The sky was amazing at sunrise from my vantage point on the Ringling Bridge. I came home to prepare breakfast, get Banyan off to the bus stop, and apply numbing cream and dressing to Benji’s port. We kissed Michael goodbye and we were off.
The drive north was uneventful. Benjamin’s spirits were high enough; he wasn’t exactly looking forward to it, but he certainly wasn’t complaining. We were actually a bit early, but we waited an hour and fifteen minutes to get called back for vitals. After the new technician recorded her data, we were sent back out into the waiting room. There were no available exam rooms. Benji gave me the look when several patients who arrived after we did were seen before us. I didn’t mind. These kids were bone marrow transplant patients, or children much earlier in diagnosis, or clearly suffering. Benjamin was none of these things, and that is a blessing. We are maintaining just fine over here in maintenance land. Please. Go ahead of us.
We were finally brought into Exam Room #5. One of our favorite nurses was there to access Benjamin. He didn’t procrastinate, he just executed his rituals. Latex glove, removal of dressing, gauze off the excess numbing cream, wrap all of it into the glove, shoot it basketball style into the garbage. He closed his eyes and held my hand. The blood return was instant through the clear tube. We both exhaled.
Dr. Grana and a pharmacy resident came in while our nurse was giving us the run down of usual questions. Our visit with her was short and sweet. I showed her a toe I’ve been concerned may be hiding an infection, and she didn’t feel it warranted antibiotics. She thought our topical regimen was sufficient, provided Benji’s absolute neutrophil count (ANC) was high enough, which it was. His numbers came back perfect, and much more within my comfort zone. His ANC is 1770. This is just a hair above the upper threshold of neutropenia.
I asked for our prescriptions to be sent to our local pharmacy, and confirmed all dosages with our nurse. We settled in to wait for Benji’s Vincristine, when another nurse poked her head in and asked if we wouldn’t mind sitting in the waiting room until it arrived, so she could free up the room for another patient. They were slammed. Benji and I didn’t mind. We wanted to visit our friends in the Infusion Center anyway. The clinic nurses gave us the same pager the surgery nurses give to Michael and me when Benji goes back for his lumbar punctures. It was a little odd, I admit. But we felt free to roam the hospital until its lights blinked.
We hugged our Infusion Center team and proudly examined the rainbow stars illuminating all of the windows. We sat in their lobby and had a snack, played twenty questions, etc. While we were sitting there, we saw a clinic nurse walking a little girl and her mother gently up to the Infusion Center doors. The nurse said to the girl in a sweet voice, “This is another new place you’ll be going. It’s called the Infusion Center.” I felt the urge to tell the mother, who looked like a deer in headlights, how much she would love the Infusion Center. I heard the absurdity of those words as I thought them. I’m glad I censored myself. “You’re going to love it here!” would NOT have been appropriate. What I meant, of course, is that the Infusion Center had this way of making me feel safe. I felt safety in the nurses, safety in the communal layout of the bays, safety in the knowledge that to come here meant that Benji would be infused with what he needed, and he would go home. There are comfortable chairs and pillows and lunch is available. The nurses dance for the patients on a regular basis. As far as hospital units are concerned, it’s the cream of the crop.
Our clinic nurse called Benji’s name before the buzzer even buzzed. We went back to a different exam room this time, and his Vincristine was wheeled in. The nurse donned her haz mat gear and connected the medicine to Benjamin’s tube. It ran over ten minutes. He hates the taste of it, but after it initially hits him, he is fine. When the medicine had run its course, the nurse locked Benji’s line, deaccessed him, and we were free to go. It was nearly 1pm.
We hit up the Fresh Market for Benji’s requested sushi. It was delicious, and he was so thankful. He fell asleep on the way home.