I’ve been a bit preoccupied lately.
In mid-April, my partner, Reginald Shepherd, suffered a serious, nearly fatal, medical crisis. For reasons still unknown, a perforation opened in his small intestine, leading to severe abdominal infection and peritonitis, blood poisoning (one of the things that nearly killed him), catastrophically low blood pressure (think in the neighborhood of 40 over 20) and a heart attack, kidney failure for a short period at the height of the crisis, about ten days on a ventilator and on hallucination-provoking sedatives, three surgeries over the course of those ten days, two weeks (that included the aforementioned ten days) in the intensive care unit, three more weeks in the hospital, and an ongoing recovery process at home. See Speech After Long Silence, Tiene Dolor?, and Long Hard Road Out Of Hell for Reginald’s account of the ordeal.
Reginald’s medical trials didn’t begin in mid-April. The whole past year has been quite rough for him, with a series of emergency room visits (in three separate states), that led in November to diagnosis with colon cancer, a successful surgery to remove the tumor, but also the discovery of the spread of the cancer to the liver, followed by many rounds of chemotherapy and a process called radiofrequency ablation to cook the two tumors on the liver. In short, the situation that began in April occurred after a very trying year and after we were beginning to think (with good reason – his cancer prognosis looked and looks pretty good) his medical condition was under control. As a result, I have mixed feelings about the timing of this crisis: after the entire past year and everything he and we have been through, especially once things were looking up, it’s frustrating, frightening, even shocking to have something else come along to make “Stage 4 Metastatic Cancer” seem like a walk in the park, while at the same time, if this was going to happen, better in mid-April than a few months earlier when the cancer was very much not under control, when even the best case recovery from the acute crisis of blood poisoning would have meant a long delay of chemotherapy at a critical juncture.
As a result of the past year, and especially the last couple months, I have a somewhat different perspective on health, illness, doctors, nurses, medical care and institutions than I did a year ago, but more on that over my next few posts.