On December 27th, I was physically broken. My hair was falling out in small clumps. I had a sore throat. I whispered because my voice had grown weary of crying for help that never came. My hands and forearms were dark smudges of bruising from I.V.s. My hands were raw and red from repeated washing. I had additional bruises on my upper arms and torso from heparin injections. My urethra was on fire from spasms around a catheter. I could not bear to sit up. I was hungry. My hips sported two- to four-inch long blisters and open wounds from radiation burns. My flanks were coated with paste to keep more sores dry. I suffered foot cramps. My bowel was spasming and oozing blood. I had a headache. I was hungry. I was filthy.
That afternoon I ate rice from a plate I could not see. Rice fell into my hair. When I managed to get up to use the toilet I brushed rice away because it looked like maggots grew in my hair.
After lunch I suffered repeated bouts of painful cramping. I pressed the call button. I called out for help. No one returned to check on me. My I.V. emptied and a new bag was not attached to my lead. A wound care nurse came to see me. She applied various treatments to my skin then left to get something and never returned.
I felt abandoned. I cried because it was only a few weeks since I had been feeling well. I wondered how much further I needed to go to die.
As the shift changed and no one came to check on me, I became convinced that I was neglected because no one wanted to help me. I picked up the phone and dialed zero. I asked for a priest. A priest called me and asked how he could help. I explained how and why I came to believe I might die of cancer prevention. The priest was reassuring. I explained how I had prayed for relief for days and received no answer. The priest said, “When you have prayed and heard only silence, then God’s answer is in the silence.”
I gave that serious thought as I waited for someone to check on me. Then it occurred to me, God helps those who help themselves.
I picked up the phone, dialed zero and asked for the patient advocate. No one was on duty. The operator said she would have a charge nurse come to see me. I told that nurse about my day. I told her I wanted a doctor to come to answer my questions. She summoned the best one I had met.
I told them that I had been ignored all day and would not put up with this again. I had questions. I wanted answers. I had pain. I needed painkillers. I needed toilet paper. If someone did not get it for me I would call a messenger service and a news reporter. I needed a plan for getting me released. I said, “I’ve been lying here feeling I have to be grateful for the treatment I’m getting because I’m uninsured. But it has finally occurred to me that I have been an attorney for about twenty years and I never abandoned a pro bono client at his or her greatest hour of need. But that happened to me.”
I learned that my bacteria was commonplace. I could switch to an oral antibiotic. I could take a one-time per day anti-spasmodic medication. We could remove the catheter. A special bed had been ordered for me. I might be released the next day. I could take a cystological exam in a few weeks when my bladder had time to heal.
It was more information than I had received during my entire treatment.
The doctor left. Two nurses removed my catheter. It hurt, but the passing of it was also a relief. The nurse said, “You must urinate in the next six hours.” I stood and the bloody urine spilled from me onto the floor. Nurse E2 was irritated. She spread disposable bed pads over the mess. This made it impossible for me to walk to the bathroom dragging my I.V. stand. I whispered my prayers for comfort. I asked for another bed pad. E2 said,”It’s wasteful to use them without good reason.” I pointed to the ones she spread over the floor, “I’m not the one who uses them to wash the floor.” Her eyes narrowed. She next asked, “Why do you spend so much time in the bathroom?” I reminded her that I “have diarrhea after chemotherapy.”
A new bed came just as I was trying to get back to sleep. It kept me floating on air. For the first night in weeks I slept. A phoenix rose from the ashes of her own breakdown. I was empowered to save myself and did. Thank you, Jesus!