Sunday, January 16, 2011

My first 3 days in VA Medical Center care

Friday, Jan. 14, 2011

Treatment for ailments I've had since early December started Friday. Rose at 5am to go with the sweet wife to Fayetteville Veterans Administration Medical Center ER. Arrived shortly before 8am and checked in with few ahead of me in ER waiting room. Called for triage at 8:15 by nurse who took detailed report with help of my sweet wife's written detailed chronology of my daily worsening symptoms. From triage, she takes us directly to ER treatment room where I am assigned a bed. Another detailed report was taken by an ER nurse for the ER doctor.

Doctor arrives shortly with more questions then orders a lung xray and a head CT. After tests, returned to ER and wait for a while. Doctor returns to report tests reveal a mass in my right lung and "spots" on my brain. He calls in a neurosurgeon who requested a MRI with more detailed images. After MRI, we continued our wait. Then the neurosurgeon and the ER doctor tell us that images are still inconclusive and neurosurgeon says he will transfer me to Durham VMAC for more specialized tests and treatment. My daughter arrives in the afternoon, she is a nurse practitioner of internal medicine. Both doctors returned to talk to all three of us and say they are split between two diagnoses: #1 a fungal infection of the brain and lungs #2 a lung cancer that has spread to the brain. Cure to #1, antibiotics for several months, cure #2 radiation and chemo. Three family votes for fungal, my wife and my daughter. Afternoon turns into evening as we await the transfer. Finally, the paperwork is ready and the EMS team arrives around 9pm. Three hour ambulance ride to Durham arrives shortly after midnight. Took codeine cough syrup before departure in hopes of sleep but instead talked to young EMS tech about guns all the way to Durham. He is a concealed carry permit holder who carries a Sig Mosquito 22 pistol. We also talked about Christianity, his faith and mine. he is a Michigan native transplanted to NC with his wife.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

At Durham ER, doctor gives me a full work out that leaves me totally exhausted. While doctor calls in analysis for admission, ER nurse takes care of me in a very kind manner and treats me well. ER doctor arranges for a second CT scan and lung xray while in ER. Admitted to Room B7003 at 4am. But no rest in room, taken directly to CT scan. Back in room at 4:45, but no rest, ER doctor is waiting with diagnosis from scan. Tells me right lung has blood clot in addition to the mass and fluid. Recommends immediate IVs of antibiotics and blood thinners. Said blood thinner has some risks but is best treatment to prevent clot from moving to heart which is fatal. I say, "do it now". Says antibiotics is for possible pneumonia, says spots in brain are most likely brain cancer, no more mention of fungal infection.

My lowest moment yet, it's not a fungus, it's cancer. Doctor leaves and nurses begin IVs, I finally get my first chance to sleep in 24 hrs. As I doze off, I remember some words of wisdom from Oswald Chambers, author of My Utmost for His Highest.

"Some say it is never God's will for a Christian to be sick. If that is true, then why was it's God's will to bruise His Own Son? Are we better than Jesus? If we can be broken bread and poured out wine for others, then why not allow God to use us as He plans?"

With that thought in mind I go off to sleep. At 7am, I am awakened by my team of primary care providers, resident doctor, intern doctor, and a medical student from Duke. All evaluate me and explain CT tests and others. Again, no mention about fungal infection. All talk is about cancer treatment but diagnosis cannot be confirmed until Tuesday after a bronchoscopy retrieves biopsy of mass in lung. Neurosurgeon arrives, recommends anti-seizure drugs and steroids. Pulmonologist arrives later to explain bronchoscopy and fluid removal from lung in a separate procedure. All MDs agree to return once all the family has arrived to inform them of the plans. Wife and sister arrive first, then later daughter and son. Doctors return to consult with family. Early afternoon, wife urges me to nap due to only 2 hrs of sleep but I am alert and want to stay up. Nurses come and go all day for vital signs and to draw blood, respiratory therapy begins breathing treatments which help the dry cough apparently due to the fluid in the lungs. Family leaves, first wife and sister before supper then son and daughter after supper. I read a gun magazine article briefly then sleep. I wake up coughing and sweating, imagining I am printing gun profiles, tried to turn on side to stop coughing, tried to lower bed to stop coughing, but nothing helps. I finally push the call button to report my delusions, med student responds first then calls intern, both agree the steroids are causing the delusions and ordered the IV slowed.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Back to sleep and learned later, I slept through a breathing treatment at midnight. Awakened by cough again, called nurse to pee. Nice pee and nurse changed my pajama bottoms, back to sleep. More dreams/illusions about guns mixed in with two more nurse visits to draw blood. Med student and intern make early visits for exam, then breakfast. The best yet! Waffles, sausage, tasteless oatmeal (but I ate it anyway), coffee and apple juice. Wish I had my pocket knife to open the plastic package on the juice straw but several tries with a plastic knife get the job done. Morning pills arrive and nurse says I can remove dentures and brush my teeth! Slept in dentures since this ordeal began.

