We did some last minute Christmas shopping. The family’s become especially lazy and we ended up going to the mall on the 24th like everyone else. Nothing says holiday cheer quite like people debating on the implications of one gift over the over, the political advantages, the drama, the finances, the resources. It’s a comforting sight, really.
What’s not comforting is when you feel horrible the entire time. Shopping’s supposed to be fun! Soon enough my Christmas break was about to do a nosedive. The recurring headache over the last week was just a precursor. Here are the cliff notes:
Dec 24 - Jan 21: On and off fever with a good helping of headaches
Jan 6 - 8 + an hour of Jan 9: Work
Jan 9: Checkup at Talisay District Hospital;
- where the doctor suspected it was Typhoid
- had me do some tests - but not the one for Typhoid fever because they didn’t have that one
- they wanted me admitted - to what end, I have no idea, considering they still won’t know what I have and look at
that a run-on sentence and I’m not even halfway through
- So they gave me oral antibiotics (Cefexime) - to which, it turns out, I’m allergic
Jan 10 - 12: Religiously took my meds; persistent fever; my lower lip started swelling
Jan 13: Checkup at Chong Hua Hospital whilst looking like Jay-Z, sorry, Jay Z; got admitted; did a chest x-ray (the lab was freezing)
Jan 16: Had to change IV location because of swelling; from left hand to right
X-ray shows pneumonia; they gave me meds for both typical and atypical but succeeding x-rays shows it was getting worse - start coughing on the 14th-15th
Jan 19: IV relocation due to swelling; from right hand to left inner wrist (painful as hell)
- Sinulog; Papa and I celebrate with Jollibee for lunch and Sinulog paper hats
One of my doctors noticed some redness on my wrist
IV relocation to right inner elbow by one of their Dextrose whisperers - most uncomfortable location in the history of the world
NPO til midnight so no food or drink
not even water and suddenly I had a terrible thirst and it was just pure torture
Jan 21: Lung biopsy and bronchoscopy - I knew it was routine and my doctor had discussed the risks involved. I remember being scared minutes before the procedure and wanting to tell my dad as he waited with me. But saying the words made it that much more real so I tried to tame my fear. I clamped down on the leash but it leaked through a barrage of words. I chose to be chatty with the doctor and the nurses and the orderlies. It worked.
My hands and toes were too cold so they couldn’t get a read on the pulse oximeter (for oxygen level and pulse rate). They stuck the device to my ear.
My left arm had cramped and the IV placement was awkward. Again, most uncomfortable position to sleep and wake up in and be transferred to the bed in and to get an x-ray in. By uncomfortable, I’m referring to painful.
The anesthesia they used (and they used different kinds) tasted disgusting, except for the last one which didn’t taste as bad as I was led to believe. They had to numb my throat to get the tube in. I was asleep for the tube-stuffing, thank you very much.
Chest x-ray after when I wake up
My sister asked me if I want anything. She visited and brought me cold milk and cereal!
I started taking my steroids
Jan 22 - 27: Waiting for the results; lots of useless, expensive, frustrating waiting
Jan 22: 24 hours with no fever
Jan 23: 48 hours and no fever or headache
Jan 25: IV-free again! and no more antibiotic line, either
Jan 26: nothing
Jan 27: WE BUST OUT!
Jan 28: got tests for my checkup; struggled to get blood from me; by this time, the stabbing into my veins has got predictable and there was no pain until they do this thing called ‘fishing’ where they wiggle the needle around.
They could get the large vein in my right arm (hello, inner elbow) but there was no blood to draw. A guy had thought of bleeding me out but no dice with the vein he found.
Sometime during the ‘waiting for results’ game, I started to retain water in my body; I drank a lot and the steroids helped. I ended with some edema. Puffy face, arms, tummy and legs. Left side was the worse. Melon-sized knees, ladies and gents.
Monitored weight and liquid intake for the next week or two.
