And therein lies the rub…I’m never quite sure what Will Shakespeare meant by that but it seems to fit the past six weeks of my life. What I can tell you is that the promise of “easy” is something to beware. And research like crazy. And perhaps avoid like the plague.
It’s been a hard year medically; colds that hang on, allergies that show up before they should even exist, and a case of pneumonia—my husband’s— that led to a hospital stay and the discovery of A-Fib. Irregular heartbeat. Caused by the pneumonia. Geez. So the cardiologist put him on warfarin, blood thinner for the masses and subject to regular monitoring. Once a week…80 miles round trip each time (the hubby is a vet and therefore uses the nearest VA facility in Danville). Not a bad drive but time-consuming. So, to make things easier, the blood thinner was changed to one of the new drugs, no weekly checks, no monitoring, etc. No more 40 miles each way for a finger prick. But. And this is where the “rub” enters the picture. The worst side effect you can imagine….internal bleeding. In his lungs. One day after the change. And no “easy” antidote. That 40 mile trip is one of the longest I have ever taken. The VA’s Urgent Care got us in ASAP but had no available beds so we ended up at a Danville hospital, admitted to ICU. Long story short, my other half is recovering, off the oxygen he had to use 24/7 for 2 ½ weeks and thanks to the VA cardiologist and pulmonologist (both more informative and helpful than most of my own doctors have ever been without prodding) is cleared to go back to work. Slowly. And, we’re making bi-weekly trips now. He’s back on warfarin. At least for now. What should have been something to make his life a bit easier ate up six weeks of driving, hospital visits, room changes, doctor appointments and him adjusting to a slower lifestyle for the time being. We are fortunate. And thankful.
To be fair, some things in life are easy and the results pleasant. I can think of quite a few as I type this, and I know you can as well. The trick is knowing how to tell the good from the not so good. “Easy” is tricky and usually seductive. Everything “easy” promises is tempting. And sometimes those promises are true. But. Sometimes they’re as flighty as a kite on a windy day. Trust me when I say this: “easy” and research go hand in hand. Hype and hallelujahs should take a back seat to “what ifs”. With all the resources we have at our disposal, no one needs to take “easy” at face value.
Those of you who follow me know I’m usually a bit less serious. I would rather be irreverent than preachy. This case is different. And one upside is inspiration for a new Mae adventure. She and Drummond are still in NOLA, getting ready to head north. And then Drummond gets sick…
Mae and the Medicos
You can call me Mae. Most everyone does who knows me these days. That or, “there goes ol’ Drum’s sister”. Depends on where I am or what mess I find myself in. Or find Drum in, which was the case this time around, though through no fault of his own. My brother does try to stay away from the bottle, and keeping him busy helps. Seems he gets in more trouble when he has too much time to remember. This time though, he forgot a very important thing.
We were gettin’ ready to say farewell to New Orleans; a city that had for the most part treated us well, introduced us to Sylvain Lionel and his cousin and gave me a chance to bring Sylvain’s sister back to her family. All good things come to an end though, and New Orleans in the summertime was, according to all we’d heard, too hot and too humid for people not accustomed to such things. I had no fears for myself, but Drum’s bouts with alcohol over the years had made him older than his years and more sensitive to heat and extreme cold. Humidity just added to the problem, since his lungs were victims to chronic asthma, made worse by having to sleep in conditions where germs and pollen fought for supremacy. Mostly before I found him and made him take better care. Most of the time he stayed fine. But not this Spring.
It started as a sniffle and a sneeze. Drum didn’t mention it to me until I caught him swiping his sleeve across his face.
“Just got some dust in my nose,” he said. “Might need a hanky though.” And then he coughed just a little. “No worries, Mae. I just hurried to get here too fast and my breath hasn’t caught up to me.” I wanted to believe him. Next day we were due to catch a ride from one of Sylvain’s friends to the train station. Drum wanted to get back North to Charles City, despite what had happened there. I wasn’t too picky about where we went as long as it was north. That night though, his cough was worse and his head was hot and moist. I didn’t need a thermometer to know he had a fever.
Come morning we had our ride take us to the nearest CharityCare, one of those places you go when you have no insurance. Better than nothing, and I figured if there was an infection, we’d need something strong. Drum didn’t even protest, so I knew he was sick. We waited in a large room with plenty of other patients, all sneezing or coughing or crying or complaining, and finally got to see a nurse practitioner. Now I’m a nurse myself if you remember me telling you early on so I watched her close. She was efficient but I had to ask her a time or two before she would give me any answers. She made some notes on a small pad and disappeared down the hallway.
