About My Recent Hospital Stay—2: Saturday, December 2

Doctors began arriving late Saturday morning. The attending introduced himself. We discussed what the problem could be and the procedures he wished me to undergo. The immediate problem was that my hemoglobin count was down to 3.8 g/dL. For men, it should be at 13 or 14. If it could be raised to 7 or 8, that would be acceptable. But at 3.8, I was essentially dying and had been suffocating for weeks. (A friend, also a medical editor, told me later that she entered the 3.8 measurement into an online query: Can someone live with a hemoglobin count of 3.8? The answer was, Possibly.)

The pulmonologist came in and we had a pleasant visit; he, too, at one time had considered a scholarly life in medieval studies, as I had back in the seventies. He ran down some facts and told me that I’d also be seeing the cardiac doctor. Indeed, he appeared shortly and ordered me to be given Lasix (furosemide), a diuretic. I was edematous as well as anemic. Clearly he was concerned about fluid buildup around the heart; I could certainly be a candidate for congestive heart failure.

Within 10 minutes of taking the Lasix pill, I began to let the water loose. This went on for more than 24 hours, gradually lessening, until (after having unintentionally made a couple of wet messes in my bed and learning what a condom catheter is) the total amount of fluid I expelled was 7 liters—almost 2 gallons.

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