. It was subtle again, so I didn’t notice the moment it happened, kinda like the fog on the ground.

So that’s the story of my second hospital visit. I was discharged on the third morning at Buff Gen. It was the fourth day since I had gone to the ER hoping a blood transfusion would fix me. I’m glad I went. Now I have context for what I was feeling, and that gives me knowledge and wisdom for all my life ahead of me.

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