Monday, February 2, 2009
Personal Aside: The Joys of the Octogenary IIIBone Marrow Test Next but-but Wait!
Infectious Diseases and
You have had a week of intermittent fever, said Infectious Diseases. Chills and then the sweats. Youve been in this hospital for four days. Now we go to Phase 2. Youre anemic. And have since you came down with bacteria in the bloodwhich, so far as the bacteria in the blood is concerned, is all gone. In fact, barring the anemia, all blood tests have come out negative. We must find what this damned thing you have is. But youre right: No need to stay here when all we can do is pile more blankets on your bed when youre cold and take them off when youre hot. With the lousy `heart healthy food and all, no salt, no sugar
I tasted it. Yes. So were ready to discharge you but before we do, Ill have the hematologist come in once more
Yes, the Blood Man. Hell probably want a Bone Marrow at his office next week. Thats the next step. You wont need to have the Bone Marrow here. At his office. No need to keep you here since youre kicking to get out. Before I got Ive got to give you a once-over.
You did that yesterday.
De rigeur. Deep breath. Again. Again. Again. Open your mouth. Say `ah. Again. Look up. Up at the light. Hmmmmm. Okay.
The Bone Marrow which could tell among other things whether its leukemia?
Yes, said Infectious Diseases, but there may be other things not so draconian. But yes, possibly leukemia. The hematologist will tell you about thatknows more about it than I.
How long do leukemia patients live?
Well, said Infectious Diseases, Im Infectious Diseases not a Hematologist but that depends. Some live for years. Depends on the variant of leukemia. How old are you again?
Others have less time. If its leukemia I wouldnt extend your subscription to The Wall Street Journal for more than a year at a time.
Also, I have a patch of itches on my back.
A kind of growing itch on my back. My wife looked at it when she was here and said it looks like a rash.
Let me see it.
Hmmmm. How long have you had this?
Three days or so.
Looks like a heat rash of some type. Im going to call Morry [principal doctor, an internist] and get him to take you off some of your meds. May be allergy. Wellthats about it. Sorry we havent done better by you, subjecting you to all these tests and this dreadful food and all .but you understand they were necessary before we get to the Bone Marrow. The hematologist will be in to see you next. I bumped into him a few minutes ago. Hell look you over and when hes finished its over for this week. Ill tell your nurse to start processing your papers. You should be out of here in say two hours. Stay here for now. Im calling Morry and Ill be back.
[A few minutes later Infectious Diseases sticks his head in my door].
Okay. I talked to Morry and were officially worried about the rash. Youre off [names a drug]. Scrub it for now. Okay, the hematologist is next.
Does Bone Marrow hurt?
Can. Tell `em to be sure to give you enough pain deadener right therein your hip. If they do it, nothing to it. It begins to feel warm and when you go in with their Bone Marrow needle you cant feel a thing. They stab you and withdraw the needle with what they want. In-office procedure. Might sting a bit when you get home. Be sure not to take any aspirin before hell tell you all about it. Okay? `Bye.
I reflect from my hospital bed: Damn. My father said: stay away from all cancer probes. You can bet your bottom dollar theyll find something. You might live a normal life with it but not knowing you have it. When they find something and they always do youll have a far different life. His eternally repeated maxim: Kid, dont pay `em for bad news.
the Blood Man...Leading to
[A gentle tapping. Door opens].
How are you, Im Dr. [name withheld] the hematologist.
Your blood placets are very low. See here? [Shows numbers]. Very low. Youre anemic. We have to figure out why. None of your other tests show anything abnormal. Your old troublebacteria in the bloodfor which we treated you a few months ago, absolutely fine. We thought at first that was the trouble, that the bacteria had returned. It hasnt. Well then you may ask: what IS it? Well, the next stage will be in my office where next Wednesday well meet for Bone Marrow.
Does it hurt?
Naw. Nothing to it. We give you a deadened then you dont feel the stab at all. Maybe a sting when it wears off. Dont take any aspirin the night or morning before.
Will you be looking for leukemia?
[Cheerily]. You betcha! But not just that. . Well be looking for lymphoma or haemoglobinopathies. Lots of other stuff. I have a guy whos 87 whose had leukemia for five years. Let me give you a once-over.
You did that once before. Yesterday. You know, my father always said: Dont ever, ever let them examine you for THAT. Dont pay `em for bad news. Theyre bound to find it. Everybody has it, you know: you die without knowing it. He died of a heart attack. He may have had cancer but they never probed and he was happy in ignorance. Happy he wasnt dying of cancer.
Infantile reaction if you dont mind my saying so. Breathe deep.Your father had a preternatural fear of cancer. Many people had back then. Even now. Breathe deep again. Well, your father was of a different generation. He believed evidently that everybody has cancer after a certain age and that no nosy doctor should disturb it. Open your mouth. Thats all medieval stuff. There are many people alive today who wouldnt be alive if we hadnt had a look. Say `ah. Again. Again. Whats this?
This rash on your neck.
Just developed in the last two days or so. Goes back around my shoulders, see?
Lets see. Hmmmmm. Thats either a heat rash or an allergy to--.
Not to the food. I havent eaten that much since I got here.
Very interesting rash. Has Infectious Diseases seen it?
