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A Baby Disease Busted My Rib

Ok so remember how I said I had a bad case of bronchitis and then disappeared a couple weeks ago? Well it turns out I did not have bronchitis. I do almost definitely have whooping cough.

Technically the swab results from my seven hour stop off at the ER this past Wednesday

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A rare action shot of an ER patient hoping that the footsteps she hears is someone coming to tell her something useful. Also yes I’m doing hw. French.

haven’t come back yet, but my symptoms are dead on AND there has been a verified case of whooping cough at my school. Add to that my incompetent immune system that doesn’t gain immunity from vacccines annndddd. Boom. You’ve got a twenty-two-year-old with a full-blown case of whooping cough.

From the very first week of school there’s been a bad “cold” going around. I’m thinking that really, most people have had a watered-down case of whooping cough. But luckily for me, other zebras and new-borns, you don’t need to have a full case of whooping cough to give the full-blown thing to someone else.

So what does a full-blown case of whooping cough look like in an adult?

Well first you get a “cold.” It’s really not even that bad of a cold. Then after about a week you start getting a nagging cough. That gets worse for a couple weeks until you find yourself having anywhere from 15-50 coughing fits a day that are so intense you throw up and gasp for air as seemingly infinite amounts of sticky mucus obscure your airways. (In my case the very worst of the attacks only lasted for a little over a week.) Then things get just a little better. Your coughing fits are less frequent. You aren’t choking, gasping and throwing up quite so much when you cough. You stop feeling like you’re going to black out with each coughing fit. That’s where I’m at now. Apparently this bit can last anywhere from 2-10 weeks.

Oh yeah and I forgot to mention–you might cough so hard that you break, bruise or dislocate a rib or so. It freakin hurts, but don’t worry there’s not much they can do about it.

That’s maybe the worst thing about whooping cough–there’s almost nothing that can be done. If caught early enough a course of antibiotics can lessen the severity of the case, but otherwise you basically just have to ride it out.

In China whooping cough is known as the 100 days cough, because it often lasts for three months or longer. So I pulled out my calendar and counted 100 days from the day I got sick. According to Chinese tradition I should be better by December 19th, give or take a few days. I have no idea why I thought that would help. I guess I can start a count down or something. At this point I’m at least a month in so… only 70 more days to go!

This is definitely not how I wanted to start off the semester. Or finish it… But it is what it is. It’s not going to make for the smoothest semester, that’s for sure, but I’ll do my best. And that includes making a sincere effort not to vomit or pass out in class 😉

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We swiped a bunch of the ER vomit bags so we could feel like our trip hadn’t been a total waste. I carry one around everywhere to catch whatever comes up during a coughing fit.

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Doing the nebulizer. This thing is almost as old as I am and it’s still kickin! We call it the Darth Vader machine.

Go Straight to the ER, Don’t Stop for Cupcakes

Saturday was something else. On the one hand, I might have a life-threatening blood clot in my chest; on the other–which I thought far more likely–I might die of old age forgotten in a quiet corner of the ER… One day nurse Brittney would walk into the hospital with that nagging feeling in the back of her head that she had forgotten something and then it would hit her– she’d run to my room and find the bones of me and my mother still patiently waiting for a CT scan. Then she’d shrug and call the janitor, “we forgot a patient again…”

At least that’s the scenario my imagination concocted as I sat in ER purgatory–waiting three hours for a fifteen minute scan, and then two more for results and ultimate discharge. Add to that the fact that we had already started the day off with three hours at the minor emergency clinic and you might understand why I was, at one point, considering just taking my chances with the blood clot.

My fun Saturday started with waking up in the middle of the night to a collection of uncomfortable and confusing symptoms: sweats, chills, lightheadedness, nausea and chest pain. In my world the first four mean I have an infection of some sort. But the chest pain, in absence of a cough, was totally new. Plus it was only on the left side, which is also weird. I tried unsuccessfully to get back to sleep until about 8:30am, when I sighed, sat up and accepted that a trip to the doc’s was unavoidable. I talked to my mom, and she generously offered to accompany me. We decided to try the minor emergency place first, as we were not ready to resign ourselves to a day in the full-on ER just yet.

At 9:30 we walked into the Urgent Care, just as we had about a hundred times before–in high school, before I was diagnosed with PI, this place was my life–and were dismayed to find it unusually full for a Saturday morning in June. A sinking feeling settled in next to my throbbing chest, a grim foreshadowing of the day ahead.

