It’s difficult to relate all that’s happened in the last few days. Sometimes I’m at a loss for words. No, it’s not all been bad although we’ve had a bit of discomfort and one long stretch of teeth-gnawing anxiety. But it’s been mixed with some smiles and good times, too. How ’bout I just dig right in.
Friday Maggie got back from MD Anderson before I got to the airport. Two lively foreign-types escorted her from Houston to home. For the very brief time I was privileged to spend with them, they proved to be a hoot. Angel Flight definitely has two winners with these guys. One, I think, was French while the other was Argentinean and both quick-witted. I very much enjoyed meeting them both.
After we got home from the airport, Maggie hit the sheets and that was pretty much it for the day…. Until the evening, that is. What does every girl who just finished up chemo need? Movie night with the girls, of course! I dropped her off at Alamo Draft House for a viewing of the quintessential chic flick, He’s Just Not Into You. Of course, no good night out can go without some sort of drama. On the way to the movie we realized the batteries in her pain pump were low – too low to make it through the movie. That’d just be a fun time for all, having the pump start beeping non-stop during the middle of the movie. So, after dropping off my precious cargo, I acquired some fresh C-sized batteries and delivered them to the theater for ma’ lady. All problems solved.
Saturday was a pretty lazy day. Maggie wasn’t particularly feeling spiffy so I kept myself busy with work and various household chores. I did volunteer to cook supper for her using a cookbook she got me as a present years back called “Sauces.” I’ll bet you can’t possibly guess what’s in the book. So it was on: a lemon-butter tarragon sauce with chicken, noodles and asparagus. It didn’t take long before our supper for two turned into supper for six.
Being a slow beginner cook (but learning!), the sauce took about two hours to gitter done. By the time it was about ready, everyone had arrived and we were all ready to eat. The sauce smelled great. Our tastebuds were palpitating. But wait… Let’s rewind the clock about thirty minutes and dig in to the details.
I enjoy cooking, specifically that moment in time when the stove is fully engaged. I love it when all the burners are covered and the heat is on. Getting it all going at the same time is just good, tasty fun. It’s even more enjoyable when Maggie’s sitting by, talking to me while I cook, and tonight, she was. So, here we are, my first time making this special lemon-butter tarragon sauce. Now, this ain’t no open-a-package-and-mix-with-butter tarragon sauce. I started with butter and fresh tarragon. Then I added the flour. Then the broth and so on. It was as hand-made as it could be in an hour and a half. And it’s all finally coming to a boil.
Wha? Maggie’s little buddy, her pain pump, had something to say. “Air in line,” the digital readout said. No biggie. It happens occasionally. To clear the air, we pull out the line from the pump, find the bubble, and then tap the line to get the bubble past the pump. It happens about once every two or three days, maybe less. And it’s easily and quickly fixed. So Maggie got to fixin’.
My sauce was perfectly heated – just barely not boiling and reducing nicely. Not too hot. Just right. But I had to keep stirring otherwise we’d have burning issues. My other part of the sauce in another pot, the part with the tarragon, shallots, wine and lemon bits was just getting warm. Two hands. Two stirrers. Oh yeah.
Wha? Again came the beeping. “Air in line.” Hmf. No biggie. Maggie cleared the line again while I continued to stir and prep the asparagus. It’s pretty weird to have that happen so soon again. Maybe we just didn’t get it cleared enough last time.
“Beep!” – “Air in line.”
Barely five or six minutes had gone by and it was yelling at us again. Ok, this is weird. It’s also pretty bad timing. This time I put down my stirring spoon, cracked my knuckles in a manly way and proclaimed for the world to hear (and respect) my intent to fix this problem. I quickly examined the line while keeping half an eye on my almost-boiling sauces. Yup, there were some bubbles, more than I’d expect but not enough to shock me. No biggie. I cleared them manually using the same dependable technique Maggie had employed (thumping the line to convince the bubbles to disengage their hold on the side of the tube and travel up, up, and away.) Thump, thump, thump I did while occasionally squeezing in a quick sauce stir. Satisfied that I, the man of the house, had cleared the bubbles, I left Maggie to reassemble the pump and went back to my sauce making.
Not five minutes or so later, “Beep!” Damn it! “Air in line.” Ok, at this point Maggie and I both agreed something was wrong. And let me say that, given our recent bout of difficulties, it was a wonderful moment when we both agreed to agree that, yup, something was definitely wrong. Frustrated, and knowing guests were about to arrive, I decided that it’d be best to toss out the current bag of feel good stuff along with the line it was connected to and start all over. Clearly, something was wrong. Maybe one of the little hose connectors wasn’t seated quite right. Who cares at this point. Again, no biggie. This bag was darn nearly empty anyway.
So, I turned down the heat on my two sauces. The asparagus was cut and sitting in the steamer, ready for steaming. And the chicken was sitting on the counter, package open and one breast sitting on the cutting board. My hands, of course, were covered in chicken goo. Not that chicken is known for its propensity to attract microbial pesties or anything. No worries. Let’s just change out that intravenous line real quick.
Bag tossed. Line replaced. Pump restarted. Problem solved. And just in time for the doorbell to announce Martha’s arrival (followed immediately by the cacophony of the local two-dog choir/greeting crew.)
