Saturday, August 02, 2008

So Many Infections, So Little Time, Part 1

After my 48-hour hospital stay two weeks ago, I was generally fine, though a little tired overall and with persistent nasal congestion. That changed just a few nights later. On Thursday the 24th, I was feeling pretty wiped out, which of course happens from time to time. But when I got into our new bed (we had ordered an adjustable bed because of my sleep issues, and it had arrived earlier in the day) I didn't really get out all that much until Sunday morning. During that time it got harder to even lift my head, and I was getting warmer, occasionally just over the borderline of being feverish. Speaking above a mumble was usually an effort. A constant headache and facial pain had me sporting cold compresses on my head and face, and bright light hurt my eyes. Worse, the nasal congestion meant I was sleeping with my mouth open, which meant I woke up with a dry and cracked mouth and a sore throat.

By Sunday morning, there was nothing for it. My fever got comfortable and settled in, and we knew it was time to go to emergency at the hospital. Vicky helped me slowly make my way to the car, and after we picked up my dad we were on our way. What follows isn't so much a narrative as a roughly chronological collection of experiences from after my arrival at the hospital.

One of my first thoughts when I realized emergency was inevitable was that I'd be on a gurney again—and of course, that was the case, though this time there were no pillows to be had. I was put in isolation again, just a few doors down from the room where I'd stayed my first night in emergency the last time. This room was comparatively spacious, with its own bathroom, a counter with a sink and stocked with supplies like compresses and gauze, and an examination table. When my mom came to stay with me at night, she somehow squeezed herself on the exam table—have I mentioned that I inherited my ability to sleep anywhere from her? Anyway, early the following morning my absolutely wonderful nurse managed to scrounge a clunky, old-school but full-sized hospital bed for me. When I rolled into it I thought I was in heaven, until she brought not one but two pillows. I fell into a blissful and very grateful slumber.

The day I was admitted my occasional coughing started to come just a little more frequently, along with a little chest pain. Of course, this prompted an EKG, and I had another visit from the tattooed nurse. (My eyes were pretty much closed the whole time, as they were most of the time I was in emergency; I only know it was the same guy because I kind of recognized his voice, and asked my mom about the tats after he was gone.) It also prompted later chest and sinus X-ray sessions.

The morning after I was admitted I had been started on antibiotics and I was feeling a little bit better, but just barely. At one point as I was leaving the bathroom I started coughing violently, more forcefully than I'd ever coughed in my entire life. My body shook and the world tilted, forcing me to hold on to the walls for support; my entire throat felt like it was expanding and contracting violently with each breath drawn and subsequent coughing fit; my vision blurred, distorted, and shook just as awfully; my eyes felt like they were ready to burst from my sockets; I spat up sputum, thick and white. And I just couldn't stop. When it was over I stood still braced to the walls, the inside of my glasses covered in tears, trying to figure out what had hit me. I later discovered that this was my body's way of expelling foreign matter from the lungs.

Over the next few days I experienced increasingly worse versions of that episode; my last one, in the middle of the night, had me crying and begging for it to just stop. By then, the entire circumference of my throat, from my jaw to just below my Adam's apple, was in pain, far worse than even the worst bronchitis I'd ever had.

I only spent one night in emergency; I was soon moved up to my old ward, as some space had become available. Because of some logistical quirk and the fact that I had to remain in isolation, I ended up alone in a room intended for four beds. We took to calling it the executive suite.

I got my 29th and 30th blood transfusions, which puts me at 42 transfusions overall. I really need to make a counter or something for the website.

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