I can't get this song out of my head. Especially the lines, "...streams of mercy never ceasing..." and, "He to rescue me from danger...." Every single doctor and nurse who comes in my room asks if I know how lucky I am. Yes, I do, and am humbled and eternally grateful.
Let's start at the beginning, shall we? I'm not sure where the beginning even is, but when I look back I understand the truth of the phrase, 'hindsight is 20/20.'
I had a horrible head cold most of December that at one point included a ridiculous looking eye infection. No matter how much I tried to treat the congestion, my post nasal drip and therefore cough were just uncontrollable. For several weeks I was sleeping on the couch with 4-5 pillows to help prop me up to try to prevent some of the coughing. At one point I was given Hycodan for the cough, and I thought I had a reaction from that because I was throwing up and just miserable. From here, I'm going to start going with dates. I have a lot of nurse friends or friends who are interested in medical stuff, so since I'm an open book, here ya go. More than anything, though, I'm writing this down for my own record.
December 27 or 28: I was so frustrated the congestion and coughing wouldn't go away. I had prescription-strength decongestants plus was doing essential oils, humidifier, neti pot, anything! So on a lunch break, I ran to Walgreens and decided to try behind the counter Sudafed (again) and see if that would do anything this time. Later that afternoon, I could barely walk in a straight line. I felt dizzy, nauseous, like the room was spinning, and would almost fall over when I walked. I wanted to go home early, but didn't even dare to drive. I called Oby and he said my brother-in-law (who lives close to my work) was actually coming out to our house, so to see if he would bring me when he came. Of course he did. This is one of many of those moments that nearly brings me to tears. I have so many people I can count on. What a beautiful gift! We went out to dinner with them that night and no matter how hard I tried, I could not focus on the conversation. I just didn't feel "right." When we got home, I bent over to get something and just fell right on my face. Twice. I attributed it to a reaction to the Sudafed (even though I had taken Sudafed many times before), and went to bed hoping to feel better the next day. When I was kissing Oby goodnight, he said, "What's wrong with your eye? It looks droopy." All I could think was, thanks a lot, I feel like crap and now I look like crap too... Sheesh.
December 29: I woke up with a very stiff neck, which I attributed to sleeping wrong on the couch with 5 pillows. Took some Ibuprofen and headed to work. About 20 minutes into the drive, the pain was nearly blinding and I was having flashes of light. I went to an Urgent Care. I was diagnosed with sinnusitis, and they thought the pain in my neck was from coughing and sleeping on it incorrectly. We thought *maybe* I was pregnant, but a test ruled that out. I was given antibiotics and told to drink lots of water. Everything -- pain, nausea, coughing, vomiting, got significantly worse hour by hour from that point. I took the antibiotics, but wasn't able to keep them down.
December 30: Bound and determined to go to Aunt Reita's funeral, I got up and got ready. Combing out my hair after my shower nearly killed me from the pain in my neck. I threw up every sip of Sprite and nibble of saltines I tried to ingest. But I was NOT going to miss Aunt Reita's funeral. So we headed there, having to pull over 3-4 times on our way. I greeted the family at the viewing, and had to run to the bathroom twice. When I got up to throw up the third time, I knew I needed to leave. Although I didn't want to miss Aunt Reita's funeral, I also didn't want to disrupt it or turn everyone's attention to me. So we left. Again, everything continued to get worse and worse. The pain in my neck was now radiating into every part of my head. It literally felt like there were ice picks and axes jabbed into about 3 spots of my head. Oby was worried about me and took me to the ER. They ruled out meningitis because I was able to move my neck and although my white blood cell count was a little high, it wasn't anywhere near what it would be if I had meningitis. They did a CT scan, which they said showed no masses or hemorrhages, and therefore decided I was having a "weird migraine." They didn't think I needed the antibiotics which had been prescribed the day before. They gave me Zofran for nausea and sent us home. They said if I wasn't a lot better in 2-3 days, to come back.
December 31: The Zofran was NOT working. Still not keeping anything down. Just laid in bed all day and tried to sleep. Prayed a lot. When my neighbors started the New Year's Eve fireworks and celebrations at midnight, I was pretty sure I might die from the pain it caused in my head.
January 1: Still not better from the last ER visit, still not keeping anything down and worried about dehydration, we went back to the ER. This time I had a female doctor. Not do be a sexist or anything, but it doesn't hurt a doctor to have education, knowledge AND intuition. Just sayin'. She was definitely taking me seriously (whereas no other doctor had seemed to before). She repeated the CT scan of my brain and neck, did with and without contrast, consulted with lots of doctors.... she was really worried about me. I was just glad to be taken seriously. She said the CT scan showed "something" by my mandible, and since my white blood cell count was a little high that I must have an infection that settled in my jaw. That triggered the memory that I had a tooth extracted on that side back in October. We all decided I must have a lingering infection from that. I was put on Augmentin for an antibiotic, switched to Phenergran for nausea, Percocet for pain, and sent home. But this doctor told me she was really, really concerned, and if I wasn't feeling significantly better in 2 days, said she wanted me back in the ER or at least to follow up with my primary care physician.
