Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Real Life: Monday, December 12, 2011

I know my posts have been few and far between this fall, but when I do write, I try my best to balance house projects, recipes and real life. Most recently I showed you the (finally) finished buffet and a few pictures of our dining room, now that it finally feels put together. And while I've got about two or three other things I am dying to show off, including our Christmas decorations, my quick-fix for a disheveled liquor cabinet and the "new" nightstands in our bedroom, life interrupted to tell me it's time for another "Real Life" moment.

Part 1 - The Beginning
Last Monday, December 12th, I woke up around 6am without an alarm (which is not something I make habit of) to a soreness in my neck that I've never felt before and such tenderness around my lower jaw that I couldn't open my mouth all the way. My husband was out of town for an extended weekend and my best friend was in town to keep me company. She was getting ready to leave that morning, and Jesse was arriving back in DC around lunchtime. I laid in bed wondering if I should call the chiropractor or doctor, when I realized that I was getting feverish chills. I grabbed the thermometer and when the screen read 99.9, I decided to call the doctor. As I started moving around, the pain lessened just enough to get me through breakfast and out the door. I drove Kelly up to Baltimore so she could catch her flight and then drove an hour back home as the pain started to return. I had an hour to nap until I had to pick Jesse up from a different airport (closer to home), so I laid on the couch for a quick nap. When my alarm went off, I felt like I had been hit by a truck. Luckily, the airport that Jesse flew into was only 20 minutes away, so I rushed to get him and greeted him with, "I feel miserable! You have to drive home. I have a doctor's appointment at 2:00." When we arrived back at the house, I returned to the couch where I spent the next hour in misery. 2:00 couldn't come fast enough!

Part 2 - The Doctor's Office
I made Jesse leave early for the doctor's office, so we would be there right on time. Of course, the office is closed for lunch from 12:00 - 2:00, so it did us no good. Instead, I got stuck hiking it up the (outside) flight of stairs twice before they opened the doors. After what felt like an hour (but was probably only 10 minutes), they called my name. By this point, I was certain that I had the flu, and that I never wanted it again! Why did I skip my flu shot this year?! After just 5 minutes in the office, which included a thermometer reading of 101.3 and me telling the nurse that my neck hurt, we were summoned out of the office and over to the ER across the street. I remember the nurse saying something about neck aches and meningitis, but she was hopeful that it was just the flu. My nausea was through the roof at this point, so I couldn't imagine making another trip in the car to go to another waiting room, but we had no choice. Jesse dropped me off at the door (Thank God) and went to park the car. By the time he got inside I had signed in (and dropped the words meningitis and nausea to the lady at the desk) and found a seat in a corner, where I tried to close my eyes. The nausea kept getting worse and they decided that in my condition, I wasn't doing anything for their waiting room crowd. Once again, I was ushered through a hallway, only this time Jesse and I were left to wait on two hard, wooden chairs until they were ready to see me. I knew I looked pretty bad, but I didn't realize it was bad enough to remove me from other patients. I guess they didn't like the idea of someone getting sick in the waiting room.

Part 3 - ER
After what felt like another hour (again, probably only 10 minutes), the nurse took my vitals and immediately got me into a wheelchair and back to a room. Next thing I knew, the room was swirling with doctors and nurses who were asking me a billion questions, sticking me with an IV, and drawing blood. They told Jesse that we would start with the simple stuff and move forward from there. They checked me for the flu, along with an array of other illnesses/conditions. Every time they moved me, a wave of nausea took over and the world came to a halt. After none of those tests returned anything, I was sent over to radiology for a CT Scan of my neck and head. Nothing.

While it sounds like this all happened really fast, it was over the course of about 2 or 3 hours. With nothing coming up as a hit, I was handed two options. Option 1 - I could go home and see if I started to feel better in a few hours (in hopes that it was a virus). Option 2 - The doctor could do a lumbar puncture (aka spinal tap) to test me for meningitis. He initially held off on that test because there are several risks involved, but when I heard the option of going home, I decided that they would have to drag me out of that Emergency Room if they wanted me to leave. I forgot to mention that by this point the only "words" coming out of my mouth were either uh-huh (yes) or uh-uh (no). Jesse had to get my attention and ask if I wanted to go home ... uh-uh (no). So the next question was, "Do you want them to do the lumbar puncture?" ... "uh-huh." I'll spare you the details, but let me tell you that a spinal tap is one of the most painful procedures I've ever been through, and I've been through my fair share. While I wasn't exactly hoping for meningitis to be the cause of all my pain, I was desperate to find an answer.

