I didn’t mean to disappear for over a week. I had drafts written or partly written, waiting for me to finish up and post. Then I wasn’t feeling the best, and eventually, I landed first in the ER and then in the hospital. Turns out, there were two colonies of bacteria – E. Coli and campylobacter – eating through the lining of my large intestine, causing massive inflammation and infection, which eventually turned into full-blown sepsis.
Here’s the thing. I grew up in a household that never went to the doctor unless it was an emergency, because our insurance was terrible and we just couldn’t afford it (thanks, US health system…). When we did go, it was often to a crappy Urgent Care facility, where we often got inadequate care, so that my mom’s distrust of doctors and the medical system grew even worse, and we went even less. That meant a lot of self-diagnosis and treatment. As an adult, I’ve really tried to not do this, but after all the years of my original tooth infection causing all kinds of crazy problems in my body that my doctors couldn’t figure out, I got referred to as a hypochondriac often enough that I, too, started to avoid going to the doctor unless it was an emergency. It’s really hard to advocate for yourself when your primary care doctor thinks it’s all in your head! Thankfully, I have a really good PCP now, and we’ve been working through a LOT of backlogged stuff this year, but old habits die hard.
My symptoms began with a random fever on June 22nd. The next few days, I got progressively sicker (all digestive, no fever), but as it was paired with drastic blood pressure and pulse drops, I suspected it was a reaction to my new medication (which was to drop blood pressure and pulse!). Instead of going in to the doctor, I got off the med and things improved over the next few days. Then they stopped improving, and stayed in a place of just-slightly-off. Instead of going in to the doctor, my family all took an OTC treatment for parasites you can catch from, say, feral kittens who were living in a hoarder’s yard. That seemed to really help, and I got almost-better. I did contact my doctor during this time, and I also had an upcoming appointment already scheduled. Unfortunately, there was a mix-up at their office, and she didn’t receive the contact (sent 6/25) until 11 days later. By that point, I was at the almost-better stage, and my appointment was less than a week away. Via phone call, we agreed that I didn’t need to make another appointment before then.
I went in for regular bloodwork on Thursday, got the results Friday. The results were…chaotic and weird. Definitely abnormal for me, especially as my last set of the same labs was just in April. Honestly, I just thought my body was falling apart given my inability to exercise for two months now. Exercise is kinda crucial for my health!! Then on Friday afternoon, I had another random fever. (Somewhere between the 22nd and the 9th, I had another random fever that lasted for an hour in the middle of the night, but otherwise, no fevers.) Literally, that fever on Friday afternoon was the first time I’d felt really sick since June 25th. I couldn’t eat much that afternoon and evening.
At 2am on the 10th, I woke up freezing cold, shaking uncontrollably, nauseous and sick, a fever over 101, my abdomen in excruciating pain. I tried to tough it out – yes – like it was any stomach flu. It took 2.5 hours for me to wake Jason up. I finally fell asleep for a short bit around 7, then by 9 was up and in pain/cold again. Lying on the floor outside my bathroom, feeling like I was going to die, I told Jason that it hurt worse than labor and delivery (and I had all three of my babies without pain meds!). That’s when I finally decided that I needed to go to the ER.
And good thing, too, because sepsis is no joke, and I was fully septic, and I could have died if I’d continued to tough it out at home. All the while thinking, “It’s just a little stomach flu, you’re just whining, yes it hurts, it always hurts, you’re going to go to the doctor and they’re going to say ‘well what do you want us to do about it?’ and you’re going to feel stupid and no one will believe you when you say something’s wrong the next time.” Because that’s what those doctors did to me in those years of tooth infections – told me I was overreacting, over-dramatizing, or full-on making it up. I almost died this weekend because I didn’t want to be the annoying patient who wastes the doctors’ time.
Yes, this makes me very angry. It also makes me a lot more cognizant of what’s going on in my head, so at least I’m a bit more aware of what’s happening, and can maybe be more proactive about ignoring that voice in my head that tells me to stay home. Because every single time I’ve gone to the doctor for a problem, there’s been a reason, even if they couldn’t find that reason. Their inability to find a cause for my illness doesn’t mean that my illness isn’t real. And I need to remember that. I never again want to end up almost dying at home because I’m afraid to go to the doctor.
There’s a lot more to the story after me going into the ER, but this post is already long, so I’m going to call it part 1 and write the rest on another day.