Friday, October 4, 2013

Where have I been?

(Day 6 in the hospital, September 2013)


"You could have died," said the doctor.

My whole world stopped.

WHAT??? 

Did he actually just say that? But...I'm 27 years old...I have a young daughter...there are things I want to do...I've been making an effort to take care of myself more...I'm a stay at home mother!

HOW could this have happened? WHY did this happen? Why me???

"You're very unlucky to have caught this," the doctor said. "But you're also very lucky to have survived"...

My heart felt heavy with gratefulness...I hated that it happened to me, but I also felt glad to have a second chance. A double-edged sword...

It's funny how life happens, sometimes. Just when you think you've got it all figured out...life blindsides you and knocks you over. For no apparent reason, other than "everything happens for a reason"... although what is that reason, really?

Could I have predicted this? No.

Could I have prevented this? No.

Do I really have control over my own life? No. It is all an illusion...

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(My view, on a rainy, stormy night)


Let's start from the beginning...

On Monday, September 23rd, I awoke at 6am with a splitting headache (and I don't get headaches). It felt like somebody was hammering the back of my neck. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't think. I took an Advil - it didn't work. Within hours, I couldn't move my neck, couldn't open my eyes, couldn't handle any sounds, felt nauseous, couldn't walk straight....my headache was raging on...more painful than natural childbirth. It literally felt like a baby was coming out of the back of my neck.

Husband-ji came home from work to take care of Maya. My mother drove me to the hospital. It was all a blur. I remember them asking me questions...What day is it? What month is it? I just cried...I didn't know... They poked and prodded me, jabbing me with the IV. Jabbing me to get blood. This is hard, the nurse said. Your veins are too small.

The doctor came. Students crowded around him. Meningitis...meningitis...they all whispered. A brain scan followed. The doctor said he had to do a "spinal tap". That's the only way we will know if it is Meningitis or not, he said. I cringed. I never even had an epidural during my childbirth. It sounded like it was going to hurt. The doctor bent me over. Don't move, he said. My head was hurting so much that I didn't even notice they were sticking a needle into my spine. They had to puncture my spine 5 times. The third sample they got was cloudy. Meningitis...they said.

They put me on antibiotics and morphine. It was all a blur. They transferred me to the larger hospital. We can't deal with this here, they said. She needs acute care...

Is this really happening....??? Is it all a bad dream?

For two days, I lay in a dark, windowless room, with the door always shut in the emergency ward. My head stopped hurting - after how many days I don't know, but there was a constant burning in my arm from the IV antibiotics. I had no sense of time. Nurses came in and out of the room wearing full body cloaks, masks, gloves. I didn't know who anybody was. I didn't know which one was a doctor or a nurse...they were all these faceless yellow figures... My back hurt from the spinal puncture. Don't move around too much...we punctured your spine... The walls were too thick, I couldn't get cell phone reception. I was in so much pain. I needed husband-ji to talk me through this...Is this hell?

After 48 hours of being on the antibiotics, they moved me up to Acute care on the 10th floor. My own room with a view...oh, how I missed the view. The nurses finally took off their gloves and masks...they left the door open. We had to make sure it wasn't airborne, they said. I finally got to see their faces. I just cried and cried. 

Seeing people's faces, having a window to the outside world...so many things I took for granted. All the little things meant so much...small victories...

The doctor came. We got the results from your spinal tap, he said. It's bacterial meningitis. Two out of ten people die from this. You could have died had you not gone to the hospital. You have an unknown strain that we've never seen before. It looks like it wasn't contagious. You have to stay here until we finish the recommended dose of antibiotics. It has to kill the bacteria.

I looked out the window. I couldn't think. I was in shock...

The IV sites on my arms kept failing. They had to bring in special IV expert nurses, and even they had trouble finding the veins. They had to take blood from my foot every day because my arms were too messed up. The antibiotics were too strong. They diluted the antibiotics as much as possible, it still felt like a cigarette burn on my arm. I was given this painful (but life-saving) antibiotic 3 times a day, for 3 hours at a time. It hurt so much. I was overwhelmed with pain. Every drip seemed to last forever. 3 hours felt like 3 years. My brain just shut down...pain, pain, pain...I couldn't think.

My baby, I cried. I miss my baby. I can't do this. I can't be away from her. I miss her so much. I miss her. I miss her...

Husband-ji stayed home with her because he was the only one who knew how to take care of her all day (prior to this, my parents had only ever babysat her for 4 hours). My mother stayed with me at the hospital, sleeping on the floor next to me. 

After 4 days, I finally got to see him. He put the baby to bed and my mother went to our apartment to supervise. He embraced me. I just started to cry...the smell of his skin...reminded me of life before all this. He held me for 2 hours before he had to go back. It all felt so limited. Our time felt limited...we are still so young, I thought.

(My view of the city, the sunset...and the room my grandfather died in 5 years prior...)

They moved me up to the 14th floor one night. The dreaded 14th floor. My grandfather died on that floor. I had the same view as he had when he died. I saw his room from my window. That room which I spent 10 days in. The room where I last saw him alive, 5 years ago. The room where I saw his dead body. 

I had to share a room with a man. They said my mother couldn't spend the night anymore. I was petrified. How can I sleep with some strange man in the room? I cried and cried. I just looked out the window at the city lights.

Day by day, I felt weaker and weaker. The antibiotics were taking it's toll on my body. I learned to cope with the constant pain. Being away from my family was taking it's toll on my mental health. I was just crying, all the time. I didn't know how to process all of this...why did this happen? What does it all mean? How am I supposed to live going forward, knowing that my life was almost taken away from me...so suddenly...and without warning? What will this change? How can I be normal after this?

It was so sudden, there was no warning...life is so delicate...so impermanent...

