Sunday, September 28, 2008

What Just Happened???

So I just missed the second half of September. Yeah, I missed the whole freaking last half of the month. What just happened?? On Wednesday, 9/17/08, I started experiencing lower back pain. I didn't think too much of it at first, until I couldn't find any position or pain reliever that would minimize the discomfort. I tried a pill specifically for back pain and laid down on the couch, hoping to take a nap. Two hours later I woke up with the chills. I was covered in a blanket, but I was shaking from head to toe. I found our thermometer and my temperature was 99.6. Hmm. That's higher than normal, but not too high. So I went to sleep for the night, thinking I'd either wake up feeling better or wake up with a better idea of what was wrong. It was a rough night and my back pain made me toss and turn. At 6am I took my temperature again and it was 101.3. Okay, something was wrong. I woke Jer up and asked him to take me to the ER. I wasn't familiar with these symptoms, so I wanted to get some answers sooner than later. We went in and the nurses and doctor all thought it sounded like a kidney infection. They drew some blood to find out for sure, but went ahead and put me on an IV and gave me some pain medicine. I thought it was weird that I didn't experience any of the bladder problems usually associated with kidney infections (painful, frequent urination), but I'm not a doctor so I didn't give it a second thought. They got the blood work back and confirmed the kidney infection. So they wrote me a prescription for an antibiotic and a pain killer and sent me on my way. Thursday afternoon I threw up my lunch, but I figured that was the effect of the pain killer. They usually make me nauseated. That afternoon I started to feel pretty badly again. Now I had a killer migraine and my back pain was coming back. I took another pain pill and the back pain subsided. But the migraine was stronger than ever and I could feel another fever coming on. They had told me I could also take Motrin, so I tried that as well. No luck. I hopped into bed and hoped that sleep would bring relief. Friday brought more of the same. Fever, chills, no appetite and killer migraines. The back pain only came back when the pain pills wore off, so that was manageable. I just kept telling myself, "You've only been on the prescription for a day, so give it time to work." I thought for sure I would start to get better by Saturday. I was so frustrated when there was no relief. I had never had a migraine for this long, and I didn't have the energy to leave the bed. The lack of food coupled with the pain pills was making me incredibly dizzy and tired. On Sunday morning I checked my temperature and it was 103. I told Jer it was time to go back to the ER. We went in and they took another urine and blood sample. My headaches were just unbearable, so I asked if there was anything stronger they could give me. The nurse injected me with some narcotic (wish I could remember the name), that I could actually feel going through my arm and into my head. It provided relief for about an hour. In the meantime, the doctor came back in with a pretty serious face. He told us that both my samples were a lot worse than the previous Thursday and that I needed to be admitted for a couple days. What??? My white blood cell count and platelets were low, which is the opposite of what they'd expect from someone with an infection. This concerned them. I thought we were dealing with a kidney infection, but they obviously had the diagnosis wrong the first time around. I couldn't believe that I had to be admitted to the hospital. I'm not sure I've ever stayed in a hospital overnight before this time, to be honest. I was pretty hesitant, but I also knew that I hadn't functioned at all over the past couple of days, so it was necessary. I got checked into a room and they started me on some antibiotics. Unfortunately they had no clue what they were fighting, so I think there was a lot of guesswork going on. The headaches were back, but they just kept giving me Hydrocodone and Tylenol. I told them over and over again that those weren't helping my headaches, because I'd been taking them at home over the past couple of days to no avail, but it didn't seem to matter. Finally someone listened to me and I was given Morphine. It wasn't so much that it decreased my headache, as it made me not care so much about what was going on. It was a weird feeling. I had to wait 4 hours between doses though, and that was an eternity. On Sunday night I started to get hot at one point, so I moved the covers off my legs. Hmmm. There was a rash all over them. It wasn't anywhere else on my body, but this was still a troubling discovery. We showed the doctor and he was stumped. He said they were testing me for everything they could think of, but still didn't have a diagnosis. So I waited...headaches, fever, rash, and all. Things hadn't gotten any better on Monday or Tuesday, and my family tells me I pretty much looked like death those days. I didn't want to open my eyes or talk much because having had a migraine 24 hours a day for five days straight can make you feel that way. I was also incredibly exhausted after having eaten MAYBE two bites of food a day over the past week. I had to be escorted to the bathroom and back to make sure I didn't fall. That was the only time I got out of bed. The doctors ordered a head CT, a chest CT, a stomach CT, and an EKG. Nothing fruitful came from those. I still had fevers every day (up to 104.5 on two different occasions), so they decided they better check for meningitis. How is this done? Through a spinal tap. I'm cringing right now just thinking about it. It's not so much that it hurts, but it's uncomfortable and when the needle touches certain parts near your spine that you don't think should be touched, it really makes you want to vomit. So that was a little scary. Of course there were no helpful results from it though. In the meantime, I also developed thrush. Awesome. I already had little desire to eat before that, and this just made it even smaller. Every bite hurt and if I managed to get it down, it was followed by this painful acid reflux feeling. By Wednesday I didn't think it could get any worse. Little did I know what was in store!! Apparently there's a fine line between the amount of fluids/antibiotics that should be given to a patient, before you can evoke pneumonia, and my nurses/doctors crossed it. My dad came to visit me on Wednesday during lunch. It was a really bad day and he says I barely opened my eyes when he entered. I think we might've said a few words to each other before I said, "I think I'm having trouble breathing." I pushed the nurse's button and told them. They came in and measured my pulse ox and it was 60, which is REALLY BAD. Normal levels are between 90 and 100. I remember seeing my blood pressure at something like 90/30 which couldn't be good either. They put me on oxygen immediately and worked at getting my levels back up. Turns out I had double pneumonia and needed to go to the ICU. So I spent the next couple of days hooked up to a lot of machines, having a tube in my nose, and getting additional breathing treatments every 4 hours. It was exhausting. Every time I would try to get up or walk, my sats would drop and I'd have to lay back down again. It was frustrating to want to get up and move around, but not have the breath to do it. Apparently whatever antibiotics they had been giving me were actually working though (even though they didn't know what they were fighting). So my headaches were gone by Friday and I was actually feeling alive to the world again! I started to get a little of my appetite back along the way too, meaning I could take about four bites of food every day! haha. I was improving all around, so they moved me out of the ICU. I still had to do breathing treatments every four hours (which makes it hard to sleep), but I didn't have to have the oxygen hooked up to me at all times. There was still hourly monitoring of my blood pressure and temperature, and daily blood draws. On Saturday I was really ready to leave the hospital. I was feeling much better, and so many days without sleep in a row was starting to make me cranky. Sunday rolled around and the doctor told me he wanted to keep me for an extra day to monitor an enzyme in my liver (or something like that). I nearly broke down and begged him to let me go home. He could see how restless I was and how much I had improved since last Sunday, so he agreed. I'll have to go back in on Tuesday to get my blood drawn again, but at least I get to recuperate at home in the meantime. I really want a good night's sleep, in my own bed. I'm also so happy to be back with Jer and my doggies, who keep me sane and definitely help me feel better. So after seven days in the hospital, three of which were in the ICU, there's still no explanation for my initial infection. The best the doctors could come up with was that I possibly had Rickettsia bacteria. This is responsible for things like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, rickettsialpox, typhus, etc. They think I might've caught something through a bug bite when we went camping at Lake GreenBelt and hiking at Palo Duro Canyon a couple of weeks ago and its incubation period was a couple of weeks. Who knows? I wish I could know so that I could definitely avoid the situation in the future, but I guess I have to settle for just being healed right now. I just wanted to say thanks to everybody for the comments, emails, phone calls, and flowers. They were SUCH a nice pick-me-up as I was going through these last ten days of hell. So today is 9/28/08 and I'm back to life. I can honestly say the period from 9/17 to 9/27 were the worst days of my life and I really wish I could get them back. I guess it's best to move forward though and just hope it never happens again.

