Monday, September 15, 2008

Refugee

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.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Chris,
I'm just another lurker and I had to let you know that I feel your pain and I absolutely believe in happy endings! Yours and Anne's story is absolutely stranger than fiction and when you get through it all, PJ must write it up and we (in the media world) will shop it to all the right places.

Nancy said...

Chris,
I'm truly sorry for all you're going through. As if the transplant trials weren't enough. Ike had to come and complicate things 100 fold. Hopefully, you'll be back by Ann's side in a couple of days and things will soon get back to, well, normal... what is normal? ... Maybe just getting back to being on-track with her transplant progress would be nice. Hang in there Chris. love, n

Susan C said...

I'm so relieved to hear from you, Chris. I can't believe everything that you and Ann have gone through in the last few days.

Looking forward to reading about the "reunion" in a couple of days.

Love to you both!

Jim said...

It's good to hear from you, Chris. All of what Ann is going through reminds me of Dori's experience ... pain pumps, mouth sores, feeding through a tube. I know Ann will stay on it, no matter what. Stay positive and stay on it, too. No storm, weather or cancer, can conquer the human spirit.

Jim

michelle said...

So glad to get an update. I checked your site at least fifty times this weekend. I hope those super stem cells start getting their act together so the sores heal quickly. I know that there's not much else that can be done, but has Ann ever tried rinsing her mouth with colloidal silver? My oncologist recommended it the first time I got chemo. He said to take a teaspoon of it and swish in your mouth then swallow. I use it during each of my 8 rounds of chemo and Ive never had a mouth sore (knock on wood) which was a shock since I use to get canker sores quite often pre-cancer. Of course I know Ann's sores are worst and more severe because her bmt regimen than my chemo, but you might want to try it. It can be bought at health/vitamin stores.

Sending you all of my love

-michelle

Anonymous said...

Chris-
What a journey you have been on! It must be so hard for you to be away from Ann and you were so smart to get out of the sewer dirtiness and stay as clean as you could!
I am sorry to hear that she is in so much pain but try to remember that the lesions are a representation of the old leukemia cells dying. When the numbers start to increase so will the healing in her GI tract/mouth with new non-leukemia cells and tissues.
Sending healing thoughts,
Lea

PJ said...

Chris,

Thanks for posting. I've been trying to call Ann since Saturday with no luck. Will try again tomorrow. Maybe you'll be there by then. Be careful, and let us know how our dear Ann is doing.

Patricia

susiegb said...

hey Chris
I'm an Aussie who's been following this blog for a few weeks, and since the hurricane approached I've been thinking about you both, wondering how you were managing. It's certainly made the hurricane more 'personal' in a way! I've checked the blog a lot since you had to leave MDA, and was so pleased to finally see a post from you today.

What an epic. I agree with the first person - when this is over and Ann is healthy again with new stem cells in charge in her body, you should write about it!

Heaps of admiration for you both - you're both really going through it. :)

Ronni Gordon said...

Hi Chris,
I too have been checking the blog for updates and am so sorry for what you've been going through. I communicated with Ann a few times about my experience with a second transplant. I just wanted to say that during my induction, my mouth sores and a painful GI infection made it impossible for me to eat. They put me on TPN and, as predicted, the situation resolved when my counts came back. The same will happen for Ann! Actually once they put me on TPN it was kind of a relief because then I didn't have the agony of trying to eat.
Hang in there!

Kim said...

Wow, I am glad that you are on safe ground. Having been through Chemo and months in the hospital this year for AML, I relate so much to Ann's story, and my heart sunk when I read you had to leave her. My husband was there with me for all 70 nights this year and should there have been a hurricane, and something like this happened, I can imagine how devestated we would have felt. Wishing you good weather and a safe trip back to your love. I hope the sores start healing soon for her.

Anonymous said...

Chris, it must be so frustrating not to be with her. Maybe there is a letting go that has to happen here;; the nurses and docs will take good care of her and you won't feel you have to be on top of everything every second and still know she will be okay. You'll be with her soon enough. I was so glad to hear you were getting some antidepressant help. Ann is probably curled up in a ball just trying to get through this and by the time you see her she may be able to talk to you better. I'm glad you can accept what you can't change. All will be well in the long run. Thank God she got her cells before the hurricane. That's what counts. Hang in there. Love, Judy

Tina said...

hope you make it back soon to Ann.

Anonymous said...

Don't feel guilty. Your job is to take care of Ann and you wouldn't be able to do that if you end up with some tropical sickness from filthy water. You're a good husband.
-Carilou