Saturday, April 23, 2011

3 years ago

Day two of hanging out with awesome people. I'm not sure why I hadn't gone out to do stuff in so long, but I'm glad I have stepped away from hibernating and back into living a little again. I'm not sure if the meds are kicking in, but something seems to be taking the edge off.

And! I received TWO chocolate bunnies in the mail! I'm supposed to do a taste test, so I sampled a bit of ear from each tonight, and will do so again tomorrow. I'll give a full report later in the week, but so far-- YUM!

It has been three years since I nearly died in a freak occurrence. It's unbelievably rare that anyone in their forties would contract viral meningitis. It's even more rare that anyone would have it twice in a lifetime. Hello strange odds, and how I wish I could be so "lucky" when playing the lottery. It all started with a spider bite on the back of my leg. It was one of those things where I became overly aware of and overly focused on the bite, and I couldn't shake the uneasy feeling that something bad was going to happen. After two days of nothing more than me feeling a little tired and grumpy, I figured it was nothing. I took an extra day off due to the fatigue, and instead of waking up refreshed the next day, I woke up knowing I was sick. The day after that I felt excessively stiff and sore, so much so that I could hardly manage a hike. I decided I needed to go to urgent care.

So often in the past I felt unheard by doctors. I had the feeling they looked at my chart, saw anorexia and refused to give me a second thought. But over the years, things changed, and I felt more acknowledged. When I arrived at urgent care, I was seen by a female doctor. I told her I so rarely go to doctors and was convinced there was something really wrong. I mentioned the spider bite, thinking maybe it was some rare poisonous kind, and the venom was causing this unbearable stiffness and soreness in my entire body. Even my hair hurt. She ran some tests that came back nagaive and told me it was hormonal. Really? I couldn't figure that one out, because my cycles were normal, and there was nothing to indicate anything hormonal going on, other than being low in progesterone, which generally wouldn't cause sudden pain and stiffness throughout my body. For some reason it irritates me more that I was blown off by this woman doctor, like she should somehow know better.

I went home thinking it must be nothing, and expected to be feeling better by the next day. Instead, things got worse. After one more day of being excessively uncomfortable and feeling fatigued, I called a friend to take me to urgent care. We went to a different location, and it was fortunate that I made a mistake thinking there was an urgent care there. When I approached the desk, I realized that I was at the emergency room, so I asked the lady if there was an urgent care near by, knowing I probably couldn't afford a stay in the ER. She explained that there was one a few blocks from the building, and added, "Honey, are you sure you don't want to get checked in here? You look sick." My response was to burst into tears and tell her that I couldn't afford it. She insisted that I looked sick, and assured me that something could be worked out for me. I let her lead me to the waiting room, and soon after I was seen by a doctor who gave me morphine and told me that they couldn't find anything wrong. He agreed that I looked sick (I was not so glad I was making this impression on everyone), so he pulled a random diagnosis of bronchitis out of his ass, and sent me home with pain meds, telling me to call or come back if things got worse. Well, they did. By the next morning, I knew I was sick, really sick.

Back to the hospital I went, and again the doctor said he couldn't find anything. He told me he would have to send me home, and apologized, knowing that I was, indeed, sick. I flat out said that I couldn't go home. I didn't want my mom to have to take care of me, so I told him that I hadn't been this terribly sick since I was little and had viral meningitis. I could actually see the light bulb over his head illuminate, and he said something about doing a test for that. Sure enough, the lumbar puncture showed it was meningitis. Meanwhile, at this very time, a friend's sister was being sent home from the hospital with undiagnosed bacterial meningitis, and the girl ended up dying before her brother could get her back to the hospital the following day. For me, though mine was nowhere as severe as what she had, the worst was yet to come, as the lumbar puncture had started to leak, making me sicker than when I entered. I was put on a steady rotation of shots of dilated. I yarfed any time I was upright for longer than a few minutes, and at one point, I sighed, closed my eyes and figured I was done on this planet.

Some unknown amount of time later, I opened an eye, and saw the clock on the wall. "Where the hell am I?" I thought. Almost instantly, I realized I was in the hospital, and, not knowing how long I had been in there, my next thought was, "Shit! how am I going to pay for this?" I wanted to check out, and I don't mean out of the hospital. I was giving up quickly, and the fight in me was nearly extinguished. By this time, my skin had become scaly, and my muscles weak. I still couldn't keep much down, yet I was supposed to get up and walk around while my head felt like a hollow melon that was being used as a bass drum. I was there a total of 9 days. I probably even went home early, as I remember nearly yarfing in the car on the way home and longing for the hospital bed and a shot of dilated, exhausted by merely riding in a car.

From there, it was a LLLOOOONNNNNGGG recovery. Taking a shower was an all day event, and I remember that even watching TV was tiring. I read quite a bit, and my long walk was to my neighbor's house, 3 houses away. My mom ended up helping me throughout this long process. I think it took me about 2 years to feel completely normal, though I was back running several months later. My blood pressure dropped to a scary low point, so I had to be really careful for about two months. The big thing was that my emotions were all over the place. I sometimes even felt cheated that I hadn't died, because I had let go and was ready. For someone who fears death with crazy intensity, feeling OK about checking out was a big step. I think it had to do with the pain medication. That's how I want to leave this world- loaded up on morphine in a pool of calmness. Since then my fear is back in full force.

But I'm here- 3 years after the tragic event, happy to eat chocolate bunnies and hang out in good company.

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