Posted by: donrhymer | April 18, 2012

And Then Today Happened…

“Breathe! Look at me! Just Breathe!” I tried but there was no air. No matter how deep into my lungs I went, I couldn’t find even the smallest pocket of air. It was like dragging a bucket through a dry well. There was nothing but sand.

I looked to the nurses on my left who all huddled around my IV, as they pushed syringes of adrenaline and Benadryl into me. Watching for any sign of reaction, praying they would get one.  

The day had started normally. Since I was going to be stuck there for five or six hours they put me in one of the beds in the back of the Day Hospital at USC. Parked me right next to the one of those old guys who thinks he’s still doing Vaudeville at the Copa.

“Nurse, you got a husband? No? You want one?”

This went on all day.

“Blood transfusion? Only if it comes in a martini glass. Three olives.”

His banter was only broken up by constant naps and periodically waking to bellow that he needed his “damn pee bottle.” Yeah, day couldn’t get any worse, right?

After two or three hours of IV fluids, and anti-nausea drugs, antibiotics and then more anti-nausea drugs, it was time for the nasty stuff.

The first chemo drug was one I was very familiar with; they put it on a slow drip for a couple of hours, no sweat. I read a magazine, drank some juice, cranberry by the way… with ice. I sipped from a straw careful not to spill because everybody knows cranberry is a bitch to get out of a white t-shirt. Kate came back from getting some lunch. We talked, I said something incredibly witty, I do that a lot. She rolled her eyes, she does that a lot and suddenly… someone kicked me in the stomach.

I turned to the nurse and asked if she just started a new drug. Her finger was still on the button. “Yes, but there’s no way you would feel that yet.” My chest tightened, I started to black out, I found myself immediately gasping for breath.

“Wait.” I managed to get out. “Something is wrong.”

I was having a severe allergic reaction to the drug. She shut it off immediately. As I turned bright red, Kate jumped over and grabbed my hand. Told me not to panic. Somebody called for a Doctor. Over Kate’s shoulder I saw all three nurses run over to the drug locker.  I heard one of them ask for the emergency code to open all the drawers. One of the other nurses took control and calmly typed in her code, grabbed what they needed and headed back to the IV stand and started calling out the drugs as they pushed them in.

I knew this was bad and that I was in real trouble. My chest was killing me, my windpipe was closing and everything was going black.

“Breathe. Look at me. Just breathe.”

Slowly the drugs kicked in, the air came back and the world stopped spinning. The nurses had acted fast and probably saved my life. My wife had somehow set aside her own overwhelming fear to keep me from panicking, knowing it would only make an already bad situation so very much worse.

It was all over in minutes. I started to shake, my wife hugged me and then I heard Vaudeville in the bed next to me…. Snoring. The man had slept through my entire near death experience.

He woke up a few minutes later and called for his pee bottle. I couldn’t help but laugh.



  1. Wow Don! Too close for comfort there. We need you to stick around with your sense of wit and humor, not to mention the fact you are well loved by many. Hang in there.
    Barbara Svagr

  2. There’s got to be a movie script coming out of all of this.

  3. A day beyond belief. So sorry. Tomorrow has to be better…I hope. Xo.

  4. Your blog IS a movie script, and you decided it was time for an action scene. Wrong. You misjudged your audience. We’re the kind who wouldn’t complain if the movie got slow and drawn-out. In fact, we’d like that. We’re sophisticated that way. We notice the little things. A long, lazy afternoon. A walk on the beach. A leisurely dinner with family. So how about writing some of those scenes for a while. I promise we won’t mind. We might even demand a sequel.

  5. Oh my Gosh Don! That was REALLY scary!!! But, I was laughing by the end. I have signed up for your blogs and am happy to follow your funny stories, but sad that you and your wonderful family are still fighting this. I am so glad you have kept your delightful personality through your fight, y’all are in our prayers….
    Vance and Fancy Meredith

  6. I’m not a doctor but are you sure you weren’t having an allergic reaction to the idiot doing bad comedy next to you?

  7. Don’t walk towards the light and don’t talk to the Ghost Whisperer!

  8. I thank God that the nurses were who they are, where they were, that you spoke up right away and that Kate remains your go-to-advocate through all of this. You continue to inspire me, Don Rhymer.

  9. When I read your text, all I could think is “are you shittin’ me?” – but you are not…you couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried. Well, you probably could, you are so creative. Once again, I am humbled by your strength and humor and proud that you are my brother…constantly thinking and praying for you and my wonderful family.

  10. Don — this anecdote defines “perspective”. Suddenly the 9 weeks of chemo does not seem so bad (provided) they don’t inject something else you are allergic to. Hang on in there and just to be safe, avoid peanut therapy.

  11. I guess this falls into the category of any today where there gets to be a tomorrow isn’t as bad as it could be…. Or something like that. I’m so sorry the two of you had to go through that. Ugh. Perhaps your oncologist does hate you.

  12. OMG! I can’t believe your nurse told you that you couldn’t possibly be feeling it yet. Don’t you love it when medical personnel invalidate your experiences! I am so proud of Kate’s response. A lot of people would have just fainted or started screaming – both of which are understandable but not helpful. So glad they were able to stop it. I am SO SORRY that you all are having to deal with any of this. All my love and prayers to you and Kate and your children. From your college friend who happens to be a nurse, Carol O

  13. Been there.
    I’m very glad you skipped the blue light special i endured.

  14. Hey Don. Wow man! That was scary. Prayin for ya!

    George Landes

  15. My doctor told me years ago that I have allergies. Other than poison ivy, I can’t seem to figure out what is I’m allergic to, not even DC’s pollen fest aka. Spring has any effect on me. Maybe I should try that stuff………..on second thought maybe not, I’ll take you word for it, you always seemed like a decent guy.
    Jim Hamm
    (“because just saying Jim isn’t long enough” or so I have been told by some funny guy)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: