In Sickness and In Health

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Sometimes I think it was just a bad dream…and then I look at my bruises from all the IV bags and needle draws and the rashes from the tape and I am reminded it is not a dream but my nightmare again.   C-Diff – Clostridium difficile has chased me for the past five years on and off, but I won again, it was a hard fought win, but a win!  I still can’t believe I didn’t know how sick I was, I actually went to work Monday, but it was soon obvious I could not stay… I left work at 11:30, contacted my GI Doctor and was sent to ER where I was promptly placed on IV fluids, in isolation by 12:30 pm the same day.  I stayed in the ER for the next 9 hours consuming 3-4 bags of much needed fluids as I continued to literally run to the bathroom in excess of 30 times over the course of the day.  I was lucky though, I had a hazmat room, but no connecting bathroom so they had to quarantine the common one for me, much to the condescending looks from the pregnant woman in the next cubby.  There were patients lined up in the halls, bleeding, handcuffed, high, MVA accidents, etc.  I was too tired and sick to be scared yet.  We were told I would be spending some time at the hospital but were waiting on a bed, that is when the reality of the situation started to sink in.  I did pack a small bag with a nightshirt, a book and my phone figuring a night of fluids was all I would need – wrong.  The hospital became my home for the next week.  We got word around 5:00pm that a bed was available and were just waiting for transport – there are two campus’ at this hospital and I was to be transferred to the other.  It would be 5 hours before I was actually transferred!  I really don’t know how we passed the time, did I mention it was also my 30th wedding anniversary!  Not exactly how we planned on spending it, but why should it be any different than the way we spent our 25th.  And they said it wouldn’t last – LOL.  My stay was not under pleasant circumstances, but the nurses made it so much better than it could have been… they pampered me even though I tried not to bother them… they listened to me… they encouraged me to have my pity party, that I had earned that right.  I don’t really like to complain, lets be honest, C-diff is horrible and lonely and degrading, but I was going to get better eventually.  I think about the kids with cancer that are so young and scared….. and also I think about the Parklands, the Sandy Hook… the list goes on and on.  When you are alone and miserable, all you have is your thoughts. Later comes the guilt for feeling sorry for myself.  But those nurses would not let me feel guilty, they picked me up when I needed it most, so I had my pity party and then moved on ready to fight the fight again!  They kept commenting on how my attitude was so good and upbeat for someone so sick… I didn’t feel that way, but I am glad I projected that.  You see, I felt like a burden to everyone, my family, my friends, my doctors, my co-workers and yes even those incredible nurses.  In my circle of friends and family, I don’t know anyone that has had the health issues that have plagued me over the years from a non terminal disease.  It seems I always have something… I often wonder if people think I am faking or exaggerating…I mean I know I am not, but it’s hard not to wonder what people think.  Being sick is lonely, you don’t want to burden people, but you want to be heard and understood, its’ a vicious cycle.  Sometimes I wonder if I am being punished.  I grew up with a very sick mother, my mother’s illness was always in her head, they were not physical ailments that you could see… she was manic and bi-polar.  I didn’t understand this as a kid or even as an adult if I am being honest, and I certainly did not feel empathy, I felt cheated.  So as I sit here recovering again, I have to wonder if this is some type of karma for not seeming to care when I was younger.

Road to Recovery

I have spent the last couple of days trying to figure out what to write next.. the memories are both vivid and blurry, do I really need to do this??  I want to leave it in the past but I have this unexpected urge to put it all in print, so here goes!

I remember being in the hospital, I remember lots of intense pain, I was forbidden to get out of bed without a nurse or an aide – I also remember that most of my nurses were all   pregnant and I didn’t want them to help me out of bed because I was worried about their babies! (I was in the hospital so long most of my nurses had their babies before I went home)   I remember this intense feeling of shame of not being able to attend to my most basic needs, I think one of the most demoralizing things of being in the hospital is someone wiping your *ss for you… how do you make eye contact after that??  If I had a male aide, I would hold out until the shift change.  I remember thinking what if I never walk again and what if people have to take care of me like this forever??  It made me feel in awe of people that are confined to wheel chairs and others who live with limitations and this terrified me too… which brought on my guilt again, it was a vicious cycle of hopelessness, frustration, suffering and pain.

