An exciting off week!

Just when I thought there was going to be no juicy material for this week’s post, Sam took one for the team and made it interesting!

We had a rather successful Memorial Day weekend filled with rest and food off the grill.  Everything seemed to be going surprisingly well.  Sam went to work on Tuesday but had a restless night on Tuesday night.  We’re accustomed to the restless nights, so Sam went about his normal daily routine on Wednesday.  He wasn’t feeling well and had to leave work around noon.  When I arrived home around 4:30 on Wednesday evening, Sam was sprawled on the bed with his lunchbox and the contents scattered on the bed.  The goods news was that Sam was making a lot of effort to eat.  The bad news was that he was attempting to eat horizontally.  The even worse news was that there was a half-eaten sandwich, nuts, applesauce, and crumbs occupying the bed that our cats helped themselves to.

We have been told repeatedly since the beginning of Sam’s chemotherapy that a temperature of 100.5 is serious and that Sam would need to be quickly taken to the hospital if his temperature reaches 100.5.  On Wednesday evening, we took his temperature and it was 100.5 on the dot.  Perfect!  Not, “Yay!  Pop the champagne!”  But, “Ok, we’ve been strictly informed on what to do if this happens.”  We took a moment to gather some things that we would need in case we had a long stay at the hospital, but in the state of panic and tiredness, left all of them at home as we rushed out.  Forgetfulness is another thing we are accustomed to.

You know in the movies when a pregnant lady’s water breaks and then a man puts her in the car and drives like a maniac in an effort to rush the screaming pregnant lady to the hospital?  I got to be that man and Sam’s water had just broke.  We sped off with our powerful V4 engine and drove in the left hand lane down I-65.  Weeee!  I even had the opportunity to blatantly run a red light and I totally seized the moment and did it!  How thrilling!

The emergency room at Vanderbilt was flooded with all types of people and craziness.  Aghhhh!  We learned that Vanderbilt is the only level one trauma center in Middle Tennessee and provides trauma care for 65,000 square miles.  Total madness.  Fortunately, it is not safe for patients receiving chemotherapy to be among all the sick people and lunatics.  Because of Sam’s weak immune system, we didn’t have to wait long to get a room in the emergency department on the trauma floor.

This was Sam’s trauma room. After a while, we gave in to our temptation and started playing with some of the medical equipment.


They drew blood and got a urine sample from Sam.  A few hours later, we were informed that Sam’s neutrophil count was low.  This is called neutropenia.  A neutrophil is a type of white blood cell that fights off infections and diseases that enter the body.  The doctor told us that Sam must be admitted to the hospital.  The plan was:


  1. Find the source of infection that is causing the fever
  2. Treat the infection
  3. Boost Sam’s neutrophils
  4. Keep him fever-free for an extended period of time

Sam was put on IV antibiotics, pain medication, and a white blood cell booster for his neutropenia.



This was displayed on the outside of Sam's room.


What it really means:



The doctors and nurses kept telling us that they were doing everything they could to transport Sam into a positive pressure room on a different floor. Positive pressure areas are used in specific hospital rooms as a way to keep particle contamination from entering the room. The principle of positive pressure is to supply an area with enough clean, filtered air to keep contaminants from entering the room.  Unfortunately, Vanderbilt was overcrowded and didn’t even have a single bed available on another floor.  The trauma room became our home for the next 24 hours.  Luckily, a trauma room is a positive pressure room.

Throughout Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, the trauma floor was absolutely chaotic.  There was nonstop beeping and quite a bit of groans and screaming.  We never left the room.  On a happy note, a trauma nurse told us that Wednesday night was a successful night in all the cases they dealt with.

We entered the emergency room at 6:30 on Wednesday night and were moved to an isolated room on the general medical floor on Thursday around 8:00 pm.


Our new luxurious accommodations


Sam’s new room was located near the helicopter landing pad. Initially, we found this exhilarating. At 4:00 am, we both found it annoying.


On Thursday night, Sam’s neutrophil count shot up and his fever subsided.  Hallelujah!  Even though we were told on Friday morning that Sam would have to stay an additional day to be monitored, our oncologist called the hospital and told them to discharge Sam.  She did this based on the fact that his neutrophil trajectory was on the rise and she didn’t think he was at risk.  This came as a total shock to us.  Our oncologist deserves a major fist bump.  Around 3:00 on Friday afternoon, we were free!



Do they really have to enforce this policy? We made a break for it the second he was discharged.



Our celebratory discharge picture.

All of the doctors, nurses, and hospital staff were attentive and very personable.  It seems as if Sam had a textbook case of a netropenic fever and it just takes time to get a handle on the infection and boost his white blood cells.

Aside from the hospital drama and increasing Sam’s neotrophil count, our focus for the week was food.  It is important for Sam to eat as much as he can on his off weeks.  Despite the nasty hospital food, Sam was able to eat a lot this week.



Unidentified brown meat patty thingy.


Sam ate a variety of delicious foods throughout the week.


And was able to gain A LOT of weight!

Throughout the diagnoses, treatment, and this past week in particular, I am reminded of how brave and patient Sam is.  No matter how many times the doctors stick a needle in him and tell him about worrisome side effects, he remains calm, confident, and loving.  He’s always had a positive attitude and that attitude is what helps us react accordingly and gets us through each day smiling.

Thank you all for the thoughtful comments, emails, and phone calls.  All of the comments and thoughtfulness energize us both.

Our mission for this weekend:  Get Sam well enough to eat at a Japanese steakhouse.  Cross your fingers for the onion volcano!

As far as next week goes, Sam says he’s ready to go!


With love,



4 Responses to “An exciting off week!”

  1. 1 Jim Sobery June 4, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Combining humor with toughness is absolutely marvelous! Reading and seeing this well documented and photographed harrowing account of Sam and Leslie is the highlight of my day.

  2. 2 Kate June 4, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Sam, that weight gain looks great on you. Keep it going!

    Actually Uncle Jim is right; I read this like five times and it was the highlight of whatever time period you care to name. I’m so glad you guys are safe and home.

  3. 3 Therese June 4, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    Leslie and Sam – Whitney keeps me updated; the blog is incredible, but then, so are the two of you. And the blog is great; I’ve added it to my list of “must reads”. Hang tough – I think the two of you can take on anything and win. Therese

  4. 4 Bill June 5, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Ahh… the joys of the negative pressure room. Who’d have thought you would ever WANT to be in one right? I’ll add my “mee toooo” to the sentiment about the humor, patience and courage that was expressed above… You guys are to be admired. Thoughts and prayers with you both… for some rest… and a succesful trip to see the onion volcano! OH… and don’t forget to catch that flipped shrimp! .UB

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