Some mornings you get up, expecting to have the day turn out one way, and the unexpected happens. I arose feeling the morning’s normal lupus challenges: brain fog, aching joints, exhaustion. I had been in a flare since interrupting my medications the previous week getting ready for a colonoscopy.
My body had not yet rebounded, and it was slow going. I had no clue a storm would sail in before the end of the day.
From Fair Weather to a Brewing Storm
The first couple of hours went okay, taking meds, eating a light breakfast, and downing a couple of cups of coffee. I started out at the piano for a few minutes, and then moved on to running a light load of laundry and sweeping my kitchen floor as my mild morning exercise! Nothing too out of the ordinary, but suddenly I wasn’t feeling very well.
My mother always taught me that is never good to talk about perfunctory bodily functions or fluids in polite conversation, so I will spare you the details in deference to her deeply ingrained dogmas. However, this was the first time my digestive system had resumed “working” since the procedure several days earlier. Again, sparing the unsavory details, I was suddenly extremely ill-feeling and overwhelmingly indisposed. My entire gut was intensely cramping and burning from top to bottom.
Misled by the Lull
Writing an email to work in-between bouts of feeling absolutely horrible, I communicated the state of my indisposition and that I hoped to be in for the afternoon. Things didn’t get better as I had hoped, and the morning continued with abdominal cramps, cold sweats, overwhelming malaise, nausea and misery.
By early afternoon, it seemed things were quieting down, and that I might be able to save the afternoon. I had a meeting to conduct at work that I had set with a supervisor from another department. It was my goal to negotiate solutions to some ongoing customer service problems. I really didn’t want to miss that meeting or reschedule it.
So, I took the “suck it in and go” approach and decided I could tough it out for the rest of the day, confident my physical discomfort problems were quieted enough to let me to cope. I took a quick shower, dressed for business, and set out on my half-hour commute to work.
Little did I know it was the lull before the storm!
Driving into the Storm
Somewhere well past mid-point in the drive, I hit the storm. Not rain outside the car, but a storm of overwhelming discomfort overtook me within. I was so sick that I actually passed out for an instant while driving, for a brief, black moment — just a short distance from the off-ramp I would need to take.
Startled quickly back to alertness, I quickly assessed my abilities and kept on driving, while praying that I could make it to work before feeling so bad I would have to pull over at the side of the road. The idea of stopping on the freeway in the Arizona July mid-day heat did not sound very good to me, so I kept going the last five minutes until I got to work, frustrated as I hit every stop light between the freeway and my office!
Things quickly went from bad to worse.
Leaning against the back wall of the elevator, I was grateful no-one else was riding up with me. I slowly headed down the hall to my office suffering intense abdominal pain, and in a cold-sweat — feeling like I had just finished running a marathon. Sitting at my desk, I reeled as I rested my head into my hands on the desk and moaned.
I reached for the phone to call one of my co-workers and asked her to contact the people already assembling for the meeting. She agreed to extend my apology and let them know I was too sick to hold the meeting. Next, I knelt on the floor of my office out of view of my doorway, and leaned my head into the guest chair in misery. I was just too sick to continue sitting up at my desk.
Sending Out an SOS Call for Help
When my boss got one look at me, he encouraged me to go downstairs to the nursing/sick room and rest in a recliner there until I felt better or could get help to go home. Things were getting worse by the minute. Before long my boss and one of my other closest co-worker friends were sitting with me, and called paramedics. They helped me touch base with my doctor, husband and daughter by phone.
In a few minutes, I was surrounded by a dozen paramedics, connected to an IV, oxygen, blood pressure cuff, and partly undressed (one shoulder) to permit attaching the EKG leads. Pretty soon, I was on an ambulance and headed to a local hospital.
This was not exactly how I expected my afternoon would turn out, when I contemplated my day a few hours earlier over breakfast!
Diagnosis and Two Days in Safe Harbor
My husband and daughter met the ambulance at the hospital, and spent most of the next two days camped out in my hospital room. I was glad for their presence, encouragement and the comfort of knowing I was not all by myself in the discomfort and distress I was experiencing. Friends, family and coworkers extended well-wishes and prayers for my speedy relief and recovery.
My daughter brought my tablet PC along, which held a picture of all my prescription bottles on it. This was a great help to completing a list of my medications for the doctors while I was under the influence of morphine.
The medical details and litany of procedures that followed would bore the most interested of kind readers, so, I will skip to the executive summary.
After an abdominal CT-scan and many blood tests I was checked into the hospital for observation and treatment. No GI problems showed in the CT-scan except some uninfected diverticuli found in the previous week’s colonoscopy. The CT-scan and echo cardiogram also revealed a little pericarditis (effusion around my heart,) common for some lupus patients in flare.
Neither of these two minor conditions was the cause of my misery.
The long story very shortened is this – I had a very, very severe urinary infection.
Suddenly, after I was at the hospital, we were all surprised to find out that what should have been yellow was red! (Okay, I guess I did momentarily talk about bodily functions and fluids, after all.) My bladder was so infected that the lining was raw and bleeding. The severity of the infection had triggered intense whole-abdominal pain and cramping of my intestinal tract muscles, as well.
I would have never thought that a urinary infection could cause such overwhelming digestive discomfort, or a hospital stay!
Repairs in Dry Dock
I had to stay a little longer than planned when I surprised the medical team with a blood pressure reading of 85/44. I tend to be a pretty cool cucumber under stress, but this was a little more than they were willing to accept as pre-discharge vital stats. They decided not to let me go home for a while longer, until after administering bolus IV fluids finally got my blood pressure up to 108/65.
They also made me prove I could walk two rounds around the nurse’s station with my IV pole without getting winded or breaking into a cold sweat. (I failed the first attempt.) Finally, I got the okay to check out.
Setting Sail for Home
I have been home for a whole day now, and am feeling almost like myself again, just a bit drained and slightly worse for the wear. Glad my little storm has passed, I am lying low for the next few days and focusing on rest and repair.
The most strenuous activity thus far since getting home from the hospital?
Sitting around with my daughter and painting my nails!