By Monday, my absolute neutrophil count had jumped to 8,000. I was no longer neutropenic, and many of the routine tests that had been happening for the past week were eliminated. My nurse that day made it her business to ensure that visitors to my room were kept to a minimum. She even banished the housekeeping staff!
Sleep evaded me in the hospital. I had been getting no more than two or three hours each night. Sometimes, I'd doze off during the day, but mostly I was just wired. I felt as though I was trapped inside my own body. I was incredibly weak--so weak that I was barely able to trim my nails! (Squeezing those clippers was hard work.) Who could be that weak? It was ridiculous. Each time I took a shower, I would barely make it back to the bed before passing out. I saw stars, and became nauseous.
Still, I was happy that I would be going home soon! Whenever a doctor or nurse came by, I begged for them to tell me whether they would remove the Hickman catheter before sending me home. They wanted to leave it in place to make apheresis at the six-week follow-up appointment easier, but given my sensitive skin, keeping it would've meant daily (normally this would be done only weekly) flushing of the lumens, scrubbing the skin around the wound, and re-dressing. Showers meant extra care and time to secure the lumens and cover them with a huge, transparent dressing (which made my skin itch). I felt that I had good reasons for wanting it removed, but no staff member would give me the slightest inkling about whether my request would be granted. These people are too well-trained.
Finally, on Monday, my fellow sent the Vein Ladies to my room to assess whether or not apheresis could be done using my veins instead of the catheter. Two apheresis nurses appeared at my door that morning; they were the same nurses that had performed the 5-1/2 hour procedure back in April. Each one chose an arm, and they noted the needle marks from April's procedure. After several long minutes of consideration, they gave me the green light! I would not need the Hickman catheter any longer.
Later that same day, my immunotherapy fellow arrived with a pile of equipment. He made a point of showing me the scalpel (ack!) and much to my surprise, he remembered something I had told him days prior about suffering ("...a little suffering never hurt anybody"). He took this opportunity to find out if I was serious about that statement.
Him: So. That thing you said about suffering. You won't be wanting the lidocaine, then?
Me: Hm. How much will it hurt?
Him: It'll hurt. You're getting the lidocaine.
Me: OK then.
He arranged the equipment and injected lidocaine in a couple of places. I think. I wasn't looking. Needle jabs! ack!
Me: Just don't tell me what you're doing. I don't want to know.
Him: OK, turn your head. Right now, I'm injecting the lidocaine, and I'm going to snip these sutures. Oh, look at that! Blood is spurting out...I'll have to mop that up...
Me: What? No! I don't want to hear that stuff. Are you trying to make me pass out?
Him: If you pass out, it makes my job even easier.
Me: You're terrible.
Him: Yeah, so now I'm trying to determine if the cuff had sufficient time to get anchored...I may need to cut the flesh around it to loosen it.
Me [in my head]: stop! stop! stop! I wish I could run away! ack!
Him: Oh. Ha. Look at that. It came right out. We're done.
Me: What? We're done?!
Him [turning to dispose of the long, gangly, catheter parts]: Yeah, you wanna see it?
Me: No, I don't want to see it! GAHHHHHHHH...why would I want to see that?!
Him: OK then. I just have to hold pressure on the wound for a while.
Me [in my head]: My opportunity! bwhahahaaa...
I will not reveal the discussion that ensued, but just imagine that I channeled the good doctor's most annoying and prying relative. I peppered him with inappropriate question after inappropriate question, only stopping when a nurse joined us (darn!). He was stuck holding pressure, and I was relentless in my pursuit to tell him how to live his life.
Sorry, doc. It was all in good fun. A little suffering never hurt anybody.