Flashback: Oh Hai, I Almost Dide!

February 13, 2013 at 8:26 pm (Uncategorized)

5 years ago this week, the dashing Mr. Death took me for a spin around the dance floor. He kissed my cheek, but decided not to walk me home just yet. Here’s what I wrote about it after I got home from the hospital…

Oh hai, I almost dide.

Okay that might be a slight exaggeration. But I was Real Freakin Sick for awhile there.

I came down with the flu on Sunday, Feb. 10th, 2008. Orion already had it. Fenris got it the next day. It was some evil stuff, with chills, high fever, and that delightful feature known as “cough till you barf.” Seriously nasty, but I had no idea how nasty it was gonna get.

A couple of days later, Fenris and Orion were bouncing back. I wasn’t. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, I started throwing up without a break. I couldn’t keep anything down, not even water or Sprite. That was, in fact, the day that my mom went in for her cataract surgery. She took a cab and did great. I had the same surgery about 15 years ago, and they’ve improved on it a great deal in just that short time. Anyway. Mom was fine. I on the other hand was a mess. Daniel bundled up me and the kids and took us to the Swedish emergency room that opened last year in Issaquah.

They put two liters of fluids into me, and pumped me full of anti-barf medication. They x-rayed my chest, which is where I’m kind of baffled, because evidently they didn’t see anything in my lungs. Once I was stabilized, they sent me home, where I expected to make a quiet recovery.

Not so much. I maintained, barely keeping from yakking, for almost 24 hours. In pain and hideously uncomfortable the whole time. Finally I fell apart again, on the afternoon of Valentine’s day. This time my mom came over to watch the kids. Once again, they pumped me full of fluids. Four liters this time, altogether. They gave me one kind of anti-barf medicine, and it didn’t work. They ran another one through my IV, and I stopped barfing for about 10 minutes. Then the nurse came around and started trying to stuff me into my clothes, so I could go home.

I was horrified. The doctor had told me earlier that they would probably admit me into the hospital. I felt like I NEEDED to go to the hospital. I’d never been that sick in my life, I was in huge amounts of pain from my chest and head, and I just felt like there was something badly wrong with me. I asked to see the doctor again before they kicked my ass out the door.

He was a nice, friendly fellow who seemed quite sympathetic to my plight, at first. But when I asked him “Aren’t you going to admit me to the hospital?” He smiled sadly and said that since I was no longer “presenting symptoms” (I guess that meant barfing myself inside-out) that it would be a “difficult sell” to get me into the hospital.

It took a minute for that one to sink in. I realized he was talking insurance. Now that I was semi-stabilized, he didn’t think he had a good enough excuse to admit me.

At this point, I kinda lost it. I would have started crying, but even with four liters of fluids in me, I didn’t have enough spare liquid. Nothing came out of my eyes, they just burned and got hot as I utterly humiliated myself by begging the doctor not to send me home. The last two times I’d fallen apart had each been more painful and awful than the last. I told the doctor I wasn’t a wimp–I had both my kids without medication. I told him it really, REALLY hurt. I told him I didn’t think I could go through that process one more time. I told him I thought–no, KNEW, that there was something really badly wrong with me.

He sent me home anyway. Although he did say that if I fell apart again, he’d try his best to help me get admitted quickly.

I wanted to kill him at the moment, but I was too weak and wimpy.

A few short hours later, I was “presenting symptoms” uncontrollably, every five to ten minutes or so. My brain felt like it had been replaced with a hot, heavy stone. Every time I coughed or threw up, my head pounded with sickening pain. I hadn’t slept in about two days, so I was actually yawning while trying to barf. (A disgusting endeavor. I don’t recommend it.) I felt like somebody had beaten me in the ribs, chest and back, from all the barfing and coughing. It hurt just to breathe. Daniel scraped me up and poured me into the car, and we went to Overlake Hospital.

It took almost an hour for me to get a bed in the ER. They were hopping, for a Friday morning about 1AM. I sat drooped over in a wheelchair, a barf baggie that resembled a female condom for a rhino clutched in my clammy paws.

