Not the fashion in which I hoped to start the year

Well Peter may have rallied, but resistance proved futile on my part. Mid morning on the first, I felt just a little bit off; and it didn’t seem to be from the beer, martini and two glasses of champagne I’d had the night before. However, as it was a warmish day, David, Buddy and I took a long walk through the woods. At the conclusion of our hike, there was a chill in my chest. I figured a hot bath was just the ticket. By evening, I was wheezing badly enough that it was necessary  to use my rescue inhaler. On Sunday my shoulders began to ache and I reckoned I was getting sick. Not one to be idle (willingly), I spent the day organizing and cleaning. That chill in my chest settled back in, and I took another hot soak in the tub. By bedtime I felt pretty crappy, and I was starting to sneeze and cough.

Monday I got slammed. Totally congested, productive cough, very wheezy, headache, nausea, aches all over, low grade fever. I had a scheduled appointment in Boston with my ENT the next morning, but I left a message with Dr. Shaw as well just to let her know that I  felt I might be developing pneumonia. She called me back after dinner to check in, and by that time my fever was up to 101.9. I had been drinking plenty of water, but eaten nothing and was pretty much flat out. She suggested I take 750 mg of levaquin that night (luckily I had a few pills left over from my last course), and to come in for a chest x-ray and quick check-up with her in the morning prior to my other appointment.

It kinda felt like one of the longest nights of my life. My headache was so intense, that I could sleep for no more than a few minutes at a time. I wandered between the guest bed, my lazy girl and the couch, but I couldn’t get comfortable. In brief snatches of sleep, I would dream in that vivid and obsessive manner peculiar to a fever state.

David had made arrangements for Pete to be picked up for school, as we needed to leave the house by 5:30 a.m. I wished to shower, but was also incredibly weak and wracked by nausea. I used the tiled wall to support myself for a quick rinse, but the moment I stepped out of the stall I vomited. As I lay there there on the floor next to my metal bowl, naked, wet, and shaking, I was feeling pretty darn pathetic.

As David loaded our bags into the car, a pack of coyotes ran right through the yard, yipping and howling. What a send off. On the long ride down, I semi-dozed. Arriving at the parking garage, David helped me into a wheel chair. We picked up a mask inside, as we still weren’t convinced that Pete hadn’t had the flu (despite his GP’s assurances otherwise). The receptionist in oncology hardly recognized me, as truthfully, I am  generally the picture of good health. As he was searching for the order for the x-ray, my hand and forearms began to twitch and contort uncontrollably. This new symptom was very uncomfortable and frightening as well, and I asked David to move me to the hall so I could lay down on a bench. As the twitching increased, he let someone know, and I was quickly back in the wheelchair and into Alice’s office where what seemed to be a small army of people took my vitals. Oxygen, blood pressure and even my temperature were all normal, but clearly something was very wrong. The decision was made to transport me over to the emergency room and I was strapped into a gurney and ferried over in a golf cart sized version of an ambulance.

My paper mask had been removed in Yawkey to help me breathe, but as soon as the word flu came up in Emergency, it was slapped back on. “Flu’s the flu”, the nurse shrugged. Overflow patients lined the hall, but I was isolated in a glassed off room. Everyone who entered put on a mask, except for David, who reasoned he’d already been exposed but who suddenly looked so vulnerable.

In an Emergency Room, priority is given to whomever is in the gravest condition. However, there was still an impressive flurry of activity; multiple questions (by multiple people), blood drawn, IV’s inserted, cultures and swabs taken, antibiotics administered and eventually a chest x-ray as well. It was determined that my sodium level was dropping (120), a potential medical emergency classified as Hyponatremia, and the likely cause of the twitching and cramping. They would need to bring the level up gradually, as doing so too quickly can cause complications as well. An ultrasound of an artery in my neck as well as my vena cava were taken, to assess the volume of liquid in my body in an attempt to understand the underlying cause of the condition. Pretty quickly it was determined that because I’d had a fever for more than 24 hours and eaten relatively nothing, the culprit was all those glasses of water.