Wife calls and says she is on her way, daughter calls with reports of successful purchase of wireless mobile card for laptop that wife is bringing. Wife says her sister Mary is mailing us her wireless mobile card. Suddenly an abundance of riches in wireless mobility! Looking forward to getting connected again since being offline since Thursday. No wireless net in hospital so I begin writing a journal for blog and FB. Called my two preachers, present and former with report for a prayer request in church and prayed with both of them.

Wife arrives with laptop, daughter arrives with wireless card and her son. Son arrives with two more grandsons. Friend arrives with his wife, we visit all afternoon. Finally everyone leaves but my daughter and I start journal entry. keyboard sucks, so daughter did typing. Friends call, sister calls from Japan, all promise their prayers.

Prayer is the best cure in the universe. When the Great Physician steps into the room, all is changed! I am not depressed despite the depressing diagnosis. I expect treatment to go well and all the nurses and doctors are great. I couldn't expect more from a hospital full of the latest equipment and teams of specialists. But I eagerly await the arrival of the Great Physician on the scene. Perhaps, He is here already working through the doctors and nurses and no personal appearance will be required. But if He chooses to make an entrance personally, I will welcome him with open arms, heart and mind. He is already working daily and hourly and I do not choose to offer Him advice on how to work His grace, love and mercy through my circumstances. Your prayers are all coveted, this is not the end, just another step in the eternal journey toward Home.


Anonymous said...

Hang in there! My prayers are with you and your family.

The Farmer said...

Our prayers are with you and you family also.

Secesh said...

My prayers are with you and your family and my best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Anonymous said...

Just discovered your site.
God and Guns....not so much grits!
I'll be back....

Scott McCray said...


Prayers up - with prayer all things are possible. Keep us posted and get well soonest.

Kansas Scout said...

You are in my prayers Brother. I am glad to hear you sense the presence of our loving Shepard. God be with you.

Old NFO said...

Thoughts and prayers sent...

Six said...

Lu and I are keeping you and your family in our prayers. May God bless and keep you.

Karl said...

Sorry to hear your story.

Inspired to hear your thoughts.

Get well fast!

ASM826 said...

This is going to be a difficult journey if you get the diagnosis you seem to be expecting. The treatment can be as hard as the disease. I pray that God will lift you up and comfort you and your family.

doubletrouble said...

Prayers forthcoming, John.

May the Lord comfort you and your family, and guide the actions of your care givers.

Chris said...


Thanks for documenting this. I'm getting the details all third hand and some of it lost in translation and some is lost to just plain trying to take it all in.

I'm very relieved to hear that you are getting top notch care at the Durham VA. You are in our thoughts every day. Although we are far away, we are with you every day in the hospital room, if not in person, in spirit.


BobG said...

Best wishes for a quick recovery.

Gillion said...

are you getting better now? Pei Pa Koa ( ) is one of the few Chinese natural cough remedies that have been scientifically studied. it's something like herb plus honey, and it's sweet, thick and black in color. If you have a cough, look for it! It used to be one of my favourite natural cough remedies.

if your cough persists, seek professional help such as traditional Chinese medicine physicians - I have had very good experiences with them.

netfotoj said...

Thanks to all for comments and prayers. Attended church for first time in 3 weeks yesterday, resumed Sunday School teaching, stayed for morning worship and returned for evening worship.

As of now, have more energy and endurance by far than have had in past 2-3 months, no exaggeration.

Gillion: I am a firm believer is some health foods/supplements. I worked as an advertising copywriter, catalog publisher and webmaster for four years for a small health foods/supplements business near Carthage, NC.

During that period in the 90s, began taking grapeseed extract, CoQ10 (100mg both daily) and Phosphatidylserine as a memory aid.

Suspended use for hospital stay and will not resume use unless docs agree at chemo consult meeting on Feb. 3. Strictly following docs' orders henceforth.

prayer line said...

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