They finally got me into a bed, where I grabbed the nearest nurselike person and asked if they could give me some fluids. My head felt like it was caving in from dehydration. Nope, not until I saw the doctor. A little while later a doctor buzzed by, and sent me for chest x-rays. These were handled entirely differently than they had been at the ER. Different equipment, I guess, but they also pressed me up against the machine way more than they did in Issaquah. I was a good six inches away from the plate there. Anyway, that was hard because I was having a tough time standing up, but they gave me bars to hang onto and got me back to my ER room quickly. Just a few minutes later, the doctor came by and told me that I had double pneumonia. My left side was worse than my right, but neither one was good.

They took some blood, and hooked me up to fluids (yay). They came back shortly to say that I was too low on potassium, phosphorus, and iron, and they started running potassium into my IV. (I actually had two IVs, one in the bend of my left arm, and one in my left wrist.) Weirdly enough, potassium hurt like hell going in. Not that I noticed that much–everything else hurt more. Soon I was connected up to three different IV lines, a heart monitor, a blood pressure cuff, a blood gas reading thingy, and oxygen. Daniel said I looked like a bug caught in a spider’s web. At some point, they ran some painkillers through my IV, so I didn’t give a crap what I looked like.

I spent the morning in an ER room while they were waiting to discharge somebody. Then in the early afternoon, they moved me up to the fourth floor of the main hospital. I was hooked up to my web of IVs and I had an oxygen tube going up my nose, but I was so much more comfortable I thought I was in heaven. For the first time in two days, I slept.

In the next exciting episode–Lorelei gets a roommate! Stay tuned!

Oh hai, I almost dide part 2!

When we left our intrepid heroine (me) I had been admitted to Overlake Hospital, and put into a 4th floor room. It was a double room, but I was the only person in it. They parked me by the window (nice eastern exposure) and I promptly fell asleep.

A couple of hours later, some nurses came up and started prepping the bed next to mine. “You’re getting a roommate!” said one cheerfully. “Yep, a little roommate,” said the other.

Little? A kid? I thought that kids were usually in their own wing of the hospital. Not that I minded, I love kids. They pulled the curtain between the beds when they started to move my roommate in. Said roommate was making some of the weirdest nonverbal noises I had ever heard in my life. Sight unseen, my best guess was a profoundly retarded adolescent boy. That was okay too, I get along famously with the retarded. (Oh shut up. Or go ahead and say it if it makes you feel better. But I generally find mentally handicapped people to be honest, straightforward, and much sweeter-natured than the average bear. Except for our then-president.)

I was mightily surprised when the nurses pulled the curtain back, and I found myself looking at a little old lady. I found out later, from the nurses and from her three sons and two daughters who came to visit, that her name was Louella. She was in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s. Her mind was like that of a baby. She could string two, sometimes three words together, but most of the time she just vocalized. It was a lot like listening to a regular baby, except for the strange quality of her voice. Poor Louella wasn’t feeling well at all. Her nursing home had sent her to the hospital with what they thought was a urinary infection. It turned out to be that, plus an appendix that was about to burst. But even so, she griped a lot less than the woman in the room next to me, whom I could hear constantly bitching at the hospital staff, right through the wall.

I want to say something here about people in the medical profession. They absolutely amaze me. Everybody took such good care of me. Of all the nurses, nurses’ aides, phlebotomists, doctors, and orderlies I encountered over five days, only one was mean to me. (And hey, there’s a bee-yoch in every crowd, I guess.) Everyone was kind, helpful, and somehow managed to not act disgusted when I was awash in one repulsive bodily fluid or another. (Coughing up blood was a highlight.) Okay, you could say it’s their job and they’re getting paid for it, but dude, you couldn’t pay me enough to deal with icky sick people like me. Those folks must have a true calling, and my hat’s off to them.

Okay, back to Louella. She was mostly in her own little world, but once in awhile she would look over and catch my eye. I’d smile at her, and her eyes would crinkle up with happiness. Having her next to me made me feel better, even when she sang at 2AM. Hell, I wasn’t getting solid sleep anyway. For some reason, the hospital picks the middle of the night to do stuff like taking your vital signs and sucking out your blood.

So Louella went for her surgery late that afternoon. I worried about her, and I was very happy when she came back. She was in a much better mood (probably full of painkillers) when she came back. Once she was fully awake, the aforementioned singing began. Sometimes it was tuneless baby songs, but sometimes she’d sing snatches of lullabies and other melodies I recognized. Listening to her sing “Daisy” was particularly surreal.

