Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What holiday lull?

Man, I really cleaned up on Christmas loot this year.

In addition to being visited by Santa Claus sometime after going to bed on Christmas Eve, at 9 a.m. on Christmas morning, a woman I'll call Susie Claus dropped by.

Susan is my nurse in Kaiser's hospice program, and I'm one of that program's newest patients. When Dr. B2 referred me to the hospice program after pulling me off my cancer treatments, I didn't really expect the wheels to turn very quickly —certainly not as quickly as they have.

This hospice team ain't messin' around.

I met with Susan in my home for nearly three hours on Christmas Day; had a long meeting with Vicki, the social worker on Kaiser's team on Monday afternoon; and on Wednesday the physician overseeing my case is coming by.

Getting this much attention from a huge HMO like Kaiser during a holiday week is pretty extraordinary, in my book.

During Susan's visit, she performed a handful of miracles while making calls on her cell phone on my living room sofa. Watching her work was dizzying.

She got me access to five new medications to manage pain and cope with some of the side effects from cancer I have been experiencing, and we were able to pick up each new drug on Christmas at one of Kaiser's pharmacies. I'm not prepared to break the seal on the morphine bottle but I sure was glad to get my hands on that constipation prescription.

After I told Susan that I often experience shortness of breath as I move around my apartment, she facilitated an order for an oxygen machine to keep at home. She also ordered an air mattress so I can avoid getting bed sores, and a suction machine so I can clear the secretions that build up in my throat more effectively. (Susan warned that the company responsible for delivering the equipment is notoriously unreliable, and sure enough, I'm still waiting to come through, three days later. But at least I know that relief is on the way.)

Vicki, the social worker I met with on Monday, is every bit as efficient as Susie Claus. During the two hours we had together, she helped me advance some other key needs, including a MedicAlert bracelet to summon for help in case of an emergency and special telephone devices to help me communicate better despite my speech and hearing impairments. And Vicki has been nagging the medical equipment company to deliver the items that I need.

I'm not going to pretend that everything is beautiful these days in the Life of Paul. Any way you look at it, it does suck to be sick enough to require hospice care. There are other practical matters that I'm addressing that I'd just as soon rather not face.

But I know that these things have to get addressed. With the support of Kaiser's team and my family members and friends, I'm tackling these issues, too.


  1. Paul your spirit shines through.

  2. One day at a time, Paul, and each one is yours.

  3. Social Workers are good folks... Coleen