Sharp Blue: Hospitalisation


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On Tuesday, my dad finished the course of radiotherapy to his upper back, and had another meeting with Dr Newman, his oncologist. The morphine-derivative painkiller he’d recently started taking to manage his back pain until the radiotherapy destroyed the tumour has constipation as a side-effect, and so does the thalidomide that’s his primary cancer treatment. As part of the oncology appointment he had an x-ray of his bowels and they found that he was so badly constipated that faeces were backed up beyond his rectum and were on the verge of causing serious problems. To resolve this situation, they prescribed him some stronger laxatives. If those didn’t work, he’d have to start on surgical-strength ones.

Unfortunately, the moderate laxatives didn’t work, and the district nurse was so worried about giving the ones that were intended to clear out bowels in preparation for surgery that she tried to contact Dr Newman for confirmation. I don’t suppose she can be blamed for that - after all, it was a very unusual thing for him to be taking. In any case, she didn’t get confirmation from the oncology department until late on Thursday, by which time my dad was feeling pretty unwell - he’d started to suffer from dizziness on sitting up or standing and vomited when he attempted to walk into the bathroom. At this point, my mum decided that he should wait till the morning to start on the strong laxatives, rather than spend the night sitting on the toilet.

After taking the new medication on Friday morning, nothing happened. Around noon, my mum decided that the situation was worrying enough to call for an emergency doctor and the doctor decided that my dad should be hospitalised. So yesterday evening he was taken by ambulance to the oncology in-patient ward, where my sister and I joined him as soon as we could. By this time, he was quite ill, but still in good spirits (he seems to take everything with equanimity). Fortunately, later in the evening the laxatives he’d already taken and the ones the hospital doctors gave him after he was admitted finally kicked in. The doctor in the oncology ward gave him a quick neurological exam and decided that the dizziness wasn’t anything more serious than dehydration (he’d only drunk a cup of water and two coffess in over a day) and the effects of constipation on his blood pressure. Nevertheless, she decided to keep him in overnight, so they could put him on a drip and keep up the laxatives.

When we arrived this morning, he was clearly much better. He was able to get up and walk around with minimal discomfort and no dizziness. After spending the day in a combination of keeping him company and making excursions to shop for books and clothes, my sister and I have just visited my grandad to keep him informed and popped back home to make dinner and some sandwiches for our mother, who’s still in the hospital. After writing this, we’ll be heading back to the hospital for a few more hours. They’re going to keep him in for another night for observation and probably discharge him tomorrow. This all means, of course, that our family holiday has been delayed a bit - we were due to leave today, but now we won’t be going till Monday or Tuesday, by which time my dad should be back to normal.

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