I had a near-miss with being admitted into hospital again yesterday. I was having flu-like symptoms which can be a side effect of the immune system booster GCSF injections I’ve been prescribed. I took paracetamol to deal with the shivery feelings and it made me feel short of breath so I wanted to get an alternative painkiller. The problem is that once you call the hospital for anything during this critical time when you could become neutropenic, the observer effect kicks in. As with atoms that start behaving differently depending on how you’re watching them, the nurse starts to make you neutropenic with her questions. The next step is admission into A&E and pumped full of antibiotics, no sleep, constant observation. The whole process then has the added observer effect of making you feel much worse than you would have been at home and then there’s the risk of getting an infection while in hospital itself. I understand why they act this way, the stakes are high. If I did have an infection, it could polish me off in 24 hours. It’s all a tricky balance of costs and benefits and having all the information you need to make an informed choice.
Ironically the whole thing was made blurry by the fact that the GCSF injections have the same side effects as the symptoms of an infection would have. It’s all down to an immune system response rather than the actual effects that a virus or bacteria has. The fevery, chills, aches, fatigue are ways that my body is showing that the GCSF injections are working. Like the stereotype of a stoic Londoner during the Blitz, even the most compromised immune system can at least muster up a wee fever. My bones ache in the pelvis and lower back because that’s where my bone marrow is busily creating white blood cells. It feels how I imagine an astronaut would if suddenly they came down from the Moon’s low gravity to Earth’s. If I get up too fast, my bones are still on the sofa and there’s this strange moment of readjustment. But with pain. So it is very difficult to make the judgement call of whether it’s an deadly infection or just my body doing its thing. This time we made the right call.