Monday, August 25, 2008

My Roots

After we ate a family dinner at my parents' house last Friday night to celebrate my dad's birthday, Jer and I headed over to my Oma's house so she could teach us how to make her famous waffle cookies. She's the best cook I've ever known and her recipes are hard to write down on paper. They are best learned by watching. While we were over there, Jer had a chance to check out all the knick-knacks my Oma has. She's got a lot of Dutch tiles and plates, some valuable Chinese figurines and plates from when my Opa worked in Asia, and some Dutch certificates related to my Opa's accomplishments in ceramics. The most intriguing pieces to us were the ones that talked about the War and the liberation of Holland. Germany invaded Holland in 1940 and remained there for about 5 years. My grandparents were very much personally affected during this time. The family house was taken over by the German army at one point as a headquarters of sorts, and later used by the US Army for logistical planning. During the war, my Opa was assigned to be a fireman to save him from going to a German labor camp (like one of his brothers). My grandparents, like everyone else, were forced to adhere to mandatory curfews and the prohibitions of certain items. They also witnessed their Jewish friends and neighbors being sent to camps. Lots of conversations with my Oma end with this phrase: "Those damn Germans." While I know she's stereotyping all Germans for the actions of some, I can't help but give her a break. After the war, my Opa had trouble with his ceramics business and had to seek opportunities elsewhere. He accepted a contract in Israel in 1953 and moved the family there. By 1955, the fighting between Israel, Egypt, and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip was escalating, so the family needed to move again. The amazing part of their story is the way in which they came to America. They had befriended an American soldier (Henry Krueger) during the war and had stayed in contact with him. In September 1955 he sponsored their citizenship, at a time when the quota for immigrants from Holland had already been met. He pulled a few strings and set them up with housing and had a job lined up for my Opa in Ellsworth, Kansas. So they packed up the kids (Pierre, Ludovicus, and Jacobus, my dad), and stuffed what they could in some suitcases. They boarded a ship in Rotterdam, Netherlands and seven days later arrived in New York. That thought blows my mind. I have immense respect for the courage it took to leave their home and travel to such an unknown place, while abandoning most of their belongings. I've heard stories here and there about the different experiences they had during the war, but there's just so much more I know I'm lacking. I really hope that Jer gets the chance to sit with my Oma and hear, in her own words, what she's lived. That way we can both share those stories with our future children and they'll understand why they will call my mom and dad "Oma" and "Opa."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cozumel Recap!