January 3 (day): I had been keeping food down since I started the Phenergran, but my head pain was worse instead of better (even though I didn't think that was possible). I went to see my primary care physician (who was my dad's primary care physician, since I don't usually have health issues and don't see a doctor regularly). He was friendly, but a little condescending (at first). He said I needed to be patient with the antibiotics, and suggested I drink more water. He couldn't see me rolling my eyes because I was wearing sunglasses in the room since light seemed to make the head pain a little worse. So while he did his notes in the computer, I asked if I could lay down because holding my own head up made the pain even that much worse, but if I could rest my head, the neck pain subsided significantly. He said I could lay down, then when I did, he could see the relief on my face. He stopped typing. He came over and did a bunch of neurological tests (squeeze my fingers, do you feel me touching your feet, etc.). He said, I want you to go to the Emergency Room and get an MRI. Wow, change of tune. He said he'd had a serious spinal infection a few years ago and that laying down was the only thing that relieved the pain. So when I said that to him, he was stopped in his tracks. I was hesitant to go back to the ER, but he practically insisted. "Obviously, it's your choice since you have to pay the copay, but if you were my daughter, I would insist on it." I went home to eat dinner and think about it. Ugh, the ER.... sitting in the waiting room with stinky people for hours, only to be told you're crazy and to go home... I just couldn't bare it yet again. But I thought, what if something life-altering or life-threatening happens and I think, 'If only I had gone to the ER like he said.' I hate regrets, so I couldn't bare that thought. So off we went.
January 3 (evening): Checked in to the ER for the 3rd time that week. We were regulars, that's not a good thing. The wait was the longest it had been, and the pain was worse than ever. When I finally saw the doctor, we explained that we were there because my primary care physician wanted me to get an MRI. He said he would look at my prior CT scans and come back. He came back and said everything looked normal on the CTs, so I just needed to wait for the migraine to go away and the antibiotic to work on the infection. I asked if he could give me a higher dose of Percocet or a different type of pain medication to try to keep the head pain under control. Suddenly, I was seen as a drug seeker and taken even less seriously than before. He said I could try taking 1.5 pills instead of 1, but was trying hard not to roll his eyes and I could tell. Then I told him I knew his brother, and he went to write up the discharge papers. I don't know if it's because he knew I knew his brother or what, but he decided to investigate a little deeper. He talked to the female doctor that I had seen at the previous ER visit. He called and consulted with other doctors. Like I say, I don't know what changed his tune, but he came back with a different attitude. Suddenly he was worried too. He said to go home, drink lots of water, alternate heat and ice, rest as much as possible, and if I wasn't 100% better in 2 days, he would order the MRI. He gave me his personal cell phone number so we could be in close contact.
January 4: Just babying myself and being babied. My primary care physician called to see how the MRI went. When he found out they didn't do one, he was livid. LIVID! He said I absolutely needed to demand to have one as soon as possible. He said he would order it, but since he's not an ER physician, it would take weeks. The ER physician could order one stat. Since the pain was only getting worse, we did call the ER physician. He said he would see what he could do, but again assured us that he didn't think I needed one. He called back and said he scheduled one for January 10 (SIX days later).
January 5-6: Slowly feeling a little better... a little less nausea and a little less pain.
January 7: Even just a little bit better. My work was having a fancy work party at Hotel Monaco that I had bought an outfit for and everything. I really, really wanted to go. So even though I didn't really feel up to it, we went. I was in miserable having to hold my own head up 'n all, but it was still fun, lovely, and the food divine!
January 8-10: I started weening myself off the Percocet and only use Ibuprofen so I could drive and function at work. I was in pretty bad pain only using Ibuprofen, but it was nothing compared to what it had been.
January 10 (evening): Went to get the MRI after work. I had been told I would get three MRI's: brain, neck and spine. So when the radiology tech said they were doing one MRI of the brain, I was befuddled. I asked if we could wait, call the ordering physician to make sure it was right, just so I didn't have to come back. We did so. He answered! Yay! I thought, finally, someone is on my side and we are going to get answers. So I put him on speaker so he could clarify to the tech what needed to be done. He said something along the lines of, 'Well, she doesn't really need any MRI done, but let's get one of the brain.' I was discouraged and disheartened, and unable to fight at that point. I got the brain MRI, all the while knowing I would be back.
January 11: Big day for me. The girl was in Salt Lake from Boston for the study. We had plans to do dinner and a big interview that night. I also had people in from out of town at work and new employees I was training. This was the best I had felt in at least a month. I would dare say I felt great. I definitely still had neck pain, but it was less severe, and no longer had the headache at all! I thought I had just had some freaky virus and hoped it was behind me! Boy, was I on top of the world that day. Then at about 2 pm the radiology department called and said the radiologist wanted to speak to me immediately and could he reach me at this number. I talked to him and he said he saw "an artifact" on my brain MRI and that we needed to do a more thorough brain MRI as well as multiple MRI's of my neck to be able to know for sure what it was, and when was the soonest I could be in. I explained, well I'm working and I have an important appointment tonight, let's do it tomorrow. No, he said, tomorrow is too late. What is the soonest you could be here after your appointment. I was obviously a little freaked out, but the nurses I work with said an artifact on an MRI could be any number of things and not to worry. I finished my work day and had the dinner/interview.
