when Ike was closing in on Houston a few days ago MDA cleared out everyone, but the most essential patients and staff. Reluctantly that meant that I needed to leave Ann behind, but we parted in hoping that we would see each other in a day or two. No such luck.
Ike dealt quite a blow to downtown Houston. The power failed and I believe that most of the pumping stations that drain the city failed. As water pressure dropped the sewage system began to back flow. Just about every manhole or street drain that I saw was spewing up a sort of green effluent. This eventually flooded the entire parking of our apartment complex and smelled ghastly. Believe it or not, there where people walking around in flip-flops and crocs through that crap!
The city of Houston issued a boil order for all water then a little while later the radio began advising against bathing. At that point I decided that it wasn’t safe for me to be there anymore. Ann is depending on me to take care of her and if I picked something up then it could easily jump to her and do who knows how much damage. So I grabbed a few thing s and made my way to our SUV.
Getting out of the apartment complex was a challenge as several large trees had collapsed on the front gates and crushed them flat. However another enterprising resident who wanted out of the complex used his F-150 to push open a side gate and allow everyone a path to the street.
The entire city of Houston was (at that point) out of power with the exception of the Texas Medical Center. So I headed for the parking garage which was elevated (away from sewage), dry and quite. Luckily the parking meters still worked and my pass go me in. After driving around for a bit I found a inconspicuous spot and pulled in. I spent the rest of the night there and felt a little like Han Solo (except sweatier) hiding in the asteroid field as the UT police cruised by periodically checking cars. Note to the General Motors Corporation: the Saturn Vue is not a comfortable for more than 3 hours at a time...work on it.
All throughout this I tried to stay in touch with Ann. Sometimes txt messages would get through and sometimes I could get a call into her. At first she told me she was starting to feel the onset of mouth sores and they had given her some painkillers for it. Then an hour or two later the situation started to escalate. Pain pills gave way to a morphine drip. That gave way to a dilaudid drip. Then finally the pain got so intense that she could barely talk and they put her on a pain pump to let her control the medicine directly.
In the middle of this my iPhone crapped out on me, and demanded to be synced to iTunes through my pc. Fat chance considering the city was out of power and there was a snow balls chance in hell of finding an internet connection. I managed to use Onstar to contact Apple tech support who kindly offered to set me an appointment up in the Austin Apple store for a replacement phone. I agreed and called Ann and her nurse one more time to check and see when MDA would open up again. Earliest estimate was Wednesday afternoon sometime.
So with nothing else for me do do I got on I-10 and headed West to Austin. The east bound traffic was packed with people trying to return home, power trucks, National Guard HMMWVs, and Texas State Troopers. The traffic jam heading into Houston didn’t really clear up until I stopped for gas outside of a town called Columbus.
I finally got to Austin, which is a pretty city by contrast to Houston, found the Apple store and got my phone swapped out no questions asked. I immediately called Ann and her nurse answered and said that Ann's condition has worsened. She has lesions in her throat in addition to the ones in her mouth, which are preventing her from talking or eating much of anything. Her counts have reached zero and they had to give her a platelet transfusion (thankfully MDA's blood bank is still functioning). She reassured me that this is common and that the sores will begin to heal as the new marrow begins to produce white cells to infiltrate the lesion and platelets to seal them up. I'm worried that they my take Ann off of solid food and put her on TPN if this doesn’t happen soon.
I have bee fortunate enough to find a room for the next two nights here and although the power, tv and showers are more than welcome I feel nothing but guilt because of the agony Ann is suffering through.
Given the traffic I have decided to stay here in Austin at least until tomorrow morning. I theorize that if I hit the roads early enough and try to get back in from the north through Conroe and I-45 (rather than I-10 which was the evacuation route) I may be able get back to Ann's side Wednesday night.