“You think she knows what’s wrong with me, Mae?” Drum wheezed a bit and covered his mouth to stop a cough. “I didn’t mean to…”
“Let’s just see what she says. Most likely she’s gone to talk with a doctor.” I hoped she had anyway. Drum was looking paler by the minute. I was just about to draw the curtain back and go on a search for her when she returned with two pieces of paper.
“Your brother has a bronchial infection,” she informed the wall behind me. “He needs fluids and rest and….” She handed me the papers. “You can get these filled at the pharmacy next door if you can afford them. Otherwise, bed rest and liquid and time are the best things for him.” She parted the curtain and left. I looked at the scripts. Amoxicillin and prednisone. Standard but also generic, which meant my budget could handle them. If I could afford them indeed.
Thankfully I still had the cell Sylvain had given me during our efforts to find his sister, so I called him and left a message that we might need the loft he’d loaned us for a few more days. Maybe a week given that Drum was breathin’ shallow and looking like he could collapse any minute. I left my brother outside the pharmacy while I took in the scripts and got them filled. My mistake. When I finally made it back out to the sidewalk, all I saw was his old slouch hat and one unlaced brogan.
I will tell you this, in case you don’t remember, that Drummond would never just up and stagger off without his favorite hat and only one of his one pair of shoes. So I knew something wrong had happened. I also knew that as kind as New Orleans folk are, they might not take it well if I started badgering them with questions about someone they didn’t even know. So, I called Sylvain back and left the distress signal we’d agreed on but never really used. And then I sat and waited for him to call, staring at the two packets of medication that Drum needed but didn’t have. It wasn’t long before I felt someone’s hand on my shoulder.
“You okay, ma’am?” Not a voice I recognized. “Ma’am? You look like you ain’t feelin’ so good. Kin we take y’all somewhere?” I shook my head.
“I’m waitin’ for a friend. But thank you.” I waved one hand as if to shoo him on his way and found it caught in a firm almost crushing grip. “I’ll have my arm back,” I said.
“I reckon you need to come with us,” a second, deeper voice declared. “Pull her harder, cousin. We ain’t got all day.”
“She don’t wanna budge,” the first said as he tried to dislodge me from my seat. “Whyn’t you get behind her and push, ‘stead of givin’ me grief?” I fixed my gaze on them and planted both feet firm on the walk.
“You might think twice before you….” I felt a shove from behind as my second assailant pushed me toward the first. Without even thinking, I shoved my elbow back and caught a good chunk of stomach. With a surprised “ooof”, my second attacker fell back a bit and I yanked the first one toward me. “Stronger than I look,” I muttered as I pulled him past me to land on his partner.
“Leave you alone for a day or two and you attract the worst kind of people,” a familiar voice said in my ear.
“Sylvain! How did….oh never mind. Just find me a copper so I can…” I stopped as I saw my attackers scramble to their feet and rush off toward the Square. “I need your help.”
“You need some coffee,” he said. “You managed those two just fine. So why the distress signal? And I found you because of the GPS in your cell. When you were undercover in that house I needed to be able to track you. Just in case. Never did deactivate my unit.” We came to a small outdoor café, and Sylvain pulled out a wooden chair. “Sit.”
“You tracked me?” I wasn’t sure whether to be angry or grateful. “I can take care of meself. I suppose ye tracked Drummond too?”
“No need, Mae. He was easy to find at the church. Why?” He grinned. “Did you go losin’ him again?” the look on my face stopped his grin cold. “Where’s Drum? Seriously Mae. I thought you two were on your way back north. In fact I called Morales to let him know that. Then you call me and I get here just in time to see you fight off two of the city’s hooligans, no brother in sight. So what’s going on?”
“Drummond took sick. We went to the CharityCare and got him some medicine, figuring he could take a day or two before we rode back North. He waited here while I went in to get the scripts filled and when I came out…”
“Why didn’t you tell me, Mae? I’d have got Drum to my own medico…not trusted him to a charity clinic. Not that there’s anything wrong with them…” his voice trailed off as I glared at him.
“It was easier than bothering you, that’s why. And medicine is medicine.” I scuffed my shoes back and forth on the cobbled street. Sounded lame even to me.
“And he’s not just around the corner or headed to the church or…?”
“Someone took him.” I held out his hat and brogan. “Somewhere he didn’t want to go.”
“Then someone saw something,” Sylvain said. “And we’re going to find out what.”
“If you say so,” I put in. “But…”
“No buts.” He got up, pulled me up after and headed us across the street and back to the clinic.