Feb 8: 135 lbs to 118 lbs
Hungry all the time due to the steroids. Had to eat every 2-3 hours. Eating healthy, though. Ate an entire banana of my own free will for the first time. I do not like watermelons. The apple was okay - Royal Purple but I suspect it was because I got used to the taste. Was gulping down Mott’s apple juice for days before the hospitalization in suspicion I had dengue fever.
Feb 11 - fever
Feb 15 - left knee started to hurt and grew unbearable. First hand experience is unneccessary, it turns out. It IS possible to pass out due to pain. Damn you, empirical science. My right knee went jealous and followed suit. The description of the feeling was akin to arthritis, I was told by my sister’s brother-in-law (a doctor). Felt like the bones of my knee were grinding against each other, being twisted off, snapped off. Arthritis is a mean son of a bitch, he is.
Feb 16 - fever, pain could be managed to a point but when it hit a 9 or 10, I would like to die. One being the least painful and 10 the highest. I got pain meds; they didn’t really help. Pain meds can be addictive, though so I didn’t get to have the one from Africa, which is illegal in most countries like the Philippines unless you have a doctor’s note. Luckily passing out is perfectly legal. It’s the best.
My dad came home.
Pain has a way of leading us to prayer and then blasphemy and then bargaining and then madness. It bounces between the four. Passing out is still the best, apart from laughing when my knees took turns in hurting. They told me to breathe through the pain or pray aloud. It’s very difficult. I forgot the words sometimes. Screaming is so much more fun, lots of vocal exercise there and it lets you vent out. Absolutely acceptable time for a crazy fit.
Feb 17 - The dial of my pain is set particularly high in the mornings after a cold dawn. I tried my best at pain management but failed. We prepared to head to the hospital.
But first, we tried some alternative medicine: acupuncture. I get half-dragged half-carried to the room. We bypassed the line. The other patients forgive me, though.
The ‘cold’ is leeched from my knees. I can walk on my own again. I’m advised against wearing shorts and going out or sleeping in cold temperatures and staying out in the sun (radiation: bad). I’m advised against eating typical allergen foods like mangoes, tomatoes, beans, shrimp, crab, other seafood. (I now want to eat everything but still am not allowed.) I go through all the sessions.
I start to have a rash which spreads to the rest of my body. It is itchy like there’s no tomorrow. I get some meds from the acupuncturist and match it with Claritin. The cocktail works. I continue to take the allergy meds minus the claritin.
Feb 21: My weight continued to drop all the way to 102.6 lbs from 135 lbs. It now hovers within a safer range which will not be disclosed because ladies, proper ladies, I’m told don’t discuss petty things like weight in public.
I still get unbearably itchy sometimes because the world is full of things I’m allergic to now. Joy.
Lots of disorders and diseases were bandied around the entire time.
The doctors still don’t know what I have. The pneumonia has lessened. My acupuncturist tells me I have general body malaise. Also, I now know how most middle-aged people tend to go on lengthy discussions/monologues regarding their health. It’s pretty easy to get lost in the details.
The whole ordeal could have zipped by much faster if I had commercial breaks for the boring bits and pieces. It would’ve been much more satisfying if (a) I had Gregory House and his team (we go wild for Olivia Wilde! or the old team) doing the differential, (b) I got to sit in during the differential diagnoses, and (c) if they could figure out what I had in 30-45 minutes of airtime. Alas, the last season of House has come and gone and honestly I gave up on the series by the 4th-5th season so yeah. That.
I love my family. They are awesome. I’ve learned a lot over the course of a couple of months. Who knows what mystery ailment the next month brings!
Nothing, I hope. Please.
For my medically inclined friends, my initial symptoms were not much to go by. Headaches and daily fevers (highest read was 39.1 C) for two weeks before admission to hospital. Other symptoms that followed included coughing, chills, a short case of diarrhea, and the edema during my hospital stay.
I’d like to thank George R.R. Martin for writing his book series, A Song of Fire and Ice. It has been very entertaining and time-consuming. Thanks, George.