Maybe it’s just me. But sometimes I have Mommy fantasies. Most of the time, these fantasies involve me, an empty hotel room, a TV remote, and copious amounts of chocolate. But on my more desperate days, I have the appendicitis fantasy. You know, the one where you think, “What would happen if my appendix burst? They could fix it, and they I could stay in the hospital for a few days and do nothing but sleep and watch TV. Sounds glorious!”
(Let’s just say that sleep deprivation can take you to some pretty dark places.)
Well, I’m still waiting on my hotel fantasy to come true, but I finally got to experience the hospital fantasy. And can I just tell you, it was nothing like I thought it would be.
For those of you who may be squeamish at hearing about bodily functions, think “TMI” needs to stay off the internet, or may be male, here’s the short TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) version for you:
After dealing with some confusing symptoms for about a week, I mistook a UTI for an IBS flareup and ended up in the hospital. The infection had spread to my kidneys, and I ended up in sepsis. This landed me in the ICU for 24 hours. I spent a total of 3 1/2 days in the hospital. Now I’m fine. The end.
For the rest of you, here’s the much-longer version:
I’ve been dealing with recurrent UTIs since I got married. 2-3 a year, sometimes more. In the past, I’ve taken the natural route: garlic pills, cranberry supplements, probiotics. I always regret it. I always end up (finally) dragging my butt to the doctor and begging for antibiotics.
Back in 2008, they checked me out to make sure everything was okay. They gave me “the speech” about how to avoid UTIs. I took their advice to heart, but still managed to pop them right and left.
Finally, after dealing with 3 or 4 infections in about a 6 month time-frame last year (2016), my primary care doctor referred me to a urologist. This urologist that I saw last fall (2016) was less than helpful. First of all, he was concerned that perhaps my urine samples weren’t being collected right and I was being misdiagnosed. He said that if the sample is taken at the beginning of the stream instead of midstream, it can signal an infection when there really isn’t one. He also said that the sample’s needed cultured before I got put on antibiotics (whereas my primary care doctor was willing to give me antibiotics first and then call me with the culture results to let me know for sure or to tell me to discontinue antibiotics).
The urologist did order me an ultrasound (which was normal), but otherwise told me that the next time I was symptomatic, I needed to bring him the sample rather than going to my primary care doctor (he gave me collection cups and told me that I could just drop my sample off – I didn’t need an appointment), and that he would culture it for me.
Fast forward to the end of January.
I began having mild UTI symptoms the week of January 23rd. But, Little Brother was having diarrhea four times a day and ended up needing an x-ray to check for a blockage (he’s fine), Ezra was off of school that Monday, I was drowning in schoolwork. I popped some AZO and determined that if I was still symptomatic on Monday (the 30th), that I would take in my sample to urology and get meds. THIS WAS A BIG MISTAKE.
That Thursday, I also went off of my IBS medication. I had been taking a wonderful (new, expensive) medication since October, which I was able to get at zero cost because I had hit my catastrophic cap for the year. When my insurance reset for the new year, I was informed that this medication was going to be over $200 for a 30-day supply, which I just could not swing. I was supposed to follow up with my GI doctor on the 23rd of January, but, I forgot Ezra would be out of school that day and had not arranged childcare. So, I had to reschedule that appointment. I did put a message in to my GI doctor asking her what I should do instead of taking Lotronex, but had not heard back. So, I went to CVS and got some fiber supplements that were supposed to help with IBS and started taking them over the weekend.
Throughout the weekend, my UTI symptoms were definitely worse, so first thing Monday morning I swung by the urology clinic to leave a urine sample. Then I headed to the YMCA as I normally do. There, I was hit with awful diarrhea and abdominal pain. This isn’t that uncommon, having IBS-D, so I didn’t think much of it. I ended up leaving the Y early. When I got home, I took a fiber gummy (inulin, chicory root). I was still having symptoms, so shortly afterward, I took another.
By about 4PM that afternoon, I had this horrible abdominal pain that felt like big those big gas bubbles you get that put you into excruciating pain for about 30 seconds until you pass them. Except that these weren’t passing and the pain wasn’t going away. I was also having awful low-back pain. So, I’m thinking, “I’m never taking these fiber gummies again.”
I slept only about three hours that night.
The next morning (Tuesday, January 31st), I was still in pain and still having diarrhea. So, after consulting Google, I decided to try IBgard for my symptoms. After swinging by CVS and taking it right away, I was supposed to meet a friend for coffee at Panera. I dropped Sammy off for PMO at the Y and got to Panera early so I could work on schoolwork. However, my pain was getting worse, I couldn’t focus on schoolwork, and spent about 30 minutes in the Panera bathroom.
