Whitley’s back pain got so bad that he went to his doctor. He had been taking pain meds that made him too nauseous to eat or drink, so he lost a lot of weight and became weak and dehydrated. He recognized he was fading fast, so he went to our General Practitioner, who gave him three intravenous bags of what he assumed was saline solution, but it turned out that the 3rd bag actually contained Dextrose (sugar water), which immediately sent his blood sugar level up to the 700s (the normal level is around 100). After taking his blood, the doctor said that he was going into diabetic shock and immediately sent him to the emergency room.
When he arrived there, the OR docs checked his blood again and found out that it was around 94, so they were completely puzzled. One of them phoned our G.P. and told him to check the empty bags, and that was when the discovery was made that he’d been given the wrong solution during the 3rd infusion. He was starving and badly dehydrated, though. (He has lost 15 pounds in ten days, which is a serious weight loss.) They checked him in, rehydrated him and essentially brought him back to life.
He had already made an appointment with a back surgeon at another hospital that he had found on Google who seemed to be excellent, and he was determined to keep that appointment.
When he met with this surgeon, he brought him the MRI he’d had taken recently, and upon looking at it, this doctor said that Whitley had one of the worst herniated discs he’d ever seen. It was pressing on a group of nerves and that was what was causing him all the pain. He saw this surgeon on Thursday, and he checked him into the hospital at 4:30 am on Friday morning and operated a few hours later. Whitley spent Friday night at the hospital and checked out on Saturday.
I spent the night with him at the hospital, sleeping on the couch. Whenever I’ve been in a hospital (and I even worked in one once), I’m always amazed at what NOISY places they are, with people talking loudly and running around constantly. You hear clanging, beeping and buzzing from machines all night long. While he was recuperating, Whitley took a couple of those wonderful walks up and down the corridor in one of those butt-baring hospital gowns, then they pronounced him well enough to go home and get some REST.
While we were in the hospital, one of my jobs was to go over to the cafeteria and get food–meals for me and a few little extras for Whitley. Since this hospital consists of two towers, with the patients in one of them and the cafeteria in the other, it took me a while to figure out how to get back and forth, especially since I’m still not good at finding my way around. Having been in two hospitals lately (the one where Whitley was admitted for the erroneous blood test and the other one, where the operation took place), I’ve learned that ALL hospitals are designed like incredible mazes.
Before he went to the G.P., although he was in incredible pain, Whitley did an incredible job of writing an ebook to be published soon by Tarcher Penguin (the publisher of the new Key and of Solving the Communion Enigma). His editor says the work is excellent–Did working through the pain cause his writing to soar to a high level of expertise?
In the hospital, I knew he was getting better when he said to me, "I have a GREAT idea for a series of Young Adult" novels!"
One thing an experience like this teaches you is who your true friends really are. We got the interest and sympathy we expected from our good old friends in Texas, but several people we didn’t know that well came through for us in a big way.
One of them was a kind, self-effacing man who drove us everywhere we needed to go in our Prius (which has a passenger seat that leans way back–something Whitley needed because he found it too painful to sit up. I couldn’t do the driving because Los Angeles freeways terrify me. However, I’ve realized I need to be able to get places WITHOUT taking the freeways, so I’m going to take some "refresher" driver courses (stay tuned for THOSE diaries–they should be hilarious!)
Another was someone I’d just met who has now moved to another state, so we’ve decided to be "internet friends." This person sent me friendly, encouraging emails every day and kept my spirits up during the entire ordeal.
This tells me something about heroes: We can all play that role. The surgeon who helped Whitley was a hero to us, because he relieved him of his pain. To him, of course, that wasn’t heroic–he was just doing his job.
We met lots of other heroes at that hospital as well–people who were doing more ordinary tasks, like taking vital signs, emptying bedpans and rolling people around in wheelchairs, but who were doing it with a smile and a cheerful spirit and was uplifting to sick, agitated minds like ours.
The two friends who showed us such kindness were the kind of "ordinary heroes" you find in life all the time–people who, when an occasion when they can help in some way pops up, don’t shirk but plunge right in, and give all they’ve got. In order to be a hero, you don’t need to dash into a burning building or dive into the ocean to save someone–sometimes just a small action or the right word at the right time will do it.
When we checked out of the hospital and arrived back at our apartment Saturday morning, our rolled-up newspapers were at the door, waiting for us. We were home.