It is certainly a rarity for me to go in to someplace like MD Express and not know already what is wrong with me, but Saturday was an unusual day all around. The PA I saw was very kind and tried to help me out, but he was also perplexed. They stole my blood and pee for science (Andy Dwyer quote people) and did a chest x-ray. Everything looked pretty good except one blood test, perhaps the only one in existence that I haven’t had before, the D-dimer. Apparently it is used to check for the possibility of a blood clot. Normal level is below 600, mine was 2,160–so not normal. When the doc told us he explained our sentence–we were condemned to a day in the depths of the ER. He said he wouldn’t make us ride in an ambulance as long as we promised to go straight there and not stop for a box of cupcakes–if I did have a blood clot it could be very dangerous.

Well we didn’t stop for cupcakes, but we did stop by the house to refuel and stock up on supplies for the day ahead. Technically I guess I should have been scared I might drop dead at any moment, but being cold, hungry and thirsty overrules fear of death any day. We got to the ER and were taken back to a nice quiet corner room pretty quickly, which filled us with false optimism. They stole seven more vials of my blood via the largest IV needle and catheter I have ever seen and hooked me up to all the heart monitor stuff. The doc also came by the first time pretty quickly; she said she’d order a CT scan, etc. Then we watched the grass grow faster than the CT machine became available. Eventually I did get wheeled back to get my scan and was unhappy to learn that it was with contrast–the IV contrast stuff they use makes you feel really weirdly hot and gross and like you’re peeing your pants. Back to the room. Look at that grass grow.

After another good stretch the doc came back with the good news–no blood clot! And then the bad news–that means we have no idea what is wrong with you. And then the medium news–I’m prescribing you an anti-inflammatory to help the chest pain and prevent clots. And then the best news–the nurse will be by soon to discharge you and then you can get outta here! When we left at six, poor nurse Brittney still had nine hours left in her shift. I felt bad leaving a man behind, but we had to make our escape while we could. I’m sure she understands.

 

How to Start?…Jump Right in I Guess

I have been trying to get this blog started all year, but a combination of school, sicknesses and just normal life stuff kept me struggling to stay afloat. Body, mind and grades having survived finals- just barely I might add- I am now ready to finally get to write something that is not a paper.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of finals this semester surfaced in a trip to the ER one Sunday evening two weeks before they began. For the past year or so I’ve been experiencing weird “attacks” of severe abdominal pain that for the longest time I believed to be gas pain. Well naturally, my body decided to hop on the crazy train that is the final weeks of a semester and the attacks suddenly became much worse and much more frequent. This culminated in me laying on my bedroom floor, using my cell phone to call my brother- who was downstairs- to come help me after about an hour of some of the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life. Poor guy. Mysterious medical emergencies are not part of the typical brotherly responsibilities, but he handled it like a champ. To make matters worse, my blood pressure had gone all funky because of the pain–I almost passed out when I tried to sit up, so brother dear had to carry me to the car. I suppose it’s lucky for both of us that he is my bigger brother in more ways than age alone.

The ER, was just about as helpful as usual. That is to say they gave me some pain medicine and a saline IV for the bp, made sure I wasn’t dying right that second and sent me on my merry way. Pretty typical. I generally avoid the ER at all costs, but the look on my brothers face when he found me pale and sweaty on the floor encouraged me to accept his proposition of a trip to the hospital.

A follow up with a GI (gastroenterologist) and an abdominal ultrasound later the finish line on this one still looks to be in the distance. On the ultrasound they found gallstones in my gallbladder, but my doc is convinced that they are not the problem because I am a far cry from the typical gallstone patient (Fat, Forty, Female, Fertile). So now I am waiting to get scheduled for a HIDA scan, which looks at the functioning of the liver, gallbladder, etc. I’d like to say it’s the first time I’ve laid on a table for hours while a machine followed radioactive material through my body, but I cannot. While it’s not painful, it certainly is a pain- it takes forever, it’s boring, cold (but to be fair that is my usual state), and you have to fast for it, which is fun. Oh well, as the weird crab thing in Moana sings ,”c’est la vie, mon ami.” (That’s life my friend)

So there you go. I guess you could say I’m starting my blog En Medias Res, which as I recently learned and will soon forget, is a convention of epic literature, meaning they start in the middle. So I guess that automatically qualifies my life as epic. I knew it.