Friday, April 12, 2013

The Week Nobody Wanted

I have had lots of blog posts floating around in my head. Some about the inching forward progress
we're Daniel's making on the addition.  About getting the house all ready for out-of-state friends to visit for a week and then having to cancel at the last minute, but we have an official guest room now, yay! Maybe about how many times I sit in our living room and feel immeasurably blessed by God's goodness to us. This past week is very blog-post-worthy because 20 years from now, I don't know if I will believe it if I don't write it down!

Saturday night I stayed up very late sewing a pair of white bloomers for Susannah to wear under her tad-too-short dress on Sunday.  The bloomers turned out fantastic and she was thrilled; I was tired and took a nap Sunday. :)  Sunday evening we did not have a service, which put me in the mood to do something fun... like make cookies.  As I was making them, I began to feel a sore throat coming on. The more dough I sampled the worse it got but I already had the dough mixed up and wasn't turning back now.  I took a big ol' dose of immune booster and Daniel and I caught up on NCIS before going to bed.

Monday morning I dragged out of bed feeling completely miserable. I ended up not making Daniel breakfast OR lunch, and instead crashed on the couch until Susannah woke up and found me.  My. head. felt. awful. My sinuses hurt and I literally could not go 30 seconds without blowing my nose.  And I was SO cold. And then hot, and then cold again.  I took my temperature but it was on the low side (maybe I took it during a "chill" and not a heat-flash?).  I could not get warm and wore a heavy jacket all day.  I did something I hadn't done in a long, long time, and took a decongestant.  I was so very miserable I sent Daniel a text asking him if he could at all work a short day and come home early (something I've never done before) because child-care was about more than I could handle.  He wasn't able to change his schedule at all, but he did get home mid-afternoon since his work is slow right now.  I was crashed in bed taking a nap.  After my nap I still felt horrendous and took another decongestant. At bedtime I felt a tiny smidge better but still very awful and still cold.  As soon as the girls were in bed I filled the bathtub with hot water and soaked and soaked.  I could feel that the water was hot, but I was still cold and never did get warm.  I took an Advil Cold & Sinus right before going to bed and slept fitfully, waking up often either sweating or chilled.  Daniel slept in the guest room trying to avoid bad germs, so I did not wake up Tuesday morning until I heard him leaving.

Soon after he left as I was just lying there noticing that I was neither hot nor chilled, I felt what seemed like my heart racing in my chest.  It was pounding to beat the band and I laid there wondering if I felt that stressed over Daniel leaving, not knowing if I was going to feel good or bad that day, that it set my heart to pounding.  After a few minutes it calmed down and seemed to return to normal and I just laid there dozing.  Susannah came upstairs about 7:45 and crawled in bed with me.  We whisper talked for a few minutes before she fell asleep - very unusual for her but I was fine with more time to just lie there.

8:30am she woke up, sat up and said her stomach hurt. Then she started heaving and threw up on our bed. There is no functioning bathroom upstairs yet, and certainly no buckets or trashcans on standby, so I helped her hit the sheets instead of the bedspread and that was about all I could do. Once she finished I got her downstairs and found a bucket for her and realized the ache in my own stomach was not hunger. I needed to dash to the bathroom or I was going to be hurling on the floor.  I gave the throne everything my stomach had and then some.  I got myself taken care of and Susannah into clean clothes.  Then both of us parked on the couch with buckets and blankets as I was still cold and Susannah was having hot and cold flashes herself. 

 Susannah calls this picture "Two sick girls".

Sylvia woke up and I had to drag around caring for her even though my stomach was still churning.  Again I sent Daniel a text telling him what was going on and to see if he could come home early.  Sylvia wanted to climb and play and party, I wanted to lean over and puke.  I ended up sitting on the couch doling out Ritz crackers to her one at a time because it kept her happy and I could stay still.  At some point in the morning Susannah and I each threw up another time, and we ate mouse-sized bites of crackers, small amounts of applesauce with kefir, and itty bitty sips of water.  Susannah slept and Sylvia ended up taking an out-of-norm morning nap.  Then I had to get Sylvia lunch, because she was not sick and needed food. 