You know, I always knew to give my children pedialyte or gatorade when they were ill, but I didn’t even think about it in my case. Lesson learned.

The chest x-ray came back positive for fluid, but not pneumonia, and we were still waiting for results of the other tests. I would be admitted due to the Hyponatremia anyway. Finally we got our answer: Influenza, type A, not the swine, but the seasonal variety. And I had a flu shot. Some girls have all the luck.

Finally a room was available, and now I really did strike gold. Because of my contagious status, I required a private room. And the only one currently available was on 20 Ellison, in what the nurse referred to as the penthouse. Wood paneling, tasteful decor, mini fridge and a sparkling private bathroom. Fabulous view of the Charles and NO ROOMATE. Oh my, it was going to be difficult to fly economy in the future after experiencing first class.

I slept a much needed seven hours and thanks to the all the support I was receiving (including Tamiflu), I felt significantly better in the morning. My sodium levels had returned to normal rather quickly, but given how precipitously they had dropped, it was not unexpected. Alice came by after lunch and asked if I felt well enough to go home. As swell as the accommodations were, I was ready to leave.

And one note about that first class suite: it’s still the same old hospital food.

19 responses to “Not the fashion in which I hoped to start the year

  1. Dearest Linnea,

    I’m so sorry you contracted the dreaded Influenza Type A! I’ve been hearing the reports of increasing numbers of outbreaks in several States all week! I rush my entire family off for flu shots between yesterday and today. I’m not at all happy to hear you had yours and still became ill, but glad to know that you are on the mend. I’ll send some good energy your way!



    • Tracy, get yee to the nearest flu shot immediately. Though not a guarantee (obviously!), I’d do all you can to spare you and yours this one. Nasty bugger!

      Love, Linnea

      (yee=ye. As I was attempting to speak in olde english, I got carried away)

  2. I love you! So glad to hear that it was “only” the flu. If you had any idea how parallel our lives are you’d want to write back to me.

    • Betsy, I love you back. Unable to sleep last night (wired like crazy on steroids), I perused your blog for some time. Lots of gems there (Black, My life in smoke, part one (I think… the baby in the bassinet?), The old photos of your family…) Thanks for the gentle nudge. I tried to leave a comment, but found it all somehow too complicated for my steroid-amped-sleep-derived-state. So, this is my comment! I also sent you an email, if you didn’t receive it, let me know and I’ll try the other address.

      Sleepy cheers! Linnea

  3. Don’t you just love those trips to the Hospital ~ I refer to them as “Shit shows” LOL… I was taken by ambulance the day after Thanksgiving and spent five days in the hospital with my blood level sugars balistic…. left labeled a diabetic ~ uggg.. I have since taken classes and am eating properly to do what I can to get rid of it ! BOSTON ~ I did not know you lived near there… I was born in BOSTON and lived and was raised 20 miles south in Weymouth MA … I worked for 8 years on Beacon Street across from the State house … I left in 97 and live in Sunny FL now but I do manage to get home once in a while … I miss the change of seasons but my oncologist here says my lung won’t handle the cold… so I usually go up with my husband in the early fall… (I really can’t see why it would hurt my lung when it get so bitter hot here in the summer ~ one would think that would be worse).. I am sorry you are sick ~ and I hope you are feeling better ~ I am new to your blog and just settling into your reads (which you do very well by the way).. I am a lung cancer survivor .. I just passed my four year mark the week of Thanksgiving..

    Feel better ~ Laura

    • Laura, I don’t actually live in Boston, but it surely has become my second home. There is a great view of your old workplace from the windows of the cancer center at MGH. I’m not sure cold air is actually bad for lungs…but warm air and a spot in the sun (preferably with sand, waves, and a tall, cold, drink) does sound pretty nice this time of year in New England.

