I got my dream job at the best hospital in Orange County. I started on June 14, 2010 and hit the ground running during a scheduled 2 month training period. I loved everything about the facility...and still do. It's amazing.
I learned so much during the first 6 weeks of the training period...it was kind of like a second internship. I was settling into a great routine.
I got sick.
At first, it was the flu, which lasted for 5 full days, with a high fever. The fever dissipated and Ryan's parents flew into San Diego, where my mother-in-law had a business meeting. We drove down to spend the weekend with them, which went really well. Then we started the drive home on Sunday afternoon and somewhere in South Orange County, I began to feel chills...in the middle of summer. The fever came back. I was worried immediately, because even though I had no fever during our weekend in SD, I still felt a little congested, and suddenly the fever coming back meant the worst. I had been coughing all weekend, but once that chill came on again, every time I coughed the top of my head felt like it was going to explode. It was so bad that I literally had to put both hands on top of my head and press down whenever I would cough, which was often.
Once at home, I told Ryan that what was happening was not something normal and not a simple 'headache'. My fever shot up. My coughing continued, my headache grew worse. We ended up in the ER nearest our house at 5am on Monday morning. Ryan drove me and I told him as we were on our way, "I bet you that they give me a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) for meningitis." He was sure it wouldn't be that bad, and once I was checked into the ER and given an IV and pain meds, the doctor and I both gave him the go-ahead to get to work. I'd simply take a taxi back home after treatment. I was diagnosed with a sinus infection and given a simple prescription for Sudafed.
I had the hospital call for a taxi and I waited in the ER lobby for it to arrive. I waited for over an hour. During that time, I began to feel exceptionally dizzy. I attributed it to the pain meds given in the ER and sat firmly down. I was still coughing and still holding my hands on my head when doing so. The taxi finally showed up and drove me the three miles home.
I called Ryan an hour later and his first words to me were,"Are you drunk?" My speech was slurred. I told him I wasn't, it must be the residual effects of the pain meds. He asked if I wanted him to come home, I said no, I went to bed.
I slept for hours. My head was throbbing. Ryan came home later that evening and was a little worried. I told him to just keep an eye on me, not to worry, and that we'd fill the Sudafed prescription in the morning. We went to sleep.
I woke up that morning knowing that I had a shift scheduled at 8am. I heard the alarm, I turned to get out of bed, and my legs weren't working. Literally, they WEREN'T WORKING. Worse than that, my headache had increased even without coughing. To top it all off, I was dizzy to the point of spinning...like the end of a college night of drinking. I managed to get out of bed and I immediately hit the floor. I crawled my way up again, along the bed, and told Ryan I needed to go to the doctor IMMEDIATELY.
He had to shoulder-hold me to the elevator and when the doors opened, we saw our neighbor, who is a medical malpractice attorney. He was floored by what he saw, and they both carried me to Ryan's car and set me inside. That moment was awful.
We drove to the Urgent Care affiliated with my place of work, instead of the hospital nearest our home. We were seen immediately and we were sent by the doctor to my facility's ER. And that's just the beginning.
I spent about 5 hours in the ER at the facility where I had been recently hired. During that time, I was seen by about 3 or 4 different doctors. I was x-ray'd at my ER bedside by one of my new co-workers, who was completely blown away by my condition. Finally, I was seen in the ER by the head of the neurology department. He was the first one to truly test my failing motor skills. He helped me out of the gurney and held my arms while trying to get me to walk for him down a short ER corridor. I was like a baby taking its first steps...and he was like the 'father' coaxing me to make it to his arms (safety). I made it half-way and was immediately sent to CT to scan for a brain bleed. He obviously thought what I was thinking: working in CT for a couple of years lets you know when you have a stroke victim on your hands.
The CT scan showed no bleed, thank God. But ruling out stroke meant trying to figure out what the hell was going on with my brain. The next test up was a lumbar puncture (spinal tap).
The irony here appears in two forms:
1. I really believed I should've had a lumbar puncture the day before, at the first ER we visited when the symptoms began
2. I was about to have the entire staff of my department not only know that I was having a lumbar puncture, but also, one of them was going to have to assist the Radiologist in the procedure. This is something I do at work ON OTHER PEOPLE on a daily basis.
So Ryan got to come with me for the first time in my new hospital to see the very space where I work, and to see exactly what I do...except for he was watching it being done on his wife. That's just awful. I can't imagine what my co-worker felt as she prepped me for the procedure, with Ryan watching from the control area, behind the leaded glass. I saw my husband standing in the control area (where I am so very professionally comfortable) and I was the one on the exam table and it was so very surreal...like a nightmare.
About four hours after that, I was sent upstairs to a private room...with what I've been told had a gorgeous view of Newport Harbor. I never saw that view, because I was now a bonafide concern to the healthcare providers and to my family.
What I do remember is trying to sit up in the hospital bed. Once upright, all I could do was flail back and forth, not able to maintain balance even while sitting. When I was completely supine, I tried to flex both knees to plant my feet on the bed. My knees were together, but there were listing back and forth very quickly and I couldn't control it. I could not speak properly. I could not write. I could not communicate with my husband other than one word exclamations that weren't very nice. I could not see very well. My pulse-ox monitor was showing 49 when it should be showing 100. My husband would see those numbers and say,"Honey, BREATHE...." and I would. Family came up that first night and I sent them away after about 20 minutes...because I was FRUSTRATED. More friends and co-workers showed up that day, and I felt embarrassed. All I could do was mumble and twitch, and it pissed me off and I didn't know how to accept their company in that situation...professionally or personally.
......part 2 will be coming soon.....