Okay! So here's my Cozumel recap. We arrived at the Occidental Grand Cozumel, and the atmosphere was just amazing. It was so lush and green everywhere. There were large iguanas left and right, which was so foreign to me! The main check-in desk was at the front of the resort, but they loaded us up on a sort of extended golf cart thing and drove us around the entire grounds to the VIP check-in at the back of the resort. Not sure how we garnered that status, but I wasn't complaining. So the process was really simple, and they handed us champagne to welcome us to the resort. Our building was directly across from that, so that was convenient. It was also right next to the relaxation pool, which leads to the beach. So we really did get prime location. We checked out our rooms, which were nice, and then headed to the beach immediately! It was just gorgeous. The water was so clear and the sand was just perfect. It wasn't crowded at all, which was a definite plus. On our second day there we took advantage of the free snorkeling gear and checked out the marine life near the shore. It was so neat to see what lived down there! We were hooked, so we decided to take a snorkel boat tour which takes you out to three different reefs, varying from 20 - 120 foot depth. That was a blast. We got to see sea turtles, eels, starfish, jellyfish, and a million other fish that we had never seen before. The colors were so vibrant. From the moment we got in the water, there was this school of large gray fish that decided to escort us. It was really funny. They just swam next to us and all around us the entire time. They were very friendly. :) The next day we decided to attempt parasailing. That was interesting, to say the least! They put us in harnesses, and we stood up on the deck of the boat. They hooked our harnesses to straps that were connected to a long blue bar. There was a rope connected to a wench on the front side, and then it was connected to a huge parachute on the backside. They threw out the parachute and let out the wench, and there we went! We just started sailing higher and higher. It was amazing. You just felt like you were floating in the sky and there was nothing but beautiful blue water as far as the eye could see. The next day we decided to take out the snorkeling gear again and swim out further away from the shore, on our own. Little did we know what was in store for us. I was swimming along and spotted a complete conch shell on the ocean floor. I got Cary (brother-in-law) to come over and he dove down and retrieved it for me. I started bringing it back to shore to keep, and then noticed there was still something inside. I was like, "Oh, cool! Maybe it's some sort of urchin." So I looked a little closer and dipped it in the water a couple of times to see if I could get the creature to come out. I called Cary over to check it out and about that time I saw a tentacle shoot out. I kinda froze. Then the rest of the baby octopus started to emerge and I shrieked and threw the shell to Cary! Haha. He held it up and sure enough the octopus came completely out and dropped back into the water. That was freaky!! So I laughed it off and decided to do some more snorkeling. Cary, Jeremiah, and I headed out towards deeper water and came across a huge barracuda. It was a little ways away from us, so I didn't feel too scared. But, Cary thought it would be neat to give it a closer look, so he swam over and was basically hovering above it while it was maybe 15 feet down in the water. Jer and I just kept our distance and watched to see what would happen. All of a sudden it turned vertical and basically shot straight up at Cary. It was definitely charging him. He freaked, of course, and tried to swim away from it as quickly as possible. It stopped before it touched him and swam off. We knew that was dangerous, but all had a good laugh after we surfaced, just thinking about Cary's face and frantic flailing. I figured that was enough excitement for me, so I asked Jer if we could head back. He agreed and we started the long trek back to the shore. My goggles were starting to fog up by then anyways. After we had gone a short distance, Jer stopped me and pointed out another barracuda. this one was not facing us, but it was fairly close so we could see just how long and big he was. It had taken me a few seconds to find it in the water b/c of my foggy goggles, and when my eyes finally focused on it, I turned to Jer to be like, "Holy crap!" Well, in the meantime, the barracuda noticed we were there and unbeknownst to me, starting charging at my face. I had my head turned to Jer and saw the look on his face and his attempts to move, so I quickly turned my head backs toward the barracuda just in time to see it staring me in the face. I've never been more scared in my life. I freaked out and started swimming away as fast as I could. We swam for a little bit and resurfaced and I basically told Jer that I wanted to get out of the water ASAP. So we planned on making a bee-line for the shore and wouldn't stop for anything. He swam in front of me, but since he had flippers on, I held back just a little bit so I wouldn't get kicked in the face. You won't believe what happened I was swimming a little ways behind him, I noticed a presence right in front of me and just stopped suddenly. There was an enormous sting ray swimming within inches of me. I've seriously never seen one this big. Fortunately it ignored me and just swam right on by. It's amazing to me that it managed to swim right in-between me and Jer. An inch or two either way and one of us would've touched him. So I let him pass and I lunged forward to try and grab Jer's flipper. By the time we got above water and took our snorkels out and I explained what happened, the ray was long gone. It was just amazing. The next day four of us went out on a Catamaran and that was a neat experience too. The rest of the time, we pretty much just hung out on the beach! Not too shabby of a vacation if you ask me.