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May 29, 2021

Part III: Emergency Visit #1

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.

I’ve never been afraid to go to sleep before. Will I have a heart attack in my sleep? My heart is apparently “severely impacted” whatever that means, and I have Stage 4 breast cancer, so I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel or not feel anymore. It’s all surreal. I feel like I’m living a nightmare and I really, really just want to wake up. So far, I’ve had very little symptoms which makes it all even that much more hard to believe.

Then suddenly, one night around 1 am I woke up in excruciating pain. My whole chest on fire, my upper and lower back cramping and a searing hot pain in my breast. Oh Christ I think. I’m having a heart attack. I get out of bed and try walking, it doesn’t help and I realize I’m having trouble breathing. “Ok “ I think to myself “just breathe. Calm down. Your ok. Your going to be ok. Find your phone. Call 911. “  I call for an ambulance explaining to them that I’m a cancer patient and that I have a heart issue and I tell them my symptoms. Then I call my friend Bob who is a firefighter and Who is at work so I know he’s awake. I ask him to stay on the phone with me until the ambulance comes. I’m scared. I don’t tell him that. I’m trying to be brave and Bob worries a lot about me.

The ambulance gets to me quickly. The attendant is very nice and asks me questions about my pain. He gets an IV in and hooks up a heart monitor and we get going to Victoria Hospital Emergency. On the way we talk about Covid. He says they have been really busy and that they are getting calls for entire families, not just individual people, so they are feeling the pressure of the third wave. He says this is his fifth overtime shift in the week. He looks tired. But he is in good spirits and seems very experienced and is very friendly. I feel reassured to be under his care.

When we get to the hospital they unpack me on the stretcher into a hallway where other patients on stretchers are waiting with their ambulance attendants paramedics. Paramedics can’t leave until their patient has been seen. They immediately hook me up to a machine that monitors my heart. So far so good. I’m not having a heart attack the paramedic tells me. That’s such good news I say feeling relieved. But what is happening then? I wonder. Where is the pain coming from? He isn’t sure. We wait about an hour and they test my heart again to be sure. It comes back normal so the paramedics and triage nurse decide to put me into a wheelchair and put me in the emergency waiting room to wait for a bed to become available and a dr to see me. I’m worried because I know I’m immune compromised and Covid is awful in the hospitals so I am  concerned that I really shouldn’t be sitting in the general waiting area but I’m wearing my mask and I’m being careful not to touch anything and there is only three other people in the waiting room so I don’t say anything.

I wait two hours. Finally I’m brought to a bed where a nurse runs fluids and pain meds (sweet relief!) she tells me they have an x ray and ct scan ordered because they are worried I might have a blood clot in my lungs and they want to rule that out. She tells me cancer patients are a high risk for blood clots. I’m sleeping off and on so I don’t realize but by the time I go to X-ray it is about 5 am so I’d been in the hospital about 3 hours by then.  I’m told my ct scan is booked for 9 am. The nurse keeps my fluids and pain in meds monitored well. She’s very kind and compassionate and the Dr is great too. He comes by to check on me and tells me the x Ray was clear but that they want the ct because sometimes x rays miss things. I’m grateful they are being so thorough. So I sleep for a bit until they take me to ct scan. I can hear bits of conversations from nurses and other patients.  There is a lot of people with Covid in here. I can hear them getting the diagnosis and being admitted. At least four groups of people (couples, a family of four, a father and son) got admitted while I was there. The third wave is no joke.  The drs and nurses look tired.

At 9 am a porter comes with my “ticket to ride” to take me on my stretcher to get a ct scan of my lungs.  It takes very little time, then I’m out into a hallway to wait for a porter to come and take me back to my emergency bubble.  This takes an hour.  Apparently they are short on porters.  I don’t mind. I’m in my bed sleeping.  The drugs helping my pain.

So im back sometime around 10:30 to emerg and now we just have to wait for the ct results. 2:00. No results still. 4:00. The dr is furious. I can hear him on the phone trying to get my results. 5:00. I’ve been in Emergency now for almost 15 hours. The dr comes in and apologizes. He says they lost my results for a time; but they have found them and are reading the ct scan now and he should have the results soon. he apologizes again.  I can tell he’s very upset.

Finally around 7 am the dr tells me the results are back to him and are clear but he says they do show that the tumours have all grown, especially the one in my chest.  he says that is likely the cause of my shortness of breath and definitely of the pain.  He gives me a strong pain medication prescription and asks when my oncologist appointment is.  I say I’m waiting to hear.  He shakes his head and tells me that he will put a note in the file so they will see the new development in growth.  He advises me to call the cancer centre to inform them and put pressure to get an appointment soon.

I call Bob to pick me up and promptly get very sick as soon as I get up to dress (lots of pain medication does that to me).  So they get a wheelchair and wheel me out to the exit where Bob waits and takes me to my parents where I go straight to bed and sleep for ten hours.

Part IV: Meeting the Oncologist

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