I walked to the kitchen to get her lunch and when I got to the stove my world closed in and got dark.  I caught myself on the stove and then sat down on the floor as my heart revved up again.  This time I could see that my body was rocking with each rapid beat of my heart.  My already nauseated stomach did not feel good, either, as it felt like my heart was beating in my stomach and throat.  After several minutes it seemed fairly normal again and I carefully got Sylvia something to eat.  After lunch it happened again.  This time I decided to consult Dr. Internet and concluded that I was having heart palpitations resulting from dehydration.  The morning heart-race before I'd even gotten out of bed was a bit puzzling, but I knew I was not drinking "enough" since my stomach was sick and chalked it all up to that.  I very carefully started pushing more fluids and by mid-afternoon was feeling hungry and wanting food to eat.  Susannah had one more vomiting episode mid-afternoon, and by bedtime she had eaten a piece of toast and a banana.

Wednesday morning I woke up feeling exhausted and tired, but fine stomach-wise.  My head cold was now making it's way to my throat and I was croaking instead of speaking.  My right ear also had a dull ache all morning that seemed to increase as the day went on.  Not wanting to overload my stomach after a day of nausea, I went easy on food and thought I was drinking enough water.  After an afternoon nap for myself, my ear was still bothering me so I took a Tylenol and was debating which home-remedy to try as I didn't want an ear infection.  We had supper and then it was bath-time. I was in the living room and took Sylvia from Daniel since we decided I would do her bath first.  As I walked toward the dining room carrying Sylvia, my world closed in again and my heart took off racing.  Mid-stride I immediately sat down on the floor to keep from falling over and Daniel wondered what the problem was.  I told him that this was the same thing that had happened 3 times on Tuesday.  This time it took several minutes before I felt like I could get up, but it was still not back to normal.  I figured it would calm down with time and with bedtime nearing I needed to get baths done and the girls in bed.  As I leaned over the bathtub washing the girls I could feel that my heart was still racing some, but thought that the pressure on my rib-cage from leaning into the tub was just making me very aware of it.

We got both girls tucked away into bed and I decided to email my sister, Sally, who was a nurse for a few years.  As I sat at the computer typing to her, I started having more moments of feeling faint but never completely passing out. After talking to Sally I called a friend who is a doctor and she said I needed to see a doctor that night yet. The urgent care clinics were closing right then, so our option was the ER.  It was about 10pm.  I called Daniel's parents and made arrangements to drop the girls off to spend the night.  I took off my rings (figured I'd rather leave them home instead of possibly having to remove them at the hospital, since after talking to Sally I wasn't sure what all I might end up having done depending on the problem), threw a pair of clean undercloths, the phone charger and every single medication, herbal remedy, vitamin, etc. that I had taken since Monday morning into a bag and we were off.

My heart was still racing and just sitting in the car I was near fainting several times.  After dropping off the girls, it got bad enough that I threw up twice (once out the door at a stop-sign, once into an empty container).  After throwing up the 2nd time, I noticed my heart was no longer noticeably racing.  I did not having any more near faints the rest of the ride.

I should note here that I had not showered or even brushed my hair since my soak in the tub Monday night.  Stomach sick on Tuesday and completely exhausted on Wednesday made no shower an easy thing. I looked a fright.

We walked into the ER about 10:45 and they took me for an EKG immediately.  My heart rate was fast, but not terribly so.  They got me into a room in under 10 minutes (even though they were packed to the gills) and a very, very nice lady doctor came in to check me out. After lots of questions, checking my heart-rate and blood pressure different ways and some blood tests, she determined that I was dehydrated and hooked me up to an IV.  As we don't have traditional insurance, I was lamenting this very expensive "drink of water" I was receiving through a needle in my arm.  However, the one thing that still did not stack up was the heart-racing I had Tuesday morning before I was stomach sick, and before I would've thought myself to be dehydrated.

