We tend to put the "rainbows and unicorns" parts of life on social media. It's understandable since we are more likely to take pictures of a birthday party or a hiking trip than we are of marital fights and stomach bug trips to the toilet.
In theory my close friends and family might think my 2021 experience thus far has been lacking rainbows and unicorns because they are aware of my recent health issues. It's no secret I've been dealing with chronic back pain since December 2018, but I've managed. I couldn't dance in the kitchen for my kids every day and sometimes had to empty the dishwasher on my knees, but there were also days I could make my kids laugh by pretending to be a ballerina and get in and out of the car without thinking about how to maneuver my body. Good days and bad days, but manageable.
Enter 2021. Friday, January 1st I woke up fine but kept getting stiffer throughout the day. Jan 2-4 I struggled walking but was able to get around like a 99-year-old for necessary activities such as peeing. But mostly Joe held down the fort that weekend while I lived on the couch. Monday rolled around and I was feeling better and by Thursday I felt better than I had in two years! I was surprised by the extremes so close together, but tried to enjoy the days I could get down to Dua Lipa's Levitating (current favorite song). But Friday I got stiff again and by Saturday I was at my worst ever. I couldn't stand or walk on my own. If I had to move I had to grab the nearest countertop, door knob or even lean against a wall if there was nothing to hold onto to keep me from falling to the ground. By Sunday I couldn't even lift my hands to my head. I got a dose of feeling helpless and burdensome when my 3-year-old had to put on my sock that fell off and my husband had to bathe me, not to mention do literally everything else that needed to get done on top of his day job as the week continued. With three young kids and a wife to care for, that's a lot. My physical therapist of four months determined I needed something more drastic because PT obviously wasn't helping so she referred me back to my family doc who referred me to a spine specialist. After a consult and an MRI, two herniated discs were found (discs that are bulging and tearing) and some early onset arthritis between the discs were appearing. These issues are not serious enough for back surgery so we decided a lumbar spinal injection would be the next step. As my PT and the spine specialist both suggested "Let's get this pain under control so you can get on with your life." Good enough answer for me! Feb 2 I got the injection and left hoping for this miracle of pain relief in the next 1-5 days. At this point I had been mobile for a few weeks because of an oral steroid I was on to get me to the point of injection, so I was walking straighter and showering myself, but the initial dull ache in my lower left back I had been dealing with the past two years was still there. That was the reason I went to the PT in the first place before the herniated discs made their appearance.
Seven days after the injection I wake to a dull ache in my lower left abdomen which I attributed to my poor late night snacking choices the night before. But the day added a fever that got to 102.6, a headache, lightheadedness and that abdominal pain continued extending all the way across my abdomen. Calling my doc with my symptoms they said I need to see urgent care that evening. Once urgent care took my vitals showing a very high heart rate but low blood pressure she suggested I go straight to the ER. My heart rate concerned her with cardiac issues and all my symptoms combined pointed towards serious infection. Oh, and my jitteriness caused me to drop my phone many times this day with the last drop cracking the screen. Yay! But wait, it gets better.
At the hospital they ran so many tests that I literally kept seeing dollar signs in place of the ER doctor's face. Urine sample. 14 vials of blood (one taken on my wrist bone WTH). 3 brain-tickler nose swabs to test for Covid, flu and MRSA. Chest X-ray. EKG. Cat scan with dye to check for abscesses in my abdomen. MRI on my spine to check for spinal infection. Meanwhile fluids and antibiotics are being pumped into me, blood thinners are being shot into my belly (worst shots ever) and everything coming back empty. Cha-ching for nothing! Cha-ching for nothing! Cha-ching for nothing! That's the cash register I'm hearing in my head every time a new doc comes back in and says, "Well that didn't show anything wrong." Finally all that's left is possible blood infection, aka sepsis, but those tests take 24+ hours to culture. If it is sepsis it can be deadly or cause organ failure if not treated so I can't go anywhere without answers and antibiotics need to continue killing off any bacteria that might be in my body.
