Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Marvelous Madame J

This post is dedicated to a very special lady.  I will call her Jolin, not her real name.

I met, well--saw her for the first time during probably one of my roughest moments at the hospital.  It was in the morning, just after a migraine from hell, complete with crippling neck pain had taken me over.  They had nothing to handle the pain but useless paracetamol, which I tried anyway, some 1000+ mgs, to no avail, (pesky opiate allergy and no migraine meds on the scene, nor in the purse).

I had been wheel-chaired down to the lab to do a clot test prior to the kidney biopsy scheduled for that evening and looked well, pathetic is the only word to describe it.  I was covered in a sheet due to being very cold, with my head actually under it what with the lights crushing my skull and eyes, unable to turn my head at all from the intense neck pain and there I sat, shaking with the cold and twitching due to I suppose, my electrolytes still completely outta whack, waiting to be returned to my warm and darkened room.

In the same waiting room, seated just to my right was Jolin.  She tried to avert her eyes, as did everyone else in there but it was obviously a challenge.  After what seemed an eternity, another orderly finally brought me back to the 14th floor. 

That afternoon my first room mate, an 80-something mostly deaf woman who couldn't even hear her constantly ringing phone, so each time I had to yell to get her to answer it, was finally discharged and later that day low and behold, in walked Jolin.

Here is a portrait I made of her from a photo I
took just before she was discharged:
My cranium was still at that point, tightly in the grips of the migraine/neck assault and I remember asking my doc, (in English, because he speaks it VERY WELL), if my new roomy was there for an infection or not.  This was later laughed about when I found that Jolin actually speaks English and of course, fully understood my paranoid inquiry.

Time passed and even with the by then, slightly diminishing headache, (thanks to probably a couple of kilos worth of ice packs that I had applied to my face and neck throughout the day), Jolin and I had, in a very short time hit it off.

About a half hour later, I was in the process of getting my kidney biopsy, which actually somehow did wonders to ease the migraine, (the freezing of the kidneys was pretty painful and perhaps that distracted my brain's pain).

The biopsy process itself went by quickly, perhaps 15-20 minutes total and I was back in my room in no time.

Protocols for kidney biopsies in France dictate that the patient remain lying on their back for 24 hours post-procedure, which brings me to the part of the story about how I met Jolin's whole family.

It must have been around 6pm and I was working my courage up to try my very first pee in a bed pan.  Being a newbie to this I found myself a tad gun-shy, as it were.  The nurse, who was, "assisting" me was unfortunately not the cream of the care-giving crop and she basically just left me there as I was apparently, according to her rolling eyeballs, just taking way too long.

So, it's right at that moment when Jolin's two daughters AND her husband show up for visiting hours.  Remember, these rooms have NO curtains separating the beds, and so there I was, looking probably like I was just lying there with my knees up, when in fact I was trying to pee.  : /

In minutes, a different and far more qualified nurse entered and upon realizing the situation, quickly and discreetly cleared the room so I could finish the transaction but wow, talk about an uncomfortable way to meet someone's family.  And literally, as the biopsy had to be done with me lying on my belly--a position that due to a missing lumbar disc has always resulted in notable back pain, making the attempt to pee even more of a pain-challenge.

So, fine, boom, with the bedpan finally utilized and everyone back in the room, the next hour was spent quite pleasantly getting to know this lovely woman's family a little.  Jolin is a mother of two beautiful daughters, Lia and Lana, one training to be a political liaison between Egypt and France and the other studying in veterinary school.  Dad, Hamid, is an IT consultant and to my delight, I found that all three of them speak English.  They are all very warm and sweet people and I was amazed at my luck considering the contrast of that other rather less than interactive roomy I had during my first days in the hospital.

Shortly thereafter, P arrived for a visit and minutes later dinner also made an appearance.  Of course hospital food on any day is never drool-fest, but try it all without a lick of salt and it's just frightening--especially after renal failure when typically, one tends to be completely put off by any meat products--never mind grey, squares of fish without lemon, herbs nor salt.

The trays were cleared and I noticed that I was starting to feel a bit--out of sorts.  I felt like my heart was floating around in my throat and I was having some trouble breathing deeply enough.  Next came--cue Dr. House background music: a seizure!  Before I knew it a team of nurses were on the scene, the foot of the bed shot up like a sinking ship and I was doing the funky chicken without my own opinion.

Turns out that they had rather over-compensated with the blood pressure meds used to ensure mine stayed nice and low for the biopsy, which caused me to go hypo-tension, which caused the seizure and near-fainting, apparently.

Again, helluva way to make a new family's acquaintances, n'est-ce pas?

The days that followed however, were pretty darned enjoyable as, as soon as my biopsy results were looked at, my doc hit me with some manna from heaven, corticosteroids via IV and within half an hour of my sucking up that first bag, ALL MY PAIN WAS GONE.  It defined relief and made for many a chatty and even giggly moment between Jolin and I that night, with more to follow with us often talking into the wee hours like a couple of college dorm room mates, as opposed to two struggling patients in Nephrology.

I can still see her small frame silhouetted by the crescent moon that hung big in the window over the Eiffel behind her as she spun tales from her childhood and teen years to present.

Yes, Jolin was there for all of my moments; good, bad, shocked, silly, paranoid and just plain sad--always with a sage word to talk me down from whatever, "research ledge",  I may have inadvertently googled my way onto.

Frantic searches that lead to fretting over Prednisone side effects, or freaking at the thought that the reason my diagnosis was taking 4 days instead of the promised 24 hours was due to their waffling between MPA and bloody Lupus.  Lupus I learned, can easily destroy a person's brain and THAT sent me into a bona fide panic--until I found a Lupus check list site that sited 11 possible Lupus markers, of which I was only sporting, 3.5-ish.

Yup, I'll always appreciate the memory of Jolin; charming, funny, zenned.  I truly grieved the day she was discharged, happy for her, as her biopsy was good but still, so sad to know our time together was coming to a close.

I raise my morning java in your honor, Madame J and thank you again for making my hospital time when you were with me, incredibly, a pleasure.

: J


Jude said...

Thank the Universe she was there to lighten your time a little, I'm sure it was no mistake that you met each other there. :-) Perhaps this could become a life-long friendship, one never knows!

I am having a very hard time understanding why there are no privacy curtains between the beds there!

Juanita Grande said...

ME TOO, Jude! At first I thought it was just the room I happened to be in the first time, but after doing the chemo there again and in a different room, still with no curtain, I'm at a loss.

During my day however, my room mate had a biopsy done, (via the vein in the neck), and for that they wheeled in an office-type divider for the procedure. Never had that during my first stay there though.

And yes, as for Madame Marvy, I do believe we were both together for good reason indeeedy.

: J

Pascal said...

Yes, that was odd... as I've been in, and seen a few hospitals in Paris, and they did have single rooms, or at least decent separation between beds. This seemed more like a military, M.A.S.H-type situation.

But had there been curtains we probably wouldn't have met the lovely Mrs J. The soul of whom I can testify is indeed of the most gentle & soothing nature. : )

Juanita Grande said...

So true, P. and for that, and only in Madame Marvy's case, I'm glad there were no curtains.

; J

Fullmoondolphin said...

I'm glad you two connected - at least it made your stay there much better, and hopefully this is the beginning of a wonderful new friendship. :)

Juanita Grande said...

Me too, FMD. Juan can never have enough new friends.

: J

Todd Hehl said...

You made a new friend, Juanita dear, why doesn't this surprise me ?...So glad she could make your stay more enjoyable. I'm sure she feels the same way about you....;-)