At this point, all I wanted to do was go home. I texted my friend and told her that I was having a severe IBS flareup and that I needed to go home and rest. But by the time I got back out to my van, I was in tears. I called my husband and told him that I might need to go to the ER. After talking with him and my mother-in-law about my options and logistics about caring for the boys, I decided to call my GI doctor and see if they could work me in, rather than going to the ER where no one would know my GI history. They worked me in for a 12:15 appointment.
My mother-in-law and husband both left work early so she could care for my boys and he could drive me to the doctor. The GI PA I saw listened to my intestines (while I laid on the clinic bed crying) and said they sounded quite angry. She gave me a less-expensive anti-spasmodic drug that she said would help both my bladder and my intestines to calm down. She ordered me an emergent ultrasound, but because I had eaten and been drinking Powerade, I could not be seen until the next morning. She also wanted me to collect a stool sample to check for bacterial infection.
She also told me to call the urology clinic to find out about the results of my urine culture. I called urology on the way home from the GI doctor, and they told me that the results for my culture would take another day or so. Annoying.
I went home and took several doses of the drug the GI PA gave me. (It was an every-four-hours pill and I took it about every two). I went to bed early and, amazingly, slept through the night. I was still in pain, but it was localized to one spot, rather than radiating throughout my entire abdomen and low back.
I got up that morning. In mild pain and in a coffee-less state, I collected my stool sample (fun fun), got Ezra off to school, dropped LB off at my mother-in-law’s house, and went in for my ultrasound.
(Finally getting to eat after my ultrasound and Little Brother was stealing my food!)
Then I went home and laid on the couch for several hours doing schoolwork. I ate mild foods and took Motrin and was feeling almost 100% better by the time I went to pick up Ezra.
The GI PA called me and told me that I did have gallstones, but that my gallbladder was not inflamed. As my pain was completely on the other side of my abdomen, she said that, most likely, the gallstones were not the problem. But, she said that the ultrasound showed debris in the wall of my bladder and that I needed to follow-up with urology. Again. So, I called them. Again. I left several messages on their nurse line machine and received no calls back.
About 4PM that evening (Wednesday, February 1st), because I wasn’t in any pain, I got up and sorted ALL THE LAUNDRY. When I was done I was out of breath, felt like my heart was racing, and had chills. I had to lie down. I took my temperature and it was only 98.1, but as I run in the 97s, I was thinking that maybe I was heading toward a fever. The chills continued and my back pain was coming back, so I took Tylenol and went to bed before 9PM.
At 1:40 AM I woke up with severe pain and uncontrollable chills that were wracking my entire body. My teeth were chattering and I could not lie still, even when my husband was wrapped around me (and a heating pad). My temperature was only in the low 99s, so I took more Tylenol and tried to calm down. I felt like I could barely breathe, because my body was shaking so uncontrollably. Shortly after 2AM, I vomited. It was at this point when I knew something was horribly wrong and that I needed to go to the Emergency Room.
We got to the ER about 3am and I was able to be seen very quickly. They gave me an IV and started pumping me full of fluids. They did a CT scan and determined that I had a very severe urinary tract infection. I was in a lot of pain, so they were going to give me morphine, but noticed that my blood pressure was getting lower and lower. As morphine lowers blood-pressure, they had to give me Fentanyl instead. They let me know that they were going to move me up to the intermediate care hospital floor as soon as a bed opened up (which would take several hours). So, I lay there in the ER just trying to rest while my blood pressure remained in the 50s over teens range and my pulse was in the 130s. They did an EKG and a chest X-ray, as well as ultrasounds of blood vessels in my heart.
After four liters of fluids with no improvement in my vitals, they determined that if they sent me up to the hospital floor, the staff would probably send me to ICU because of my vitals. So they waited for a bed to open up in the ICU and just sent me there directly, running me as a “code sepsis.” They gave me “pressers” (medication to bring up my blood pressure), more fluids, and antibiotics – and moved me to the ICU about 8AM.
The last few hours in the ER and once I was in the ICU, they would not let me up out of bed, so I had to use a bedpan to pee, which was probably the worst part of it all. A catheter was not an option, as catheters increase the risk of UTI – which I already had. So…
With all of the fluids they were pumping into me, I was having to call the nurse nearly every hour to assist me – until I was able to get a “bedside commode” that evening. Thankfully, my nurse was SO amazing! (I honestly was sad to leave the ICU because she was such a great nurse!) She made me feel respected and cared for in spite of being in one of the most humiliatingly helpless situations I’ve ever been through in my entire life.
It took 8 liters of fluids, blood pressure meds, and two doses of IV antibiotics before I was starting to feel a little better. By that (Thursday) evening, I was off of everything (although I still had IV ports in both arms), and my vitals were stable.
The ICU at our hospital was an open ICU, so it was quite difficult to rest. Thankfully, Russ brought me my headphones and I downloaded a white-noise app to listen to. I pretty much slept all that night, other than being woken every hour by the nurses for meds, blood draws, and vital checks – and using the commode!