January 11 (evening): Oby drove me to the MRI. He said, "What if it's something serious?" "Then we'll deal with it. I can't imagine anything that would rock my world. But if I die, put 'I told you I was sick!' on my head stone." I checked in with MRI. They said they didn't show an appointment for that name. Oh great, I thought. Here we go. She went in the back to ask someone, they came out to the waiting room, and escorted me directly back to the MRI scan. The radiology tech asked what had been so important that I couldn't come in until so late. I explained the study and the interview, to which he replied, "Hmph." Okay, I was getting a little freaked out. He said we're going to do one MRI, I'm going to send the images to the radiologist, and if he sees something, we'll do more. We did 4 MRI's because he kept seeing something. I knew something was up, but I have never in my life experienced more peace. I'm almost ashamed to admit that a little part of me was happy because I felt vindication. He took me to the waiting room and said he would consult with the radiologist and to not go anywhere. It was only 20 seconds later, he came and got me and said the radiologist wanted to talk to me. He explained I have a left distal vertebral artery dissection, a blockage in one of my arteries, and that I need to go to the Emergency Room for immediate treatment. I said, "Okay, can you say the diagnosis one more time, I'd like to write it down." "There's no time for that! Go to the emergency room, I'll have them write it down for you."
Okay, vindication is good, but he definitely freaked me out.
So here I am, still in the hospital. It is highly uncommon that they catch a vertebral artery dissection BEFORE the person has a stroke. Usually the person has a stroke, then they do an MRI and see that this was the cause. My neurosurgeon said in 15 years of being a neurosurgeon, he has only seen 2 cases where someone had this without also having a stroke.
I asked the neurologist to show Oby and I the CT scans and MRI's yesterday. It was very sobering. The tear is big and there is coagulated blood around the tear... the artery is SO narrow, it really is a MIRACLE I didn't have a stroke, and the hospital staff has not stopped telling me so since I've been here. It wasn't that I didn't believe them, but to see it was all the more humbling.
I was on Heparin, then Heparin and Coumadin, then Coumadin and Lovenox. I used to be a nurse assistant, so I document all my intake and output on the white board, make my own bed, get my own supplies and drinks.... I've been yelled at more than once and thanked more than once. Don't get me wrong, they've taken VERY good care of me, but I do what I can. I've been showered with deliveries, visits, prayers, priesthood blessings, messages, facebook support, and divine intervention. I've been enjoying room service, Pandora, Pinterest, and catching up on some of my projects. But I've missed this little girl like crazy. She's been SO brave and good, though! She comes to visit, but never wants to stay for very long. I think she's just mad that I won't give her my teddy bear!
I don't care if anyone thinks I'm crazy, but angels reside in this hospital room with me. I don't see them, I don't talk with them, but I feel their presence of love and immense peace. I have been blessed with so much peace, I've never been very worried. The only thing I really have worried about have been Chloe, Oby and our parents worrying about me. Even if I do have a stroke with side effects or even if I die. I really trust my Heavenly Father. I'm not trying to seem like the most spiritual person alive, but I just really do know that God's will is the greatest. I trust Him. And I feel like if He wanted me to or okay with me having a stroke or passing away, it would have already happened.
I'm not out of the woods yet. There's still a chance I'll have a stroke. But they're sending me home today. I was a little hesitant. I mean, there's not an endless supply of Diet Dr. Pepper and the good ice at home. There's not room service. If anything does happen, I'm not on monitors for specialists to immediately see. But I've been told that although there's still a chance, it's slim (no matter how hard I try, they won't give me a percentage), and also that if I do have a stroke or have signs that a stroke is about to happen, there's not really a lot they could do for me in the hospital anyway besides treat the symptoms. So if that happens at home, we could just call an ambulance or rush to the ER. And this way I can be home with my sweethearts. And I DO miss them immensely.
I can honestly say that although this experience has been painful, frustrating, and exhausting, I am grateful for it. I am grateful for the human body. I mentioned that in my previous post before I even knew what was going on. The complex inner workings of the human body ASTOUND me! Even though the physical pain I had at certain times during this experience was nearly unbearable, I was grateful for it, even when I was going through it. Because I knew it was God's masterpiece communicating that something was wrong. What a gift our bodies are! What a gift life is! And the people who love and support us and are there when we REALLY need them, it's such a gift! I think I already knew all of that before this, but this has certainly emphasized my gratitude for those things and my CARPE DIEM attitude! Life and love are such beautiful gifts. I want to embrace them more than ever, and NEVER miss an opportunity to give service, show gratitude, or express love.
THANK YOU to everyone who has shown love and support during this ordeal. I have truly gained strength and courage from it. I feel the power of everyone's prayers. This has been the sweetest of all the Lord's mercies on me. Thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU.