Saturday, January 17, 2015

Man Plans; God Laughs: Guest Post by Dave Levingston

Man plans; God laughs
I’ve been gone from the internet for a week. That was not my plan. I had planned to be very busy and therefore to have a limited presence here for a while, but that’s not what happened.
Here’s the Cliff Notes version of the past week: On Wednesday I got sick. Thursday I got sicker and went to the ER. Friday I was admitted to the hospital. I was there until Mondaybeing very sick, the sickest I’ve ever been in my life. It was very unpleasant. Now I’m out of the hospital and better and expected to fully recover…though they say that may take another four weeks or so.
If you want the TMI version, keep reading.
On Wednesday I started getting the shakes, alternated with bursts of sweating. Then I started throwing up. I thought I was getting the flu. Thursday I began getting progressively more and more ill. In the afternoon I went to the ER.
At the ER the doctor initially diagnosed it as “a stomach bug” not the flu and signed the discharge order, telling me to just go home and I’d be fine in a couple days. But then he looked back in on me and saw that I was getting worse, while he would have expected me to already have started improving. So he decided to not let me go, and to examine me more carefully.
Immediately he noticed that I had a severe rash from head to toe. It never itched, so I was too busy throwing up and being miserable to have noticed it. The rash lead to the conclusion that I was having a drug reaction. I had been taking a sulfa antibiotic for a couple weeks because of some left over lung infection from a bout of bronchitis. I’d never had a drug reaction in my life, and had taken sulfa drugs before with no problem, but this time the drug decided to wait until right at the end of the prescription to try to kill me.
Because I thought it was the flu and had been taking the sulfa for two weeks without a problem, I never suspected that was the problem and kept taking the sulfa after the reaction started, finishing the prescription just before going to the ER.
The doctor wasn’t sure the drug reaction was all that was going on, so test began. Chest X-rays, a CT scan, and then a spinal tap. For a long time Meningitis was the leading theory.
By the time I got into a hospital room in the early morning on Friday I was miserable. The most miserable I’ve ever been, and that’s saying something. At one point I remember seeing these objects in my mind. There were three identical objects, side by side. Somehow they represented the Past, Present and Future. Or Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Something like that. And I remember thinking that if the level of misery I was feeling was going to continue into the next 24-hour period, I was just not going to be able to do that. Any option. ANY. OPTION. Was superior to feeling like this for another day. Continuing feeling this way was just not something I was able to do. I would have agreed to anything, including not continuing to exist, just to avoid going on like that.
I was sick.
Understand that I’m not used to being sick. I’ve been very fortunate and relatively healthy all my life. My health problems are of the annoying variety, like arthritis and glaucoma, not the “kick you on your ass” variety. I get the flu shot every year and I don’t get the flu. It had been at least 20 years since the last time I threw up. The last time I was admitted to a hospital was in the first grade when I had my tonsils out. This was a very new, very scary experience for me.
Once I got to my room in the hospital and they started doing things to help me recover, my level of misery quickly dropped to barely tolerable. But then the headache started, caused by the spinal tap. Turns out most of my time in the hospital was spent trying to recover from the spinal tap. I’m still recovering from the spinal tap, and will be for weeks.
The final diagnosis was drug reaction with aseptic meningitis. That means the abnormalities in my spinal fluid were most likely caused by the drug reaction. Nothing contagious was going on. All the tests on my spinal fluid came back negative.
The rash is fading (and still not itching). The headaches are mostly gone now, just a threat in the background to keep me from trying to do anything physical. I have the good drugs if the headache returns. Typing on the computer is the most strenuous activity I’ll be engaging in for a few weeks.
But I’m alive. I’m feeling better. And I’ll be back at it soon.
I can’t say enough good about the care I received. Every single medical professional I encountered during all this was just extremely good to me, worked hard to help me, and made me feel well cared for. Especially notable was Nurse Angie who took it upon herself to research my condition on her own time. That resulted in her finding the best drug to use for my headache. Until she gave me that, what they had been giving me just reduced the intensity of the headache. An hour after taking the new drug, the headache was gone. That significant. This headache was of the mind numbing, nausea educing variety. The pain level was a 9 on a scale of 10. Having that gone greatly helped me recover.
But most of all I have to praise my wonderful wife, who was there beside me through this whole ordeal, making sure the doctors and nurses knew what was happening with me  and sleeping (mostly not sleeping) on the sofa beside me the whole time I was in the hospital, taking care of me the whole time. It would have been a lot more awful if she hadn’t been there. In no way do I deserve such a fantastic, loving, dedicated wife. She is a major blessing in my life.
Now I’ve had a full night’s sleep without any tubes running into my body and nobody waking me up every couple hours to stick needles in me. I don’t think I achieved REM sleep at all during the whole hospital stay. Just a good night’s sleep was a real blessing and helped me feel much better.
So, that’s where I’ve been. I’m very glad to be back.

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