Where The Popsicles Are-41

“Her Baxter is beeping.”

Sunday morning, and my drive to the hospital was a quick one. Traffic was very light, and I was looking forward to getting there and perhaps getting some more good news.

For the first time since Joanie’s surgery, I began to feel that Dr. Carson’s prediction of a two week recovery rate could become a reality. I didn’t feel that way initially. When I saw her in ICU that night after surgery, I doubted we’d be out of here in a month.

My drives from our friend Tom’s place were usually accompanied by some apprehension, with me never knowing what I might find when I got to Joanie’s room. I assumed that because I had not received a phone call that things were okay, but I still travelled those few short miles not knowing. Today was different, and I was optimistic about what I would find when I got there, and it also could be the first day of her last week in the hospital.

It was Sunday, and so the lobby coffee cart wasn’t open, much to my disappointment. While it wasn’t Starbucks, they did have it all; freshly ground coffee, lattes, mochas, espressos and some killer pastry. When it was open, especially on weekday mornings, there was always a line. You would find nurses and doctors in scrubs, patients, and visitors like me waiting patiently to purchase the magic elixir that would help them make it through the day. On Sunday, however, I was forced to go to the cafeteria on the 8th floor for a cup of the stuff you would expect to find in a cafeteria. If you have spent any amount of time in a hospital, you know what I’m talking about.

Joanie, like me was a coffee drinker, and at first I felt a little guilty about arriving in her room with a cup of coffee that she couldn’t enjoy as well. I once asked her if it bothered her and told her I wouldn’t bring it with me if it did. She just told me it was okay, and besides, she couldn’t have had any if she wanted to.

When I got to her room, I saw that there was one less IV hanging on the pole, and one of the Baxters was gone. Baxter was the brand name of the machines that the IV tubes were threaded through and then they could be programmed to deliver a prescribed amount of fluid over a specified period of time. I would learn later they were called “infusion pumps,” and at one time Joanie had three of them hanging from the IV pole by her bed.

One of the things I noticed early on, was that the Baxter would beep from time to time, and the first time it happened while I was in her room, it concerned me. I wasn’t sure what it meant, the only thing I knew was that it was beeping, and I assumed it wasn’t supposed to be, and if it was, something must be wrong. So, in connection with my job of helping the nurses take care of Joanie, I would go and stand in the doorway of her room hoping to catch the eye of her nurse for the day and tell her, “Her Baxter is beeping.” If her nurse was busy with another patient, and the Baxter was still beeping, I would go to the nurse’s station and just quietly tell the nurse there, “Her Baxter is beeping,” They all knew me by then, and they knew who I was talking about, and seeming not the least bit alarmed, the nurse would tell me someone would be by soon to take care of it, and it was nothing to worry about.

She was, of course, right. When Joanie’s nurse came in, she just calmly pressed a button, the beeping stopped, and she told me this time it just meant they had to change IV bags. She also told me that sometimes the plastic tubing that was used to deliver the fluid to the line in her neck would get kinked when Joanie moved around, and that would cause the Baxter to beep. She told me all I had to do next time, was press the nurse call button, and someone would be in to take care of it.

So, the beeping Baxter being taken care of, we got her ready for a morning walk. Today it would be different. They unhooked her from the IV, and for the first time, we went for a long walk without her being hooked up to an IV pole. There were still drain bags hanging from belt around her waist, but to be out and about without the IV was a major step from our perspective. I could tell it in her demeanor, and her spirits were good as well. They were so good, that we walked on several occasions that afternoon and evening.

Later that day, more good news came when another of the drain tubes came out, and they began to give her pain control by pill to get her off the morphine. She didn’t seem to mind at all when she lost the morphine pump. I was glad to see it gone myself.

She was drinking water and sipping on some Sprite during the day, and though she could have tried eating a bit of solid food, she wasn’t comfortable enough yet for that.

All in all, it had been a very good weekend, and we both felt that real progress toward the goal of getting out of here by the 1st had been made. There was still a long way to go. She had to be able to handle solid food, there were a few more drain tubes to come out, and then there was the business of self-catherizing of the Miami pouch to be dealt with along with the learning curve surrounding the changing and care the ileostomy.

While both Joanie and I were aware of what needed to be done yet, that knowledge did nothing to dampen the optimism that came with the positive developments that had taken place over the last two days.

When I left her that night, her eyes were bright, her Baxter was quiet, and she was as relaxed as I’ve seen her since they brought her back to her room 10 days ago.


About Bob Kallberg

Retired reporter. Concentrating now on recounting Joanie's 12 year battle with cancer, a battle she waged with extreme courage, determination and an indomitable spirit, that, for me, serves as an example.
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