Monday, October 16, 2006

On ER, ICU and what have you...

I didn't know if i would blog about it. Ironically i had so much blogging material the last two weeks, and no access to Internet.. Now it is heaps and heaps of blogging material waiting to either be written up and posted, or discarded as to have missed the blog. On my way back from the hospital i decided i would for two reasons, 1. i want to remember this for when i feel like life is difficult, and 2. because i want a certain someone to know what he got me through.

On the night of Thursday the 5th, i stayed awake till 5am from pains in my upper back, shoulders, neck and chest, at that point i took three pain killers and slept, as i had been doing on and off for the past month. I slept in, went to work late, and within two hours was so out of breath and focus that i drove myself to my general doctor for the third time this month with more or less the same complaints. I parked, and took my purse and cell phone which were the only things i could carry at this point, and found her associate instead. The woman examined me, and after many of what i now know are heart disease related questions she told me that she suspects i have a heart infection and will write me a letter to take to the emergency room in the hospital. She did as promised, i did as told; drove myself to the hospital, two items i can carry in hand and admitted myself into the emergency room.
Note: the emergency room is accessed by ringing a bell, and then you wait till they answer you, and there are no chairs for you to sit down on. This struck me as quite scary, and while i contemplated whether or not i should sit on the floor till they let me in, i extrapolated the absence of chairs for people in urgent need and what that meant about all the other services in the hospital.
As i was about to opt for the floor sitting they opened their doors, and it began. Four hours of examining me, i apparently had a fever, i apparently had very low blood pressure, and on picking me to take some blood my pressure dropped to the point of passing out and i actually had a french nurse slapping me across the face screaming "reste avec moi! reste avec moi". Forgive me, but even at 60/50 blood pressure, this was waaay too theatrical for me.
After four hours and alot of doctors, machines and discussions going on in french while i dosed off into a state of zombie like submissiveness, an English speaking doctor was brought to me by the ER doctor who had adopted me since i clutched his arm and wouldn't let go three hours ago. The English speaking doctor was the most impeccable man i have ever seen, a man of very few words, later i was to forever be in debted to that man, but at that point, i wanted to punch him. He icily relayed to me that i had an infection in the heart, resulting in liquid amounting to a can of coke's volume all around my heart. As a result my heart had been exerting triple the effort, i have had all these pains in my upper body, and i have been short of breath. It was advanced, they did not comprehend how i had left it till now or had tolerated the symptoms, they would treat me for five days, if the liquid level didn't go down they would have to operate to drain it out, i was not allowed home, and i was to spend the night in intensive care.
Too much information, with too little information, i recall in my fever actually asking him, on a scale from one to ten, one being the flue and ten being this might kill me this week, where are we?
His reply that day and for the next 24 hours was the same, everything has a risk, and yes it is dangerous if we don't fix it. I understood that i am to shut up, and let them do their thing. I would be getting no "isa kheirs", or "matkhafeeshs", aw "baseeta wi sahla, mafeehash ay khatar". I would be getting no bullshit, oh how i yearned for some bullshit..

I spent the night in Intensive care, or what they call "reanimation" which is actually resuscitation.., i will go into that in a bit, i spent the night in pains that had somehow magnified, an entire upper body pissed off because of the can of coke worth of liquid. They woke me up at 6 am, took 23 tubes of blood from me, i swear, 23! and later i am to find out they were testing me for everything imaginable to find out how i got what i got and what they should give me to stop it.
English speaking doctor walked in at 11am with a smile and the news: we're going to operate, we don't know why you have this, you're in too much pain and we need to analyze that liquid to give you the right medicine.
I think that is when i crashed. I had my cell phone with me, i asked the doctor if i should tell my mother about this, and he reminded me that i am 26, an adult, and i am to do as i see fit. Ouch. I was sedated to be able to make that phone call, a cheerful light breezy phone call to the woman in Cairo telling her that i am in hospital getting something checked out, no worries, its all basic standard procedure, she was a rock, as she always is, i hung up, the sedative was working, and i peacefully went to the anesthetic room, and then the operating room, where the hilarious french nurse told me to think of cool kind things till i went out. The next thing i know they are slapping me, and i have a drain coming out of my chest, to be left there to drain the liquid out of my heart for the next four days.
I spent six days in intensive care, they were of the most difficult days i have been through. There is something about being connected to screens and solutions in a gown on a bed in the middle of a cold room with absolute strangers invading your most private activities and severely sick people in a similar state wailing from pain across the room that is extremely traumatizing. I think the worst thing was that i didn't feel sick enough to be there. I must've been or they wouldn't have kept me there for six whole days, but it didn't feel like it, i was too aware and awake through out it. I didn't feel like i needed to be bathed by someone, i didn't feel like i was not fit to go all the way to the bathroom to pee!
I had my cell phone (somehow), a few books, and my ipod. I had a drawer with underwear and a toothbrush in it. I spent the day clinging to my three threads of sanity staring out a far away window trying not to indulge the thoughts that present themselves at this state.
They took out the drain and stitched me up last Wednesday, and moved me to a normal room on Thursday, a week later. I took a shower by myself, and brushed my own hair, i wore my own pyjamas, and wasn't connected to anything, be it machine or plastic tube. I sat on a chair and had a view. It had passed. I was away from that place with all the monsters in the head.

