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Whirlwind of a Weekend

I have a couple of posts in the works, and I had planned to post some this weekend but a couple of things got in the way. Three hospitals in three different towns in five days…that must be some kind of record.

It all started with a spin class last Thursday (4 days ago). Actually, it all started with the same spin class exactly three weeks before that. I convinced two of my friends at school to sign up for group exercise classes with me through the school gym. We went to the first one together a little over three weeks ago, I stupidly rented a towel from the gym (which I assume they bleach), then the night of the spin class I came down with an acute sore throat and chills (no fever, as far as I tested at least). It ran its course, turned into a cold, and I haven’t felt 100% since then, now almost three and a half weeks ago.

I skipped the next week’s spin class because I was still under the weather. The following week’s spin class filled up before I got there, but I still wasn’t feeling great so honestly I was relieved deep down. Then last week’s spin class (on Thursday, 4 days ago) came around. I still wasn’t feeling 100%, but I sucked it up and went anyway, this time making sure I had Lysol-ed all of my belongings and didn’t rent one of their nasty so-called-bleached sweat towels.

Although I felt OK at the end of the spin class, by the time I got home I was literally shaking with the chills. I thought maybe I had just overdone it, again, from whatever illness I was probably still recovering from three weeks earlier. Then I took my temperature – 100.6. I took some NSAIDs, waited a few hours and took it again – 102.6. By this time, I was shaking uncontrollably with the chills, my head was pounding, my heart racing, and my neck and lower back hurt so much I didn’t want to move my head. And it was 10:30pm.

With limited medical options (I have crappy student health insurance), we called the health insurance company’s “Advice Nurse” line, which could have just as easily been done by computer as the idiot on the end of the other line. Due to my neck/back pain, fever, and severe headache, they recommended I go to the emergency room. So we went to the only place we knew – the downtown public hospital with the same name as my university. After 9+ hours in the ER, they had taken a bunch of samples of various fluids, including a spinal tap to check for meningitis, and had done virtually nothing to even begin to dull my headache. I’ve had severe ileus from opiates that just landed me back in the hospital in the past so I refused them, and they claimed my next best option was a mix of Benadryl and an anti-nausea drug. When that did nothing, they basically overdosed me on Valium, enough to make me pass out for over an hour and a half where the doctor could barely arouse me. At least during that hour and a half, my head wasn’t causing me (conscious) pain.

Meanwhile, 35-weeks-pregnant-with-twins Molly is having to sit in a tiny, uncomfortable chair in my ER room for the entire 9+ hours because they kept yelling at her to “get off [my] hospital bed, it’s for patients only.” As if this entire ordeal wasn’t emotionally stressful enough, add sleep deprivation and hunger on top of it, and you’ve got a combination no one would want to deal with. I was eventually discharged Friday (3 days ago) morning with an “inconclusive” but not particularly worrisome spinal tap, nothing majorly abnormal on the bloodwork or urine sample, and the same, if not worse, headache I went in with. Thanks for the help.

All day Friday I basically sat in a recliner (reclined mostly all the way back, but not entirely flat – this fact is actually relevant) with a cold pack strapped to my head, sunglassess on and earplugs in, and a blanket over my entire body (including my head). I slept on an off in this position, and kept trying different medications to ease the migraine – naproxen, Advil, aspirin, etc – but nothing worked. I was so worried about getting a stomach ulcer from all the NSAIDs, I tried to keep drinking water…which meant eventually I had to get up to pee, which meant moving and thus causing my head to go from pounding to about to pop off. Ultimately I went to bed Friday night just to escape the pain, and Saturday (2 days ago), I woke up with the headache almost gone.

Until I got up. After getting out of bed, within a half an hour, my headache again went from barely there to I’m-going-to-freak-out. It was Saturday morning so we went to my school’s Urgent Care center where I explained what had happened Thurs/Fri at the hospital. They agreed with the hospital’s diagnosis of “acute febrile illness of likely viral origin,’ gave me a shot of Toradol (another NSAID), and told me to go home and rest. The whole time while we were at the clinic, I had been lying down on my back on the exam table with an ice pack on my head, and about an hour later (after having been given the Toradol), my head pain was again manageable. But, as soon as I sat up, then stood up to get in the car, the excruciating head pain was back. I figured I would just go home and rest it off, again. At least my fever hadn’t returned.

It continued to get so much worse that I eventually also tried two different migraine medications. Nothing was working, not even to take the edge off, nothing. I eventually broke down and started sobbing, which I rarely do these days. Here was Molly, my uber-pregnant wife, having to wait on me hand-and-foot because I was totally incapacitated, at the very time I’m supposed to be taking care of her. Was this some kind of cruel joke? Just like Friday, I eventually went to bed because sleeping was the only time it didn’t hurt.

