Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Joys of Mono & Three Days in the Hospital

So... I got mono.
It's not the funnest.

It's that 1-2 month virus that just wipes you out completely and makes you so exhausted that reading and watching a movie is too, too much and swallowing your own spit is so excruciating that it just stops happening and then all of the things coming down your throat stop happening.

No idea how I got it. Sharing food? Kissing? Sharing a water bottle? All things are possible. I checked in with a few people who hadn't had it.

Thing is, you carry it 4-6 weeks before you show symptoms which is awful because that's a long time to infect a lot of people. It's caused by EBV which 95% of Americans have who are between 35 and 40. Around a third to a half of those folks actually get mono.

I started to know something was up when I went camping with my family. I kept feeling wiped out, nauseous, and miserable. We thought it might be the heat or another wave in the bipolar cycle. After I got home, I was out for the count for a few days - totally out. I could get out of bed to drink water, go to the bathroom, and that was about it.

Bless Marni for bringing me food, otherwise I definitely wouldn't have eaten any.

I felt better enough to go Fourth-of-July-It and then was out again.
Went to a day of work, was social for a day and then...

It hit harder than before.

A quick trip to urgent care and a few finger pokes later and they were able to verify that I had mono.

"Just don't play contact sports," was the doctor's advice.
No rugby.
Got it.

So I figured mono was bad but I wasn't quite prepared for how bad. I spent awake time reading forums of other people with mono because it made me feel better knowing that what I was experiencing was normal. I burned through DVD's and tried to write but usually, that just made me take another nap.

Then I stopped being able to swallow. All spit went into a cup.

My dad took me to the doctor where I immediately started crying the moment they called my name. Just driving there was exhausting, and I wasn't the one driving. Sitting was exhausting. I lay on the exam table and they were so gentle with me and didn't bat an eye each time I hacked gunk into a cup. They were so gentle and loving and prescribed me some painkillers -- but it turns out they weren't allowed to give me those so I got a gargle-solution instead.

The gargle solution made it sort of possible to get things down - half a cup of broth and some pineapple juice, but nothing I could sustain myself on.

The hardest part was that my folks didn't believe the pain, if that makes sense. They figured I just had a low tolerance for pain and was being a wimp. They were gracious, but they still made sure I knew how gross it was that I was spitting in a cup. It was frustrating because did they think I liked spitting into a cup? Did they think I liked being in bed all day?

Luckily, doctors validated my experience.

On day three of not being able to swallow, Mom took me to urgent care. They kept me for a few hours doing blood tests and pumping me full of steroids which were supposed to let me swallow. My liver was enlarged. According to them, I had a bad case of mono, really bad. They were sweet and gentle again and I didn't even care as they took tube after tube of blood.

They gave me water to drink to see if I could. Nine out of ten times, I gagged on the water and it came out thick with throat-gunk.

The verdict? The doctor told me she wanted me to go to the emergency room. I wasn't stable enough to go home and she worried about my throat getting worse to the point of not being able to swallow. It's a rare occurrence, but not one to mess around with.

This definitely caught my mom off guard.
As for me? I felt like death and ER is where you go when you feel like death... right? I didn't especially have the energy to feel anything. Mainly, dread at having to drive again.

We expected a full waiting room at the ER and were pleased to find it totally empty. I was quickly admitted by Nurse Aaron and, by that point, the steroids were really kicking in and making me a bit giddy.

They got me nestled into my bed, cuddled up in the hospital gown, and started to get to work on making my body work. Five tubs and bottles of blood were quickly taken out and an IV was put in.

I love IV's.
I love them.
Through the IV, my body was pumped full of saline solution to rehydrate me, antibiotics in case the virus had caused any infection, steroids to help with the swelling, and lots of narcotics so I didn't have to be in pain any more.

That cocktail of modern medicine was amazing and worked wonders.

I went from feeling like a zero to feeling like a magical unicorn in a matter of two hours.

Imagine that! Imagine feeling your worse and all of a sudden a nurse and a doctor work together and make you feel better so, so much faster.

The best part of the hospital was that they had a suction straw (like at the dentist's) so I no longer had to spit into a cup, I could just spit into a straw. That felt so, so much nicer.

They did a CAT scan on my throat along with some X-Rays to see what was holding up my swallowing powers. The X-Ray tech, Heather, looked so so so familiar. I couldn't place her though. 30 minutes later she came back to my room.