So now that we know we are dealing with osteomyelitis we know I need a powerful antibiotic to fight it.  The last surgery was called a debridement – an infection of the surrounding tissues and organs of my spinal column, the infection was pretty widespread by the time they found it.  My “band-aid surgery” was now a raging infection with a dozen staples and a drain and a lovely PICC line installed in my right arm so the drugs can go directly into my blood stream to fight this monster of an infection.  Well at least I will get better now right???  The Doctors didn’t know at the time, but it was only the beginning of my little piece of hell.  I was informed that due to the care I needed I would be transferred to a rehab hospital where I could get stronger and receive physical therapy to regain my strength and balance.  I strongly felt something was wrong but nobody would listen to me, they just kept pushing pills and sent me on my way.  The first thing I remember about the rehab facility was it was HOT, I’m talking blisteringly hot, at the time we were going through a horrible heatwave where it had been over 100 degrees and humid for several days.  They put me in a room with several people and I could not breathe, the AC had gone out and it was stifling.  My pain was getting worse, everything was blurry and I could not move… I must have called my husband, I don’t remember much during this time, but I remember my husband’s parents coming in with a fan to cool me off…. I was burning up and I kept telling them something was wrong… My husband came by after work… not sure how I was moved or how many days went by, could be 1 or 3, but I was moved to a room with AC and he demanded a nurse take my temperature… I was 102.9 and we were informed they would not call a doctor until I was over 103!!  I was writing in pain and begging for someone to help me, my arm was red where the PICC line was and I was scared I was going to die there.  The nurse informed my husband she would page a doctor… he decided to go the nurses station and stayed there with his arms crossed until someone came in… now my husband can be an intimidating person when he is determined, for this I will be forever grateful, if he had not done this my story could have had a very different ending….Within 10 minutes a doctor was there.   That action literally saved my life.

The next few hours are a blur and most of this was retold to me by my husband and friends…. I know I was transported by ambulance back to the hospital, the PICC line threw a blood clot and was also infected!  Even as I am writing this my breathing is rapid and I feel very anxious….   After removing the infected line I had to wait for what seemed like forever for someone to come back in… My friend and her family were in the ER, her mother had fallen, and they saw my husband in the waiting room, they say they came in to see me, I don’t remember…. I remember being told I was being sent back to rehab facility and I flat out refused, begging them to readmit me here or they would kill me there!  Then I was alone for a long time, they had sent my husband home to get some rest telling him I would be moved to a room soon. In the confusion somehow they had mistakenly put on my chart that I had been sent back to Rehab… I was utterly alone… the room was dark, I was ringing the nurse button because I was in so much pain and I also had to go to the bathroom, I was still restrained to the gurney… it was that nightmare all over again… I was screaming but nobody could hear me…I don’t know how long I cried and yelled, it felt like hours, it could have been minutes I really don’t know.  Finally, by the grace of God, a nurse came by to clean the room and found me still in there… she was frantic, explaining to me she didn’t know I was there… I think I passed out after this, I really can’t be sure…

Osteomyelitis, Staph Infection In Spine

 

Have you ever had a nightmare, where you are scared and trying to scream to people so they can save you but you can’t get the words out or be heard… you wake up in a cold sweat and out of breath?  That’s what the next hospital stay felt like every day.  I was trapped in a shell of pain,  I couldn’t get out and no-one seemed to be able to get to me and make it stop.  Even as I type this the details are blurry at best, I remember Doctors and nurses and blood draws and confusion of what to do with me.  I remember morphine and IV bags… I remember the look on my husbands face of helplessness and frustration.  I remember many of the ER doctors remembering me because we had spent so many visits to the ER together… oddly, this comforted me, they genuinely seemed concerned for me but also baffled by what was causing me such pain….. blood counts starting coming in, something was very wrong, my white cells where off the charts, so at least they at least knew they were fighting infection, but how to fight it?  I was awaiting a CT SCAN aspiration – this involves inserting a large needle into the spinal column to drain fluid and determine what bacteria is causing infection so it can be eradicated.  I remember being awake, which was explained to me that I had to be able to tell them if something causes pain or other sensations, there is some sedation but you are aware of what is going on.  I remember lots of pressure and praying it would be over soon.  Sadly it was over soon, my spinal fluid was filled with blood and pus… I was being told I had to go into emergency surgery.  To back up a bit, my husband was not with me as I was admitted during the night and it was a weekend so my test was going to be some time the  next day, we didn’t know when and there was no time to let him know I guess.  So back to surgery, I was unable to give consent as I had been midly sedated for CT SCAN, I remember a sense of urgency to get my husband to the hospital to give consent as it  could not be done over phone, I remember crying and thinking I would never see him or my children again and I needed to tell them I loved them one last time….I was lying on the gurney on the way to surgery and I still didn’t know exactly what whas happening, it was like watching a movie in slow-motion accept I was the main character.  I can’t really write about what happens next in order as I don’t have real memories or they are so fragmented I can’t be sure what is real and what was dreamt…I have to think about how to continue my journey, I’m not sure I can relive this part yet, reliving this is harder than I thought and I am in such a good place now, but I feel like I need to put it in print to leave it behind??