Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Day -14: Radiation and Minor Surgery

Today, they gave me another dose of brain radiation. I could still see and smell it, but today I timed it (by counting "one, one thousand, two, one thousand, etc.") About fifteen seconds on each side. Quick!

Afterwards, once again, I was ready to fall asleep on my feet an hour later.

The problem was, this time I wasn't headed home. I was headed over to the other radiology department to get the Hickman catheter installed. This, as I mentioned yesterday, is a line inserted above my collarbone which goes into the aorta and my jugular vein. (Yesterday I said it was the carotid artery, but that's wrong. They insert these things in veins, not arteries. The jugular vein is the vein that Count Dracula feeds on.)

My wife did this. Great, isn't it?
I found a great seat in the waiting room that was right in a corner. I laid my head back against the corner and went to sleep as I waited.

I didn't sleep real well because the brain radiation makes me slightly nauseous. Because the Hickman catheter procedure involves sedation, I wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything from midnight last night until the procedure was over. Not having eaten made the nausea worse.

The radiology department had asked me to come an hour early. I'm not sure why. I sat in the waiting room the entire hour. They then took me over to the recovery room and put me in one of those hospital gowns, though I at least got to keep my underwear on.

I laid down there, and the charge nurse masterfully inserted an IV. Finding veins in the arms of us old guys can be difficult, and the skill level among nurses varies. This nurse could have inserted that IV with her eyes closed, I'm sure.

When she was done and I had signed the paperwork giving them permission to do the minor surgery, the other nurse told me there was a person in front of me, so it might be a while. We asked how long the procedure takes, and she told us about half an hour. This left us thinking that it would be 30 minutes to an hour before I went to have the catheter inserted.

Our mistake.

I laid there for three hours. In fact, I slept for almost all of it. That brain radiation apparently knocks me out pretty well.

On the way to the operating room, they explained that they would sedate me, but they wouldn't put me all the way out. They would need me to take deep breaths at certain points.

Once they got me set in the bed with drapes all over everything except my collarbone area, they gave me some medicine "to relax me." They gave that medicine to me in the IV, and then they gave me the Lidocaine shots to numb the skin they were going to cut into. Those things sting like a bee sting. There's no getting used to them.

After that they said, "We're going to give you a little more medicine, and then we'll get started."

The next thing I remember is the nurses telling me they were all done, though I don't remember even that very well.

I think they might have given me a little too much medicine, though it sure made the procedure easy on me!

When we got back to the recovery room, they offered me some Sprite and a pack of peanut butter crackers. The nurse told me that usually patients are so hungry by the end of the procedure that the crackers taste delicious.

She was right, though they didn't taste so delicious when I threw them up five minutes later.

They gave me some nausea medicine by IV after that. I ate the last couple crackers, kept them down, and we headed home. I was feeling great by then, though, so we stopped to visit Jerry on the way home. He's still doing great. He's had a little Graft-Vs-Host disease, but the steroid treatments have kept those at bay.

I came home and had five or six crackers for dinner. Mmm!

I think the nausea medicine from earlier had worn off, and the nausea pills I have at home didn't work. My highly effective weight loss plan has begun.

I'm encouraged, though. The brain radiation appears to wipe me out and give me a headache, but both effects seem to wear off after a few hours. Awesome.

Four more treatments to go! Then we do the big stuff.

Okay, I'm going to bed now. I'm tired despite how much I slept today. No surgeries tomorrow, so I hope to have more energy for the blog and for the "read through the Bible in a year" program.


  1. I have to agree about the highly effective weight loss program, I lost 15lbs in a few weeks when I was sick. The pills for nausea didn't work for me either, it took the ones by iv to do anything for me. I thought about you a lot when I was going thru all that and what you were going thru. We love you Shammah and pray God continues giving you the grace to keep going! It's the only thing that helped me survive the couple months I was in bed.

  2. Started one of these on the first... "read the bible through in a year" programs, that is. Pretty excited to be doing this as a body. Glad to hear you are doing well. In our prayers, Amy & Blaine

  3. Thanks to both of you. Yeah, I thought about you when I was throwing up, Rushie. I'm glad you're better. It's unlikely I'm going to experience as much nausea as you did, I hope!