"Did you go to SCC?" she asked. I did!
"I think you were in my anthropology class."

Dude! Yes! Definitely! In fact, she was my note taker. She was one of the finest note takers I ever had at community college. It was great to see her again and to see her thriving at her career doing X-Rays at the ER.

The first moment of truth occurred when they asked if I could drink. I totally could! It was the best! The absolute best! I could drink water. When I had woken up that morning, all I wanted was to drink water - I was so, so thirsty. Dreams come true!

A bit later came the second moment of truth where they wanted to see if I could eat. They handed me a cup of jell-o and a cup of applesauce. I was so stoked and ready to get some food inside of me. In three days, all I'd had that was solid was 9 spoonfuls of applesauce.

I took a bite and.. and...
it just wouldn't go down. I couldn't make it go down. I tried both foods and neither could I swallow. It was frustrating.

"Since you can't eat, I think it would be best if we kept you in the hospital a bit longer," the Dr. Luu told me. He then introduced me to Dr. Hundert who would decide if I should actually be admitted.

Dr. Hundert agreed and I was admitted to the hospital for what I thought might be a few hours more, maybe a night.


Three days, two nights -- and this is for mono! I thought I was supposed to just sleep mono off, not go to the hospital or, if I were to end up at the hospital, at least not be there for more than a night. I'd never slept at a hospital before in my living memory.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I like hanging out in the hospital. I like the nurses and wandering the halls. I felt almost guilty enjoying it but, when you're sick, it's super nice to have a remote with a button that you push and everything just sort of appears. Generally, I'd feel lazy, but in this state, staying in bed was exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

I'd like to note now that by no means would I ever even begin to compare my experience with anyone who has an actual serious reason to be in the hospital. Three days is nothing. Two nights is nothing --it's what I do anyways with my lifestyle.

For the first 24 hours, I was on the clear liquids diet which looked something like this:

For someone with mono, I didn't sleep so well the first night. I was told it was the steroids that were keeping me going, I felt amazing, although hungry. When I told them I hurt a bit, I was handed some narcotics which, unfortunately, went down on an empty stomach so then I was nauseous to go with it.

The next morning I was woken up at 5 AM (something I talked them out of doing the next day).

"How do you feel this morning, Margaret?"
I started to cry. "Not like a super hero."

I felt miserable, but a few pills and anti-nausea medication through my IV. Pretty soon, things were looking up. I even got to graduate to the liquids diet which means I fueled myself on watered down cream of wheat which had never, never tasted so good.

My day involved sleeping, reading, canceling appointments, and when the steroids were kicking, wandered around the hospital, sometimes getting locked out when it was late.

I had energy for one visitor, my brother, on my full day. I had been calling Ian since I arrived at the hospital but he was out of range, as usual, and not able to talk. When he finally got my messages, he gave me a call. The moment I heard is voice, I began to cry - a pattern that would continue for the next week, crying all the time.

He came over immediately bearing books and a balloon.

Back in the ER, apparently I wouldn't shut up about wanting  balloons. Someone, the receptionist heard that (I guess I told her?) and when Ian asked where I was, she told him that I really wanted a balloon.

I did.
I still wanted.

He brought one.

And then one he brought bore the term, "It's a boy!"

N. Hospital is tricky with an illogical layout. Apparently, as he tried to find me in Surgery Recovery (guess there isn't a place for people with mono), people kept trying to direct him to the maternity ward. Good thing that my hall was right next to where the babies come out.

It was great having my brother there and he even stayed for five whole hours. I adore that guy. He makes me laugh and think. While he was there, I was even cleared to eat my first solid. I went for salmon. Nice and soft.

He left me with some books which, along with the Owl book Mom left me, kept me occupied for the rest of the evening. Once again, we thought I'd be released that evening but they wanted to keep me another evening.

"So Dr. Hundert," I asked at one point, "it wouldn't be wise for me to go to Ecuador in three days would it?"
"I don't see why not. Just take it easy."

That was the ok I got to got to Ecuador.

That night I slept a bit better and they left me sleep in an extra 4 hours. I convinced them that the only way to heal from mono is sleep and by waking me up at 5, I wasn't sleeping well.

Afternoon came and Dad took me home.

And that's that!

1 comment:

  1. i just found this blog scrolling for more mono info, and i loved it. i was in the hospital for 9 days!!! i know exactly what you went through and your writing is incredible :)


Your words make me grin.

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