That day, the urology clinic finally called me back to let me know they were sending antibiotics. For real. Let’s just say I was a little less than nice to them.
Friday morning I was moved to an open room up on one of the hospital floors. I had a wireless wristlet that monitored my vitals without having to be hooked up to 15 million machines, and I could use the bathroom on my own and take a shower (hallelujah!).
I wanted to go home on Saturday, but they wanted to make sure that they were sending me home with the right antibiotic, which meant waiting for the “sensitivity” results of my urine culture. They got those results on Sunday morning. After another EKG and chest x-ray because I was having shortness of breath, they finally said I could go home!
(Visit from the boys on Saturday)
(With Russ about an hour before I was released – he was sooooo ready for me to be home!)
I followed up with my primary care doctor on Tuesday and everything looked good. I have a followup with a uro-gynecologist (apparently, THIS IS A THING!) in March, where hopefully we can figure out the underlying cause of my UTIs (which may be chronic urinary retention).
Told you it was a long story
Now, here are all of the ways that a hospital stay is nothing like a mommy vacation:
1. First of all…the ALMOST DYING part.
I really didn’t freak out when I was in the hospital. I was calm. I laid there and accepted the help. I didn’t think about death or dying or feel like I was in panic mode. But then I came home. Tuesday I had a follow-up with my primary care doctor. They had to do a repeat blood draw. They couldn’t get anything out of my arm, so they ended up having to stick me twice. On the second stick, I had a panic attack. I nearly passed out, the room started spinning, I started crying, I got cold and sweaty, and needed to lie down. I was stuck so many times in the hospital, but somehow this last draw sent me into a tailspin. I cried off and on that entire morning. I kept having intrusive thoughts about what would have happened to my family if I had died. It was awful. I realized that I truly had been through a TRAUMA, and accepting that was very emotionally difficult.
2. In the hospital, you don’t get to sleep. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I slept a ton. But I was also woken up nearly every hour while I was sleeping. I’m talking about lights on for blood draws at 3:45AM and people coming in my room to EMPTY THE FREAKIN’ TRASH at 4AM. Not even joking.
3. Hospital beds are the most uncomfortable beds ever. After my hospital stay when Little Brother was born, I knew this. But this stay just confirmed it.
4. All the wires. Ever try to eat pancakes with an IV in both arms? It’s quite the feat! I found it so hard to get comfortable with so many stickers on my chest and things taped to every nook and cranny. In the ICU I had my two IV ports, pulse-ox on my thumb, temperature probe in my groin, blood pressure cuff on my left arm, heart monitor probes stuck to multiple places on my chest and abdomen, and massaging-legging-things wrapped around my legs to keep me from getting blood clots. Every time I had to use the bathroom everything had to be unhooked!
(I had less “gear” on the hospital floor, but everything started itching!)
4. Once you are home, you have to recover. It’s been a week now, and I’m probably about 90% there. This week, I’ve mostly just dealt with exhaustion and breathlessness. I still get winded with any sort of physical exertion, but it’s getting better every day.
Now, for all of the lessons learned from my hospital stay:
Never again will I have the appendicitis fantasy. I totally get it now. Why people say they hate hospitals. Why moms have home births. I never want to go to the hospital ever again in my life. Ever. Like, totally ever. Not even to get the pillow I left there. I don’t even want to drive by the hospital.
Never again will I mess around with UTI symptoms. Ever. This PSA is brought to you by my alter-ego, April:
Now that I’ve told you the story, I would be remiss if I didn’t take the time to talk about some of the beauty in the mess.
First of all, I have to give a huge shout-out to my in-laws. I have no idea how our little family would have managed this crisis had my mother-in-law not been in town and able to take care of my kids. She not only watched our boys, she cooked and cleaned and did the laundry. She took off work to do my jobs for a few days. I can’t even imagine what this would have been like had we still been hundreds of miles from family.
Next, I want to thank my ICU nurse Nancy. I know she will probably never read this, but she was so incredible. I will never forget here dignified care of me and her encouragement.
Our GBC rallied around us during this crisis (and especially our recovery period). They brought me meals, watched the boys for me off and on this past week so I could catch up on schoolwork, brought me Starbucks, bought me gifts, came to visit, and prayed for me.
Finally, all of my Facebook friends and blog readers who lifted me up in prayer and offered me love and encouragement while I was in the hospital. Thank you to Kathryn who sent me money for ChickFilA and presents. To my cousin-in-law Jackie who ordered us Papa Johns to be delivered for dinner one night. And for all of the people who sent me encouraging emails and messages.
(Flowers and balloons from my parents)
Throughout this crisis – I felt loved, supported, and cared for. I knew that my family was in good hands. I knew that God was taking care of us. I knew that I would be okay.
This was not at all how I expected to begin this year. But I know that, somehow, God is in this.