Sweatin’, but not to the Oldies
I can hear my Primary Care Physician now.
Have you received a flu shot?
It might be a good idea to get one. They are free.
Yeah, but I’ve never had the flu. I don’t want to rock the boat.
I don’t think I have the flu, but the past 72 hours has made me feel like it. On Saturday afternoon, I made a trip to the local Primacare center. I decided that I was tired of waking up in the middle of the night and having to dry myself off with a towel, a symptom referred to as “night sweats” that I experienced before I was diagnosed with leukemia. I didn’t think I could wait until Monday to make an appointment with my primary care physician. I was simply annoyed that I spent most of my 24 hour existence sweating in one form or another. Having survived cancer, I know that getting treatment sooner rather than later is always better anyway [something I'm still trying to work on].
At Primacare, Katie and I were told that I had an abscess that needed to be drained. I didn’t even know what that was or how that kind of infection occurs. WebMD™ would have informed me that I’d drop dead in 17 steps, so I didn’t bother to look it up. The doctor at Primacare said that, with my CML history, she didn’t feel comfortable cutting into me without having the equipment necessary to perform further tests. She told us that our best option would be to go to the Emergency Room.
Once again, ambiguity presented itself. Did I really need to go to the Emergency Room? In my head, the ER is reserved for acute thresholds that include lots of blood and/or vomiting. I wasn’t experiencing either. And I was foolish enough to not have bought a thermometer to capture any of my previous temperatures, so I could very easily rationalize the night sweats. Had it only been me making the decision, I might have went home and waited until Monday. However, Katie brings a certain perspective of practicality into my life and after talking with her, we decided to go to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Plano.
I’m glad we went. I was in a room in less than 10 minutes. Dr. Hum, our doctor, was fantastic. He explained more about the abscess and ordered a CAT scan to see how deep or superficial the infection was. If it was too deep, he told us that we were looking at surgery.
Luckily, it was superficial. After the scan, some blood work, and an antibiotic drip were initiated, Dr. Hum came back in with the tools required to lance the infection. He numbed the area and made a half-inch incision to drain the pus that my body couldn’t get rid of. It was crazy. I had no idea. I’m glad that I went because my condition would have only worsened had I continued to wait.
A couple of hours after I entered the ER, we were discharged with the instruction to come back if I wasn’t feeling any better in 36 hours. I thought that would be the end of my fevers and crazy temperatures. I was really looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep. I got ahead of myself.
I woke up early Sunday morning with another night sweat. Apparently I had a fever and apparently it broke. Still not having a thermometer, I grabbed a towel and put it on my bed.
Dr. Hum called my cell phone the next morning. It was rather unusual, but very appreciated. Katie and I had some questions regarding the parameters for a returned trip to the ER, fever expectations, and other questions that we developed after experiencing life back at our apartment. We talked via speakerphone and he was more than happy to answer all of our questions. He said that if we needed anything else, or if we had any concerns that we could call or text him on his cell phone. In all of my time visiting doctors, this was certainly a first for me. If our level of concern was at 75%, Dr. Hum’s willingness to keep in contact with us until I was feeling better reduced our concerns to around 5%.
On Sunday, I was in and out of fever. We texted Dr. Hum some more questions regarding the thresholds for a return trip to the ER. We didn’t want to be too eager, but we also didn’t want to be too naïve either. He told us that there wasn’t really a number that would bring us in and that the most important indication would be a prolonged fever or an increased level of pain with the abscess.
After finally buying a thermometer, we were able to begin measuring my temperatures. Just before I laid down to go to sleep Sunday night, I began to have an unending amount of chills. For 20 minutes, I could not get warm. My temperature began to climb. I took some 600mg prescription Ibuprofen and eventually fell asleep. When I woke up an hour later, my temperature was 103F. Katie put ice packs on my head and neck to try to cool me down, but it didn’t work. My temp climbed to 104.
I kept falling back to sleep, but every time I woke up, Katie was next to me, holding an ice pack on my forehead. I could tell she was worried. She kept herself up by watching TV and leaving the light on. Each time I woke up, the thermometer went into my mouth. The highest my temp got was 104.9F.
The fourth time I woke up, I saw that Katie was having a hard time keeping her eyes open. It was around 2 a.m. I asked her if she’d feel better if I took a cold shower. I knew it wouldn’t be fun, but if it would help the both of us then it would be worth it. She agreed, so I got up and transitioned from a warm to cold shower. It was brutal, but she was finally able to go to sleep and that was all that mattered to me.
By the morning, my fever had come down a little. I tried to get up to go to class, but my temperature was still at 102F. I didn’t want to be miserable so I decided to crawl back into bed and get some rest. Letting my body recover is important right now. I don’t want to prolong this any longer than I have to. Hopefully, the fevers were just the aftershocks of the trauma my body has been through with the infection. They should reside soon.
Dr. Hum texted me Monday morning to ask how I was doing. I told him about the fever, but communicated that it had gone down and that I was feeling much better. Katie and I were both really impressed with his commitment to communication. Our burdens were lifted by his knowledge and perspective and we couldn’t have been any more appreciative. The experience with Dr. Hum and Texas Health Presbyterian were amazing. Their model of patient/treatment follow-up should be an example to the rest of the medical community.
When doctors and facilities care about their patients outside of the parameters of the craziness of a hospital, clinic, or office setting, it’s the best feeling a patient can have. It not only establishes a deep level of trust, but it eliminates the ambiguity that steals enormous amounts of energy away from the patient and caregiver. I don’t know what the rest of the hospital is like, but based on our great experience with Dr. Hum, Katie and I won’t hesitate to go back to Texas Health Presbyterian, if we ever need to.
It’s Tuesday and I’m feeling much better. I’m not going to know how to act when I feel 100%.