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Posts Tagged ‘septic shock’

One Year

Yesterday, I was doing some work from home and  at one point called and my boss (the principal of the school). I asked her a question she couldn’t answer and told me she’d get the right person and have them call me right back. What’s your home phone number? she asked me. Here’s what I said, “Two, two, six …. um …. two, two, six …. I don’t remember my phone number.”

Six and a half years I’ve lived in this house – oh wait! We kept the number from the last place, so make that 7.5 years with the same number and I was lost. I kept wanting to use the last 4 digits from the number at the cottage and could not come up with any others. Fortunately, the person we needed wandered into the office and saved me further humiliation in front of my boss, who I do try to convince I am intelligent and with it.

I do forget a lot of stupid things – couldn’t remember whether I was 42 or 43 years old a couple of months ago, to my kids’ wild amusement. (It’s 42.) Words get lost more frequently than I remember happening before The Big Nap. And I’m running out of time on using my favourite excuse – ‘coma brain.’ People laugh when I say it, but I’m not totally kidding. I spent weeks stewing in some pretty wicked drugs and was warned that the effects could take some time to wear off. Someone, I don’t remember who, said a year. So that’s how long I decided to give it. One year, and that’s it with the coma brain.

That year is almost over. One year ago tonight was a Sunday night. My stomach was hurting and I was pretty sure I was in for a bad night. I have irritable bowel syndrome that results in random nights of cramps and pain, ending in raging diarrhea. It had been happening more frequently. Still, I had a ‘Girl’s Night Out’ scheduled with friends, and I was determined to have a good time. We do pot luck and the food was great, thankfully, as it was to be the last food to pass through my lips for 19 days.

After I got home, the pain hit with the suddenness of a shot, a stab in the belly that dropped me to the floor. My standard method of dealing with belly pain is a hot bath, and so I dragged myself up and into the tub, into water as hot as possible. It didn’t help. For the first time ever, I could not get on top of the pain. I’ve had two children without any pain meds at all (and one where they only half worked) and I can clearly remember that pain. I have a physical memory of where and how it hurt. This pain, however, except that I remember thinking that it was the most severe I’d ever experienced, I can remember nothing else about.

Some time in the middle of the night, still in the tub, I asked J to call 911. He called a friend to come look after the kids and did just that. The ambulance attendants were horrible, cruel, heartless human beings, but I don’t feel like going into more detail than that because it still upsets me, one year later. At least they took me to the hospital, where I begged the nurse in triage to knock me out. I don’t remember this, but it is on my chart, “Patient making inappropriate comments. (“Knock me out.”) Of course, in retrospect, that comment was really the only reasonable response to the pain of one’s colon tearing open.

They told me I was constipated and forced me to try enemas, which were utterly ineffective except, one imagines, at squirting soapy water and fecal matter though the growing hole and into my abdominal cavity. Fainting after a couple tries put an end to that and sometime in the wee hours of the morning, a CT scan revealed the true problem. My memories of these hours are fuzzy. At one point, J left to get our kids ready for school and my mother took over. I remember moaning repeatedly, slowly and rhythmically, “It hurts, it hurts, it hurts” and being aware that what I was doing must be hard on my mother, because I know that as a mother, watching your child in pain is just the worst thing, but still being unable to stop.

It was all pain, just pain. The surgeon showed up and told us I had a rupture and he would have to operate, and that there was the possibility of death but he had no choice. I didn’t care. All I cared about was that I would soon be unconscious. There was no fear at all.

I listened to a radio program recently about last words, famous and otherwise. If I hadn’t survived that surgery, my last words would have been, “It’s not working! I’m still awake.” The mask delivering the drugs couldn’t fit properly around the tube up my nose and it took longer to sedate me than normal, although it must have only been a moment or two. And then I was gone, for 18 days.

Tomorrow morning, I am going to wake up, run some errands, go into work, try and find a gift for Asher’s birthday on Saturday. The laundry is piling up. I have no idea what to feed everyone for dinner. We are in the depths of planning Maya’s bat mitzvah. I am scarred, deconditioned and forget things like my own phone number. But I am alive.

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This post is easy as I am writing it from home. I am not home permanently. I am allowed out for a few hours at a time. I got to be home for Friday night dinner, which was great. The only difficult part is going back.

I realized that there has been no clear explanation of what happened to me. Well, let’s just say narcotics are bad, bad things. I was taking narcotic painkillers for the fibromyalgia. I figured out several months ago that the stupid things don’t work and it was time to wean myself off them. It’s not a quick process, but I had made significant process. What I didn’t know was that my colon was becoming impacted. (I don’t want to go into too much detail, given the nature of the topic, but turns out you can get a great big clog while still pooping, sometimes even regularly.)

So, I ended up with a little hole in my colon. This is bad. The evening it happened, I developed a really, really bad pain in my abdomen. I have regular bouts of excruciating pain caused by my irritable bowel which I deal with by getting a really hot bath until it passes. Thinking this was what I was facing, I got in the bath. The pain kept getting worse and worse. I’ve had two kids without any medications and that pain doesn’t hold a candle to how this felt. I finally asked J to phone 911.

The ambulance people were awful, but maybe I’ll complain more about that later. At least I got to the hospital. I was in the ER for about 12 hours while they figured out what was up and sent me to surgery. They missed the hole at first and by the time I went into surgery, they were facing fixing a 12 cm tear. Needless to say, those 12 hours were among the worst of my entire life. The pain was extreme and (correctly) they wouldn’t let me have anything to drink. I believe at the end I was literally begging them to just make the pain go away.

The surgeon came and explained I had a hole in my colon and needed surgery. He also told me that he didn’t know if he could pull me through in front of my mother. Ah, that famous surgeon lack of bedside manners. I was in so much pain I literally didn’t care. I was just waiting for unconsciousness. But my poor mother just got to deal with the extra fear that added during my surgery.

It didn’t go well. Actually, that depends on your perspective, since afterward, the surgeon apparently told my family he was surprised I survived it. So in that regards it went well: I lived. But I went into septic shock and my organs began to fail. I ended up in the ICU on every kind of life support imaginable.

I was in a coma for the next 18 days. It was touch and go for a while. It is bizarre for me to contemplate because by the time I knew about it, I was on the mend. All my friends and family were clearly traumatized by the experience and even though I was at the center of it, I emerged emotionally unscathed. The body is pretty scathed though (how come that is never used at the opposite of ‘unscathed’?). But I’m trucking right along in physio and can even walk, very slowly, up the stairs. My tentative release date is April 9th, months earlier than initially estimated.

I’m a lucky woman.

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