Saturday, May 22, 2010

Size doesn't matter. Stat or fact?

Do not put your faith in what statistics say until you have carefully considered what they do not say.
~William W. Watt

By Thursday morning, Jed had gotten over his flu symptoms (throwing up and diarrhea) but still had an uncontrollable fever and his daily chest x-rays showed that he was not responding to the IV antibiotics. They called in Dr Hamar who is an infection specialist. He figured there should have been a marked improvement in lung function after 4 days on IV and suspected maybe Jed had inhaled vomit or something so he ordered a bronchoscope be done.

Jed had to fast Friday morning and about noon he was wheeled to the ambulatory care unit where normal procedure is to receive a mild sedation that will have the patient sleep for about 5 minutes while they put a camera down the throat and into the lungs for a good visual inspection.

Staying true to form, Jed refused to go to sleep so they gave him a second sedation. He still refused to sleep. An anesthetist was called in to put him right out. As a result, after the little photo op inside his lungs, they could not get him to wake up. Then they lost control of his blood pressure and it plummeted. The procedure which would normally have the patient back in their room in an hour or so ended up being a 4 hour ordeal.

While the nurses were tending to Jed, Dr Smith, who did the bronchoscope, called me at home.

"Mrs Ziemer, I just finished the procedure and what I've found is a..." I fully anticipated he would end the sentence with the words "foreign body" or "piece of vomit" or "peanut ... found a peanut, found a peanut..."

What came out of his mouth hit me like a brick on the side of the head, "... a tumour."

A tumour?? No God, no! Oh and his lung has collapsed as well.

He went on to say that it appears to be benign, but one can never really tell until the results from the biopsy come back. He will require surgery in either Vancouver or Kelowna and because we were heading into a long weekend we probably would not hear from a surgeon until Tuesday or Wednesday next week.

He suspects Jed has had this tumour for a long time and repeatedly assured me that waiting a few more days to get it removed almost certainly wasn't going to make any difference. Looking back now, I wonder if he really has asthma which they have been treating him for for the last 2 or 3 years. Perhaps it was a tumour that has been interfering with his breathing all along.

Dr Smith described how there really was no option, the tumour has to come out or he will never regain use of his lung. Besides, even if it is currently benign the likelihood of becoming malignant is high.

After giving me the 30-second low-down he said, "You can expect a call from Dr Canne next week. I have him on another line and would really like to go and continue to speak with him."

"OK, thank you for calling," I sputter.

I quickly and in stunned motion called Albert, Brandi, Jade, Connie and Barb before racing back to the hospital.

Everyone wanted to know how big the tumour was. "I don't know. I didn't think to ask. Size doesn't matter." I've always said that. It's an effin' tumour and it has to come out.

Within 8 hours Brandi and Kore arrived. Oh what a blessing it was to have them make that spontaneous decision.

Of course Dr Smith left the hospital by the time I got there and no one else had access to any further information for me. And so we sit and play the waiting game over the long weekend. The nurses are all fairly confident that since Jed is already in a hospital bed, he will get a top priority and will very likely be flown out Tuesday or Wednesday, provided they can find him a bed.

We still don't know for sure whether he will go to Vancouver or Kelowna and we are trusting God will get him to the best surgeon in the best time. Kore's family has so very generously offered for us to use his Grandma's apartment which has been empty but furnished for the last couple of months since Grandma moved in to a seniors home. It's on Oak Street - straight down from Vancouver General. Another enormous blessing!

And what does one do while waiting...
.... one Googles.

And Google was not very optimistic. I had to stop reading the stats: only 2-5% of lung tumours are benign. Those with lung cancer have a less than 10% chance of seeing five years of life. And the best chances are for those who catch it in early stages, not those who've "had it for a long time."

But my husband helped me put it into perspective. Stats don't always tell the real story. Statistically, you would be correct to say that the average human has one breast and one testicle. The fact is the vast majority of lung tumour patients are smokers and they are significantly older than 23 years old. 

So, given Jed's demographics, his odds I'm sure are enormous by comparison. And the Dr did say it looked benign. And so for now, that's what I hang on to.

And Jed's being such a trooper. I am very proud of him.

1 comment:

mari said...

You know if Brandi keeps showing up for everything important like this she won't be able to surprise you ever again. :) You have been blessed with a supportive family and so has Jed! I am thankfull to be a part of your family and Jed's health is certainly in our prayers.

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