Friday, August 16, 2013

18 Pills

My eyelids began to part, gradually letting in the Sedona afternoon sunlight from the windows of our hotel room.  I opened them and closed them, again and again, caught in the limbo of "I want to get up and get ready for our trip to the Grand Canyon" and "I want to stay here beside him with cool air from the fan washing over us."  We were already so behind schedule so I forced myself to continue blinking faster to convince my body that it was awake.

I started to get dressed in a new set of clothes, just right for a trip to the Grand Canyon's rim at sunset and for setting up camp at our site.   Ben's eyes began to flutter open too. We exchanged "Heys" and smiled at each other, knowing that we were behind schedule and that he needed to get moving too.  He moved towards the bathroom and I started to pack up what we needed.  

I ran through my checklist in my mind.  Tent--in the rental car.  Sleeping bags--in the rental car.  S'mores materials--picking up on the way.  I continued checking off items, deodorant, sunscreen, extra socks.  Then I started to pack up my pills for the overnight.  I grabbed each pill bottle, one by one I emptied out a batch of pills into my hand, and counted off the necessary amount to deposit into my pill box.  I picked up the bottle of Tacrolimus, one of the medicines I take to keep my body from rejecting my dad's kidney.  I need to take 12 of those pills a day, six in the morning and six at night.  I counted out enough to take before bed at the canyon, then enough to take in the morning before we hiked into the canyon.  But, something appeared to be off.  I counted out six more pills, enough to take the night that we returned from the canyon.  Then I realized, I was only able to count out two more pills.  I needed 18 more Tacrolimus pills in order to have enough for the remainder of my trip.

I felt a wave of disbelief wash over me.  I held the two pills in my hand, rubbing them between my fingers, trying to think of what I could have done wrong.    I closed my eyes and envisioned my black medicine tote bag, sitting at home on my bedroom floor, filled with 10 extra bottles of Tacrolimus. Dammit.  I rubbed the two pills in my hand again before thrusting them back into the bottle. 

My first airplane trip since the transplant, and I'd f*&cked up.

I didn't pack enough medicine.  

I just had a kidney transplant, I'm on the other side of the country, in a time zone three hours behind....and I didn't pack enough of the the most important medicine that I need to take. 

Ben emerged from the bathroom.  "I'm an idiot," I said.  "I don't have enough medicine."  Ben's face went blank.  He asked me if I was sure, and I said yes.  He stared up at the ceiling, trying to come up with a solution.  "Well...this isn't ideal...but it's ok.  Just call your transplant nurse to see if they can give you a short term supply."  

Despite him telling me this, and despite it being the most logical solution to our problem, I didn't want to do it.  All I could think about was how my dad gave me this precious gift of life, and how in a matter of days I could be back where I was three months ago--sick, no kidney function, waiting for a transplant, and on dialysis.  I was so scared at the thought of this, that I felt like I was going to throw up.  

Ben tried to snap me out of it.  Reminding me that I still had enough for our road trip and that I could call the coordinator on the way to the Grand Canyon or when we returned.  So we loaded our stuff into the rental car and set out on a two our trip to the national park.  We were taking pictures, laughing, listening to music, recording stuff.  Having a great time.  Then I'd pause and say, "I'm so dumb. I can't believe I did this."  

"Why don't you call your nurse now?  That might make you feel better," Ben offered. I didn't really want to call my nurse.  Not because I didn't want medicine, but because I didn't want to feel more incompetent than I felt at that moment.  But I had to face it--I was stupid for not packing enough medicine. I should have counted out the pills ahead of time, instead of just grabbing a random bottle and stuffing it into my carry-on.  I should have been more responsible. I should have planned ahead.  

I shouldn't have been so f*%king DUMB.

My phone rang.  "Yes, this is Jewel," I answered. It was the on-call nurse.  "Um yeah, I am on vacation....and....I don't have enough Tacrolimus.  I have enough through Sunday night, but I don't have enough for Tuesday.  We're going home on Tuesday.  Where am I?  Ummm...I'm in Arizona.  But we're going home on Tuesday!"  I knew she'd probably dealt with this a ton of times--patients forgetting their medicine--but I still felt judged. It was mostly me judging myself.  And I needed it.  Sometimes we need a good dose of self judgement to keep us from making the same mistake over and over again.

I hung up the phone.  "Well, she's going to refill it,"  I said.  Ben nodded.  "Good," he said, and he grabbed my hand.  "Now, can we go back to enjoying our honeymoon?"

"Sure."  I smiled, Ben kept driving.  We were an hour away from the Grand Canyon, and I felt relieved and grateful.