Martha blows in, like she does, with various bags of stuff and talking and such. I, starting to feel the pinch of time and guests, turn up the heat on my precious sauces and start back to my chicken cutting. All is right with the world.
You have got to be kidding me! “Air in line.” Now, I may be stubborn but I know when to call for help. At this point, we’ve done what we can do. There’s a reason why there are trained people on call and, yeah, Saturday night be damned, it’s time we brought in some help. So we called for reinforcements.
By the time Lisa, the reinforcements, called back (the answering service paged her), Florencia, Sami and Katy had arrived. The chicken was mostly cut. The sauces were boiling and, suffice to say, lots was going on in the Weaver Kitchen. Lisa was pretty pleased that we had taken a number of (what I considered pretty obvious) troubleshooting efforts before we paged her but she added a few more techniques to our repertoire. After we completed her test task list succesfully, I could hear relief in her voice but in my heart I suspected we’d be seeing her later. I told her I’d call her in thirty minutes no matter what. Back to the food.
WHAT… THE… HELL??? But, wait. This was different. It wasn’t the beep we’d grown to know and loath. This was different – it was shorter, higher pitched and coming from a different place. It came from the other pump, the pump MD Anderson installed and left attached that is supposed to be delivering the oxaliplatin sssslllllooooowwwwly over a 46 hour period of time. Why would it be beeping?
Upon examination we saw that this pump complained of “Bag Empty.” Oh no. That’s a much different and much more worrisome error. Bag Empty meant that something was very, very wrong. It must have delivered its medicine too quickly. Oh no. That’s a really bad problem. The whole reason why oxaliplatin is delivered so slowly over a long period of time is because it’s poisonous if it’s given too quickly. Yikes! It’s hard to grasp what this means! Anxiety is definitely building.
We checked the bag and there was clearly more fluid left but not much. Maybe there was a setting wrong. It wasn’t due to complete its job until around 8PM on Sunday. Today, however, is Saturday. Why, oh why, was it complaining now, with six house guests, partially carved chicken, asparagus in the steamer and two sauces almost boiling on the stove? Crap. Double and triple crap. We decided to call MD Anderson’s on-call person for help.
So hilarity ensued. Me and Lisa on one phone. Maggie and MD Anderson on the other. And everyone else wondering if they were going to have to order pizza. Add in an occasional chorus of beeps from the oven timer, microwave, and two personal pumps and wow, what a scene to behold.
Further complicating matters, Maggie’s pain pump, the one that started the ruckus with its damn “Air In Line” complaints, and arguably the most urgently IMPORTANT one hasn’t been doing its job delivering its content – the pain management drug. By now it’s starting to show. No pain management drugs, no pain management. The fun and games have ceased to be fun or games.
After a few more phone conversations, Lisa agrees that something just ain’t right. The only solution she can offer is in the form of a replacement pump that she will, as the on-call person (read: sucka!), have to personally deliver. Unfortunate, but she said she’d head our way after stopping by the office first to pick up a new pump and other related materials.
Maggie and I were both pretty frazzled. She was stressed and in pain. I was all kinds of stressed. But the chicken was done. The asparagus was steamed. The noodles were cooked and the sauces, which once were two, but now were one after I combined them to complete the recipe, were done. Dinner waits for no pump. It was ready. So we ate. It was fantastic with a side dish of anxiety and tense humor.
Finally, after dinner, about 9:30PM Lisa showed up bearing a new pump. And, miraculously, while Maggie and I were relating the night’s saga, Maggie realized that the chemo pump from MD Anderson was hooked up on Thursday evening (not Friday.) Thursday plus 46 hours equaled Saturday evening (not Sunday). Thus, the chemo pump was working perfectly and was right on schedule. There was nothing wrong with that pump after all. We, however, were completely confused – off by one whole day. Slap me on the forehead and call me dumbshit. How’d we miss that?
Lisa quickly replaced the old complaining pain pump with the new hand-delivered pump. Realizing now that the MD Anderson chemo pump had completed its mission on time (despite our earlier insistence otherwise) we had Lisa disconnect the pump and all the associated tubing, too, thus simplifying it all down to one pump and one tube. Of course, we insisted that she wait around for a little while for us to verify for certain that this particular arrangement was going to work. It did and so she left us alone to come to terms with our embarrassment (and stuffed stomachs.)
What a fiasco. But the food was great.
Flo brought movies for us to watch but both Martha and Katy had better things to do than sit around with us married folk on a Saturday night. So we old, married folk plus two hairless dogs settled in upstairs to enjoy the movies. It wasn’t twenty minutes before Maggie lost all of her supper. All of it. Seriously, it was an impressive amount of food. Apparently she eats a lot when stressed. Or my food was that good. You decide.
I fixed her a replacement bowl of noodles and sauce with an Ensure chaser and promptly fell asleep on the floor. They tell me the movie was good. Heck if I know.
And that was our Saturday.
Sunday was fine. We met up with Flo, Sami, and Martha for lunch. Maggie went with Flo and Sami to look at houses while I did laundry, cleaned the kitchen, and worked. Maggie also went to see some other chic flick with Amy called something like Tales of a Shopaholic. Afterward, supper went fine but Maggie was very, very tired. She crashed early at about 8:30PM. The good news is that all the food that went in today, stayed in.
What a crazy, crazy adventure.