Sunday, February 18, 2007

Battling AML

Gerald's sister Ernestine arrived from Rock Springs, Wyoming, on Tuesday in Saint Louis. Gerald had gone up on Monday, and he met her and took her to the cancer unit at Barnes Hospital to visit their brother Kenny. His intense treatment for Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) started that day.

Our son-in-law Brian picked Ernestine up and took her to their home for the night, and Mary Ellen brought her back to Barnes the next day. We went up to visit Ken on Wednesday and brought Ernestine home with us. He was in good spirits and looked so healthy. The nurses made us very welcome and, of course, we all wore masks and did not touch Ken. Meds had stopped his first touch of nausea right before we arrived.

Some or all of his children and spouses were coming in that evening for a surprise visit for Valentine's Day to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Ken's open-heart surgery. For a few years after the surgery, Opal, Ken's wife whom he was introducing to all his nurses as "Opal--my first wife" would throw a family Valentine party to celebrate the successful surgery.

So the family was surprising Ken and Opal by showing up dressed up in red finery hoping to bring cheer. The tests given on Monday had confirmed that his heart was in good shape for the chemo, which was certainly something to celebrate.

However, that night his temperature went up and he has been battling ever since. The temp will come down and then go up again. Opal and his son, Bryce, bathed him and would bring it down. When it shot up to over 104 degrees, he was packed in ice to bring it down. Next morning it normal and so it has continued up and down. A bad night. A good night. A bad night.

Blood tests were being cultured, and so far, no indication of bacteria causing infection has been found. After the temp went so high, the first two antibiotics were switched off and two new ones are being tried. Family were in and out all weekend helping Opal. We keep telephone chains going trying to keep up with reports on his condition. Sometimes he has been up enough to talk to one of the brothers on the telephone.

Now he is almost through the first week of therapy, which as I understand it--which, of course, I do not--will kill his white blood cells. Then there will be three more weeks of intense treatment. And intense prayers from his loved ones.

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