Anyway, this isn’t a blog where I just complain about my maladies…so, enter baby drama. Either coincidentally, or due to the stress of my illness, Molly began to have some potential preterm labor issues. Sunday morning (yesterday), when I woke up, I didn’t have a headache but took some aspirin to try to make sure one didn’t appear. When I went downstairs, Molly was becoming ever-increasingly distressed because she hadn’t felt Baby B move in over 12 hours, even after doing the things they suggest to elicit movement such as walking and eating/drinking something sugary. At this point in a twin pregnancy, they say not feeling anything for just two hours could be cause for concern, so she called the Preterm Labor hotline for her hospital (we have different insurance companies). They told her to immediately come in. So we hurried out the door, with my migraine again coming on fast and strong so she drove. There I was, the dad-to-be making his super pregnant wife drive herself to the hospital – I’m sure me wearing my sunglasses inside to shield myself from the hospital’s fluorescent lights made me look like the hungover loser dad who wanted nothing to do with my pregnant wife. Super, just who I want to be.

They hooked Molly up to two fetal heartbeat monitors and a contraction monitor. It was pretty cool actually to watch the tracings on the computer and printout. Surprisingly, when they first hooked her up, Molly was (unbenounced to her) having contractions every five minutes. After 20 or so minutes of monitoring, the doctor came in and told us that both babies looked beautiful on the monitors, and she did a pelvic exam – cervix was nice and closed but she could feel Baby A’s butt right against it (still breech!). Not in labor – what a relief. When Molly was discharged, the contractions had slowed down and were maybe every 9-10 minutes, but she still couldn’t feel them inside. The whole trip was nice and short, maybe an hour at the most, and we headed home.

By the time we got home from Molly’s hospital, my headache was perhaps at the worst it had ever been. I took my spot on the slightly-inclined recliner and resumed my ice pack/ear plugs/blanket status. A couple hours later I was at wit’s end and just decided to lie flat down on the couch….and voila! Within 10 minutes of lying flat on the couch, my headache was 80% better. As soon as a sat up, BAM, right back to my head exploding. Lie down again, minimal pain. What viral infection does that?

Thanks to Molly’s Googling skills, “headache that goes away when lying down,” she found something called a Spinal Headache. Basically, after a spinal tap, you continue to leak CSF fluid from the hole, which leads to severe headaches when sitting or standing. This morning I made a follow-up appointment with my school’s health care center to see someone and suggest that maybe that was what was happening to me. The drive from my house to school is about a half an hour, and in retrospect, I really shouldn’t have made that drive to my appointment. The pain while driving (sitting upright) was almost unbearable and multiple times I almost pulled over and called 9-1-1. But, I finally got there, and they immediately ushered me back to the Urgent Care center on campus. The doctor there believed my self-diagnosis of spinal headache and arranged for an ambulance to transport me (how embarrassing) from Urgent Care to the local hospital (different from the one I had been to Thurs/Fri). At the hospital, they did and Epidural Blood Patch, and after recovering from the sedation, the results were immediately apparent. The first time I sat up and stood up, even though my head still hurt a little bit, it was no longer incapacitating. I could actually sit/stand and act like a normal human being.

We’re home now, and I’m still going to stay in a fully-reclined position until tomorrow. I’m going to attempt to go to class tomorrow morning (Molly’s going to drive me to school), and hopefully I’ll be able to drive my car home. If I’m able to do that, I think this whole mess will be able to come to an end. I’m not even going to mention the mountain of homework I didn’t touch the entire weekend.

I’m so thankful I have such an amazing partner who is willing to sacrifice her own needs for mine. I know she’s in pain all the time, I know it must be so difficult to lug that belly around all day, but she never made me feel like I was a burden for asking for her to get me an ice pack, or turn down the TV, or help me get comfortable. I am so proud of her for carrying these babies like a champ. And the fact that we even made it to 35 weeks before having to go to Labor and Delivery for monitoring is quite an accomplishment, I think. I guess I don’t really know that it is in terms of average twin pregnancies, but to me it feels like it is, because I was expecting we would have made a similar trip at least once or twice by now. What would an experience like this be without some photos to document?

Molly with the heart rate and contraction monitors on:

Monitor tracing. The top two lines are the two babies’ heart rates. The bottom line is uterine activity (note the contraction near the middle):

So, the end result: 3 hospitals in 3 different towns over 5 days, with 2 babies still cooking and 1 headache (that at least seems to be) on the mend. Seriously, this headache stuff is the only drama I’m allowed right now. From now on, the rest of it needs to be focused on Molly and the babies. Oh, also, our OB broke up with us. But that’s another post.

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