Category Archives: Medical emergencies

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.