What started out on December 9th as a combination holiday visit to my Sister in New Jersey and a business trip, quickly turned into a medical nightmare for me and my family. When I arrived at my Sister’s early Saturday afternoon, I had some abdominal pain that I chalked up to gas. On Sunday, the pain was still there, so I took some Gas-X to get some relief. All that did was disperse the gas throughout my body and caused the pain to spread even into my chest and shoulders. Although I still wasn’t feeling well, on Monday, I had to go to our New Providence office to meet with employees and take the management staff out for a holiday lunch. Needless to say, given the state of my intestinal tract, that was not a very exciting prospect, but I got through it.
Tuesday, I headed home to Maryland, still uncomfortable and got up and went to work on Wednesday. By early afternoon, the pain had gotten worse and I made an appointment with my primary care physician. The appointment was the last of the day, so I didn’t see her until about 5:00. I had asked my husband, Steve, to come to the appointment with me in case it was “something bad” and it was. My doctor felt my abdomen and took my temperature, 102.5 and told us to go immediately to the emergency room, which was only about ten minutes away.
We arrived at the emergency room at about 5:30 and finally got into triage at about 6:15. After being asked the same questions over and over again by different people (they have computers and you would think they would share information, but apparently not) and a CT scan, I was admitted to the hospital at about 11:00. The diagnosis was diverticulitis with an abbscess. Steve was with me the entire time comforting me and helping me with whatever I needed. When I had to drink what seemed to me like a gallon of liquid as quickly as possible prior to the CT scan. I was treated with massive amounts of IV antibiotics in an attempt to stop the infection and avoid surgery. Unfortunately, on December 17th, I had to have surgery to remove part of my colon which had ruptured. I had not been well prepared for what to expect after the surgery. I woke up with a ten inch incision that was closed with 37 staples and was close to incontinent, a very humiliating experience that wasn’t made any better by the very poor and indifferent nursing care. With very few exceptions, the nurses didn’t volunteer anything, if you wanted something, you had to ask for it. Pressing the call button for the nurse didn’t get anything close to a quick response. It wasn’t uncommon to have a “beeping IV” for thirty minutes before a nurse responded. There was an emergency cord in the bathroom to pull if you needed assistance….at one point, I had soiled by gown and needed help, but got tired of waiting and took care of it myself, being very thankful that I hadn’t been lying in the bathroom with a dire emergency. Steve was at the hospital every day bringing me things that I needed and being my advocate with the nurses and doctors.
I was very sick, but fortunately, not totally incapacitated for too long. I truly pity anyone who is, because they certainly won’t get the care that they deserve. Since I was hospitalized from December 13th through December 28th, I had several room mates. One was an elderly woman who was brought in curled up on her bed in a ski cap. During the several days that she was in the hospital her meals came and went and no one even attempted to feed her. Another room mate was a nurse from another hospital who had an appendectomy. She was very fortunate to have a friend who was also a nurse stop by each day to take care of her. She was out of the hospital in just a few days. My final roommate was a 102 year old woman, who they looked in on once or twice a day.
One morning I woke up and noticed that my legs were swollen, very swollen. When I entered the hospital, I weighed 134 pounds. They brought a scale into my room and told me that I weighed 164 pounds! Thirty pounds of fluid had built up in my body. They began treating the fluid build up with diuretics, but sent me home on December 28th with my legs and feet so swollen that I could hardly bend my toes. I was also to continue on IV antibiotics at home with a nursing company coming to our home to show my husband and I how to administer the IV’s. I was pretty squeamish about the prospect of Steve administering IVs, but he was wonderful and did a great job.
On the evening of December 30th, I was back in the emergency room because I couldn’t breathe. I was once again admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of congestive heart failure. That led to another week of hospitalization with numerous tests to determine if I had a heart attack, chronic heart failure or the problem was due to the fluid build up in my body.
I was still having a lot of trouble breathing even with oxygen. The nurse asked if I had an advanced medical directive and requested a copy of it. Needless to say, that was probably the worst night I spent in the hospital. I didn’t sleep much that night. After another week in the hospital and numerous tests, the cardiologist informed me that my heart function was back to normal and that the heart failure was apparently due to the fluid build up in my body after the surgery.
On January 5th, it was home again at last. No IV antibiotics this time, but eight prescriptions to take for an additional two weeks. Steve got all of my prescriptions filled for me and brought home all of the groceries that I requested, although I didn’t have much of an appetite and really had to force myself to eat.
Initially, I was feeling pretty tired and it was hard to get myself motivated to do anything. It seemed like I had to think about something for quite awhile before I got up to do it. I was on a low residue diet, which pretty much took away the joy of food for me, but I was almost afraid to eat anything for fear of aggravating my digestive system.
After a month and a half, I’m finally starting to feel better. When I had my follow up appointment with my surgeon last week, he gave me the wonderful news that I should be eating anything that I wanted since I didn’t have diverticulitis anymore and there was only about a 10% chance that it would reoccur. I was still feeling reluctant, but have gradually added new foods to my diet with no ill effects so far.
While we frequently tell our partners that we love them, my husband, Steve, showed his love for me in the most wonderful and caring ways while I was going through this ordeal. I don’t think I could have gotten through it without him. I will be forever thankful and grateful.