What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
Long story short (you can read the full thing here), about two months ago, Deer Hoof got extremely sick with what was diagnosed as a pneumonia. He went to a couple of different doctors, got prescribed different antibiotics, none of which helped.
When he started shaking uncontrollably, spiking fevers of 103 and 104 and hacking up a foul-smelling fluid, we went to the ER, and he spent the next 2 1/2 weeks in the hospital, mostly the ICU. He got emergency lung surgery for an abscess that had walled off his infection and collapsed his lung, but not before he went into respiratory distress, got intubated and put into a coma, and had his body go into sepsis.
I spent my 32nd birthday sobbing at his bedside, sure I was about to lose the man I had waited 31 years for.
His recovery took a few months -- he's only recently moved into his own place again after staying with friends who could provide the extra support he needed. But he seemed fully recovered -- he was back at work, was able to go to the gym, and we even took a mini-vacation to the Jersey shore over 4th of July weekend. We thought we were in the clear.
About a week ago, he got sick again. He was presenting with most of the same symptoms as he had pre-surgery, so we immediately got scared.
We made a doctor's appointment, but when he woke up about 5 am with the extreme rigors shaking that he was displaying right before his near-death experience in the ICU, we rolled out of bed and blearily stumbled to the ER. That was on Saturday.
Thus began hours of waiting and blood cultures and a chest X-ray and visits from his surgical and pulmonary teams.
Being back in the ER itself was traumatic -- we were both having PTSD-esque flashbacks to our previous traumatic experience and Deer Hoof's "slippery veins" often lead to panic-attack-inducing sessions of nurses jabbing needles into his arm for half and hour without being able to draw blood or insert an IV.
I traded shifts with one of Deer Hoof's friends and went home to parent on not enough sleep. An hour or so later, they decided to release him with antibiotics. He went home to continue to shiver and suffer alone and I took my kid to the park, then came home and made him dinner.
Overall, I was pretty impressed with myself for how well I was managing on such a small amount of sleep plus the stress and distraction and worry. That is, until I completely bit it and bashed my head on the floor.
We had the lights off watching a "wind-down" show before bed. I stood up to get something and tripped over one of the Legos I had forgotten were still scattered over the floor. My head hit the ground hard and another Lego cut me over my eye. I touched my face and felt a warm, wet substance I assumed was blood dripping down my face and a huge, immediate lump.
If you learn one thing from this article, let it be to always clean up all the Legos off the floor. Those bitches will fuck you up.
Injuring yourself while alone with your child is pretty terrifying. I crowd-sourced on Facebook and called some friends to find out if I needed to go to the ER (for the second time in one day), if I needed to stay awake, etc.
The general consensus was that since I wasn't having concussion symptoms and the cut, once cleaned up, looked pretty shallow, I was OK to just ice it overnight and get a butterfly bandage. It was a fitting end to a goddamn wonderful day.
The next day the lump was pretty much deflated, and I began the exciting process of watching my eye turn a rainbow of new and increasingly putrid colors each day. The first day I looked kind of cool and tough -- by 2 and 3 days in, we were dealing with this.
In the meantime, DH didn't seem to be getting any better, so I took the advice of his doctor best friend from back home and set up appointments with his pulmonologist and an infectious disease doctor. (The latter turned out to be of no help -- it's always a risk when the doctor is the one guy on ZocDoc who has appointments available.)
We weren't able to get into the pulmonologist until Wednesday, and since that was day 5 of the prescribed antibiotic and we hadn't seen much improvement, we went ahead and packed a hospital bag to take with us to the appointment just in case.
As you can see, our spirits were high.
As we were afraid of, the pulmonologist admitted DH to the hospital, which consisted of putting him in a wheelchair and rolling him across the street to the ER. We were hoping he would be directly admitted, but there were no beds, so we began another 1o-hour stretch in the ER.
Don't let this photo fool you. We're not just bored, we're also physically miserable and emotionally drained.
Here's the worst part about the ER for me, aside from the waiting. As a non-confrontational person, a lot of the advocating you have to do for the patient is extremely difficult for me.
It's easy to slip through the cracks in the ER -- meds get ordered and never come, patients literally get lost like when a nurse moved DH to a room but forgot to change his location in the computer system so the guy bringing his IV bags couldn't find him and assumed he had left.
At one point I asked if DH could get some water and the nurse said she'd have to have the doctor give an order. FOR WATER. No water ever came.
In the ER, I spend a lot of my time chasing down nurses for every little thing, being assertive, and pestering people (nicely) who are not always very nice in return. I find those things easier to do for other people than myself, but it's still very hard and 10 hours of it makes me start to melt down a little.
DH finally got into a bed in the pulmonary ward around 1 am, at which point I tucked him in and went home to get some sleep myself. As the night nurse was introducing herself to us, she sweetly turned to me and said, "Are you OK? You look like you've been through something."
"That's so strange," I told her, after giving her the Lego rundown. "You're the first person to say a word about it."
"It's kind of an awkward question to ask, I guess," she said, but I felt touched that she'd asked it.
There's some point to be made about self-care while caring for others in what that moment meant to me. Maybe I'm too tired and scared to make it. But my black eye is a reminder that I have to keep that oxygen mask on my face too -- unlike last time around, this time I'm going to do my best to remember to eat, take my meds, rest, and drink water.
Shortly after I finish writing this, I'll take my computer over the ER to work by Deer Hoof's bedside. He'll get a CT and we'll know more about what's going on in his lungs -- if he has another abscess or infected fluid in there, he'll need more surgery. If he doesn't, we'll still be stuck trying to figure out what this infection is and how to treat it.
I'll keep advocating for him. But I'll take care of myself, too. And if I start to forget, all I have to do is look in the mirror.