They let me go this morning after eleven days, ten of which they daily tested my blood and everything else i could give them to test, monitored my heart and what have you, and radio scanned the hell out of me. All the veins in my arms are bruised from the cannula thing, and at the end they didn't find what gave me this virus. They treated me for everything anyway and gave me 12 more days off work. I have two wounds, one from the operation and one from the drain, the one from the drain still has the staples in it, i get those removed after tomorrow.

There are things one learns from situations like this, that life is scary and precious, that a job that makes me miserable must be quit, that being in my own country day in and day out is invaluable, and that some people are made of gold. I will forever remember two people who got me through this, the infamous T who has made up for everything he ever did wrong by coming to the intensive care every day twice for six days, playing tawla with me, bringing me books and headsets and fresh underwear, holding my hand, bringing me cookies and clothes from my house and basically bringing a smile into dreadful days. And the other person is the one I'm writing this for to read who doesn't know how much he's helped.

Thank you.


zoss said...

Wow. Alf salamah! Hope you're feeling better now.

Are they still testing, or have they given up?

If at first said...

And even to this, there was a purpose. You've got lots to be thankful for. :) Much much much khayr to you, inshaAllah. English-speakers are over-rated. I think the 'reste avec moi' nurse gets an Oscar!
I was beginning to wonder what made you step away from the world of Blogistan. A good enough reason, I suppose. ;) Glad to have you back, alhamdulillah.

Will said...

That is a seriously rough time.. it's good to have you back.. (in one non decaying piece that is) :)

hurricane_x said...

that's a lot..
glad that u r ok now :)
I guess u re-evaluated lots of things.

Forsoothsayer said...

alf salama...i was wondering what happened to you. its great that T came through for you.

Cherry said...

Salamtek and el 7amdo lilah that's gone out of the way.

There's a silver lining to everything and i guess you realizing the things you've realized throughout the 11 days is the silver lining:)

Insomniac said...

u poor thing.. alf salama.. i was wondering why u weren't blogging.. alhamdulilah ur all better now.. salamtek ya gameel

N said...

Zoss: allah yesalemak :) no they've given up.. its probably something i caught and now its out of my system, at least i hope it is :s

If at first: yes the nurse gets the oscar sans competition :) and i do have much much to be thankful for. thanks :)

Will: it's good to be back :)

Huricane: re-evaluated? i guess things just fall into their right order all by themselves when you have 18 hours to contemplate a day :) and thank you..

Forsooth: allah yesalemek :) isnt it really great that he came through? i'm very very proud of him.

Cherry: you were worried weren't you? i wanted to let you know i'm in one piece but i couldnt really figure out how..

Insomniac: el hamdlellah :) thank you. have you let go yet? :)

Mumbo Jumbo said...

Hamdela 3la el salama. No matter how motakhalef Egypt is, it's times like these where we miss Egypt and our family and friends the most.

The part where you called your mother and told her made me cry :)
I hope you're OK now and I hope your mother's OK after the news!

Dee-Vine said...

Hamdela 3alsalama. That's a lot to go through, and in a country that's not your own..!
Hope you're feeling just fine now.

Armonia said...

heeey, 7amdelah 3al salama. hope u'r feeling better now :)

Maat said...

e7em, that last comment was supposed to be me!! nevermind, again, hope u'r better now :))

N said...

Mumbo Jumbo: You're quite intuitive, that was by far the worst moment of the whole eleven days. i'm ok el 7amdlellah now, and she is somehow managing :)

Dee-vine: thank God it was France, at least the medical care was worth it. thanks :)

Maat: Thank you (meen armonia dah? :) )

Juka said...

Hey there. Well 7amdella 3al sallama Cairo style. Too bad you got the cold European doctor treatment, but its the outcome that counts. Reading your blog for the first time.. yet this post really made my heart go out to you. Hope you are feeling better.

N said...

Thank you Juka :)