The IV dripped and dripped, and after a bit they did another blood pressure and heart rate check.  Things were returning to normal, indicating that the IV was doing the trick.  But then the IV slowed down to very, very, very slow.  After a while, Daniel went and asked the nurse if this was right.  She came in and checked, everything was "wide open" for it to run in.  Then the doctor came to check and noticed it was slow.  She put the bag up higher and that helped some, but it still took a very long time for it to finish.  FINALLY it was finished. By this time it was around 4:00 am and I had not slept and Daniel had only dozed sitting in a chair.  The doctor came in and checked my heart rate and blood pressure lying down, then sitting up, then standing up.  She needed me to stand for 3 minutes to get an accurate reading. She listened to my heart and lungs, felt my pulse and said "I hate to say it, but I think you need another IV, your heart rate is still a little high."  As soon as she said that, BAM, my world closed in and my heart was pounding out of my chest again.  I caught myself on the bed and she helped me into the bed before calling for the nurse and an EKG.  They slapped the wires on me in seconds, and had a print-out right away.  While I don't know how to read an EKG, I could see that it was NOT anything normal looking and nothing even remotely close to what it looked like when I first got to the ER.

After a few more pages of EKG, the doctor had me try bearing down as hard as I could, 3 times.  Sometimes, for the right situations, that will stop the racing.  It did not.  The nurse was all prepped with a vial of medicine (I wish I knew what it was, I call it "The Mack Truck Medicine") and the doctor gave her the go-ahead to administer it.  They both warned me: "This will make you feel like you've been hit by a truck, most people get scared by it so just be warned."

She put the medicine in my IV and I could feel it burning through my arms and down my legs. Then it happened. It felt like they pulled a cord and a Mack truck fell through the ceiling onto my entire body except for my head.  I could not breath. I could not talk. I could not anything. Time stood still. I was watching the doctor's face, knowing that if I was dying, she would not look as calm as she did (I was waiting for things to go into a panic, I wasn't sure that I wasn't dying!).  Instead she said "Breathe! Take a deep breath. Breathe!" I tried. Oh, I tried and tried and tried. In an out-of-body experience, I could see my chest rising up as I tried to fill my lungs with air but it wasn't working. Finally I was able to get some air and I started crying. I was telling myself "God is with me. God is with me. God is with me." My chest hurt so badly. I couldn't get enough air. She continued to instruct me to breathe, I told her I couldn't (obviously I could since I was talking!). She printed off another 2 pages of EKG and that's when the flurry began. 2 more nurses poured into the room and they wheeled me across into a bigger room with brighter lights and lots of cabinets.

They hooked up a dose of Amiodarone (100mls in 10 minutes, if I remember correctly) and that started infusing and my heart rate slowly started coming down.  They hooked me up to oxygen through a nasal cannula, which felt wonderful after not being able to breathe minutes earlier.  As I have pieced together, the Mack Truck Medicine was supposed to have stopped my heart from racing, but it did not. I am not sure if my heart just didn't respond to the medication, or the medication made it worse.  Later in the day I asked my nurse about my heart-rate. He said he had not seen the EKG, but had heard that it had been over 200.

At this point both the doctor and I commented how glad we were that it happened while she was standing right there and was able to fully understand what I had been talking about and the reason I went to the ER in the first place.  Obviously it was not "just" dehydration. This leads back to my earlier comments about the IV dripping so slowly.  I don't know much about IVs, but after the fact I was so glad that it took so long to infuse.  If it had finished sooner, we may well have been sent home before the 4:00 heart racing.

Over the next hour, the nurses and doctor were in and out of the room.  Dr. Lady consulted with a cardiologist and it was decided that I was staying for further testing once daytime came.  After everything was settled down, they turned off the lights, closed the door to the room and Daniel was able to sleep for about 1 1/2 hours on the floor while I dozed fitfully on the uncomfortable bed. With all the monitors hooked to me and the IV in my elbow (NOT a good place for an IV!) and no pillow it was very hard to be comfortable.

Finally around 7:30 or 8:00 I asked about breakfast - I was starving hungry and I needed to know if I was going to get breakfast or if I should have Daniel go find something for me. They finally brought me a cold plate of the tiniest breakfast I thought I'd ever seen. I inhaled it in all it's heart-healthy nastiness and by that time they had found a room for me on a floor.  The only room available was in the CMICU (Cardiac Medical ICU). I didn't need the ICU part, but I did need the Cardiac part.

