Tuesday, October 27, 2015

j & c's story - part three

So, we were engaged. And apart. Yet things were going well despite the fact we missed each other desperately. We began planning a trip to Utah over Memorial Day weekend so that my family could meet Jesse. Little did we know that God had other plans for us.

About three weeks after his visit to DC and proposal to me, Jesse called me one Friday morning in late April out of the blue. His job was over and he was laid off. He wanted to know if he should say in Iowa and wait for the Union to call him out to a new job or drive to DC and spend a few days with me waiting for his new job. Of course, the answer was simple. He drove 900 miles and was in DC early the next morning. It was great being together again.

That evening we went to Union Station and had dinner at Shake Shack, because their fries and concretes (shakes made from custard) are ridiculously good. Then we hopped on the metro to go see a movie together in Chinatown. Jesse had never ridden a metro before so it was fun to show him the ropes. He said it was like being in a movie because he was doing something that he had only seen in movies or TV shows.

Of course, I had to go work like a normal person, so Jesse spent time catching up on things he needed to do. We spent every evening together for the next week cooking, relaxing, dinner with friends from my ward, and just spending time talking and planning. Things were going really well between us.

By Friday afternoon, I was really looking forward to the weekend with Jesse. We had plans to go out for Indian food and walk the monuments as the weather was nice. I left work not feeling too great, as I was having chest pains and couldn't seem to quite catch my breathe. The pains weren't too severe, but I had never felt anything like it. We opted to stay in and have a quiet night relaxing to see if I felt better. Both Jesse and my housemate were concerned, and came up with different ideas of what could be wrong. By ten o'clock that evening, the chest pains were a lot worse, breathing was difficult and painful, and I was running a fever. Jesse made the call that it was obvious I was getting worse, and that I needed to go to urgent care. After giving me a priesthood blessing we headed out.

After ruling out a heart attack with an EKG, the doctors and nurses started running other tests. Blood was drawn, chest x-rays taken, a CAT scan with contrast dye (iodine yucky!) was completed and an IV needle was poked into my arm. By the time all this was done, I was very thankful for a wheelchair, as I felt considerably weaker and was having a hard walking on my own.  Finally, they asked me for a urine sample. Jesse helped me walk the short distance and take care of things.

I stood washing my hands, and looked at myself in the bathroom mirror. I was a little shocked by how sick and haggard I looked. I started to feel a little worried, and then I had a very distinct thought, "This is why Jesse is here." As I absorbed this thought, another thought came into my mind, "It's serious, but you are going to be okay." These two thoughts together were so clear and unmistakable, that I knew they were not my own, but impressions from the Spirit.

Finally, the doctor came back with his official diagnosis: "You have pneumonia!!! Here have some Motrin 800, a strong antibiotic and an excuse from work on Monday!!! And you'll be better and able to go work on Tuesday!!!!" And he sent us home. We collapsed around four o'clock in the morning.

That weekend Jesse played nurse, cook, launderer, and assistant. I was miserable. My chest hurt so dang bad. Sneezing hurt. Breathing hurt. Yawning hurt. Swallowing hurt. Everything hurt because lungs are essential to well... everything! And by Monday I was not better, in fact I was much, much worse with a consistent fever.

So, that afternoon back to urgent care we went. The doctor this time was amazing. He had had pneumonia earlier in the year, and knew just how miserable it is. He said he was so miserable and in pain that all he could do at one point was moan. I totally understood what he meant, except that I hurt too much to moan. We repeated all the tests from Friday night which all came back the same as before, but showing fluid not just in my lungs but outside them as well. It also appeared that the antibiotic was not having any effect.

As we discussed my care options and the test results the doctor was concerned because he said that the blood cultures and other labs were all coming back negative and not showing any cause for the pneumonia. Basically, my systems were more severe than what the tests were showing. And given the severity of my symptoms he felt that I needed to be monitored overnight, which they were prepared to do there. Additionally, we needed to request a bed at a hospital if I did not improve overnight. He didn't think we would need it, but it was better to be prepared.

That night in urgent care was miserable. I was given three different IV antibiotics and each time they switched to a new one I would throw up. My fever was climbing too and I had the most severe, deep and painful chills I have ever experienced in my life. The worst was when I had to go for another CAT scan with contrast. They did the first scan and then administered the iodine dye via IV. I felt my whole body go warm from the iodine dye for about a minute and then I crashed into full on chills. I was so cold and in so much pain that I was shivering and my teeth were chattering so hard that I had to be lifted from the scan table back into the wheel chair by the technician.

Once I got back to my room in urgent care, the nurses grabbed blankets from the warmer to cover me up. (Honestly, those warm blankets are the best thing ever in all the universe and world...seriously!) I was finally warm and not shivering when my new nurse walked in the room.

This woman made Miss Hannigan seem like a good guardian for orphan girls. She ripped the warm blankets off of me, saying that we needed to get my fever down and that I needed to be uncovered to do so. She wouldn't let Jesse help me any more, because "I needed to learn to help myself and use my own strength to sit up and stand if I was going to have any chance at getting better." She was not pleased that she had clean up vomit either and complained loud enough to the nurses at the station outside my room, that I heard her. Honestly, I get tough love, but this woman's bedside manner was so brusque and uncaring that it was all I could do not to order her out. But then again, I didn't have the strength to do it. When I went to the bathroom with Jesse's help and went back to bed afterwards wearing socks because my feet were so cold, she tore them off without even asking permission to do so because my fever had shot up even more. And when I started having chills again, Jesse was the one who got me warm blankets so that I could warm up again over her objections.

By the time morning rolled around and the new doctor said he was sending me to the hospital I was so relieved to get away from "Nurse Hannigan" that I didn't care that I was being admitted to the hospital for the first time in my life. After an ambulance ride during which I was swaddled in warm blankets, I feel asleep as soon as I was settled into my hospital bed. The nurses just left me alone until Jesse got there.

For the next three or four days, I had IVs with loads of antibiotics, and morphine for the pain (hallelujah morphine!). Oh, and the daily blood draws from the same vein in my arm were loads of fun. I was on oxygen too. My blood oxygen levels were carefully monitored. With a 103-104 degree fever running consistently they put me on a cooling blanket to bring the fever down. So much fun!  I even got my first catheter (ahhhhh the relief!).

I was so exhausted that I didn't want to talk on the phone or watch television. Jesse stayed at my side and gave my parents updates three times a day on how I was doing. He also talked with people from work and church to give them updates as well. We allowed only two people to visit, my housemate LP and my dear friend SAS. I listened to hymns on Pandora and Jesse read scriptures to me for a while, but mostly I just slept.

I had moments of lucidity but was having horrible hallucinations from the morphine. The bacteria was alive all around me, and threatening me. People who were the wrong colors with rainbow neon colored skin, hair, and clothing, wanted to help me and were freaking me out. I was stuck alone in a room in an abandoned outpost in Afghanistan and could hear the enemy getting closer and closer, but could do nothing to help myself because I was so sick. I finally had to tell myself on this last one that it wasn't real and that I just needed to open my eyes. Thankfully that worked and I didn't revisit that particular hallucination again.

The nurses were amazing during that first week. They helped me keep my spirits up, which was pretty hard to do. They made sure both Jesse and I were comfortable, and coordinated treatments, tests and doctors visits. I credit much of my recovery to them. They were just incredible.

More to follow on part four....

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