I’ve never had to go to the ER before. I actively avoid urgent care and the doctor as much as possible because I’m always afraid that the doctors won’t believe me, that they’ll assume I’m making it up or exaggerating.
The Friday before last I ended up violently ill with a high fever. Unable to get a handle on the dehydration, I ended up in the ER for the better part of 5 hours. It was determined I had a bad stomach bug. The next day, I had a migraine so head-splitting I had to go back to the ER. After 6 hours, my pain had only slightly reduced. I knew they’d done all they could, so I made an agreement with myself that I would not go back for the remainder of whatever illness I had.
So, the next day when I began to experience intense chest pain, I kept telling myself over and over and over that I was not going back. I was not going to do it.
I ended up waiting more than 24 hours before going. The pain in my chest was excruciating and it hurt to breathe. I didn’t sleep at all the night before I went to the hospital. After a few hours, they couldn’t find anything obviously wrong with me so they were about to discharge me again when they ran one last test to check for stress on my heart. The doctor came in later and said that he was surprised, but the test results indicated my heart had experienced some stress or damage and they would need to keep me overnight.
That night was the most physically painful I’ve ever experienced in my life. For the second night in a row I did not sleep at all. The most difficult part was swallowing my pride, multiple times, and basically begging for anything to help the pain. I got one dose of pain medicine in the middle of the night that hardly even took the edge off.
By the next day I had these mental flashes of seeing myself ripping my IV out, tearing my skin off, and just walking out of the hospital (even though I could hardly move). I was truly losing my mind from the pain. The pain began to ease up about 48 hours after it began. With still no obvious conclusions to be drawn, I was discharged again.
The next day, I had a follow up with my family doctor. My heart rate had been high for days and I’d been sweating through everything. When I showed up at my doctor’s office, she told me that I had a blood test that came back positive for bacteria, after I’d already been discharged, and that I needed to go straight back to the hospital.
This has been a significant lesson for me. Everything felt wrong with my body… I knew this wasn’t a normal sickness, but after being discharged three times in nearly as many days… I would never have gone back to the ER unless my doctor told me to.
The sort of scary part? I ended up being diagnosed with sepsis and put on immediate antibiotics.
That night, my cardiac enzymes skyrocketed, indicating something major going on with my heart. They were worried I was having a heart attack, though all the tests concluded I was not. I had to have numerous tests to make sure bacteria had not collected on my heart. I had chest x-rays that revealed fluid in my lung.
One of the doctors that night told me that I should never have been discharged the day before. She said they now have a second chance to “get it right this time”.
If I had not been thinking I could be back at work by the end of the week, it would’ve been another two days before a follow up appointment with my doctor. The only reason I saw a doctor sooner was because I didn’t want to miss work later in the week. Things could have rapidly gotten worse in that time.
I ended up spending another 4 days in the hospital. By the last couple of days I felt so much better that I could get up and around on my own with the only consequence being extreme exhaustion. I felt guilty for being there because I didn’t feel “sick enough” anymore. I hated having to press the nurse call button because it seemed like I should just get up and do whatever it is on my own.
I was so sick my first few days in the hospital I didn’t even think about being guilty for being there. As soon as I was awake enough to really think again, the guilt kicked in with vengeance. Is developing sepsis not enough for me? I am out of the hospital and taking IV antibiotics at home and I still think that it’s all just an overreaction. I wasn’t that sick, right? I just have an IV sticking out of my arm and home health nurses coming to my house for fun!
I just constantly feel like I “stole” the care that I got. That I didn’t deserve it. I was fine. I am fine.
I had cardiology, infectious disease, and internal medicine doctors in the hospital. None of them were ever in complete agreement about whether the sepsis explained the chest pain. But my vitals were fine, my cardiac tests were fine, so I again felt like I must have been exaggerating.
I’m slowly trying to accept that I really was sick and that I needed the care I got. That I didn’t steal anything.
I knew the effects of (deep breath) trauma can be insidious. I’ve never experienced its effects when my physical health has been this poor. While part of me thinks that this should be a lesson that I know my body and when something is wrong, I’m afraid this experience will actually make me more hesitant to seek treatment in the future.
Don’t take my example. Never take a chance with your physical health. Go to the doctor if something feels wrong!
I’ll just follow my own rules over here……