Back From The Brink: How I Spent My Memorial Day Weekend

I’m writing this from my Comfy Chair, which has been my operations center since last Monday afternoon.  After 5 days in the hospital, more than 15 IV bags, countless bowls of chicken soup and having my blood drawn more than 20 times, I’m just glad to be home.

What happened?  Funny thing is, no one is quite sure yet but the odds are weighing heavily on a really nasty bug that wreaked havoc on my GI system.  You know how you hear reports of people getting sick or even dying from catching a stomach bug?  Believe me, it can happen.  Here’s what happened:

I had some meetings in NY that happened to end early, and I made the decision to fly home early Wed morning rather than spending time in some ad hoc meetings.  It was a critical decision, as normally I would have taken the opportunity to do so, but was really missing the family (awww).  So I flew back to Chicago, landed at 1pm and did conference calls while driving back from ORD and picking up the kids from school.  I finally left the car at 4pm and walked into my home office.

Now, I was feeling warm, but had been wearing a suite since 5am so it didn’t seem out of the ordinary.  I jumped on another call while loosening my tie, and had a couple glasses of water.  That’s when things went downhill.

May 2009 040The call ended early, and was welcome as my stomach was cramping up pretty severely.  No graphic details, but over the next hour, I expelled everything I had consumed that day, which wasn’t much more than breakfast and 2 glasses of water.  Thinking it was just from having ran all day without lunch, I changed and got ready to join the family at church that evening.  When I got there, I only lasted an hour before I was back in the car, making several stops along the side of the road.

This was when I new it was serious, as I had never felt this sick in my life. Period.  My body drained itself of every last ounce of fluid over the next 90 minutes, and with Jacinda’s insistence I May 2009 023crawled into the car for her to drive me to the ER.

When I got there, they immediately hooked me up to an IV and some medication for cramps & vomiting.  It was a dark time, and was about to get much worse.

Results were coming back from the initial set of blood tests that showed I had a CPK level over 5,000 (normally in the 200 range).  CPK is an enzyme that signifies a breakdown of muscle tissue and, along with the fact that my body wasn’t passing fluids despite the number of IV bags I’d had, there was concern of either heart of kidney damage having occurred or was about to.  I was admitted that night and began the worse 48hrs ever.

I can’t really recall alot about Thursday or Friday, only to say that I’ll never forget how dark everything was becoming as the hours went by in that hospital bed; the countless IV bags, blood draws, fevers and chills.  I drew alot of strength from having my family close by and getting many well wishes from friends and relatives.  As is the case for me, twitter offered a way to express what I was going through, and reading everyone’s responses there and on Facebook helped to pass the time between X-rays, CT Scans, MRIs and yes, even the dreaded catheter.  Let me say just one thing: it was hands-down the most humbling, invasive, painful violation I’ve every experienced; it gave me an even greater appreciation for the childbirth experience, and frankly should be considered a close runner-up to replace waterboarding.

By Saturday afternoon I was feeling better and was able to go from an all liquid diet to a bland diet.  May not sound like much, but I got pretty creative in ordering several items then mixing them together (chicken noodle rice soup anyone?).  I scored a plain roast beef sandwich as well, but quickly learned that wasn’t a smart thing to do.

The next 2 days was an increased series of tests, doctors and specialists to try and figure out why I’d gotten to the brink.  By this time however my CPK numbers were down to 2,000, then 1,400 and finally 400 on Memorial day.  I got permission to come home, but with instructions to take it easy and follow up with my doctor. 

May 2009 044It was good to be home, and I think I overdid it Tues and Wed; I’d lost almost 10lbs during this ordeal, and could barely climb the stairs without needing to take a rest afterwards.  A couple more doctor’s visits, a few more prescriptions, and alot more chicken soup and I’m probably at about 75% today.

So that’s the short version of what happened.  Yeah, it was scary.  Really scary, because I’ve never been hospitalized and could tell from the looks on the faces of family and friends that came to see me that I wasn’t looking too hot.  But there were alot of prayers going on, including several pastors from my church and the hospital that made a point of coming by or calling.  And to know that Jacinda and the kids were being cared for by our family and friends allowed me to focus on getting better, knowing that school, meals and even the lawn were not something I had to worry over.  And of course my employer, Microsoft.  When you’re healthy, it’s easy to overlook the worth of health plan coverage, but I know that this was not an inexpensive episode.  And, when Jacinda contacted my GM to let him know what had happened, it was expected but still nice to know that he was less concerned about my work than my health.

I’m still convalescing, despite every effort to get up and head downstairs to my office or just walk around the house a little.  My clothes are kinda hanging on me, and I’ve got a nice beard and head of hair on me to boot – something Phoebe Anne and Olivia find extremely interesting.  And my diet is still limited to bread, soup and the occasional chicken or turkey breast.  But I’m in really good spirits and happy to know that I’m on the mend.  The analytical mind would love to know what exactly caused this and create a 90-day plan to eradicate whatever needs to be eradicated for this to never happen again.  Hopefully the tests I had on Friday will deliver those answers.