      Congratulations on the four year mark. Now go for five (etc…)


  4. Oh dear, I am glad you are feeling better. M and I tossed and turned all Monday night and woke with little colds. We are doing much better. We both got our flu shots early – what little assurance that offers.

    We sometimes have coyotes in the neighborhood so do try to keep the kitties inside at night, much to their dismay.

    Nice room, but my motto will continue to be “No Jello”. At least until I decide otherwise. A friend/relative of mine in Boston sends me a photo almost everyday. Luckily, hers are not from a hospital room, no matter how nice the view.

    Oh yes, now I know you need to read that book – set in Cambridge. Just be ready to cry. “Let’s take the long way home.”

    • Stephanie, yes, cats and coyotes don’t party well together.

      On that jello..first, full divulgence. I actually ordered it off the menu. Although not something I eat very often either, I kinda have a soft spot for jello (thought it was one of the major food groups when I was a child), and as I was in a venue that SPECIALIZES in gelatin, I thought, what the hell. Let them do what they’re best at.

      The cup off to the left had spit pea soup. Which, in real life, I really like. When I took the lid off the container and peered at the greenish lump indelicately dumped inside, I thought I was staring at a bolus. It’s all in the presentation. (You must admit, visually, the jello is PERFECTION) (all these steroids have me leaning on the cap key).

      I’ll check out the book. I guess a good cry once in a while can’t hurt.

      Nurse that fledgling cold.


      • Ugh, steroids start Sunday and run through Tuesday. I think I am dreading that more than the chemo.

        I liked Jello as a kid, but somewhere along the hospital stays, it became a sign of what just doesn’t make sense. Let’s see, you’re recovering from surgery, let’s feed you sugar and artificial food colors. Quivering mass of melting goo on a warm plate at a buffet didn’t do much good either.

  5. Ohhhhh, Linnea!!
    I’m so sorry to hear that you had to start the new year with such an ordeal.
    Type A Flu, huh? Sounds really powerful. Glad to know that you’ve recovered well enough to write such a long blog post so quickly.
    I flew in a business class when I went to Korea last time. The airline overbooked the economy seats and bumped some lucky economy passengers to business class. Boy, the recliner and the extra leg room (even if I’m petite) were very nice. BUT, same as in your case, the food was the same economy one. I guess they had to discriminate us under-paying ones somehow.
    Be good and don’t start cleaning until you are absolutely full of energy!
    Love, Yuki

    • Yuki, even though as it was happening, time seemed to roll backwards, it was all over rather quickly. The flu was miserable, but it was the side effects of the low sodium which really freaked me out. Amazing how close to an edge we can sometimes be–and I felt so foolish knowing I had unwittingly contributed to the situation.

      I flew first class once. In addition to more room, we got better blankets, cloth napkins, complimentary cocktails, and slightly more palatable food. I wasn’t paying for it, but I thought it was totally worth it. As in, I now understand why people spring for this. I better never fly on a private jet.

      I’m only cleaning a little. Can’t help myself. Love to you and a Happy and hopefully healthy New Year.


  6. Pat & Will Plattner

    Not a good way to start 2011……..but glad you are back home and that it was nothing major. Let that be IT now, hear??!

    • Pat and Will, I’m all done with drama in 2011. Good thing I didn’t kiss anyone at the New Years Party.

      Love, Linnea

  7. The final photo is possibly your finest finish ever! Understated, and DIRECTLY to the point! So glad you’re feeling better 🙂 xo m

