Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Day in the Emergency Room: February 9, 2011

I am not sure whether or not I mentioned that I was visiting with my folks in Palm Desert, Ca. when I got this lovely news. I asked the doctor if I could drive myself to the Desert Regional Medical Center ER in Palm Springs and he said no, so I went searching for my Dad to ask him to drive me there. I ran into my Mother and had to spill the beans. She was just as shocked as I was and probably even more devastated. If you are a parent, I am sure that you can relate. When your kids hurt, you hurt even more.

I packed up my toothbrush, a book, my phone, my jammies and my pillow and hopped into the car with my Dad. I’m not sure if he was just freaked out or in a hurry to get me there, but it was a wild ride! He was very positive and supportive and told me not to worry.

I arrived at the emergency room and they were expecting me, how weird is that? They took me directly to the triage nurse and told me that they would have a bed for me within 30 minutes. The fact that I had leukemia still hadn’t sunk in. Once I was in my bed in the ER the IV’s, blood tests, chest x-rays and ECG’s began. Then came all of the questions: the first one being “How in the world are you even still walking with such a high white blood cell count?” My response was simply that I did not even know that I was sick. I had danced hard 4 days prior for 3 hours and mowed the lawn 3 days ago. I had planned to go dancing that night. They were amazed and I was stunned!

I spent the entire day in the ER, and to the misfortune of the nurses, my bed was directly across from their station. I was able to call and ask them anything I wanted at any time. Whenever they told me to take a drug, I insisted that they printed out the information on that particular drug and made them give me a viable answer as to why I was taking it. I was not about to be poisoned by another floroquinilone!

I pleaded with them to print off any information they could find regarding leukemia and asked for print outs of all of my lab reports. I knew nothing about leukemia and I really feel that as a patient, it is my responsibility to educate myself. I am sure that I drove them crazy and they were very glad to see me to my room at 7:30 that night.

Several doctors came in throughout the day to check on my vitals and blood counts and the nurses were very helpful. When my “new” doctor finally arrived on the scene, we were both quite surprised to see each other. You see, the previous evening as I was leaving my doctor visit, another Dr. was in the elevator with me. He looked at me and asked if I was “OK”. I said that I was and he asked if I was sure. I said yes, that I was just thinking about some tests that I was to take the next day. Of course, what I was thinking was “What, Don’t I look OK???” And wouldn’t you know it, as luck would have it, he was my new doctor! I must say that life is odd at times.

Dr. Elber Camacho, a name that took me the better part of three days to remember, told me to plan on being in the hospital for at least a week. I asked him if I was going to die. He said no, not if he can help it. I asked him if my hair was going to fall out and he said that he didn’t know.  I told him that I supposed it was OK if it did as I always wanted better hair anyway. He told me that he was relatively certain that I had Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia and was concerned that I was in blast crisis. He said he would do a bone marrow biopsy in the morning and start me on leukapherisis and chemo when the diagnosis was confirmed. He asked about siblings for a bone marrow transplant and told me not to worry.

Luckily Joe had arrived by mid-afternoon and was there to keep me from falling apart. He was also terrific at remembering all of the information that we were getting from the doctors and nurses. He was also great at asking really important questions, like; “Do we need to cancel our trip to Cabo next month?” Just kidding there, he did ask that question, but he was really great at asking some really important medical questions, too. And yes, we had to cancel our trip! Leave it to me to take an early vacation. I guess I will give Desert Hospital in Palm Springs 4 stars!


  1. Thank you for sharing. I am positive it is healing for you to write your experiences, feelings, fears, and hopes. When/how/why do they think it started? And what symptoms did you experience before you saw your doctor originally?

    I am an x-ray tech student and daily I see people that come through the ER. I perform many a chest x-ray and relate to what you were saying about your ER experience.

    I wish you the best.... May I recommend an inspirational read, "Love, Medicine and Miracles" by Dr. Bernie Siegel.

  2. Hi, The when/how and why are a mystery, but an educated guess was that it began 4-6 months before I was diagnosed.
    The Biggest "clue/symptom" was from a optometrist, I actually went in for an overdue eye exam and he saw blood in my eyes.
    Looking back though, I had all of the typical symptoms: bruising, slight shortness of breath, a bit tired, night sweat and a few days before my Dr. appointment fullness when eating. None of it interfered with my very active lifestyle and it was all easily explained away.

    Yes, the ER can be an interesting place, I spent the entire day down there! I really don't have any major complaints.

    Thanks so much for the book recommend, I love to read and am just about finished with my current book.

    Best to you,

  3. I was recently diagnosed with CML - I'm working on reading your blog.

    I'm 25 and had a WBC of 250k I only found out because I work at a cancer diagnostic lab and gave blood to have a new machine validated. Who knew.

    I had no symptoms, no swollen spleen, no blurred vision, no headaches. Heck I even lift weights 5 days a week. I'm on my first week of gleevec and feeling great. In fact I thought I felt great before, but now I'm feeling even better.

  4. Wow, how crazy is that! I honestly had mild symptoms until the very end. That was when I had 382,000 withe cells. Seems as though when you are in relatively good shape it doesn't effect you quite as much! The dancing must've kept me going. Where are you located? Hope you continue to feel great!

  5. I'm surprised you had such a good experience at Desert Regional, but I'm happy for you as those of us who live here have had bad experiences and heard about many, such as my neighbors son almost dying after his appendix burst because the Desert Regional ER sent him home on 3 different occasions without doing any blood tests, telling the mom that it was just the flu. I was a little surprised you didn't go to Eisenhower since you were in Palm Desert, it is closer and a much better hospital. I'm glad you are feeling better and that you were able to be treated in Palm Springs without the long wait and without having your symptoms ignored.

  6. Interestingly enough, I have had multiple experiences with BOTH Desert Regional and Eisenhower; personally, and for years with my mother and I have actually found that the "care" that I received was FAR better at Desert Regional. My single experience with Eisenhower and my multiple experiences at Eisenhower with my mother have not been good. I could list many examples, but won't.
    I have also been blessed with excellent doctors, that practice at both hospitals; hence the expedited diagnosis and immediate care. My doctors have saved my life on multiple occasions! lol
    Eisenhower WAS much closer to where I was and would have been a whole lot more convenient for my family, but knowing that I was in for the long haul,I chose Desert.

    Funny how different people have different experiences at the same facilities. I am guessing that having a great doctor really is a plus; my doctor diagnosed me from a blood test the night before and had an oncologist ready and waiting for me at the ER the next morning.

    Medical stuff SUCKS and no matter where you are hospitalized, it is very important that you have a personal advocate there with you, at ALL times!

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