14 February 2007

The Anniversary - Part 3

So yesterday was the day. The 1 year since my last admission to the hospital. Amazing isn't it. A man of 31 with severe CF that can go 1 year without hospitalization.
So the big question, why?
Why do I continue to live while all those around me, even those closest to me, have to die (or is it "Get to die?" That is a question for later). We have the same disease. Why am I different. Is it not enough for me to be different from "Normal" people and have CF. Now I have to be different from CF people too and live beyond my friends and family. Beyond doctors expectations, and beyond my own expectations.

When I was 12, and my cousin had just died, I finally had to go into the hospital, we held out until the end of that year, since my parents were worried about the psychological impact on the rest of the family. I was extremely sick. I spent 20 days in the hospital, and nearly 5 months on IV therapy. I was put on Tobramycin and one other I forget the name of. I spent a lot of time getting peaks and troughs on the tobi levels in my blood. They would shoot all over the place. This was my first experience with near death. I was on 24x7 Oxygen, I used a wheelchair to get most places since I couldn't walk without completely losing breath. It took a lot of hard work, I don't know how my mother did it, working part time(she is a nurse) and taking care of me part time (I did my own care quite often). We came up with a system where she would do my midnight drugs on nights when she didn't work the next day, and I would do them on nights when she did. This was nothing fancy either, these were the hang and let gravity do the work home IV's. Man those seem like the dark ages now.
It took a while and lots of work, but eventually I started getting better. Slowly I got off 24x7 oxygen and just wore it at night. I finally finished my IV meds. We found out I have a bad reaction to tobramycin, for some reason I lose all my white blood cells. So it was the first and last time I would take Tobramycin IV. I also found out that the cool new miracle drug that was released (fortaz) didn't work for me.

Again for some reason I lived... Pulmozyme was released at another time when I was getting worse.
Not only that I was in the study for it, Phase 2 and 3 and after the study, the company decided to allow those that were in the study to continue taking the drug, and receiving it for free until it was released. I was one of the few subjects who showed the greatest improvement on twice a day doses.

My wife and I had been married 2 years and we had just purchased a home. I was getting more and more ill for no apparent reason. My wonderful wife, worked super hard and with the help of many great people she put in our yard that year. A conquest she will never let me forget. That fall I went to a Grand Rounds at the local Children's hospital, it was on CF and Diabetes. It was being presented by Dana Hardin, she wrote the book Managing Cystic Fibrosis Related Diabetes. During the presentation she described nearly all of my symptoms, including unexplained decline in health. After the grand rounds presentation I spoke to her and told her what I was experiencing, but that none of the endo's would treat me because my HbA1c was normal all the time. She explained that she had found that people with CFRD always have normal HbA1c and that it is not a valid test for CFRD. She told me to have my doctor do a glucose tolerance test to see what I did. She also said that she and her husband had decided to move to Utah and she would start practicing in about a month and I could come and see her.
I got my gtt and my 2 hr glucose was 20(normal is 95-110, critical is <30>250). My doctor actually called me at work to make sure I was ok after the lab called him. I was definitely not feeling well and nearly blacked out driving my car. I went into the nearest mc'd's and just sat there in the lobby sucking down jelly packets, hoping to stay alive. The lab I guess never should have let me leave in that condition...
Well, I was treated and began a regimen with Dr hardin. I started insulin and changed some eating habits, and within 3 months I was a new man. I felt better my PFT's were better, everything. 3 months later Dr hardin went back to Univ Texas SouthWestern she had decided that Utah was not what she wanted. But she was around long enough to help me get back on my feet.

Dec 2005, I got real sick. The kind of sick that you don't talk about until a year later or so. There was a week during this time that each night I would pray that my sweet wife would not have to call the paramedics in the middle of the night. And I mean literally pray. I stayed up most of the time because I couldn't sleep. Also I didn't want to ... ya know... not wake up. I had just started a new job and I had no time off. I finally asked my boss if I could go in feb. He agreed. While at the hospital my doctor and I began talking of a study that was just released about Surfers in Australia. Doctors in Australia were looking for any correlation to what made some kids live longer than others, using the CF registry. The only thing they could find was ... surfing. The kids that had the best PFT's and the longest life were the ones that had the hobby of surfing. They at first thought it was the good physical exercise, but then these people were living beyond the runners and the others that also exercised. They finally did a study on salty air... which led to the new 13% saline treatment. I started this treatment when I went in the hospital 1 year ago. I attribute my good health for the last year mostly to the saline. It moves me like nothing else. I love it because it is cheap and easy to make. The drug companies can't patent it, because it is already in use... hehe. The only reason I survived that illness last year is because this saline really worked for me in moving all the crap out of my lungs.

