How to explain the exuberance? Good news, bad news: The good news is there’s a war going on in my body! The bad news? My clotting time is through the roof! Oh, wait! Isn’t that good news?
Indulge me, won’t you?
So, flashback to 1997, the year of the Death and Dying Picture. A few of you might remember it: A haunting black-and-white shot that Ross Taggart took of yours truly, on the deck of the Taggart hacienda. Staring out over the yard below, unaware of his lens, my long hair flowing; my lean body still. Oh, wait, did I say “lean”? I meant skinny. As in, is she anorexic? No, she wasn’t. She was sick.
Later the same night, the night of that surreal Death and Dying Picture, I called Katrina Taggart. “There’s something wrong with me,” I said. “I cannot breathe.”
Katrina came. She always responded to any summons. Someone took Patrick, then five, back to her house. Nick, I suppose? Was Nick there yet? I don’t remember. At some point he was, my nephew Nick; but those years are a blur. That night marked my first emergency room trip for not being able to breathe.
Over the next four years, I spent hours in the ER, out on the porch at 3:00 a.m. taking great gulps of cold winter air, in the Cardiac Unit (the ‘new’ one — which no longer exists, having given way to the Heart Institute), in the Neuro Unit, in ICU, at the doctor’s office. One doctor, two doctors. One, two, buckle my shoe — which I couldn’t do, actually, now that I think of it. So someone did it for me, as I declined further and further, the long slow slide to nowhere land. Six months, said the pulmonologist. A year, tops, said the neurologist. Your body is just wearing out, they both intoned.
Then into my hospital room bounced Joseph Brewer, M.D., and the initials might as well have been G.O.D. though he would scoff if he heard me say that. “Oh no, you’re not dying,” he explained. “You’re just hypercoagulable.” He explained that “my” virus, HHV-6, to which most people respond with a mild case of measles and a shrug, had gotten a grip on my clotting time. “You’ve got sludge-blood,” he said. “You just need it thinned.”
By mid-2001, now practiced wielding a heparin needle twice a day, I went back work full-time. Later, I could switch to an oral blood thinner. So we monitor clotting time. Normal, non-hypercoagulable clotting time number, and the goal for me on medication is about 2.5. Mine unmedicated: About .8. Ouch. So I take the pill, as faithfully as my brain allows every day, shooting for that 2.5. Once a month, I go see the nice lab lady at the doctor’s office, who these days also draws to make sure my kidneys and blood count aren’t impacted by the new drug.
Last Friday, I had that blood draw. Thirty days after starting The New Medication. My clotting time is an absolutely astounding 6.6!!!!!! What does this mean? We suspected, and the I.D. guru at Stanford has now confirmed, that it means the war is on and the NEW MEDICATION IS WORKING!
Now, it must be said: Having a clotting time of 6.6 is a bit scary. One can, conceivably, bleed to death quite quickly and there actually have been a few problems in the last few days. But my doctor got on it right away. We’ve made the necessary adjustments, and I’m staying away from sharp objects. My body struggles with viral symptoms right now — either a cold or “my” virus fighting back, resisting the Valcyte, who knows? But one thing we can say for certain: something is happening.
Take THAT, you pesky little virus! I ain’t done with you YET. Booyah!