Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It's A Great Day to Be Alive!

Well, I fell off the face of the Earth for a bit.  Not by choice - I contracted some weird virus and had to go to the hospital from Dec. 3 - 8. I had never been admitted to the hospital before, minus being born, of course. All in all, it was NOT a fun experience. I must say though, I was impressed with the staff. I felt very cared for the entire time I was there. So, that part was a plus.

Marcos and I celebrate two anniversaries. Anniversary #1 is December 1st.  On Dec. 1st (Saturday), we spent the day staining our pool deck (NOT to celebrate, mind you!).  Then we went out to dinner (this is the celebration part).  I noticed at dinner that the lymph node just under my left jaw was swollen. I mentally noted to take it easy the next day to avoid a cold or any other kind of sickness.  I do a pretty nice job of paying attention to my body's signs, and so I don't usually get sick.

Sunday comes around and now my left cheek hurts.  Looking in the mirror, I see some funky looking ulcers inside my mouth, at the back of my left cheek. Throughout the day, they seem to get worse - the number increases, my cheek starts to hurt, and I'm swelling a bit more.  I did some research and tried everything from Advil to swishing with a mix of water and hydrogen peroxide (which actually felt really good). I thought maybe I had bit my cheek and gained some sort of infection.

Now it's Monday morning, and the pain is much worse. I can't eat breakfast, and I'm running a fever.  So, I decide to call in sick to work and head to the doctor. At this point, I didn't have a primary care physician (remember - I never get sick?), so I went to a walk-in clinic.  The doctor there ultimately decided it was an abscess in my gums, and gave me some antibiotics and this mixture referred to as "magic mouthwash" (pain killer/antacid/antibiotic).  I continue my day attempting to eat (not happening - too much pain) and taking the medications.  By the evening, my face was swollen, it hurt to speak, I was running a fever, and the pain was unbearable.  I have a pretty high pain tolerance, so when I started tearing up and told my husband that I wanted to go to the hospital, he didn't question it.

Fast forward through the longer-than-pleasant wait time in the ER, and they decide to admit me to the hospital (about 3 am). Now the ulcers are spotted throughout my cheek and below my lower lip. I'm feeling pretty nasty. The fever is constantly over 101, and no one is really sure what is wrong with me.

For three days it's a blur of painkillers (morphine and percocet... that's how bad the pain was!), regular vitals checks (every three hours so forget getting good sleep), and changing of IV bags. I regularly received shots in the stomach to prevent blood clotting (from laying in a bed for days on end).  I couldn't eat, so the IV bag was it as far as nutrients go. In the first day, I lost 5 pounds. Talk about a weight loss program!! And the testing... they took so many vials of blood and mouth swab cultures that I was nervous. My favorite was the nasopharyngeal swab. If you've ever had one of these, you won't forget it.

By the second or third day, my entire left cheek and lower lip (all inside) were ulcers. The left side of my face and neck were swollen elephant-man style. The pain was unbearable.  Finally they determined that I had herpangina (worst name ever).... it's a type of virus that children usually get (NOT herpes based, as the name suggests).  If you google it, it doesn't sound that bad. And that's because if you contract it as a child, it's not. But, if you happen to be lucky enough to get it as an adult, it's 10x worse, as you can probably tell from my case. Unfortunately with viruses, there isn't any specific medication to fight it off. Your body has to do that on it's own. So, I hung out the hospital for a few more days. Once my vitals were normal and I could eat again, I was free.

But I'm back to normal now. I took an extra week to get back to 100%. Three days ago I did my first workout to prove that I was back to normal (boy was that hard - I was weak from losing a lot of muscle from not eating much for about a week). But I'm feeling great. And so appreciative of those small things we take for granted - eating, talking, sleeping. (All of these things were not happening during the hospital stay.)

As always, though, I try to find a silver lining in my life. It was a tough experience, but you have to gain something out of it. Not contracting a virus can't be my lesson learned - that's not really possible to avoid.  All I could think about while I was in the hospital was St. Jude. Some friends and I do the St. Jude Give Thanks walk every year.  I was upset about being in the hospital for a few days... imagine these children that live in a hospital for a few months to a few years... battling for their lives!! I resolved that next year, I'm going to go all out in raising money for St. Jude. I'd like to imagine that my contribution will minimize the time that these poor children have to spend in a hospital. I'll definitely post links to my donation page ... so keep an eye out for it next November, and make sure to help an AMAZING cause.  :)

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