Just before midnight on February 24, 2020, after 11 hours in the ER, I was wheeled up to my room. I had been on IV fluids since I was admitted. IV antibiotics were started and I had a chest x-ray.
I was drinking water, cranberry juice and apple juice but nothing quenched my thirst. The nurse helped me into bed, brought me more fluids to drink and cheese and crackers to eat. Every 2 hours they took my blood pressure, temperature and pulse. Before 7 am they took more jars of blood so they could continue to grow cultures. I did not get much sleep and was sitting up when the doctor came to see me at 8 a.m.
He looked at me and said, “Are you (my name?)” After I replied, “yes” he told me that he was surprised because based on the lab report he was reading I should not be able to sit up. I told him that I had some fluids and food in me so I was feeling way better than when I arrived. He told me that I was very sick and mentioned some numbers regarding my blood panel that meant nothing to me. He told me my CRP was 400, I was completely septic and they needed to figure out why. He was ordering an ultrasound, echocardiogram, CT scan with contrast, nasal swab and blood thinner injections daily in my belly. I was considered “precautions” and everyone who came to see me had to wear full PPE.
My best friend’s husband is a physician in Ontario. He was asking questions by text about my blood work and even offered to call the doctor directly. He asked me to inquire about another blood indicator and when I told the doctor the next day about the number my friend wanted to know, the doctor responded, “He will be so freaked out by it.” He obviously told my best friend how sick I was because she wanted to fly out and she contacted the other 4 friends in our tight-knit group. One of those friends pleaded with me to transfer to Vancouver for care. I assured her I was in good hands.
On Day 3, I started to develop a rash over my entire body and I was having difficulty breathing. I wore a ‘penicillin allergy’ bracelet and was certain I was having an anaphylactic response to the meds especially when they told me that one antibiotic was in the penicillin family. The hospital’s clinical pharmacist came to see me and he couldn’t understand the reaction. Firstly, the rash was blistering, on my palms and elbows especially, and it was very painful with raised bumps; not itchy and flat. He said even though one antibiotic was in the penicillin family it is commonly prescribed to people with penicillin allergies and shouldn’t cause a reaction. At this point they were confident that I had a bacterial infection, not viral, and the combination of antibiotics were having some positive effect on my blood cultures so he didn’t really want to change them. The pharmacist now had to figure out what med was causing the reaction because I was currently on two antibiotics and I had been given two different antibiotics in Emerg. He was going to contact the Infectious Disease Specialist again for input. He put my antibiotics on hold and I was prescribed nebulizers that they administered by mask immediately for my breathing.
Word was getting out that I was in the hospital. I received many visitors, flowers, calls, texts, food for both me and my girls, books, magazines (although I did not even turn a page until day 7 of my stay because I was too sick to even care to look at pictures) and a pile of hand-made cards from my daycare kids. I was most grateful though for the kindness that people showed my kids. People were inviting them to dinner and offering their services and support.
My sudden illness was a huge burden on my children. They had no other parent to take over those responsibilities. They had to take care of the house, the pets, a new roommate was moving in so there was cleaning and prepping for her arrival as well as the fact we were moving to a new rental in less than a month. They had to bring me clothes, toiletries, my phone charger and whatever else I realized I needed each day my stay was extended longer and longer. They had to bring me the mail to open and then they had to deposit money into my account and pay bills. On top of that my youngest daughter was preparing for a dance show with a long rehearsal the day before and 2 performances the next day as well as trying to prepare for a school trip to Tanzania. She still had things she needed to buy for the trip. Most of the burden rested with my youngest daughter as the hospital was on her way to school and close to her dance studio.
I was very surprised that my kids didn’t tell my ex or his parents, who were visiting from Ontario for several weeks, that I was in the hospital. I told my younger daughter to let her dad know that I couldn’t do the things that she needed me to do and to ask him to take her places to get what she needed. She wouldn’t do it. I told her that her grandparents would probably love to help her out but she would not tell them and she would not ask them for help. Although my girls talked to my birth mom by phone, she was in Florida on the other side of the continent and I have no family living here.
On Day 4 the doctor greeted me with, “How is the most interesting patient in Island Health Authority today?” We had a diagnosis: rat bite fever. I didn’t have an anaphylactic reaction. I had pneumonia as confirmed by the CT scan and the rash was one of the symptoms of my diagnosis. The Infectious Disease Specialist came to see me and she took photos of my rash for her medical book and teaching tools. The clinical pharmacist also paid me another visit to make sure I was doing okay on the meds. I was still coughing but I was able to have “precautions” lifted.
Days 5 – 7 my pressure was bouncing around. It was as high as 220/105. That concerned me but my doctor said the low blood pressure concerned him much more. I still had a fever but it was much lower. I was starting to walk a little bit. I was told I had a beautiful heart to photograph and there were no vegetations on the heart valves which was a good sign. I was still having blood taken every morning.
On Day 8, my family doctor came to visit me. My liver numbers were the latest concern and they were afraid of permanent damage. My fever had finally normalized. The infectious Disease Specialist came to see me again and advised they were going to switch the IV antibiotics for oral antibiotics to see if I could keep them down.
They took me off all IV fluids on Day 9. I was still having nebulizers 4 times/day. The clinical pharmacist came in to see me again to make sure I was doing okay on the oral antibiotics. They were making me nauseous so he said I could take them with some food, just not dairy. They were going to let me go on Day 11 or 12 but I asked if I could go home the next day. I was starting to feel the stress of all that I needed to do at home and I knew my kids were needing me. I had to wait to see what the doctor said in the morning. He reluctantly agreed, gave me a 10 day supply of the antibiotic, I called a friend to pick me up, they took out the IV line and I was discharged.
I quickly realized that I was definitely still sick and could do very little. I had no energy and basically traded the hospital bed for my own bed. It took another 2 weeks to recover. I had my blood retested and there were 3 areas that were still way out of range.
My follow up appointment with the Infectious Disease specialist was changed to a Telehealth call on April 15. I am not to work due to compromised health with Covid-19 risk but there is nothing more they can do for me unless my condition deteriorates. There could be permanent damage but I was also told my inflammatory condition was so severe that it is not unexpected that I have areas still out of normal range.
I was advised to take care of my health and avoid stressful situations. Needless to say the stress just kept coming.