Yes. Im now off [prescription drug].
Good. These rashes are sometimes mystery things. Okay, Ill see you in my office in Rolling Meadows at 10 a.m. Appointment already made.
the Blood Mans Office.
[When we got home, wife said she felt rotten. She had always been taking my temperature. Now she took her own. Her temp: 101.2].
I have the flu, she said. Im going to take it easy.
Do that. Now let me try to take care of you. Let me be YOUR nurse.
Oh, spare me that.
While she fought her cold from her room, in my room, I started to feel better .except for the rash. I found my mothers old wooden back-scratcher. While she tossed and turned with her fever and I had my fever, I worked the back scratcher, raking up and down my back. Felt good.
Next day she was little better.
You better go out for lunch, she said. Ive got to lie low.
I did. Went to The Original House of Pancakes (why are all pancake houses named Original?). Felt so good that I went afterward to Barnes & Noble where I bought two books I had long wantedPresidential Command, by Peter Rodman who had just authored at age 63 his memoirs of having worked as a close associate to Kissinger, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43. Wrote the book and then he died. From LEUKEMIA. Had a Bone Marrow and was gone in 18 months. A marvelous book examining the management styles of the presidents with revelatory insights.
The other book is a real rib-tickler, The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch by Michael Wolff, media writer for Vanity Fair. This is, believe it or not, an AUTHORIZED book. It says so many things about Murdoch and his dealings I dont know what else could be covered were it an un-authorized book. A book about Murdoch, his spatting children, his ex-wives, his Asian third wife who is 38 years younger than he, his 100-year-old mother, Dame Elisabeth in Australia
how Murdochs grandfather smuggled into his Aussie newspaper the real story of how Churchill goofed up the Battle of Gallipoli with the French in World War I (1915-16), blowing thousands of lives in a futile attempt to take Constantinople, the seat of the Ottoman Empirewhich made Murdochs grandfather a huge celebrity in Australia and led to Churchills abdication from the cabinet. Murdochs grandfather now buying a string of newspapers, leaving them to his son Sir Keith who at the age of 53 married a gorgeous 22-year-old socialite, Dame Elisabeth who says that she cant bear to look at Ruperts wife number three.
Dont get me started on her, said 100-year-old Dame Elisabeth, puffing a cigarette, as she cruised her mansion in a svelte scooter.
Two days later I was happily reading both simultaneously in my room when my wife came in sniffling.
Know what? she said, Its WEDNESDAY! Four in the afternoon! Were both so sick weve missed your date with the Bone Marrow. You were due there this morning at 10.
I was feeling remarkably well (she was now sicker than I) and somehow relieved thankful I had missed the Bone Marrow. Thank God. Now at least I have a few more days to live without knowing the official bad news. Dont pay `em for bad news. But I had to call the hematologist and be contrite.
You see, I said on the phone, my wife is now quite ill with the flu and I had to take care of her and so I missed the appointment.
Uh-huh, said the hematologists receptionist. Weve been waiting for you this morning. Doctor was pacing. Next time when you cant make it give us a call.
It wasnt that I couldnt make it, I FORGOT.
Next time you forget give us a call.
I said next time you forget tell us you cant make it.
Doctor says he really wants to see you soon so Im going to make another appointment for two days from nowFriday. Do you have a pencil?
Friday at 10 a.m. At our Rolling Meadows office. Now well be COUNTING on you that is doctor will be COUNTING on you to make it or to call telling us you cannot. Put it down now where you can find it. Dont forget.
I understand. If I forget this date Ill call you and tell you ahead of time.
[She still doesnt get it]. Thank you. See you Friday\ at 10.
Back to my two books and my sick wife.
For the rest of Wednesday, all Thursday and Friday morning, my fathers words were on my mind: Listen, kid. Once they go probing for cancer, theyll find it.
On the way both of us feel well. Driving to the doctors office both of us say the rosary. It was Friday which means the Sorrowful.
As I walked in, I was absorbed on Fathers advice: Dont pay `em for bad news. Now I am going to do just that.
I sign in.
Mr. Roeser, you remembered.
I remembered to come, yes. And if I hadnt remembered I would have called to say I forgot.
We appreciate that, sir. Now go to the examining room three doors down.
I do that. Nurse comes in.
First, says the nurse, he wants me to take some blood.
Is this the--?
the Bone Marrow? No, just the preliminary. Roll up your sleeve. Make a fist.
Three minutes later the hematologist walked in.
Ive got the most interesting thing to tell you!
Your blood is normal! Isnt that great?
The blood we just took. Put it through the analyzer and the answer comes out in 14 seconds. Everything we were worried about at the hospital has cleared up. Soand I know youll be sorry to hear thisthe Bone Marrow is canceled: you dont need it. How about that?
On the way home, I told my wife: You know, Im very glad I goofed and missed the Wednesday appointment. I would have had the Bone Marrow. And you know what my father always said
`Dont pay `em for bad news.
Two hours later I am back reading about Murdoch. At age 77 this outie Aussie, though a billionaire, is never accepted. Not even now after he buys the cream of the establishment: The Wall Street Journal. The sophisticates and liberals howl. Thats why I love him. What a survivor.
Just what I want to be.