Saturday, February 8, 2014

Sick Days: A Quick Rundown

Pinkie Pie making me smile while I'm imprisoned in the hospital

It's Saturday morning, February 8th, and I'm realizing that it's been just over three weeks since I first got sick with [what I thought was] the flu. This is my first weekend of freedom from sickness and hospitals in what feels like ages. It's overwhelming and depressing to think I actually lost three weekends and two full work weeks of my life.

It's not all that interesting of a story, though it was all wholly unexpected. Never in a million years -- when wracking my brain before Christmas about whether to pick the PPO or OAP (HSA) on my company's medical plan -- did I think that I would end up meeting my $2600 deductible before February even rolled around. Especially since I haven't been sick enough to see a doctor (save for a urinary tract infection) for probably 10 years. Maybe more.

What started Friday, January 17th, as a simple case of a nasty flu (headaches, chills/sweats, fever, fatigue), developed into a week-long sickness so unbearble that I actually felt I was going to die, at times. Hyperbolic, I guess, but when you're dealing with consistently high fevers of 104.9, it can get a little scary. Monday took me to Urgent Care. (They were useless.) Wednesday took me both to an internal medicine specialist, then the ER to get a spinal tap, since my doctor was suddenly very concerned about meningitis.

Hours of waiting in the ER left me face-to-face with Sexy Doctor, who insisted that we were not dealing with bacterial meningitis, because (essentially) after this many days, I'd be dead already. And if it were viral meningitis, there was nothing they could do anyway; it would take care of itself. May as well go home.

More fevers, severe headaches, not eating anything but half a banana (maybe) each day, my mother came down to spend the following weekend with me. My doctor, one week after the fevers began, put me on a 5-day antibiotic which, surprisingly, helped me feel a lot better by the time the weekend was over. I was relieved; finally in the clear, maybe?

After having already missed 5 days of work (using my carefully-saved PTO that was meant to be used for my honeymoon in June), I was eager to get back to work. So Tuesday, feeling lightyears better than I had the previous week, I returned to my computer and got back to it.

Unfortunately, over that weekend, I'd still been dealing with minor fevers and headaches, and developed a bit of blurry vision and hazy "floaters" in my eyes. So I took some time on Wednesday morning to see an ophthalmologist.

To my surprise, upon looking into my dilated eyes, the ophthalmologist -- with the DEADEST EXPRESSION I'VE EVER SEEN ON A HUMAN BEING -- told me point blank, "This isn't an infection in your eyes, it's in your brain. I'm very serious. You need to leave here immediately and go to the ER to get an MRI of your brain."

And that was that. Jonathan took me to the ER. Both of us completely terrified by this point, we waited. Then we got a room in the ER. Then waited. Then I was moved to get the MRI. It was freaking scary, that machine is crazy small and confined, and I'm not even claustrophobic. Then I waited some more.

The doctor came and told us that, even if the MRI came back negative, they were going to prepare a room for me and admit me to the hospital for more tests. My fever was still consistently climbing to 102, and after 12 days, that just wasn't acceptable.

After more waiting, the nurse told me -- GOOD NEWS, EVERYONE -- the MRI was clear. No apparent tumors or major swelling to be found. PHEW!

But they moved me to a room in the hospital and admitted me anyway.

More tests. Lots and lots of blood work. A spinal tap scheduled for the next morning. A blast of antibiotics, as a precaution, just in case.

I thought maybe I'd be out by the next evening, after they'd done the spinal tap. I ended up being in there for four days, Wednesday through Sunday.

Consistently, my blood work came back negative for everything they tested. (At one point, my potassium was a little high. No big deal.) The spinal tap revealed a higher level of white blood cells than they ideally want to see. (Normal is 1-5, mine was 18, a really really really sick person can be as high as 80-100.) It was obvious that whatever I had, I was recovering from it, because my WBC count appeared to be on its way down.

By Sunday morning, I'd completely had it. I told them I no longer needed these antibiotics (all bacterial tests for four days had come back negative, plus my veins had been completely pulverized thanks to the IV drip) and I felt great now, thank you very much, time to go home. They agreed, even though we were still waiting on tests.

Discharge approved.

So I went home. And it was glorious, because I got to see my dog and lay down in my own bed. And shower.

All of the doctors that I spoke with that last day in the hospital, and since, have "hung their hat" on this being viral meningitis. There are still tests out (apparently they don't test for West Nile every day -- surprise surprise), so I probably won't know the results of every test until my follow-up appointment next Tuesday.

But all signs point to viral meningitis. I don't know how I could have gotten it; I never see people or go anywhere -- I'm a hermit. But hey, the important thing is that I'm feeling nearly 100% again, save for some minor haziness still clouding up my vision, and a few unfortunate side effects from the antibiotics. Ah well, c'est la vie.

To everyone:

Thank you for your well wishes while I was in the hospital. I felt a little silly, since by this point I was feeling so much better than when I was really, deathly ill the week before (and subsequently not updating Facebook all that much), but your thoughts and prayers really made me feel loved. I can't tell you what it meant to me.

To Jonathan:

I honestly don't know how I would have made it through the last few weeks without you. You gave up so much of your time, and committed so much energy to taking care of me. I can't imagine what I would have done if I'd been living alone. You're my absolute hero, and your selflessness will not be forgotten. I love you more than I can say.

And I'm just so damn grateful that it's all over.

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