  8. Dear Linnea:
    Worried and surprised at first, relief latter, I did not expect your ambitious new year resolutions to derail so fast.
    You are amazingly strong and will recuperate in no time.
    I couldn’t attend a wedding in Argentina after Xmas, the boy’s family are canadians and brought the flu with them and got argentineans sick too in the middle of summer. In Toronto we have more than 1000 cases, you still can take a pneumonia vaccination like I did years ago, is good for a life time.
    Are you a reborn Christian? Your time was perfect for Xmas again like Orthodox and coptic christians celebrate in January 7th.
    For brazilians and caribbean people carnival season starts, the religion side most enjoyable.
    You wanted to know, that is how I meet Beryl in the summer of 1972 in the origins of Toronto brazilian carnival beneficence ball.
    We arrived in 1971, she from Liverpool cosmopolitan city with a love for soccer and The Beatles and me from cosmopolitan Buenos Aires with a love for soccer and tango. I rented a flat from a portuguese immigrant, she shared am apartment in High Park with an English girlfriend that had a brazilian boyfriend. We were invited to the ball that is the high society ball of the year now. My favourite color is blue, she has blue eyes, like my two grandmothers… Viking genes, Samba music, sparks, I drove her home in my $400 1965 Ford Falcon that took me from San Francisco, to Mexico and Canada with adventures to tell. I guess I impressed her with a hole in my shoe sole, my excuse was I was going to buy shoes in Argentina in Xmas, I had a good job as a computer Programmer/Analyst. I guess she impressed me slim and beautiful and just quit smoking, cigarettes price going over $1! Luckily we lived walking distance from each other and expend all the free time bonding together the next week. New immigrants we had lots of things in common.
    We help each other with our accents, yes I did help her one’s in a trip in Alabama translating liverpoolian to a black country woman.
    Funny thing with her used to driving in the left side sometimes waited for the buss in the wrong side of the street and looked to her right before crossing…
    One day she was hit by a car non stopping on a red light, she said, with a brocken arm she enjoyed a summer vacation, like I did after an accident in the Andes after holiday in Chile ending in double fracture, operation and 3 months extra vacation, more in common. She got $6,000 compensation from insurance and I convince her to buy a new 1 bedroom condominium for $26,000, best investment ever, she rented out when we got married and sold for $90,000 years later! Unfortunately now she waits until cars stop before crossing the street…

  9. Alimta has begun to work its black magic, nobody recalculated dose to 175 pounds instead of 200 last year, and I ended with an overdose, very large if according to Dr West a typical dose is 500 mg/m2 compared with a 900 mg/m2 dose in clinical study and mine dose has more side effects but not improvement in efficacy, nobody ordered Corsisosteroid (dexamethasone) for nausea and I ended sicker with nausea and lost 5 more pounds, finally slim 170 at 5′ 11″ and sick to check the stock market lost 15%.
    New side effects required a brain MRI and appointment to talk to a counsellor after commenting that when quality of life ends I could try 10 injections of my blood thinner Thinzaparin with 10 pain killer pills. (I only accept mouth to mouth resuscitation from beautiful nurses.) Medicine is so primitive here, we know that my brain is misfiring, they need an MRI, but I get private rooms, not bad.
    Internet kisses to you, pass the flu to doctors that overdose patients.
    Enjoy the extended Xmas ( )

    • Guillermo, thank you for the tale of the genesis of yours and Beryl’s love story. Blue eyes, accents, and a Ford Falcon (my first car was a 1967 Ford Fairlane–the boys liked that too). And Beryl, keep looking both ways. there are easier ways to make money.
      What the heck are your doctors doing overdosing? First, they make you wait too long, and then they give you too much? It’s just not right. The indivdual who sent you to a counselor must be unfamiliar with your life view (or is it death view, in this case?). Hopefully the appointments will be entertaining and informative for both of you. And should you really get that depressed, call me. I will be right there to try to inset more humor, black or not. Gain some weight, my amigo. And be well.



    Dear Linnea: see Falcons in the barrios of Buenos Aires, avoid green ones. Your Fairlaine has a larger back seat, the boys like that too.
    My next dose of Alimta is going to be 20% less, just right like in the 3 bears story. I am eating better now. I wonder if the doctor that overdose me did it because he supports euthanasia.
    Hope you are running on 6 cylinders now.
    ( ) * Guillermo

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