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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Little Scare

  This past June 9, I had a bit of a scare with my health. I was at work and coughed a little bit and spit up a bunch of blood. I did that a few more times and contacted my coordinator and my doctor. They both said I needed to go to the ER. I had already convinced myself that I was dying of lung cancer. Being immuno-compromised puts me at a much higher rate for cancer. When I go to all these tests I have done, they are checking for cancer. The only thing I knew of that caused you to cough up blood was cancer or TB. I knew that I didn't have TB, because I had been tested like 15 times for it and they were all negative. I decided not to tell anyone, except Paul, that I was going to the ER. If I had cancer, I wanted some time to think about it before I told anyone. I check-in and am assigned to a room with a super nurse named Karen. She drew a bunch of labs and cultures and sent me to have a chest x-ray. The chest x-ray was negative, so now they were all confused by what would cause me to cough up blood. I had coughed up a few samples by this point. I went for a CT Scan and waited for the pulmonologist to come back and talk to me. I had already decided that I would go to Hawaii before I died, it is the top thing on my bucket list. The doctor came in with a smile! It appeared that I had a really bad case of bronchitis, I never knew that could cause bleeding.  They gave me some IV antibiotics and they wanted to admit me. I refused to be admitted because they weren't going to do any further testing and I could take antibiotics at home. My nurse advocated for me and they finally agreed to let me go home. I had an appt with my doctor already scheduled for the next week and I am super compliant. Needless to say, I am ashamed that I immediately thought the worst when God has been so good to me. I was reminded that I work with wonderful people like Christina and Roxanne that always take care of me and check on me. I don't want to think about the worst case scenarios anymore. I am thankful to live right next to the best medical center in the world. I am in good hands, God's hands.

My Buddy Kelly

Many of you are my friends on facebook or you are people I see all the time in my everyday life. You might have noticed that I posted about one of my best friends passing away unexpectedly. I met Kelly when I worked in the PICU at Shriners Galveston. I remember watching her nurse patients in a way I hadn't seen before. She was extremely efficient and knowledgeable. She knew every lab value, every medication side effects, and she was confident in her nursing ability. We loved our patients in the same way, maybe a little too much sometimes. Donna and I had gone to nursing school together and then we both started our careers together in Galveston. Donna, Kelly, and I hit it off instantly. Kelly wondered how I could still be smiling at the end of my shift (the beginning of hers) after taking care of such sad stories that all involved children. We would all meet up for lunch or dinner when we could, but mostly, we bonded over our patients. We cried together, laughed together, protected our patients together, and vented to one another. We were a perfect little trio. Kelly and Donna always come through for me. They were there when my babies died, they were at their funeral, they were by my side when I was diagnosed with cancer, there when I needed a break, they were there when I received my transplant, they were there for all my bdays, all of Thomas' bdays, fundraisers, and the list goes on. Simply put, I could count on these two. In fact, this past weekend, Donna came to the 5K for the transplant games and so did Jessica, a friend of Kelly's that I have met a few times. The whole time I was at the 5k, I kept thinking about Kelly and the fact that she would have been there too.
  On May 5, 2014, Donna called me and asked if I had heard from Kelly. She told me that Kelly had texted her early Sunday morning saying that she couldn't sleep and hadn't slept in a while. Kelly had started a new job and had spent the past few months working days and was making the switch to the night shift. She had been sick too. I was at work and started texting Kelly immediately. Texting was her favorite form of communicating. I never heard anything. Donna went over to Kelly's place to see if she was home. She knocked and knocked and kept calling Kelly. Donna called me and I was heading over to Kelly's too as soon as I gave report, I could hear the worry in Donna's voice and we decided she should call the police. The whole time, we knew Kelly was going to be so mad at us when the police came. Donna told the police officer when he got there that she was worried about Kelly. He acted a little annoyed and he called the fire dept to come and get into her house. I saw the firetruck going and pulled in right after them. The whole time I had this horrible feeling in my tummy.  Donna sent me a text that was life-changing. I ran to the back door of Kelly's place and found my Donna and we hugged and cried for a while. Kelly was gone, she had passed away.
    So many questions filled our thoughts. I kept thinking about the last time I had talked to her. We always told each other that we loved one another. Her new job was working with transplant patients at St. Luke's, she had even told my surgeon that she better treat me right! We were concerned about her dogs and the policeman told us we could return at 10pm to get her dogs. We told him Kelly's parents names and we had their address (we had gone to a Sunday dinner at their home). The police officer said that they would get to that later in a day or two????????????? What the heck? I could not just go home and go to sleep and know that Kelly was no longer alive, but her mom not know. The policeman saw my outrage and told me not to go and tell her parents. I said that he can't tell me what to do and Donna and I hopped into her car and headed to the Bircher's home. I guess the reality of what we were headed there to do didn't set in until we pulled up to their lovely home. They were not home, my heart was racing, I was nauseous, I was deeply sad, I was in shock and now I was about to tell a woman who I had instantly hit it off with that her baby girl had died. Shortly after we arrived, they came home from their grandson's baseball game. Kelly's mom Pat looked so cute in her baseball shirt and I think she knew something was wrong immediately. Our eyes were puffy and our hearts heavy. I couldn't manage a smile. We went inside and sat down in their living room where I know so many happy memories had been made. I grabbed Pat's hand and I did my best to be eloquent, but I couldn't seem to say the words. Soon, the room was filled with sobbing and questions.
   I kept thinking about how in February, my doctor's thought I was showing signs of rejection and I had a liver biopsy. We had to get there at like 7am, when I arrived, there was Kelly. She stayed with me the whole day and Donna came to check on me too. Kelly had to come and make sure they were treating me right because it was taking too long. She saw that they had to rush me to CT scan to make sure there was no active bleeding in my abdomen. My sats had dropped and I couldn't seem to breathe, I was scared. Come to find out, they had hit the nerve that controls my diaphragm and that is why I couldn't breathe. I had to have oxygen until I was able to breathe better. Kelly was right there. I knew she would not let anything happen to me, she could save anyone. I still can't stop thinking about her and our friendship. I wrote one of her letters of reference for life-flight, which was an honor for me to write. I had been able to be there for her in the past year like she has always been there for me. Who was I going to call when my labs were terrible? Who was I going to call when I had a nursing question? Why was she dead? How awesome of a friend is Donna? She could have looked totally crazy but she didn't care, she was worried about a friend and followed her intuition. I had to watch the second season of  Orange is the New Black without Kelly, the person who made me watch it in the first place. I miss our dinners, our outings, our texts, I miss her. It is weird how caring for the same patient can bond you, when you work so hard together to keep some one's child alive. I admired her so much. I love her whole family. Her mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law and her sweet nephews. Thomas was able to meet them last month and they all hit it off. My goal is to keep in contact with her family forever. Her family even donated the money received after her death to organ donation. Kelly was my biggest advocate.  If you think about it, say a prayer for her family, especially her mom. Kelly had offered to have a baby for me, give me her liver (partial donation) and she was the most selfless person I knew. I am so thankful for the time I was able to spend with her and I look forward to the time I can spend with her family. Kelly Bircher, gone way too soon, but you will never be forgotten.