In last month’s post I described sitting in a sixth-floor hotel room watching the construction of a building in downtown Seattle. Three weeks later, I study that same building, but from a different angle. This time I observe from a bed on the fifteenth floor of Seattle’s Virginia Mason Hospital.

 

My different perspective started with an appointment with my primary care PA to discuss abnormally low (for me) blood pressure readings, and a couple of incidents of near-fainting. She ordered a STAT blood draw that returned critical-level numbers (half the red blood cells one needs to function), and I was hustled to our island hospital’s Emergency Department. There I was transfused with two units of someone else’s blood (thank you, whoever you are). Then I was transported off the island, by ambulance via ferry and freeway, to a hospital with a good reputation for gastroenterology expertise, in search of a suspected internal bleed.

 

The following seventy-five hours were a necessary physical nightmare. Four days of IV needles, blood draw needles, and prep for endoscopy and colonoscopy, plus CT scan of the small intestine (and the explosive, continuous, unpredictable thirty-six hours of “fallout” from that prep), no food, fragments of sleep, nearly-naked skin, and chilled body.

 

But, despite my bodily discomforts, I have another angle on the story that I want to share with you. This angle brings me back to the construction workers in that building that I have now studied from a new and different vantage point.

 

In my post last month I described some of the construction people at their work, but more importantly I described a “bag lady” struggling up the steep sidewalk beside the building. For a few moments in the late afternoon she was immersed in a tide of headed-home construction workers; after they had rushed past her, she was again alone, an old homeless woman stumbling up the hill, lugging her possessions. Did one “hard-hat” stop to talk to her that day? Offer to carry her burden to the top of the hill? I’ll never know.

 

What I do know is that in the midst of feeling isolated here in the hospital, of being humbled and humiliated by my physical condition, I have also been surrounded by such skilled and compassionate help that I grow tearful just recalling the details. For example:

 

  • The island phlebotomist who initially took the “STAT” order to heart, and her colleague in the lab half an hour away who together bent some protocol to get the alarming numbers back to my doctor in less than two hours.

 

  • Sari, my Medical Advocate (Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare) who stayed at my side helping me understand the options the professionals were proposing, asking for clarifications, taking notes so we’d both remember what was said and done, comforting me.

 

  • My hospital Patient Care Technician (aide) Tyson, who when my bowel-cleansing process was under way, was not dismayed by the mess I left on my bed and the floor, but instead guided me toward the bathroom and advised me, “Just don’t look behind you,” then cheerfully cleaned up bed, floor, bathroom, and me, as if he were out picking daisies in a field somewhere. Nor did he falter when he had to repeat this process three more times during the very long night.

 

  • LaVonne, the anesthesiologist, full of confidence and compassion, whose eyes told me we were in this together, and together we’d get through these procedures.

 

•Dr. Venu, the gastroenterologist who oversaw the testing procedures, welcomed me back to consciousness, and explained what was done and what we now knew and didn’t know – complete with photographs from inside my guts.

 

  • Wonderfully cocky young Joshua, who provided in-hospital transport several times for me; he had a way of flipping his black hair back from his forehead that was both studied and charming, and he treated me as if I were the only person on his full list of transports.

 

  • Trisha, RN, who, when I was most exhausted, cold, afraid, vulnerable, and tearful, tucked me into my bed with a warmed blanket, ordered me to take a nap, and put a sign on my door saying that NO one was to enter my room for the next 75 minutes, not even a doctor, without speaking to her first.

 

All these people swirled around me like the construction workers who swirled around the old homeless woman three weeks ago – except that THESE workers did stop. They looked me in the eye and they SAW me, they cared for the scared, exhausted ME inside this human body that was doing such undignified things; they cared deeply for me while trying to discover what would lead to my healing.

 

Three weeks apart, two different views of the same building-under-construction. Three weeks apart, two different versions of me. Three weeks apart, two vastly different immersions in the paradox of human life and human connection. Deo gratias.

41 replies
  1. Shirley Jallad
    Shirley Jallad says:

    I’m sending you healing thoughts and prayers. Even in the midst of your own trauma, your compassion for others shines.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Thanks, Jean. Spring is here, but not yet sunshine. My Michigan family just left after a wonderful week of visiting and seeing the best of Whidbey Island (including a whale watch adventure during which we saw SEVEN different gray whales! So glad I felt well enough to go along.)