I spent my first night in the hospital. I had to learn the fine art of going to the bathroom pulling my IV tree with me. This involved unplugging the two IV pumps that were running at all times, tucking in the cords so I wouldn’t trip over them, using the IV tree as a walker (because I couldn’t hold myself up very well) and then trying desperately not to bend my left arm while using the toilet, because if I did, the IV pump would start beeping an incredibly loud alarm. Then I had to toddle back and plug everything back in, and try to get into a vaguely comfortable position despite having three different fluids pouring into my arm. But I managed, and even managed to grab some sleep here and there.

In the next exciting installment–Lorelei gets tossed into isolation!

Oh hai, I almost dide part 3!

Day 2 in the hospital started out uneventfully, other than the fact that the sun blasted in through my window from 8AM to almost noon. I’m never a huge fan of direct sunlight, and I was still in the “light hurts my eyes” phase, so I spent much of the morning lying on my right side facing away from the window.

I was doing much better than I had been at home, but I was still very uncomfortable, and in a lot of pain. My eyes hurt. My skin hurt if I touched anything. My chest, neck and back hurt from all the coughing and barfing. And my head hurt almost constantly. I rapidly became a Dilauded junkie. WELL not literally, but every four hours or so I’d start to get so miserable that I really needed some relief. The rule was I had to ask for pain medicine when I needed it, so ask I did. It went like this. They’d dump anti-nausea medicine into my IV, and wait about five minutes. That stuff burned like heck going in, but I didn’t care. I was gonna feel better soon! Yay! About five minutes later, they’d put in the Dilaudid.

The initial rush I’d get from it was NOT at all pleasant. There was a flash of nausea, then my face and chest would flush. My heart would pound for a minute or two, then cool relief would wash over me. I’d feel suddenly sleepy, and for a little while, nothing hurt. I’d usually fall asleep for an hour or so. It was fairly pathetic, how much I looked forward to that.

The day went by. Daniel and my mom both came to visit me. Daniel was amazed that I hadn’t been reading, or watching TV, or doing anything at all. The truth was, I just didn’t feel up to it. My eyes hurt too much to stare at anything like a book or a screen. And when I was awake, I was just kind of lying there, thinking about things. I wasn’t bored–I guess I felt too crappy to be bored. But I sure wasn’t doing much.

Late the next morning, my mom came by to visit again. She bustled around taking care of things, as she is wont to do. She went out into the hall and asked the nurses if I could have another garbage bag and some more water. I hear the reply: In just a minute. We’re about to move your daughter.

Aroo?

The nurse and the nurse’s aide come in, wearing yellow gowns and blue masks on their faces. They smack a mask onto my face, and start preparing the bed to move.

“Eh, where are we going?” I ask.

“We have to move you to isolation,” says one of the nurses. “We found mursa in your lungs.”

“Ack! What’s a mursa?”

“Em Arr Ess Ay. It stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.”

“AAAACK! That sounds bad!”

“Well,” said the nurse, gazing at me over her mask, “It’s not good.” They parked me in a teeny-tiny private room. The garbage under the sink had a bright red bag in it that said BIOHAZARD.

“Shit!” says I. “Am I gonna die?”

The nurse smiled at me reassuringly, and said the doctor would be in to see me soon.

I was not reassured.

So my mom and I sat around and fretted for awhile. She was under the impression that I was not going to die. But she might have just been saying that. After awhile, my very young and adorable doctor came in to see me.

“This is no big deal,” he told me. “Lots of people carry MRSA. We just have to be extra-careful about it in the hospital. You’re going to be fine.”

“Oh. Good. Am I going to infect my family?”

“No. Just make sure they’re wearing a mask if they’re closer to you than three feet away.”

“But this is no big deal?”

“Probably not.”

“Probably or definitely?”

“Probably. Almost certainly.”

I was only partly reassured.

My mom left, and I dozed off. I woke up later to a big yellow pain doctor hovering over me. “Yi!” I squeaked. But it was only Daniel, in his springy yellow gown and mask. In typical Daniel fashion, he had researched MRSA online thoroughly before coming to see me. He also told me that MRSA was in the environment in general, and it’s only a problem if it gets into your body through an incision, or you get an actual infection with it. “You’re not infected,” he told me cheerfully. “The doctor says you’re just colonized.”

COLONIZED! EW!

The general consensus seemed to be that MRSA was everywhere. Even in dog noses. The hospital just had to be extra careful because of all the incised and immune-suppressed patients. That made me feel better, except every time I glanced at the big old Biohazard symbol on my garbage can, I got a little creeped out. But eventually they hit me with some more Dilaudid, and I went to sleep.