(9 ships in English Bay)

All I did was look out the window at the city. The sun rising and setting. Lights turning on and off in the apartment buildings. The cars going over the bridge to downtown. The boats in the bay. The fog rolling down the mountains.

That's the world out there....I thought. It seems so calm out there... I thought of all the people driving with road rage. Getting mad about this and that. Stress. None of it all matters...they don't know how lucky they are...

I learned to meditate through the pain. I missed Maya so much, but I didn't want her to see me like that. And husband-ji...how I missed him so much. Our love story's not over...it can't be over...I'm supposed to grow old with him... When your life is almost taken from you, you learn how precious life actually is... I can't leave them...I love them...I have so much to teach Maya still...there are so many things I want to do...

I was on the last available vein in my arm. All the other sites had failed. I was just praying that it would last until my last dose of antibiotics. I know it was medicine, but it felt like poison going into my body. My arm was swelling. Both arms were bruised on back and front. I couldn't bend either arm.

After 7 days in the hospital, the doctor came and said, You can go home now...


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To be continued....


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26 comments

  1. OMG!!! Alexandra. I am so sorry you had to go through this and I am happy you made through this. You are a warrior. Take it easy and get well. We can never comprehend the reason why somethings happen just hang in there.

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    1. Thanks so much...getting stronger every day and regaining my strength! Feeling hopeful and trying to process everything that happened. Can't believe it!

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  2. Omg... Omg... OMG!! I-i can't believe this, I don't know what to say! I'm glad you're alright now, and so sorry for all the suffering you had to endure. It must have been such a relief to go home and hold (see? Maybe not strong enough to hold yet) Maya after all that. :( it's scary how easy it is to get that sick... I don't even know how meningitis is contracte... ah. Gonna go give my boyfriend a massive hug now. Glad you're recovering well!

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    1. Yes, it was so wonderful to come home, Maya seemed so grown up...the first couple of days I couldn't hold her due to my arms but now I'm able to do most everything I used to. Her hugs are what I missed so much...
      The doctors had no idea either, since nobody else got sick (thank god). They think it was a bacteria that lay dormant in my body and just like that, it moved to my brain. The good thing is that now I am immune to that particular strain.
      Thank god I'm home and hope to never go back! Grateful for life, health....as my MIL says, "health is wealth"...lol!

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  3. My God .. that was close!! I have never been this ill ever and so I can understand your shock when you fell ill. You are obviously a fighter. You fought those bacteria and won! Now take care and hope that you will regain your strengthen soon.

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    1. Thanks so much Meera....yes, I am still in recovery, still in shock! Trying to rebuild after all this...

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  4. Dear God!!... Alexandra...just reading your post scared me to bits :\

    It's good to know you're feeling better now..cannot even imagine what you've gone through..

    All I could think while reading through was, "This cannot be happening to her.." :(

    Reading on, it was good to know you're taking this experience in a positive way. :) You are a strong woman and I know you will stay strong for yourself, your hubby and Maya.

    Hope you feel better soon...

    K :)

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    1. It was terrifying, but everything happens for a reason....it took serious mental strength to get through it....and coming out of it, life on the other side, I'm trying to rebuild my perspective. After last week, I'm not too shaken by little things anymore! Which is a good thing in the long-term...
      xo

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  5. Take care and recover well. Yay, you could go back home!

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    1. Thanks so much....sooooo great to be back home in my own bed!

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  6. Wow! So glad you're doing better now! Did they figure out how you managed to contract this in the first place

    ~ Krishanu

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    1. No, they have no idea...it is an unknown strain...very scary. They suspect that it was a bacteria that lay dormant in my throat/ear/nose and for some reason it just moved to my brain. Really scary, and sudden.

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  7. Boy, are we glad to see you back! Stay strong, stay healthy and get well soon.

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    1. Thanks so much! It was so scary...health is my FIRST priority now....can't wait to start exercising again/yoga once the doc gives me the go-ahead...

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  8. I'm so sorry to hear about this Alexandra, it sounds like a Dr House episode, but I'm so happy you recovered ! Take care. (Padparadscha)

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    1. Thanks Padparadscha...it was a wake up call!

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  9. Hi! How very scary for you. I was getting worried. So glad that you are on the mend. Take care of yourself .
    Liz

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    1. Thanks Liz....on the mend...resting up....and slowly going to come back & better than ever!
      xo

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  10. I just read this post. I hope you are feeling better now, was a shock to read it!! It must have been such a scary time for you..take care and look after yourself and of course love every single moment with your family.

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    1. Thanks so much Amelia! Yes, I am really enjoying every single minute & second...definetly going to make my health a priority from now on.

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  11. So glad you are safely back home. Feel better.
    Sending you kind thoughts and prayers.
    Peace,
    Desi Girl

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    1. Thanks DG - Lots of love to you. I have been a long-time reader of your blog (for years)! Thanks for giving me well-wishes :)

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  12. Glad to know that you are alright now Alexandra...
    the experience shared by you is really very scary and made me to think that yes, until and unless we face such situations in our lives, we don;t value lil things around us..

    May god bless you with loads n loads of energy, strength n stamina to recover and come out with flying colors :)

    Take care of yourself, Maya n Madhavan :)

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    1. Thanks so much, yes, now I have totally recovered. It was a very scary, very sudden thing. You never know when things will happen like this. Thank god I went to the hospital right away.

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  13. I know this is an old post but kudos to you for fighting it out and reminding us how our lives are so precious and unpredictable.

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  14. It was almost near one year!
    I really sad on read this, you struggle with medic... I pray for you, feel free on these days, never go back!

    //they don't know how lucky they are...// Yeah! You Said it!! What a Lucky we are now!!!

    I am sorry, just i recall this to you by this new comment :(

    ReplyDelete

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