The rumors of my death have been (not so) greatly exaggerated

So some of you may have heard that I fell sick a couple weeks ago.

This post is for those most interested, and myself, as I recall the events.

It was pretty bad.

Let me elaborate.

I’ve never been one for conventional medicine, thanks to my upbringing. Doctors are mostly just elaborate mechanics, trying to fix a fairly complex machine. The first step to fixing any kind of machine is determining what is wrong in the first place. “Knowing the disease is half the cure.” Most of the time, diagnosis is determined via running a battery of standard tests, looking at results, running further tests, until at some point, you have to decide what the right course of action is.

Sometimes that works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

That has created a stronger case of self-diagnosis, as well as being somewhat health-oriented, having foundations in homeopathic medicine, macrobiotics, and a general awareness of health – even though I choose to ignore all of the above most of the time (sorry mom!).

So on Saturday a couple weeks ago, I was out with my improv pals, having a good time, when I started to develop a headache. I rarely get headaches – even after a full night of major boozing. But I didn’t think much of it, figuring it would pass. We all went to the theater and saw a show, after which I was feeling worse, and scuttled on home, directly into bed.

During the night, I felt even worse, and couldn’t sleep, and spent the next 24 hours or so listening to my own breathing – I couldn’t even bring myself to watch TV.

That went on for a bit, and my headache got worse, and my thought processes slowed down considerably, to the point that I couldn’t figure out elementary things like where the kitchen went.

Over the course of Monday, I stayed in bed, and spoke to few people, as my vocal cords had left me as well, and I was incapable of making more than incomprehensible grunts. It was not fun.

At 3:00am on Tuesday, I was feeling so bad, that I was actually fearful of my life, and it was getting much worse, that good old pounding in my head. So I dragged myself out of bed, put some clothes on, and walked across the street to the hospital’s emergency room – that walk took me a long time – I don’t know how long exactly, but it felt like eternity.

As I walked in the ER, I looked at the first person there and said “I need help, please.” He pointed me into the ER, and told me to speak to the nurses station there.

So I shuffled in further, found the station, and repeated my plea. They told me to sit down, and that a doctor would see me soon.

A good 5 minutes pass, in which I see a few doctors go past, and none stop. After another 5, the next one that passes, I croak feebly, “Doc! Help me out!”

He stops, comes over, and then sends over a nurse to begin the paperwork and such. I literally toss the contents of my wallet – ID, insurance card – at her, after she asks a couple of questions, and my voice isn’t up to the challenge. She grabs the plastic and starts with the paperwork.

She sets me up on a bed, and the doc comes over, orders a bunch of tests, and orders a bunch of saline to be pumped into me, as I seem to be drier than the Sahara.

So she starts the tests, grabs some blood, and then hooks me into an IV. Sh had trouble finding a vein to work with, it seems that the drier you are, the harder it is to find veins.

So once the drip starts, my arm gets amazingly cold, and over the course of the next couple of hours, the cold spreads to the rest of my body. Oh, it felt great.

They wheeled me around for a cat scan of my lovely cranium, due to the unusual pounding I was feeling. They also did some chest x-rays, I’m not sure why.

Back at my bed, I just rested, and took a couple Tylenol that the nurse brought along.

At some point, the doc came back, and told me that all the other tests show nothing serious, and that he’s going to perform a lumbar puncture – to test the fluid for infection, as in meningitis. Scary stuff.

Oh, the pain. I hope you never have to experience a couple of needles being shoved directly between your vertebrae, and then having fluid sucked out. After that, he set me to lie flat down and not move much. Oh, it hurt.

Well, at abut 6:30, I felt it was late enough in the morning to call my uncle and let him know what’s up. No point in calling him earlier, as what was he going to do? Might as well let someone else have a good night’s sleep.

He said he’d be coming in soon, and I settled in for some dozing – which didn’t work very well.

My uncle arrived a little after 8:00, when the ER day shift took over, and it got a lot noisier, and I was feeling a lot better. He went inquiring about what’s going on, and spoke to some doctors, and tried to figure out what’s what.

After a bit, he came back with the answers he was looking for, and left me to rest there, while he went elsewhere.

Eventually, the doctors explained that the preliminary results of the lumbar puncture (or spinal tap) were clear, and that the final one would take a few days to culture, and that they want to admit me for observation.

After it turned out that they essentially didn’t know what was wrong, other than some sort of viral infection, as well as dehydration, I decided I could self-observe, now that I had a fresh 5-6 liters of liquid pumped into me and bundled up to head home, where my uncle took good care of me – did the laundry, aired out the apartment, and went shopping for a lot of sustenance.

So I spent the next few days in bed, barely moving, hoping that the world would stop trying to dispose of this badly abused hardware, if only for the sake of the software that runs on it. (Geeky references. Enjoy.)

It turns out that there’s a possibility that post-lumbar puncture, the hole does not clot fast enough – this happens in about 30% of the people that get one. The effect that thatyou get massively pounding headaches (actually worse than the ones before) – but only when in any position but horizontal.

And I’m just that lucky.

So I spend more time n bed, although this time around, I can watch TV to distract me from myself. That goes ok. My doctor proscribes some painkillers – vicodin? and those were nice. Legal drugs are pretty awesome. I just was careful to not take too many – I’m told they can quickly become addictive. I believe it.

Some family and friends came by and visited, cheered me up, and it took about a week and a half until I felt somewhat normal and ready to face The Outside again.

So that’s that. If you get sick, and feel like lying around all day, make sure you drink lots of water.

No matter what.

  • Dubi

    God! You *are* an idiot!

    “yeah, why won’t I wait till I’m almost dead before I stumble and find someone to save my life”.

    Here’s a basic rule of finger — if you’re feeling something out of the ordinary, especially if it feels really bad and it involves the respiratory system or seems to be related to the heart — seek medical attention immediately.

    If you’re having headaches, fever or vision problems that won’t go away after 48 hours – seek medical attention too.

    No need to run to the doctor’s every chance you have, but no need to ignore his presence as well.

    Hope you’re feeling better and that you have learnt your lesson.

  • Lisa Hertel

    It sounds like you had a flu, though they obviously suspected meningitis.

    Isn’t it amazing how much better you feel after they pump you full of fluids? And yes, spinal punctures hurt, though I barely noticed mine; I was busy giving birth at the time. (Two children, three epidurals…)