In the next exciting episode, Lorelei gets released!

Oh hai I almost dide part 4!

So I spent the morning of day 4 in isolation, fretting. I was fretting over who I could have possibly exposed to MRSA. I was pretty sure that Louella was safe. Supposedly, I would have to get within three feet of somebody and actually cough on them to share my bacterial infestation. I never got that close to her, and my mama taught me to cover my mouth before I cough.

I didn’t think I could have infected Rita, the lovely therapy dog I met on Saturday, either. Her people had me use hand sanitizer before and after petting her. She was a sweet, friendly, rather petite standard poodle, with whitish-apricot fur that was as soft as silk. I petted her for a few minutes, while chatting with her handlers about the awesome intelligence and goodness of poodles. (Hey, just cuz I love pit bulls and rotties doesn’t mean I don’t dig poodles! I had a 5-pound poodle when I was a kid, and he was absolutely wonderful. Not yappy or bratty–he just thought he was a big dog, that’s all. He’d been tossed out by a backyard breeder because he’d had rickets, so he walked like a bulldog, which only added to his macho image.) For all I know, Rita infected me with her dog nose of doom!

I worried a little bit about the healthcare people I encountered in the first couple of days, when I was spraying bodily fluids like a Rain-Bird lawn sprinkler. Occasionally a cough would catch me unawares, before I could cover it. But hopefully those folks have iron-clad immune systems. You’d think they’d have to, working in a hospital with all of us sick puppies.

I was kind of bummed out by the time the doctor came to see me. I was worried about the MRSA thing, and I still felt like crap (even though I was way better than I was when I first came in). He reassured me, telling me that I really was doing better, and that when I felt up to it, they’d release me. “What do I need to do to get released?” I asked eagerly. He told me that I should be able to walk on my own, eat a little bit, and stay hydrated without the IV. They’d already taken me off oxygen, as I was keeping my levels up just by breathing. Yeehaw, I felt like I was almost ready!

“Oh!” said the doctor. “I know what would make you feel better! How would you like to take a shower?”

I can’t remember getting a better offer in recent history. Did I mention how grotty I was by now? I mean, the hospital folks were bringing me hot soapy towels to clean up with every day, but still. Part of the problem with having a constant fever is that you get chills and sweats all the time. It seemed like every time I fell asleep for more than an hour, I’d wake up literally soaked in sweat, to the point where I’d have to call someone to bring me a new gown. My hair was flat and lank from being soaked through so many times. Ew.

They disconnected me from the IV, leaving the caps still in my arm. Then they mummified my arm in plastic. I couldn’t bend my left arm at all, but that didn’t discourage me.

The nurses brought me clean towels, and a bottle of squeezy-soap that they said I could use on both my body and my hair, although it might dry out the hair. I didn’t give a crap. I got in the shower, turned the water on to just-shy-of-boiling, and poured that soap all over myself, starting with the top of my head. I scrubbed my usually dead-white skin until it was glowing pink. When I finally dragged myself out of the shower, I brushed my teeth extra-well (at least I’d been able to do that all along) and used my usual face creams and such, which my mom had been kind enough to bring. I almost felt human again. Then they brought lunch and scared the hell outta me.

I hadn’t been able to eat much since I’d been in the hospital. I kept marking choices like “soup” and “Jell-o” on my menu, and they kept bringing me things like herb-stuffed chicken, which I couldn’t really even look at. That day they brought a giant mound of mac and cheese, with a giant mound of broccoli next to it. I am generally a fan of both foods, but just the smell of the broccoli sent me into drooling nausea. I talked them into taking it away and bringing me some exciting applesauce and crackers.

My mom and Daniel visited that night, and I went to bed encouraged. In the morning when I woke up, I was still feeling great from the shower. I took another one, and started telling every nurse who came in that I was ready to go home. They all told me I had to wait for the doctor.

I had some entertainment before the doctor came in, anyway. The nurses pulled the IV out of my inner wrist, for which I was incredibly grateful. My whole arm was starting to get swollen and bruised from having them in for so long. Then the IV in the bend of my arm sprung a leak, bigtime. It gorked saline solution all over me and my gown. This caused the nurses to pull it out too. I was FREEEEE! For the first time in five days, I went to the bathroom with no machines trailing me! Yeehaw! (That was over a week ago, and my arm is still sore and bruised. Crikey.)

