It was one year ago today, July 17th, that I rang for an ambulance to rush me to hospital – specifically Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, where my surgeon is located.
Normally, when I go to the ER I take a taxi as I’m usually mobile enough to get myself into one. But this time round the pain was so excruciating I could barely walk across my livingroom and it took me half an hour to go from my bed to my phone (I live in a tiny apartment, 448 square feet). I managed to ring, and got through dispatch pretty quickly. Told them I am having chest pain, am shivering so hard that I am having a hard time staying upright and my pain was excruciating — radiating all the way around my torso.
While in the ambulance being rushed up to Sunnybrook the paramedic tried to get an IV started, he couldn’t. Luckily got to the ER at Sunnybrook and I was immediately rushed into the acute care section, where 5 nurses were working on me. Seems I had a heart rate of 175bpm, and my blood pressure kept climbing. I was barely getting in enough oxygen, and at one point they put me on 6L/s of pure O2. I had a lot of blood draws — don’t ask, I just remember being poked in my arm, my wrist, my ankles and the tops of my feet. An IV was started up, and I was put into an isolation room in the ER. Urology came down, to assess me, as I am a urology patient. The resident told me that I would be admitted as a urology patient .. I remember at that point feeling relief (not physical, it hurt to move and I was trying my damndest to lay still) with the knowledge that I would be taken care of. Managed to get hold of a telephone and left a message on my parents’ answering machine … a rather pathetic “I’m in the hospital, alone, and I’m scared. Please, someone, come here quick.”
After that it is all blank for me. Seems I was in the ER for two days before I could get a bed in C2 (the urology ward) and in the meanwhile my friends were frantic, not knowing where I was. On the day I took the ambulance Mike was suppose to drop by with some groceries for me, and he knocked on the door but no answer except for the pathetic meows of my cat. He and Tarotcub were trying to get through to my brother, asking if he knew where his sister was. Seems the answering machine went unchecked for nearly 2 days.
When my mom heard the message she rushed to Sunnybrook (my father, at the time, was in Lithuania). She missed me by half an hour. The day my mom was rushing to my side the Medicine Department (a real live “Dr House” team) was called in to look me over. I was under the care of several departments — Urology, as the primary admitting department, Infectious Diseases, Respirology and Medicine. While being checked out I turned blue, vomitted blood, passed out, and stopped breathing. I was rushed to CrCU (Critical Care Unit, one of two ICUs at Sunnybrook.. this one being the truly acute one) and intibated. I was on a ventilator for over a week. I woke up a day after the breathing apparatus was removed.
I woke up with an NG tube, a central line in my neck (IV in my neck) and an ART line in my left wrist (IV in the artery .. seems I had several units of blood for transfusion cos at one point my hemoglobin dropped to about 62). I was on a little machine constantly taking my vitals — monitoring my heart, oxygen, pulse, blood pressure, temperature. I had some physical therapy that day (don’t ask me which day, all I know is that it was towards the end of July) but I was so exhausted the most I could do was stand for 15 seconds before nearly collapsing to the floor.
Recovery was brutal and slow. I could barely stand. Towards the end of my hospital stay I could walk with a zimmer and/or a cane, but not unassisted.
I was lucky that I had a lovely private room in C2, when I was returned there. Normally I would have been bored, being by myself, but with all the sleeping I was doing I was just thankful that there was no one to disturb me.
It was a painfully slow recovery.
During all of these adventures in medicine my father found out I was in hospital, nearly dying. He tried his damndest to get back to Canada. According to my aunt Emilija he kept his mobile on his chest at all times (even when sleeping) waiting for news about me. He tried to rearrange his flight so he could leave immediately to get to my side as fast as possible. My father was a wreck when my sister died, and he was terrified that another one of his sprogs would die. He managed to finish off his hols in Lithuania but it wasn’t much of a finish … the old egg was terrified for me, and I do truly believe this was a contributing factor towards his very swift decline in health and eventual death.
My mother hasn’t fared much better either. She had a heart attack a couple of weeks after I was released from hospital. Instead of telling me, she chose to protect me .. thinking I would have a relapse over the stress. She had actually decided to lie down for a bit, instead of getting medical attention .. telling herself that the pain she was feeling was probably similar to what I felt.
The other effect of my time with sepsis is that when I do leave a message on the answering machine I get a very quick ring back asking if I’m okay. My father was doing that right up until the end, freaking out whenever I’d leave a message.