      Reply
  2. Cynthia Trenshaw
    Cynthia Trenshaw says:

    Yeah, just so it doesn’t become a round-and-round-and-round trip ticket! Love to you, who’s been through a lot of that!

    Reply
  3. Joal
    Joal says:

    Those hemoglobin boosts hopefully will build up your blood and your mood. I really pray for the “simple” answer since I am well aware of the most likely other answers, none of which appeal to me. I decided a while back never to have any more scoping or biopsies of my intestines or related parts. The test are too miserable and so are the answers at my age I am more interested in a degree of ignorance.. Love you and I pray for your peace. Send

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Thanks, Joal – you are the queen of understanding the possibilities, and of a profound appreciation of chosen ignorance. Your love, and prayers for peace and simple answers, are deeply appreciated.

      Reply
  4. Gary Vallat
    Gary Vallat says:

    Such tender, appreciative loving gratitude for the caregivers who, though part of the institutional “team”, can leave you feeling held and cared for in such a personal way.
    I’m glad you got a round trip ticket and may your comfortable home and many friends support your healing

    Reply
  5. Joal
    Joal says:

    What an awful few days you had! Having been down that diagnostic road through hell a few times myself I remember how miserable it was for me. So my sympathy and love for you are being sent via email. Also known as my thoughts are with you now and always.
    BY THE WAY….you left out the next chapter …the DIAGNOSIS!!! The follow up treatments?…….. Basically, are you going to be all right ? We, your friends and family care about you and want you to be well!
    I love you!

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Diagnosis uncertain still (see replies below), but I’m opting for now to accept the simplest – slow internal bleed, hopefully “fixed” by a couple of cauterizations, and slowly rebuilding my reserves with weekly IV infusions of iron and perhaps other minerals. Any other answers will take the passage of time, and lots of patience. Love backatcha!

      Reply
  6. Carolyn North
    Carolyn North says:

    Though I’m pretty far away from where you are suffering, I send you my own help in the form of prayers and blessings for a full recovery. May the mystery be solved, and then resolved!

    Carolyn

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Thanks, Carolyn. I feast on your blog posts as each one arrives in my inbox. Keep writing and connecting your beautiful spirit to us all!

      Reply
  7. Beverly Weinmann
    Beverly Weinmann says:

    Thank you, Cynthia,for sharing such an intimate part of youself. Your experience gave me another enlightened look on the world of prejudice and gratitude.
    Beverly

    Reply
  8. Barbara Joy Laffey
    Barbara Joy Laffey says:

    Oh Cynthia – I am so very sorry you had to go through all that. You haven’t given us an outcome or a diagnosis, but I am hoping that all is well, and will be well, and you are getting the care you need to return you to good health very soon. I am responding from New York, where my 93-year old mother has been in home hospice care in slow decline since last August. She had a minor stroke on Monday, and so was hospitalized again this week. I have had the very same experience with her hospital caregivers (with a couple of glaring exceptions). My mom’s live-in caregiver says it is a spiritual calling for her, and the hospice nurses also seem to be similarly called and heart-centered. I think it takes a very special kind of person to receive and answer those life callings. I also think you, too, are one of those heart-centered souls who meets and sees all others with acceptance and love. So glad you are able to receive back some of what you have given. Sending love from here, Barbara Joy

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Diagnosis still uncertain (see replies below), but feeling stronger each day. Blessings on your journey with your mom – it’s so hard to be nibbled out of this life like a piece of well-aged cheese, when at a certain point I think we’d all rather be gobbled into the next realm in one big sacred bite!

      Reply
  9. Ruth Pittard
    Ruth Pittard says:

    Cynthia,
    I “saw” these people in your story, so clearly they were written on your heart and now mine. Thank you for sharing them and your perspective so lovingly.

    I, too, have had a change of perspective as I face surgery for breast cancer this next week and will notice those who extend care as carefully as you have in respect for and gratitude around their choosing to help me.

    As always, I send love to my dear friend in this journey. Please know there are those out here in the ether that hold you dear and firm.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      And I shall have a whole new understanding of how to spiritually support you and your caregivers in the coming days. Let’s meet out there in the ether and have a cup of tea on our ways to recovery. L’chayim!

