A health storm descended on my family's lives...
|The Comforting Touch of a Spouse. ©James Sobredo|
I was released from the hospital with instructions to see my primary care (PC) physician as soon as possible. It was crucial that my doctor order an enhanced MRI. The main goal was to seek referral to a specialist within a few weeks. By the following day, I saw my PC. The day after, I underwent a more enhanced MRI scan that took about one hour and half. Never mind that I don't do well in tight spaces. The MRI scan was brutal to my equilibrium. The piercing, jarring sound from the machine seems to stay in my ears weeks later.
We are still numb. We are anxious to hear regarding my doctor’s referral to the University of California Davis Medical Center. My case is pending review, I was told a few days after Christmas. The waiting is agonizing as the symptoms come and go as they please. Ever so grateful that my husband is by my side to reassure me I am not facing the next ordeal alone. As if being diagnosed five years ago with a crippling systemic autoimmune disease, severe Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), wasn’t a sufficient health challenge. But we faced that challenge and all that it entails head-on. The Universe conspired then to help me reach functionality, the best-case-scenario one can hope for a disease without a known cure. So for this life challenge, I stay resolute that I can transcend the newest medical storm.
|Our Marina After A Weekend Storm|
|Storm Brewing in Northern California. ©Lu Sobredo|
A HOLDING PATTERN
Imagine being in an airplane on a holding pattern waiting for clearance to land. One hopes that the aircraft had fuel for these circumstances. That happened to our flight from Spain to San Francisco International Airport a few years back. The pilot had to fly the airplane in an oval pattern over the landing area which just happens to be by the San Francisco Bay. My unfamiliarity to what was happening, and the off chance we might land in the water, caused such unease. Unable to totally bate my anxiety, I must have said the rosary in my mind multiple times. After an hour of this, we safely landed.
Disappointed that it was too late in the day to return the call, I stayed antsy all night. Strong emotions welled up from deep in my gut as I realized I would soon see a specialist. It was a night of sobbing. Anticipation for morning made for a disturbed sleep.
Morning came. There was much incentive to wake up early and make the call before the the phone lines at the Medical Center got too busy. I told myself to take a cleansing breath. I made the call to the Neurosurgery Center.
Emotions were mixed as I called for the appointment. Relieved that my case was reviewed and I would finally see a specialist. Dispirited that the person on the other end of the phone seemed detached and clueless. I could handle “cluelessness.” Lethargy in her voice gave the impression of indifference. And she had such a pretty name, but absent of affect. We got through the process and I have a date to consult with a neurosurgeon. The earliest appointment I could get was in two and a half weeks.
I am not angry. I am not even angry at having to wait, or be subjected to indifference. I bemoan that a staff at the neurosurgery center, a place designated to deal with folks facing a life threatening condition, is lacking human touch.
|After the CT Scan. ©James Sobredo|
WORLD IN MOTION: PART II
While in the midst of a health storm...
|Headed to my Neurosurgery Consultation. ©James Sobredo|
That meeting was enlightening. It was hopeful, alarming and comforting all at the same time. My husband and I saw with our very own eyes on the large screen the visual from the MRI taken on December 21, 2018 of the mass in my head.
|Mussels and Bread at Kyodai. ©Lu Sobredo|
I took a quick shower and was dressed by 3:30 a.m. Took the prescription meds I was allowed to take with a sip of water at 3:15 a.m. The last clear liquid my body could have before the operation. My family woke up in time to get ready to take the hour drive to the hospital and with time to spare before checking in for a 5:15 a.m. admission. It was a beautiful brisk winter morning at 43°F.
|The Hospital in Daylight. ©James Sobredo|
Throughout all of this I was relatively calm, pensive, albeit expressionless at times. As the day got closer I felt positive, engaged as well as detached. After all, what was about to happen was out of my hands. I have done all the preparations on my end—the lab tests, the waiting, the hand-wringing, sobbing, anticipating and praying. Further infections averted. My soul, fully soothed. Now everything else was in the medical experts’ capable hands. And I had all the faith in the world that everyone involved would be filled with the kindness, grace, alertness and wisdom as the Holy Spirit would will it.
|Mr. Aguirre Securing My ID Bracelet. ©James Sobredo|
Once the hospital ID bracelet was safely around my wrist, my son, hubby and I headed to the elevator that would take us to the third floor. Hardly anyone was at the hospital lobby except for workers.
|Hubby in the Pre-Op Room. ©James Sobredo|
The last sliver of memory was the sensation of being wheeled off on a gurney. Drifting into unconsciousness was like fainting, but much more instantaneous. Grateful that the anesthesia was extremely effective. I have absolutely no recall of the time of surgery.
Being spared from the pain during the operation was a much welcomed and appreciated blessing. The severe pain felt hours after the operation was another story. The reverse process, when emerging into consciousness after being under anesthesia for about three hours, does not happen suddenly. That I discovered.
While rising from a deep sleep at post-op, some memory returned. Not anything about the surgery, but about my neurosurgeon Dr. H peering into my bed area to say they were able to fully remove the tumor which the modern medical world refers to as the "mass." The most important part was that the tumor had not attached itself into the brain, except for the threadlike portion that held it in place. It was a matter of lifting it whole. The verdict? The mass was benign. The biopsy would of course confirm for sure, but not for another month or two. This time the waiting would be worth it.
Thank you to Adrian Sobredo for helping edit this essay and to James Sobredo for the remarkable photos.
|University of California Davis Health | Medical Center. ©James Sobredo|
|Son By My Side After Surgery. ©James Sobredo|
I spent one more night at the hospital.
About the Author
Lu Sobredo is writer/publisher at Lu Travels Abroad, a blog dedicated to folks whose limitations do not hamper them from traveling. A year into early retirement her world collapsed from the diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Her total life changed, but she did not let RA define her. With love from family, friends and an awesome doctor, she regained some functionality--her new normal. She will have RA all her life. And she now writes about life and travel with RA. During the pandemic of 2020, she stays put and writes poetry and a first novel, a travel of sorts but in the heart and mind.