By this time Daniel was so lack-of-sleep drunk he could not hold a decent conversation as he tried to talk to his mom (who was keeping the girls) or give my mom directions to the hospital to pick up the car-seats (so she could get the girls and take them to our house). Then they wheeled me away and as we got to the CMICU, they told Daniel "wait here, we'll come get you once she's settled in". After asking when Daniel could come to my room, I was finally told that he would be allowed in once visiting hours started an hour from then. I was ready to hit the roof at that point, and they finally realized he had been left waiting outside the CMICU and eventually let him in early (I'm not sure where they thought he was, but anyway!).

The cardiologist came (before Daniel was allowed in) and asked me a few generic questions for a few minutes. From that time on, all communication was with my Guy Nurse. We found out that Daniel was not allowed to stay during non-visiting hours. I cried after Guy Nurse left after learning that. I was over 24 hours with no sleep to speak of, no idea what was wrong with me or my heart, no idea what any plan or schedule was, and was not allowed to have my husband with me.  It especially irked me that this rule was being enforced on a patient who really didn't even belong in the ICU and was just there because it was the closest open bed to where I should be.  I eventually realized that Daniel would be better off going home and taking a nap in bed, but that did not make me any happier about him not being able to stay if I wanted him to.

At noon they did an ultrasound of my heart, and it was close to 1pm before I finally asked about lunch and was brought a cold, nasty, awful, awful lunch.  I had previously only been privileged to post-partum meals at the hospital which really aren't that bad.  This food, it was all I could do to choke it down not to mention all the unhealthy ingredients I read on the labels.  Daniel left to go home and I had a pity-party for a while. 

Then, hooray-hooray! A familiar face poked into the room.  Our pastor had come to visit.  Actually, he is our former pastor and it had been several weeks since I'd seen him. His daughter is one of my best friends and she sent him. :)  It was just what I needed, too.  After visiting, he read and talked through Psalm 40 and then he prayed. I was one big snotty, tear-streaked mess, I tell ya.  Hearing the Word and being prayed over was a soothing balm to my heart and soul on that day in the middle of what was seeming to be a horrible, horrible week that wasn't getting any better.

After having received some spiritual food I was able to sleep for about 2 hours (the best part by now was the very comfortable air-mattress bed!).  Late afternoon Guy Nurse started giving me meds as if I were going to be there a while (MRSA swabs in the nose, a shot of blood thinner to reduce risk of clotting while not moving around and an ant-acid to prevent stomach ulcers from stress. Looking back, I would have asked a bunch of questions and declined at least the last two until there was better answers for how long I was going to be there!). He was saying I might be in there for up to 2 days.

Long story short, about 5 o'clock, after consulting with the cardiologist on the phone, I was cleared to go home that evening.  A ton of paperwork had to be done and I endured another terrible supper.  Finally they told me I could get dressed, and eventually they came in and unhooked my IV so I could get dressed (in their defense, the CMICU seemed to be jam-packed and the nurses were very busy).

With no real answer as to what had happened or why, but told that my heart looked healthy and was functioning well, I was sent home with instructions to never take any decongestants again and a prescription for a beta-blocker (which keeps your heart-rate down).  We learned that decongestants contain the ingredient used to make Crystal Meth, a "speeder" drug, which when taken as a medication can have a side effect of making your heart race.  I have taken decongestants many times before with no side effects, so I don't know if this incident was a sudden reaction, or if there was something else going on.  I have an appointment with the cardiologist in a few weeks and hope to find out more then.

My mom was here for 2 days; the day I spent in the hospital and the day after.  I was so worn out from lack of sleep AND from my heart running it's own marathon without me, I knew that a well-functioning adult in the house would be a good thing.  On the way home from the hospital, Daniel told me that he was running a fever and had caught the head-cold I'd had on Monday. By that time, I wasn't going to be surprised if a tree fell on our house, or some other similar bizarre ending to our week.  Thankfully nothing else happened and we just worked at recovering from it all.  I was still very tired on Sunday, but everything this week has been normal aside from residual nose-blowing and coughing from the colds.  I have been pleased to not have experienced the common side-effect from the beta-blocker, dizziness upon sitting or standing. I wasn't sure how I was going to parent if I was going to have to get out of bed slowly or stand slowly; that just doesn't go with active 3 and 1 year olds very well!

And that's the story of the week nobody wanted.  I would not want to wish it on anyone and I never want to relive anything like that again.  I realize things could've been much worse, but 3 different, miserable sicknesses back-to-back was enough to last me for a very long time.