      Reply
    • Jeanne Guy
      Jeanne Guy says:

      Is it okay if I send some extra prayers and love your way? Robert is here now with me (housesitting on Whidbey) so we’ve decided to send doubly good vibes to you and your body. You’ve always been one of our favorites.

      Reply
      • Cynthia Trenshaw
        Cynthia Trenshaw says:

        Not sure whether this request is to me or to Ruth, but either way, YOUBETCHA! (Damn, I hate it that Sarah Palin commandeered that exclamation! I’m intent on taking it back . . .)

        Reply
  10. Mary Baskwell
    Mary Baskwell says:

    The contrast and comparison is stark. Thankful for your caring team of professionals. Hoping you are feeling much better and have a solution for your health scare. Love that the creative writer in you must continue to record thoughts and events even in times of duress. Feel better, Cynthia.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Ah yes, the noticer and the appreciator and the writer are quite well – it’s just the body that carries them around that “had a moment” there!

      Reply
  11. Ann Medlock
    Ann Medlock says:

    I’m hear cheering for this team that assembled around in-crisis you especially Trisha, for warding off everyone who might wake you from that much needed sleep. Sending love to you and to all of them.

    Reply
  12. MJ
    MJ says:

    I pray you’re all right, Cynthia. Bless and thank you for giving of yourself in this beautiful reflection. Deo gratias!

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Thought I’m not sure any more what “all right” might mean (was I ever all right? I think not, given the quirky person that I am!), I’m confident, with St. Julian, that “all shall be well.” Love from Whidbey Island.

      Reply
  13. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    Oh, my Cynthia. Sending you a big hug, a warm blanket, a beautiful cup of tea by a fire, and peace & tranquility to help welcome you back to your life. What an adventure…blessings to all of the people who accompanied you for it, and took such tender care of you. xx

    Reply
  14. Jeanne Guy
    Jeanne Guy says:

    A full blown stream of tears just absconded with my serenity here on Whidbey where I’m housesitting. This was, by far, the most most beautiful and authentic tribute to those who serve through the healthcare community, Cynthia. Your well written and honest account of your situation has warmed my heart and made it expand. Sending you oodles of love while I go blow my nose, again.

    Reply
  15. Alison Heins
    Alison Heins says:

    Whew, this leaves me breathless! I was hoping to gain a glowing report of your presentation, and this is less than glowing, but hopeful nonetheless. You have not let us in on the diagnosis, have you! Nor told us if you are back home, which I hope! I must recommend that you get, or pull off the shelf the Dr. Seuss book I just took to a good friend who was in the dumps about a medical diagnosis. It’s– You’re Only Old Once: a Book for Obsolete Children. The only caveat: don’t read if you’ve had abdominal surgery because you might split a gut laughing!

    Sending you much love!

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Alison – no definitive diagnosis yet – simplest is a slow intestinal bleed and anemia, for which I’m receiving weekly IV infusions of iron. Most complicated would involve a future bone marrow biopsy. I’m voting for the former – simple is good! I’m home and slowly gaining strength and energy. Getting lots of rest and generally happy to be alive and among so many dear and supportive friends, including those halfway across the country!

      Reply
  16. Marian Blue
    Marian Blue says:

    My dear Friend — Gratitude is prayerful healing, and you’ve demonstrated what gratitude is throughout this message. Thank you for sharing. My prayers and thoughts are with you, and I hope I’ll soon hear where you are and how you’re doing.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      I’m back home and slowly healing. Getting weekly IV iron infusions locally, building up my strength and energy. Probably no marathons in my future, but hoping the “new normal” includes an ease in shopping, household stuff, and social-time. Full participation in and appreciation of the ordinary is my goal!

      Reply
  17. Joanna Snow Cruse
    Joanna Snow Cruse says:

    I am truly sorry you are going through this on and off agony. I am one of the many who knows too well what it has been. Your loving impression of the many people who helped you grants me a deeper side to my own impressions and memories. Love from Joanna

    Reply
  18. Mike Trenshaw
    Mike Trenshaw says:

    Always a silver lining…. And I am willing to bet some big burly construction worker saw his mom in that woman, and helped her. I have that sort of faith in our humanity! Love you!!!

    Reply

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