Ready – Set – Go. Denmark, here i come!

Stanford Interventional Radiology
Friday, October 2nd in the morning at 7 am I went to the Interventional Radiology department at Stanford Hospital, CA. Jenny, a mom from my kids middle school and now from my Facebook Support list had offered to drive. The purpose was to check the drain in my Anastomosis (Joint between colon and rectum), to see if it could be removed, or at least if the drain is in the correct position.

A doctor starts interviewing me in the prep room. I explain to him that my main objective is to travel to Denmark and continue my care in the danish health care system. I also tell him that the daily drainage is 26ml, and we agree that this is still pretty high. He promises to be back after a meeting with his colleagues and comes back an hour later. They think the safest thing is to leave the drain where it is and give me permission to fly.

He also up’s my medical painkiller prescription quite a bit, since I can barely stand for 5 minutes without excruciating pain.

At around 9 am, I leave the department with two new prescriptions and a letter to the airport officials that tells them I have drain and pain, and to leave me alone with it.

I am very relieved that I after having been hospitalized on and off since September 16th, now am formally allowed to travel to Denmark.

The same afternoon I have Scott help me drive around to Los Gatos, Mountain View, and Campbell to pick up medical records that I already way in advance have ordered from my doctors.

Airline Booking – Packing 
Friday night, I go through the airline booking websites as usual to try to find a good deal for my flight to Denmark. While being on at around 8 pm, I make a mistake, and suddenly, I have booked a flight for Saturday afternoon going directly to Copenhagen from SFO. I am affected by the new dose of Oxycontin that the doctor just prescribed me this morning. I am also quite shocked by the fact that I just spend $2K for a ticket leaving in the afternoon, the day after.

I still have a car to sell, and suitcases to pack. I just sit on the couch and wonder if this is even feasible. Five minutes later I have made up my mind. I am traveling in 21 hours. The clock is ticking. This is awesome! I can get to Denmark so fast that barely anything medical can go wrong, and realistically, I can get hospitalized Sunday morning PST, in Denmark, if need be.

I start packing, I have little energy, so I have to be efficient, I can only be up for around 30 minutes before I am exhausted and feel too much pain. I have to rest for the remainder of the evening, so I join Wes and Scott, and we watch a movie together.

Selling the car in time to leave for SFO
I go to bed early and rise at 5:30 am. At 6:45 am I text Scott and ask him if we can go to the car wash right now. He is awake, and we take off 5 minutes later. At 8 am we are back from the best car wash in town, and I rush to take photos of the car. at 8.15 am I have my first ad launched on, and over the next hour, I just sit and enhance it I think I update it 20 times. It is now 9:30 am, and we have to leave for SFO at 2:30 pm. I have 5 hours left to sell the car, pack, and just make myself ready to leave the house.

At 2 pm, I am done with packing. I have made several more revisions to the ad for the car, and I have two potential customers on their way, but so far nobody has even seen the car. The current ad says $1,400 for the car, down from originally $1,800.

The first customer arrives, we can hear their excitement already when I am on my way out to them on the street. It is a father and his son. I am now exhausted, and I am in pain. I just ask for a drivers license, I take a photo and tell them that I am too sick to participate in the test ride. I give them the key and ask them to make it quick, and they are on their own.

Ten minutes later they are back. They are ready to buy. I am too tired to deal even with the title and ownership change, so I ask Wes if he can help. He does, and a bit later I am called into the other room to sign. It turns out they have the version of the ad where the price is $1,650, and this price is already on the title. I am happy, I sign, get the money and we are ready to go.

Back to the hospital!
There is another problem, though. I am out of the syringes that I use to flush my drain. We check Google, and the only thing that comes up is, no CVS, no Walgreens. We know we are out of time, and we need to go to SFO ASAP. The solution has to be something we can do on our way. I make a quick decision to go back to the hospital. My thought is that there will be someone that I know that will be able to help me. We go to 300 Pasteur Drive in Palo Alto. I rush up to Unit C2 and over to the nurses desk. I explain my problem, and just as I am doing it, a head nurse comes by and recognizes me. She tells the lady at the desk that she will take care of me, and we agree on 20 syringes. This way, I will have enough for a weeks use. I thank her and quickly run down to Wes that is keeping the car running at the main entrance, and we continue to SFO.

At SFO Wes takes my suitcases, and I roll my carry-on, up and over to the check-in. It is not very far, but it is already very clear to me that I can not walk on my own through security and out to the plane. The lady at check-in is very sweet, and after paying her $100 for overweight charges for my two suitcases she calls for a wheelchair for me. I sit down and rest, and wait for the wheelchair. After 15 minutes, the wheelchair is there for me. I tell Wes goodbye, and I am off. Security is a snap. I have CLEAR, and also a letter that instructs security not to search me because of the drain. I buy a sandwich, yogurt, apple, and water. (did not eat since 5 am), and I am dropped off at the gate 1 hour before the plane is scheduled to take off.

11 hours in a plane
When boarding I am among the first to enter. I ask the flight attendant politely if she can lift my carryon up for me. She helps me, and we have a 5 minutes talk about cancer and life. She is very sweet and lets me know that she will be of help if needed.

I sit down and develop a system where I will be sitting pretty upright, but with a few blankets under my legs on the chair. This way, my butt is almost hovering. It seems to work. And once the plane is in the air, I walk back to the passenger behind me and explain to him that I just had surgery. I tell him that on this trip, I will have to sit with the seat laid down as much as possible during the entire 11-hour flight. He is a big guy and does not look overjoyed, but he tells me he understands. I thank him and go back.

The 11 hours go by quick, and before I know it, I am in a wheelchair at Copenhagen Airport. I have the wheelchair lady take me to the taxi’s and ask the driver to take me to my wife’s house, where I am about to move in.

Putting Trine On
My wife Trine has no clue that I am on my way; I call her from a third party phone provider. She picks up and notices that the phone acts differently. I tell her a lie, telling her that my cell was out of minutes, so I had to use a different service. For the next 15 minutes, I keep having her convinced that I am just up very early in California (4 am), and that I just needed to talk. I have the driver pull up at her backyard (while I am on mute, faking phone trouble).

Kim: By the way, I have another birthday present for you.

Trine: What? 

Kim: Yes, I have had the children put it in the backyard.

Trine immediately looks out the living room window. I see her and start waving to her and immediately we are both in tears. Chaos breaks loose, Trine shouts to the kids, to come down. I ask her for danish kroner to tip the driver, and after a while we have my suitcases and carry on in the living room. I am lying on the couch, and the love in the room is just mesmerizing. We are all completely overwhelmed.

We don’t have to talk, we all know it. The wait is over. Kim finally came home. The hospitalization can continue in Denmark. We are all together again, and will be for a while. Life gave us a hand.

Danish resident
Trine takes the next day off from work, and early next morning we rush to the city hall to register me as a danish resident. I am back after 14 years. Not with only one foot inside the door. No, for real. This time, it is for real.