The doctor finally came in, looked me over, and declared me fit to go home. YAY! I called Daniel, and he came to pick me up. I asked the doctor one more time about MRSA and how much I needed to protect my family. He told me again that he didn’t think it was a big deal, but I should talk to my own doctor about what she thought. I wore my mask in the car on the ride home, just in case. For the first time in days, the sunlight actually didn’t hurt my eyes. I was weak, tired, and still feeling pretty crappy, but I was on my way home!

In the next exciting installment, Lorelei creeps out her family and pets!

Oh hai, I almost dide part 5, the final chapter!

So I was back home. Daniel and my mom got me settled in the downstairs guest bedroom, so I wouldn’t have to deal with stairs for a day or two. I gave the kids careful hugs, but I left my mask on around them. The whole MRSA thing had totally freaked me out.

And the kids were pretty freaked out by me. They tried not to show it, but let’s face it, I was pretty creepy. (Creepier than usual, I mean.) My skin was an unpleasant gray-white. I had dark circles under my eyes. I was wearing a spooky mask. I mean, yikes!

The dogs were even more freaked out than the kids. Jack took one look at me, with the mask on, and said “Oh HELL no!” He’d wag his tail at me from about six feet away, but wouldn’t come any closer. (I probably smelled like hospital that first day too, which didn’t help.) Crystal didn’t seem afraid of me, but she couldn’t understand why I wasn’t acting like my old self. She kept coming into the room, wagging her tail, dancing, and trying to get me out of bed with cries of “AWOO WOO WOO!” She just couldn’t understand why I didn’t jump up to play with her.

The only one who didn’t seem spooked by me was the cat, Johnny. He was just really excited that I was lying around so much, so he could cuddle up to me. Poor guy, I must have tossed him off of me a dozen times before I went into the hospital, because it just hurt too much to have anything touch me. Even a warm kitty.

I was even freaking myself out a little. I worried a lot that first day home. What if I couldn’t keep hydrated by myself? What if I started barfing again? What if my fever shot up? Being in the hospital was no fun at all, but while I was there I had a major safety net. That was gone now.

To make myself feel better, I went through all the things I WOULDN’T miss about being in the hospital. To name a few:

-Blood draws at 4AM
-Hauling IV trees around
-The freaky compression cushions that squeezed my legs periodically all night to keep me from getting a blood clot
-An oxygen tube up my nose
-Ghastly food (yes it really was that bad)
-That hospital SMELL

Yep, I was glad to be home. I made it through the first day and night just fine. By the second day, I was fairly sure that I was going to be all right.

Thursday I went to see my GP. She listened to my chest and thought my pneumonia was improving. She also told me I didn’t have to wear the stupid mask anymore, around anyone. She said that, in her experience, I wasn’t a danger to anyone, not even the kids. Yay! I still wasn’t feeling that great–I still had a fever, and I was so tired. My doc told me to stay home from work another week and sleep. Considering how wilted I felt, I didn’t argue. I went home and hugged the kids blue. Even Jack came up to see me–I guess I looked more like Lorelei.

Friday my fever finally broke, after twelve days. I can’t even tell you how much better that made me feel! Sunday I woke up with some nasty pain in my lower left ribs. It was even worse on Monday, so I went back to my doctor. After much examination and about a zillion x-rays, she told me that all the coughing and barfing had ripped up the connective tissue between my ribs. Nothing to do about it, just heat, rest, and anti-inflammatories. I asked why the injury showed up now, since I wasn’t coughing much and wasn’t barfing at all. There was no real answer to that either–I’d probably strained the tissue, then just got “lucky” and slept on it wrong or something. The good news was, all those x-rays revealed that my lungs were clearing up. Yeehaw!

So here it is, eight days after my release from the hospital. I’m still coughing a little bit, but not much. Still very tired. The rib thing is improving. All things considered, I’m in pretty darn good shape.

I’m still keeping my New Year’s resolution for this year, which was to grow an immune system…

P.S. 2013: I did grow an immune system. Sort of.

 

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. holly said,

    I remember when you almost died,it scared me

  2. Portrait of the Artist as a Sick Woman | Oakheart by Liz Danforth said,

    […] Some people literally walk it off. Others damn near die, as my friend and writer/game designer Lorelei Shannon wrote about so eloquently and frighteningly when she had […]

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