I don't know how to explain it. I don't know why I continue to live while others don't. I am grateful for the time I have had, and I am grateful I have not had to leave my wife. I love her a lot, and she is my greatest motivation for continued health and success. I am glad to be out of the hospital still. But the question of "why" will remain unanswered for now. I will not waste the time that God has given me.

Hopefully neither will you.


So this is just a post to toast the greatest person in my life. The person that has had the most influence for good. Always pushing me to be the best, and do the right things.
She has been the lone support that I have needed, and her love and life sustain me when nothing else can.
Happy V-Day!

12 February 2007

The Anniversary - Part 2

As you can imagine with my sisters death my mother was very upset. And basically told the CF clinic that until they had something worthwhile to treat CF she would do it at home and they would never be allowed to admit me or treat me again.
She found a local pulmonologist who was one of the best in the nation at the time. Who was not associated with the clinic, and my cousin and I began to see him. He was extremely nice and took great care of us.
Unfortunately my aunt didn't handle the CF problem so well. It caused her marriage to end in divorce since neither of them wanted to have more children with CF, but both wanted to have more children.
My aunt pretty much lived in denial and treated my cousin like it was her fault all the time. Because of the lack of loving care and assistance, my cousin spent a lot of time at grandma's. Grandma had been a nurse for a long time and was great at caring for my cousin and I. My mother was a nurse also, but she worked a lot and if I was sick I went to grandma's house. So my cousin was pretty much completely raised by my grandparents, and I was about 1/2 and 1/2. Grandma and Grandpa had a huge effect on the person I became in life. And I spent many days and nights at grandma's with my cousin. As you can guess we became like brother and sister.
Our doctor worked out of the local children's hospital (the CF clinic was at the state hospital and was run by a gastroenterologist. A stomach doctor.) When my cousin was first admitted she soon found that she could gain all the attention and love she wanted from the hospital nursing staff and caregivers. They were fantastic, and to this day that Children's hospital is repeatedly rated in the top 20-30 children's hospitals in the nation.
Sadly she decided that she could get her love at the hospital, and so she neglected completely her treatments and stuff because it brought the attention she needed and desired. It was fun to visit her and play in wheelchairs and throw water balloons out the windows. But the games slowly started to get too hard for her to play. Sadly I watched my cousin get worse and worse until she was finally ready to die.
I saw her the day before she died. I remember it like it was yesterday. We were so close and had so much in common, in that situation I don't believe I will ever be able to remove that day from memory. I was barely 12 years old. She was also 12. It was Saturday and we went to the hospital to see her. Only 2 or 3 of us could go in at a time. Her mother was not there, neither was her step-father. My dad was sitting by her side talking to her and helping her. She could not talk anymore because she didn't have enough breath. I talked for a bit with her, but she barely even opened her eyes.
She had a constant Albuterol Nebulizer running into her Oxygen mask. I went back out of her room and sat in a wheelchair alone in the hall. I remember being pretty upset, but not showing any emotion (it wasn't really allowed in my family.)
I was also sick at this time (I had never been admitted to the hospital as of yet) and I had heard my mother and doctor talking about a new drug they had for CF, it was a drug called Ceftazidime, aka Fortaz. It was the greatest thing since the Pancrease enzyme according the CF Foundation. My mother was not sure, she had been in trouble before with hospitals messing with her kids. She wanted to think about it. Our doctor came over to talk to me while I was sitting in the wheelchair. He said that he wanted to put me on Septra DS tablets for 2 weeks, a broadspectrum antibiotic to help me feel better. I agreed and he left.
That was the last time I saw my cousin alive. She died the next day, Sunday 14th June 1987. My mom called the doctor, and I heard her tell him that my cousin's death was going to be too hard on my sister and myself (my sister was the other caregiver to my cousin, she spent nearly each night in the hospital with her.) and she didn't want me to go in the hospital because she was afraid my sister would crack. So I went on Septra DS again. And yet again here I was seeing essentially another sister die from the same disease I had.
I was older this time and I remember the feelings I had, and even now, nearly 20 years later I am not ready to write about those. But again I had the ever present question, "why?" that had come into my life 6 years earlier.
Come back soon for Part 3 of The Anniversary.