After 40 hours in the hospital the final doctor comes in saying my blood cultures are negative. They can't find anything wrong with me. They assume it was a viral infection that would have gone away on its own in 1-2 days. They are discharging me with not even a single pill to be prescribed.
Let's see how many emotions we can put in a bottle, shall we? RAGE that I've gone through all of this poking and prodding and testing for what feels like nothing. HAPPINESS that I don't have anything serious. GUILT that I've put people in fear for nothing. GRATITUDE to the nice hospital staff for taking care of me. EMBARRASSMENT that my body overreacted to something so small. DREAD for the hospital bills that will start pouring in. EXCITEMENT to get home to my own bed and get all these cords detached from my body. EXHAUSTION from only getting a combined 5 hours of sleep over the last 55 hours. GRATEFUL to my sister-in-law for using words that somehow calmed my reasons for all of the negative emotions listed above. LOVE for my husband and parents and friends who were constantly checking in and taking care of us. But can we go back to the rage part because I'm having a hard time letting that one go.
So yea, if I had been documenting all of this since Jan 1st with pictures on Facebook most would say, "She's having a shitty year." But my year has been filled with rainbows and unicorns because of all the parts I left out. The two times I lost most use of my legs were on the weekends when Joe was more available. When the spine specialist miraculously had an immediate opening for my consult and Joe had to drive me (because I hadn't been able to drive for days at this point), a neighbor watched all 3 kids so we didn't have to wait two weeks until his next availability. When our neighbors heard I couldn't walk they rallied and put together a meal train. I was luckily able to cancel most meals because I got put on those oral steroids and was able to move again, but they demanded a rain check on my next bad spell. When I was told to go to urgent care on the day Joe had just driven to Ohio, one neighbor brought us dinner and demanded she drive me to urgent care when she saw how miserable I looked...and then drove me to the hospital. She later went back to my house and packed a bag of essentials for me and dropped them off at the hospital, staying in the lobby until midnight even though she couldn't come back and see me. Another neighbor came over so the kids weren't home alone and stayed until 4am when the night turned into a hospital stay. Joe drove back from Ohio on the same day he went there and his company was cool with him being unavailable for the next couple days because he has a "family first" boss. Joe's parents were packed and ready to drive over from SC to help if we requested it. The day after Joe's round trip to Ohio/getting back at 1am/visiting me until 4am, when he was at home watching Ozzie, that kid fell asleep in the blanket bench at 11am which is completely unheard of, allowing Joe to catch up on some zzzzzz's. A neighbor sat at our house during night 2 in the hospital so Joe could come spend a couple hours with me, sending along flowers and an offer to bring us dinner the next night. My pharmacist sister-in-law kept us in the loop of all the drugs going into my body. The text string with my parents is miles long because we were in constant communication. Joe has a heart rate and blood pressure monitor at home (news to me, but if you know Joe of course he does!) so we can continue to monitor me. This new song by my favorite artist just came out and I'm loving it: https://fb.watch/3CwtPhpLej/ Prayers were given, offers of help were endless and all I can say is we have the best family and friends. So although my recent experiences have me on a roller coaster of pain and being out of commission at times, I'm focused on the in-betweens because that's where the light shines.
God has a funny way of showing us we don't make the plans, doesn't he? In Feb 2020 I vowed to be in the best shape of my life on my 40th birthday this year. I was determined to spend the next year and a half making that happen. The very next month Covid hit and with 3 young kids at home for 165 days straight I "survived" although that included weight gain. So my New Years resolution was to get serious about that goal, but then my back went whack and after I thought I fixed that my immune system went whack, and now here we are. Six months from tomorrow I turn 40. Maybe I'll get the toned tummy I was going for, but I'm lowering my expectations. My focus now is to be healthy and continue to get my back issues under control. I've already missed out on holding my kids as much as I would have liked to the past 2 years when they were smaller and now they don't want to be held anymore. I want to go on hiking trips and roller coasters and adventurous vacations with my family and friends. But I can't do that with a whack back and and an overreactive dramatic immune system. So here is to a better 2021. And if life throws me more BS, I'll continue to find the rainbows and unicorns jumping through the cracks.