Wednesday, September 9, 2009

As the Stomach Turns. The Grand Finale

I ended up spending an entire week in the hospital and here are some of the things I remember:

Arriving back to my room after having been taken for X-rays mid-week (I wasn't responding to treatment as quickly as I should), and much to my dismay finding my parents all gowned up and waiting for me. They looked so tiny (neither is much over five feet tall) and vulnerable, that after they left I couldn't sleep for fear that if they didn't catch my C-Diff, they'd wind up with wild tse tse fly fever or whatever other disease of the month the hospital might be offering.

My son driving over an hour and a half in crappy weather to visit me and my finally having to tell him to go home (around 11 PM) because I kept falling asleep.

Vet Tech Girl (the one I initially blamed for all my tummy troubles) never once calling me to see how I was. I am still trying to file this away in the 'Rotten Things My Kids Have Done, Yet Need To Be Forgotten' file in my brain.

Trying to sit up and swing my legs over the edge of the bed to fend off blood clots as I didn't totally trust the pulsating things they attached to my legs. I usually only lasted about five minutes before collapsing in exhaustion onto my hard pillow.

Watching Jaws at least three times.

Salivating at every food network show and wondering why every sitcom seemed to revolve around people drinking wine and eating fabulous hors d'oeuvres. I was still on a liquid diet.

Hiding my swollen IV hand from the nurses because I knew what they'd do to me if they saw it.

Having a nurse spot my swollen hand at 2 AM and needing another nurse to hold me down as they tried to find a usable vein in my arm. I ended up hyperventilating and breaking into a greasy sweat.

Having the same damned IV removed the next day as I was finally allowed to go home.

Fear sweat has a whole different smell than exercise sweat.

The day one of the nurses stood in the doorway of my room trying not to be obvious as she sniffed the air and asked, "So, are we ready for a shower today?"

Finding out that my co-workers practically fumigated the workplace after hearing about my diagnosis. Later, I assured them that I was a hand washer and that by the time we found out what I had, the 'bug' would have been dead anyway.
I was still embarrassed.

It took months for my heart to stop racing everytime my stomach so much as twitched. For Valentine's Day, a few weeks after my release from the hospital, Hans and I took a long weekend and went to Florida. We were out to dinner with some friends and as I scanned the menu I remarked that while I'd love one of the entrees, it contained spinach (which as we know can wreak havoc on tummies) and I'd have to pass on it.

A lady whom I'd never met was dining with us and she bluntly asked why I couldn't eat spinach.

I remarked that I'd had some stomach issues and I wasn't sure if spinach would agree with me.

Getting right to the point she asked, "What kind of stomach problems?"

"Well, I had this condition called C-Diff and it affects digestion."

She reared back as though I'd slapped her.

"You've heard of C-Diff?" I asked.

"My mother had C-Diff," she answered.

"Well," I chuckled, "Then you know how awful it can be."

"Yes I do," she answered. "My mother died from it."

It was my turn to be stunned.

"My niece died from it too and she was only fifty-one."

As I tried to wrap my brain around what she was saying she explained that her mother was too old to fight it off. Her niece had pneumonia and after receiving several rounds of antibiotics, had contracted C-Diff, was too weak to battle it, and had died.

A few months after my initial diagnosis the gastroenerologist requested that I have one more colonoscopy. He explained that in the hospital he'd only had to go a little way into my colon to find the C-Diff, and that I'd been so full of it (not necessarily a new accusation) he wanted to make sure it was completely gone.

Following my second procedure I was in his office when he told me that as far as he could tell, I was completely clear. There are a few foods I'm careful about eating now and I never eat breakfast out without knowing that there is a bathroom in the immediate vicinity.

As I was ready to leave he remarked, "I don't think you really know how very sick you were."

And remembering my conversation with the lady in Florida, I think I do.

Here's a postscript.

Hans and Baby Girl (who still lived at home) didn't get C-Diff because as I stated above, I'm a hand washer. Also they were healthy and less susceptible to the bug. The problem with C-Diff in nursing homes is that after handling a messy patient a nurse might touch someone else before washing her hands.

All antibiotic info will note that upset stomachs can occur with usage.
No shit (no pun intended)!

However it wasn't until after my very scary and expensive experience that I found out that pro-biotics can prevent a lot of these problems.

I never knew this!

You can buy pro-biotics over the counter at any drug store.

A co-worker recently told me that her father, who had been in the hospital for about a month and had been on antibiotics that whole time, had developed diarrhea. She called the hospital (after I became somewhat hysterical at this news) and was told that her father did indeed have C-Diff but gee whiz, they were right on top of things and he was now receiving Flagyl. Why on earth don't they give people pro-biotics in conjunction with antibiotics in an effort to avoid this situation is beyond me.

If I can stop someone from going through what I did by writing this I'll do a little happy dance.

If you take antibiotics and develop diarrhea, immediately ask to be tested for C-Diff. Unless, that is, you think a week in the hospital would be fun.

I didn't.



BeeBee said...

Wow, you had it bad. My son had it after an accident and a long stint in a number of hospitals. For him the Flagyl was about worse than the C. Diff. Vancomyacin is an alternative, but more expensive. I hope you continue to improve, but yes, it can leave scars.
And thanks for an interesting story. Oddly, it was a fun read.

Kathi D said...

Wow. Wow. Wow.

I have never heard of C-Diff. before, but I will not forget it now! I hope I never need to know, but I'm glad that I have the information in case I do. And glad that yours didn't kill you! Good lord!

Angelia said...

Nvere have I heard of this sounds so terrible! I'm glad you are doing better and I will put you in my prayers to continue to do so!!

Katie Alender said...

What a saga! I cannot imagine that over the course of my life I will ever read such a compelling and funny story of gastric distress.

Needless to say I'm glad you're okay. I keep probiotics around the house. They're supposed to be great for you any time, but I never remember to take them.

David Browne said...

You are a lovely writer..Dave Berry could take a lesson from you! An amazing story!

laura said...

Thank you Mr Browne,
I don't know if I'd call my writing lovely (and my use of punctuation leaves a lot to be disired!), but I appreciate the thought. It was a horrible time in my life and I'm just glad to still be alive to write about it.