Update for Susan Hattie Steinsapir Wednesday, Jan. 17th, 1996On Monday, Susan was put on dialysis. Her kideys weren't working anymore. The dialysis machine is about the size of a washer: the blood is led from her through a pump, through a filter which removes just about everything, rewarmed, and back into her. The process takes about three hours. It was carried out twice on Sunday and twice again on Monday. The effect was tremendous: by removing the toxins from her body, she's recovered completely from her pain. Within hours, she was sitting up in the bed, talking, trading jokes, laughing, and complaining about the hospital food. Her kidneys haven't given up; they've began working again. Perhaps they were overloaded with the state of her body; the dialysis made it possible for them to recover. I felt so relieved at seeing her acting normally again that I was finally able to sleep most of Tuesday.
Susan's back to "normal"; she's still connected to a number of tubes, but she's sitting up in a chair and goes for short walks (with a nurse who pulls all of the intravenous stands along). She can't remember the last four days: she was so sick and she was so zonked on sedatives. Her brother and his girlfriend came by Monday night and we got her in a chair and washed her hair, combed it, and got a hair dryer. She was happy to be clean again.
On Tuesday, after a three day weekend, 20 get-well cards and cat photos arrived; today, another 25. One of the walls is half covered.
The nurses told me that her better condition will lead to another kind of problem: boredom. Now that she's alert, she'll notice how monotonous her days are.
We were also told by the nurses that Susan may have to wait some time for a heart. Originally, she was to have been transferred to the Kaiser Los Angeles hospital (we are members of the Kaiser HMO and health insurance), where she would wait for the heart, but now, since she is in such critical condition, it's much safer to keep her at UCLA, where the staff is familiar with her condition and they can take care of her. Her nurse tells us that the average wait time is six weeks, but no one can plan: it may be tonight and it may be in seven weeks. In any case, now that the crisis of her immediate survival is over, we should adjust ourselves to a longer wait. Therefore we began to rearrange her room to make it a bit more liveable: moved her bed so that she can look outside, where there's a large pine tree with a squirrel family. She hadn't eaten very much in the last week, literally only a couple of strawberries per day, because of nausea. Her brother went out and got a milkshake (vanilla, malted, giant size); she drank it down in one long slurp. Mimi and Kay and other LA rec.food.cooking foodies are organizing a cook-in for her to make more interesting and tasty food.
Since she is better, this morning, Wednesday, I drove six hours up to Sacramento, to take care of mail and bills, to remind the cats as to who pays for the cat food, and pick up more clothes and things. I'll drive back to LA tomorrow, Thursday. We're beginning to think about renting an apartment in LA for a short time, since she'll have to be there for six weeks after the transplant, so that we can bring the cats down. I'm going to contact my recruiters and see about getting a short-term contract job in the LA area (I write computer manuals and make web sites). It's odd to be back home in Sacramento; everything is here as if nothing were happening. Our four cats were happy to see me again: they milled around and walked between my legs; they follow me from room to room. As i write this, I'm surrounded by a circle of cats. Our poor answering machine had several dozen messages.
Several people have asked me if I'd write a book about all of this. I am indeed a writer and have several computer books published, but I don't want to write about this: it's too personal. I feel that it should stay this way: that I write these updates for those of you who are concerned and interested in Susan. It's something for us, the people who are around Susan: me, her family, friends, and her friends from rec.food.cooking and the transplant list. The net has made this possible: we read every single message that all of you have sent, yes, sometimes several hundred a day, and it makes it easier to remember that one isn't alone. Susan and I are very happy for your support; the nurses don't know what to make of all of this. People come by and handfuls of cards arrive and the nurses ask who these people are and we say "oh, it's friends from the net."
So, Susan is feeling much better. In a day or two, she'll be back at the keyboard from her hospital bed. She tells me to tell all of you: drive safe and wear your seatbelts! She doesn't want one of you to get TOO close to her :)
-- yrs, andreas