If you read yesterday's blog, you will know that Day 6 of Steve's first cycle of Alimta and carboplatin was not a good one. His temperature fluctuated throughout the day, eventually peaking at 38C around 6 o'clock. At that point, I insisted that we try again to get through to the Triage Assessment Centre at the hospital for advice, as instructed in Steve's little red chemo book. Better to get advice in the early evening, rather than wait until later to see if things got any worse and then be called into hospital at midnight!
As before, the helpline phone rang and rang, but there was no answer. So much for 24/7 support! On to plan B - a call to NHS Direct, and another very long wait until an operator was available. Steve explained his status and why he needed advice and, after consulting with the medical advisor, he was told that his case would be passed on to our GP's on-call service for a doctor to visit, and that someone would be in touch within an hour.
An hour later, the phone rang and Steve went through everything again with the locum. The upshot of this phone call was an appointment to see a doctor at the Out of Hours Service Centre on the other side of Oxford at 8.45 p.m. When we arrived there, appointments were running an hour late, so we had another long wait in a room packed with people, many of whom had nasty coughs. Not what you want to be doing when trying to avoid infections.....It was approaching 10 o'clock when we finally saw a doctor and went through everything again.
An examination and a few phone calls to the hospital later (unlike our unsuccessful attempts earlier in the day to get through to the Triage Assessment centre, the doctor had a hotline to the medical and oncology registrars) and we were on our way to the Oncology Ward at the Cancer Centre around 11 o'clock for Steve to be assessed.
It was a bit eyrie to be sitting in a cubicle on a dark ward, with other patients sleeping all around us, whilst the doctor did a very thorough examination and history, took bloods and ordered a chest X-ray. Cannula in, Steve was given antibiotics intravenously while waiting for the tests results.
The good news was that his white blood cell count was fine, so no problems with his immune system. Other tests results would take longer. We dozed off while Steve had an hour or so of saline flushed through, then the nurse appeared with a wrist band to say that they were going to keep him in overnight. Not what we were expecting or prepared for...I gave Steve my mobile and was told by the nurse to expect a call on Sunday morning with news.
It was approaching 12 o'clock (how ironic, given my comments earlier in the day about not wanting to be in hospital at midnight...) when Steve was wheel-chaired down to X-ray before being bedded down for the night on the ward. We said our goodbyes while he was waiting to be taken back upstairs and I waited for a taxi to take me home. I finally got to bed around 2 am after something to eat and drink - our last main meal had been lunchtime on Saturday!
Woke this morning to sun streaming through the blinds. A good omen? Up, dressed and breakfasted quickly, ready and waiting for the call. It finally came around 10.20 a.m. when Steve rang to say that he was being released! He'd had a fitful night's sleep being connected up to the drip so that he would be well hydrated if they needed to put through more meds this morning. However, all the test results had come back clear. He was feeling much better; no nausea; head clear at last. He had to wait for the cannula to be removed and for more antibiotic tablets to take home, but he would be coming back in an hour or so.
He's just phoned again to say that they are still waiting for the pharmacy to deliver the goods (if it goes on much longer they will just give him a prescription to get filled tomorrow) and to have the cannula taken out, then he will drive himself home. What a relief!
Quite a Saturday night and Sunday morning....if he has another episode he is to ring the ward directly, rather than play pass the parcel and be handed on from one medical team to another as he was last night. That is also a relief!