Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Marty Passes a Stone

We had a good June; actually we had the best June we have had in four years. Marty has been infection free for five weeks (I’m knocking on wood even as I write) which is the longest she has been off antibiotics and feeling well since she had her second stroke. It could all go to hell in a hand basket tomorrow. But, on this day, on the past 40 days, Marty has been well and that makes life good.

We’ve taken full advantage of this respite in illness and participated in life and daily living. We made plans and we actually got to live those plans. That's very cool. We saw a niece marry a Brit’, we saw horses without wieners, we sat with the family for photos and we celebrated independence with the whole family.

During prolonged periods when Marty is feeling good I find a sense of comfort, a feeling of being able to handle our life, really starts to creep into my mind set. Life feels easier, it is a lot more enjoyable when you are not running to the doctor or the hospital trying to figure out the latest ailment or most recent health issue. It doesn’t take long before confidence starts to come back into your life and you start planning more and looking too far down the road. Then God, or whoever or whatever is really in charge of life, decides to, as Jeff Foxworthy said, “whack you in the ass with a boat paddle.”

We had plans; you know those things, to celebrate the 4th at our lake house with the whole family. We went on Thursday. That’s kind of our routine; head out to the lake, pack in some groceries and start to chill out before everyone comes for the weekend. We got there about 4 in the afternoon, in plenty of time to get everything put away, eat supper and enjoy the evening.

We sat down to eat a supper of my version of goulash with a side of tomatoes and avocados about six. I was sitting to Marty’s left; Nikkie was sitting on her right helping her eat. Since Marty broke her arm we have to be much more involved in helping Marty eat and drink. Marty turned to look at me and I immediately noticed the right side of her face had started to swell, actually it had moved well past started and was swollen, she looked like the mumps had snuck up on her face and found a home on her right jaw, just under her ear.

My job in these situations is to max out my anxiety meter. Now, I can’t really show it, but I can damn sure feel it. I start to sweat a bit, I can feel my heart rate increase, my breathing becomes shallower and I start ticking off all of the things I know might have just happened. In this case, it was a very short list, Marty had never done this.

Marty wasn’t in any real pain, the swelling was there but it wasn’t red or painful looking, it didn’t feel hot to the touch and she continued to eat and breathe fine. We checked her blood pressure and her oxygen were normal and of course, I hovered, because my appetite for this grand meal was gone, replaced by anxiety and adrenaline.

I called our good Great and Wise and when I told him what had happened he too was puzzled. He did have another piece of the overall puzzle in that he confirmed via Marty’s blood work that she did not have an infection. I told him we were coming back to the ER in Waco; this was just too different, to unusual for a brittle patient like Marty. Different and unusual are not good things for us.

The 90 minute trip was uneventful and the swelling in Marty’s jaw started to resolve a bit. I didn’t care, this was simply too weird and we went to the emergency room for the first time in over a year. Our absence for the ER is another good thing and is mainly attributable to the work of Marty’s Doctor and his staff; they really try to keep her out of the hospital.

It was one of those rare nights; it was about 9 p.m., that we got checked in and through triage in about 30 minutes. The ER nurse came in checked Marty over, agreed that her face was swollen and said a Doctor would be in to see her. A young Doctor with the first name of Giuseppe, not a common name in the Heart of Texas, came in, asked questions, looked Marty over, gently touched her jaw, said, “that’s impressive,” and “I know what this is.”

Dr. Giuseppe gave it a long name I can’t really remember but essentially Marty was passing a stone through her salivary duct and had managed to back up saliva from her parotid gland. I told the Dr. I had seen some stuff over the last five years and that I didn’t doubt his expertise but I had never heard of anything remotely like what he was describing. My experience told me when Drs. gave a weird and surprising diagnosis it wasn’t a simple deal, it would be a big deal, I started to sweat, again.

Dr. G then massaged my anxiety a bit by saying it was something he had seen many times and wasn’t dangerous. He prescribed lemon drops or some sort of really tart food like a lemon which would cause Marty to salivate and cause the glands to contract and push the offending stone through the duct thus clearing the backup and the swelling. I actually think Marty had already passed the stone as the swelling had continued to resolve.

After a bit more examination, some lemon swabs in her mouth we left the ER about midnight. By 1 a.m. Marty was bathed, in her bed getting ready to sleep. It took me a little, actually a lot longer, to wind down and find sleep. The next morning the swelling was all but gone and we packed up again and headed out to the lake for the weekend.

We had a great weekend; and with the memory of the stone in the salivary duct firmly in mind I made a conscious decision to quit looking too far down the road, again. I, we, are incredibly grateful for the recent period of good health, we just don’t need to get too cocky because as soon as we do, as soon as we start thinking too many normal thoughts, we get whacked. Humility, living day-to-day, is a lot better than getting hit with a boat paddle.

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