Moments after extracting the sample of my spinal fluid, the results were in. The doctor rushed back into the room to let us know that from his visual inspection of the sample that I did, in fact, have bacterial meningitis. Once again, the room was swirling with doctors and nurses. There were more questions to be answered and antibiotics being given to me through the IV. From there, I'm pretty sure I blacked out (or maybe I just fell asleep), but the next thing I remembered I was arriving to my hospital room and being switched into the bed where I'd be spending the next several days.

clear liquids ... yum!

Part 4 - My Hospital Stay
Over the next few days, I was greeted by a few different doctors and several different nurses. I was told that I'd be staying until the end of the week, so I should settle in. Jesse also settled in and took the entire week off of work to stay by my bedside and take care of me (I've heard that I'm a little needy, so it was really nice to have him there). At my weakest point, he was holding my water cup while I drank, and by the end, he was there to offer sarcastic remarks and loving jabs, which I'm pretty sure was his way of telling me that I was doing a lot better. I was also very fortunate to have all of my friends and family texting, calling and sending me flowers throughout the week. Without everyone's thoughts, prayers and support, I'm sure my hospital stay would've seemed like an eternity.

a sampling of the flowers I received :)

The only crux of the whole thing was that the doctor still couldn't figure out how I got bacterial meningitis in the first place. Bacterial meningitis is more rare than viral meningitis, and apparently the worse of the two types to get, so they make every effort to make sure that other people are not impacted. After several appointments with the infectious disease specialist and an MRI, we found out that I contracted it from a lesion in my skull base (which we were already aware of) that was leaking spinal fluid (which we weren't aware of) and causing my body to fight back and start the infection.

I've never been so happy to take a shower!

Part 5 - Going Home
After hearing the news that this lesion was causing such difficulties, I was shocked to hear that they were still sending me home on Friday, but the doctors have a plan. At this point, I am spending the next 2-3 weeks on bed rest, receiving IV antibiotics twice a day from the comfort of my couch. Once I am done with treatment, they will switch me to an oral antibiotic for a week before sending me back to John's Hopkins so they can begin working on the lesion. I'm not sure what the final plan is yet, but I'm hoping that they'll spend a portion of the next few weeks figuring it out.

All of the medicine for my home care

Part 6 - Bed Rest

When all of this started, my mom knew that she had to get out here. I'm very fortunate that she arrived on Saturday, so she could be here to help Jesse with my home care. Jesse's been on nursing duties, responsible for administering my medicine, while my mom has taken over my usual duties of cooking and laundry. She definitely has the upper-hand in the kitchen, so it's nice to have a full week of her wonderful meals. We've already gotten to enjoy homemade chicken and rice casserole, pot roast with mashed potatoes and glazed carrots, and beef vegetable soup. Today she made the most wonderful apple crumble muffins, and tonight she's preparing pork medallions with stuffing!

I feel so fortunate and spoiled to have her here with me while I go through this. The best and worst part is that she'll be staying through Christmas. I say best and worst because I couldn't be happier to have her spend Christmas with us, but worst because it means that I am too sick to travel to see the rest of my family and that she won't be able to spend Christmas with my dad, sisters and 11 nieces/nephews. When we were talking today, she said that this year is the first time she and my dad have spent Christmas apart in their 39 years of marriage. I am so grateful to have such a supportive family who told her to leave town and come be with me, and thankful for a mother that loves her baby so much that she flew out here and then changed her flight to stay with me even longer. While I know that Jesse and I would get through this week and the holidays on our own, there is something comforting about having your mother around.

chicken soup and crackers from the couch - thanks mom!

We often lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas, but this year has been a great reminder that it's not about all of the presents and food, but it's about family, good health and giving. I am so thankful that I am on the mend and hopeful that the New Year will bring me positive news as far as my health is concerned. I hope that all of you are able to spend Christmas with your loved ones and that you all are fortunate enough to be alive and healthy.

I'm hoping to be back tomorrow to show you all of the Christmas decorations that I put up a few weeks ago and the amazing transformations that my mom has made since she arrived! We've never spent a Christmas in Virginia, but I think we're just about ready for our (unexpected) first Christmas at home.


  1. So thankful you made it through that horrific ordeal and are on the road to recovery! Lots of love from all of us, and have a very merry Virginia Christmas! :-)

  2. You will be in my prayers!!!! So glad to hear you feel better!!!! :)

  3. Yikes! Susan! I'm so sorry to hear about your experience and wow, good call on doing the spinal tap. Who knows what could have happened if you had opted the easier, less painful "go home and see what happens route." I hope you're doing better now and continue on the road to a full recovery. Take care of yourself!

    1. Thanks Mike! I haven't seen any posts from you lately? I hope you're planning to come back soon!


I would love for you to leave me a comment! It's a great way to interact with all of you (and to confirm that I have readers). I hope you enjoyed this post and I look forward to hearing from you soon!