Give and Take

I guess I had always been on the side of giving medical care rather than receiving it.  Being wheeled through a hospital on a stretcher is an interesting point of view, especially if you wonder if you are about to encounter a coworker along the way somewhere.  Riding an elevator while laying down feels really strange!  Being rolled through a public hallway in your PJs and blankets is quite a humbling experience, though I never gave it a second thought when I was the one pushing the bed or the stretcher.

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Exhausted from the previous night, I showed up in the neurologist office just to be told to go to the hospital to be admitted for testing.  It was apparent that I did not have an emergent brain bleed or something, but the next thing to look for was a brain tumor.  So, CT scans, MRIs, bloodwork galore, and lumbar punctures…  what fun!!!

Thankfully, they did not find a brain tumor, but they also could not find anything abnormal…  I had a 6th intercranial nerve palsy causing the double vision, but why???  Well, it “could” be early Multiple Sclerosis, but I didn’t have any lesions.  It “could” be viral meningitis.  It “could” be Bell’s Palsy.  It “could” be just a fluke.  Nobody seemed to have a clue as to what was causing it.  They discharged me with steroids to decrease the swelling in the nerve & hopefully return my vison to normal.

But, that just made me sick at my stomach!  I could not stop vomiting…  I threw up so many times in such a short timeframe.  I remember feeling so frail, so weak, so stinking dehydrated.  I learned that throwing up in a neurologist waiting room trash can leads to another hospital admission, but this time for IV fluids.  Once as I regained some elasticity to my skin, clarity to my urine, and some much needed energy from the fluids, I was once again discharged.

Not a day later, I was back on the phone to my neurologist.  I had spiked a 102ºF fever and was feeling quite sick.  Being the fiesty, educated nurse that I was, I remember arguing with him on the phone as to what could be causing such a fever.  My neurologist was positive that it was not a neurology issue and that I needed to just go to the ER to be admitted through a different physician.  Frustrated and feeling abandoned, I called the only routine doctor that I had seen, my OB / Gynocologist of coarse!

I remember feeling so drained, so faint as I sat in the waiting room alongside all of the pregnant ladies anxiously awaiting their sonograms and checkups.  I was dizzy, flushed, and couldn’t stop shaking.  Looking around and realizing I probably shouldn’t be exposing all of those innocent ladies to whatever was going on inside of me, I asked to be put in a room to lie down and rest.  After running a simple blood test, they discovered that my white blood cell count was 25,000 which is 2-3 times what it should be.  A spike in WBC to this extent, alongside my symptoms, is indicative of a strong infection.  And, then there was admission #3.  More tests, lumbar punctures, IV antibiotics, fluids…  and not any further answers…

I was discharged once again with an eye patch to help with the double vision, ibuprofen / Aleve for the swelling in my 6th intercranial nerve and the severe spinal headaches from all of the lumbar punctures, and not a clue as to what caused this entire event.

 

Double

I was 21 years old and very energetic.  David & I camped frequently on our days off of work.  This particular trip, we had been camping at Caddo Lake State Park and I returned home covered in mosquito bites.  No literally, covered!!!  But, it was one of the best camping memories I have.  Everything was breathtakingly beautiful!

I have to admit that I can’t find my own photos right now of Caddo, but here are a couple I pulled from a bing search that are licensed for sharing.

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Rowing a canoe across from the love of my life, between the cypress trees with the moss stringing overhead was like a scene out of a fairytale.  Even viewing these pictures, my heart longs to go back to that trip.  My mind can still recall the thick, humid air, the smell of the pines, and the croaks of the frogs as they jumped through the stagnant water from lily pad to lily pad.  The tranquility of that place relaxed you to the core.

However, it was time to leave that behind and return to work.  The money had to be earned somehow.  David & I worked at the same hospital but on different units.  He was in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and I was in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit.  We were young and so working the night shift wasn’t much of an inconvienience to us.  In fact, it made working as a nurse more relaxing as you could avoid much of the hustle and bustle of everything going on during the day (patients coming and going to procedures, doctors doing rounds, family visitation, etc.)

As I woke up, took my shower, and pulled on my clothes, I remember thinking something was not right with my eyes.  I rubbed them, but everything was still not focused well.  I scarfed down my meal, brushed my teeth, and climbed into the seat next to David as he drove us to work.  I remember the tight feeling I had in my chest as I realized now what I was seeing.  Everything was double.  There were two cars in front of us, two buildings we just passed, two people walking beside the road, two trees, two everything…  I tried to explain myself to David, and we pretty much settled on the fact that I needed to get my eyes checked for glasses.  Convinced I could get through the night, I walked to the assignment board at my unit, glanced down for my name, and broke into tears.  I couldn’t read which rooms and patients I had been assigned for the evening.  I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to work that night.  I still feel guilty for leaving my unit short a nurse on that evening.  I’m not sure why it didn’t set in earlier that I wasn’t going to be able to complete my normal routine.  I guess it was denial.

David was at work to stay for the night, so we made other arrangements.  My inlaws came and brought me back home.  Once there, I called my parents and asked how they knew they needed glasses and if astigmatism made them see double.  Eventually, I called my doctor.  He told me that it was probably nothing, but to go to the ER to get checked out.  Hey, wasn’t I just at the hospital?  Ugh!  So, we made the drive back into Dallas.

As soon as I walked through the doors of the ER, I was urgently wheeled away to CT scan.  Once as they were appeased that I was not dying of a brain bleed, I was released with orders to follow up with the neurologist the next day.