May 12, 2014
I swore when I started my new blog last year, that I would never let it 'get away from me'. I viewed it as a job, kept an editorial calendar and enjoyed the constant pursuit of finding things to share here. I didn't want to become a fair-weather blogger who would just let weeks slip by without finding the inspiration to post. But as so often happens with life, it gets in the way. Not so much the I-fell-in-a-Game-of-Thrones-watching-hole-for-four-seasons kind of distraction, but more of the serious, life-threatening kind of getting in the way.
If you follow me on Instagram or know me personally, you may already know a bit about where I have been for the last few weeks, but I thought I'd take the time to fill you in here (assuming you wanted to know). Well, when what started as a seemingly routine bout of fever/flu stretched past the one week mark, the grown-up in me recognized that something more serious was going on and I had better see the doctor. Of course, the child in me would have preferred to just stay in bed and avoid all possible interactions with needles and tests, as I've had more than my fill in my lifetime. So after a plethora of questions and some physical examination, it was thought that I had a sinus infection and was sent home with all kinds of prescriptions to provide my pounding head some relief while we waited for the blood test results to rule out anything else. When I received the phone call first thing the next morning informing me to come directly to the doctor's office, my heart stopped. After a relatively short lifetime of emergency surgeries in foreign countries, persistent illnesses and oh yeah, that time I went temporarily blind, I knew luck was never on my side where my health was concerned. I had breakdown number one of this whole experience that morning, sobbing into my husband's shoulder, terrified of what they had to tell me and bracing myself for the worst.
What she ended up saying couldn't have stunned me more: I had half the amount of blood I was supposed to and was directed to go straight to the emergency room for a blood transfusion. I think I was so stunned, I didn't even get scared about it at first. I had been relatively tired, rather forgetful and somewhat down for quite awhile, but I had been dismissing it a result of my stress and lack of sleep. So we drove straight to the recommended hospital and since I was not losing blood in a means that messed up their floor, we waited, and waited, and waited... until I was finally whisked in, outfitted with a port for an IV and underwent more examinations and more of the same questions and perplexed looks at my responses, clearly baffled at my symptoms and where the hell all my blood went. With so much left unanswered, they admitted me to a more permanent spot in the hospital and set up a rigorous schedule of invasive tests over the next few days to find out what the problem was.
Between the constant taking of blood, the preparation and putting me under two days in a row to snake cameras through my system, only one meal in three days, it was no surprise that I kept going downhill in those first few days. Once they finally identified the cause of some of issues (namely gastritis, from which it appeared I'd been slowly bleeding out my stomach for possibly years), they could at long last start pumping me full of iron and give me the blood transfusion I had originally come for days before - not to mention being able to eat for the first time in days - my strength immediately started to improve. When the worst was over, it became absolute torture to stay in the hospital, waiting to make sure the transfusion took before they could start taking blood again to continue the tests. After insisting on random x-rays in the middle of the night and scaring me with proclamations that they would transfer me to another hospital at the start of the week (that was breakdown number two), I started to think I was going to be stuck there forever.
Once they determined the cause of my continued fevers - a viral infection likely contracted as a result of my weakened state - a doctor finally came to tell me that they would let me go home. Actually, she said they would let me go home the following day but after I immediately started to tear up (almost-breakdown number three), she was visibly taken aback by my emotion and then asked if I wanted to go home that day instead. It was all I could do to not scream 'of course I want to go home!'. It had been seven days, my longest hospital stay since birth (that's a whole other story...). Waiting to get my release papers and prescriptions written up later that afternoon felt like the longest hours of my life. When I walked out those doors, it was like being released from prison, endless freedom stretched out before me.
But complete freedom isn't mine just yet. Recovery - not just from the hospital procedures and the more recent flu-like symptoms, but from years of having this problem without knowing it - takes time. With only a few fevers in the days after returning from home, the virus I had seems to be leaving my body and my strength continues to return more with each day. I'm also improving in ways I hadn't even realized was connected any sort of ongoing illness: my brittle, paper-thin nails, which I attributed to our move to a much drier, colder climate than California, are now growing rampantly and are as strong as they used to be; my pants, which were are all falling off my hips, are getting a bit snugger again (ok, this one I'm not as thrilled with, but hey, I'll take health over skinniness any day). I still have days when getting up the three flights of stairs to our apartment requires a stop or two, but I have others where I manage to walk around a little bit with my husband and not feel weak from exertion. It's hard to feel so helpless, and as someone who absolutely hates being forced to still still and relax, but hates getting stuck in the hospital even more, it's clear that my focus needs to be solely on improving my health. The rest can wait.
It is with a rather heavy heart that I admit this pause, this little hiccup of life and setback in my health, is going to last a little bit longer. If history is any indication, my desire to jump right back into things is often misguided and overly ambitious. From the time in grade school when I was first diagnosed with asthma and suffered from boderline pneumonia for weeks, only to return to school, overexert myself, and wind up right back in bed, to my impatience to just be back at work after foot surgery only to fall down a flight of stairs with my crutches while visiting, I somehow never learned my lesson. Well, after 34 years, I am old enough to know better. Perhaps overly cautious, that week of being stuck in one room, constantly poked and prodded, is still fresh enough in my memory to convince me to take it easy. So it is time to focus on getting my strength up, returning to a more self-sustainable place with day-to-day activities (which I'm being thrown back into this week, with my husband in the U.S. on business) and finding ways to increase my calm and decrease the stress that most likely caused all of this in the first place. Perhaps it is finally time to find that pilates class I've been contemplating.
If you've managed all the way through this short novel of a post, I thank you. And if you are one of the many who sent well-wishes, messages of concern, or that photo of a sweet, toothy grin that made my heart burst with gratitude and happiness, I thank you even more. In this crazy day of virtual everything, those emails, Instagram messages and the like received in my lonely hospital room, cut off from the rest of real life, were what got me through those incredibly tough days. I can't tell you how much that meant to me. I look forward to returning to all my grand blogging plans, but in the meantime, you can see what I'm up to on Instagram and Twitter. Barring any revelatory news from the specialist I'm to see this week, you can bet that I will be back to blogging in no time!