Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Meningitis

Recently I had a brief battle with what turned out to be viral meningitis. Here is the story.

Pre Sickness

My youngest and second youngest took turns getting sick. We never put our fingers on it, but they were sick for a little bit of time each. A variety of things let me believe that these two illnesses weren't remarkable at all. For the youngest, I think we decided that maybe she was getting some molars or just having a tough time sleeping. For the other, he had just gotten his tonsils out and perhaps having some bounce back recovery time. The short of the story though is that they did have some sort of illness, it's possible it was the same. Nobody else in the family had really gotten sick though.

I was having some tummy troubles leading up to the Maple Grove triathlon, but nothing specific, and nothing severe. I did not tie these things together, and realistically they may not be tied together.

Zero Day

I was at work, feeling fine. It was roughly mid-day, and I was getting a pop and getting ready to eat the largest pear I have ever seen. I ate my pear, and I kid you not "WHAM!" I was sick. I was feeling nauseated, and a little disoriented. I sent this message

I think the pear I ate did me in, I’m feeling ill and am heading home to hopefully sleep it off. 
See you in the morning. 

I drove home, not feeling well. Made an unceremonious entrance and went straight to bed. Estimated time of arrival to bed: 12:30 p.m. Tuesday. During the "night" (it was dark at least, I have no idea what time it was) I did wake up once in a pool of sweat, I'd imagine that was some sort of fever breaking.

+1 Day

I woke up around 8:30 the next morning. I wasn't feeling awesome, but not nearly as bad. I basically was fuzzy, with a headache, I felt pretty stiff all over and possibly a weak stomach. Given my previous weak stomach problems and the idea that I had just slept for 20 hours with nothing to show for it really, I decided to head to work. I took some Advil to kill the headache.

The day was pretty uneventful, the headache and body aches stayed. Advil was pretty effective at getting rid of of the headache, though I was taking 2x dose and it wore off about 30 minutes before the recommended re-dose time.

The common thought around the office and in my head about the illness was some sort of food poisoning from the pear and perhaps some level of dehydration causing the headache. These seemed plausible, though now that I'm thinking back, not actually that plausible. First, everyone else in my house was eating the same pears that could have gotten me sick. Also, I was drinking and peeing like a champ.

+2 Days

Basically the same, I think the Advil was starting to take its toll on my stomach because I was getting an uneasy stomach when I would take it. Other than that no real changes.

+3 Days

At about 3:30 in the morning I woke up with a headache, the same headache I had since the first day. I could not bring myself to take four Advil, so I just took two (recommended dose.)

At about 8:30 I really felt like crap. This was the first time I felt like I might throw up, I did not. I was cold sometimes, hot sometimes, it hurt to open my eyes, and I never really felt comfortable. I was unstable on my feet. I asked my wife to make a doctor appointment. I could be seen around noon.

Around doctor appointment time we discuss very briefly me going by myself, I suggest that's not going to be possible. To say I felt terrible was putting it lightly. I stagger down to the car, I cannot bring myself to sit up straight or wear my seat belt. The short (less than one mile) trip feels like forever. I stagger into the clinic, and get seen quickly.

The doctor comes in quickly, my wife does a lot of talking, I do some talking, he quickly comes to a few options.
  • Meningitis
  • West Nile
He's pretty confident that it's viral meningitis, but the only way to test for it is to do a spinal tap. He'd be happy to do it, he's done a lot, he has the equipment, he's done one recently as his office, but "they" didn't like that, so he's not going to do it today. He orders a battery of tests, along with two bags of fluids and some decent pain medication. He'll do the test for west nile, though the results probably will take long enough to get that by the time we know I'll be over it.

Over the course of the next few hours my wife drops the kids off at a neighbor's house and comes back. I get an IV and some fluids. They turn the lights off in my room and bring in some heavy duty medication. I start feeling pretty decent.

The doctor returns. Because I am functional when properly medicated, and a bunch of the labs have come back normal, he's staying with the idea that it's probably viral, and it might be meningitis, but because it's viral there's not a lot of do about it but manage the pain and wait it out. He prescribes some narcotics and sends me home with orders. 'Do not hesitate to go to the hospital if you cannot manage the pain or things get worse' He specifically tells my wife to watch out for confusion. This, obviously, scares my wife.

We head home, I am a little sick from the medicine, but when I'm laying down everything is fine. I get on the schedule for the pain medicine prescribed and things are looking up.

+4 Days

I wake up around 5:30, it's been three hours since I took some Advil, I have a headache, but I'm allowed to take beefier narcotics, so I do and go back to sleep. I wake up again at 8:30, the headache is back. I am not supposed to take any more medicine for another hour. Also it occurs to me that probably the narcotics should be more effective than three hours, and possibly the Advil isn't working much at all. We elect to call the nurse line to see if they think this means we should come back in, after an hour on hold they say yes, breakthrough pain shouldn't be an issue given the medicine I'm taking.

I take some Advil as we're heading out the door to hopefully help a little.

We get to the urgent care / ER triage. Pontential meningitis is not handled by urgent care, off to ER I go. The headache is pretty bad, eyes hurt again I spend most of my time with my eyes closed (for the second day.) The doctor comes in, he says he agrees with the initial assessment from the day before. Likely we'll end up with better medicine, but we'll run some extra tests just to make sure.

They hook me up to fluids with some sort of medicine to help the pain. I head over for a CT scan and we wait for results. The CT scan is fine. The pain is still present. The doctor comes in, suggests we go ahead with the spinal tap to confirm meningitis or not. That sounds like a good idea. He says we'll get some more medicine and that I won't really be super alert for the procedure.

A few moments later nurses are there setting up for the puncture, the doctor rolls in and has me assume the position. At this point I ask about the "additional medicine" as I had not receieved anything, and wasn't feeling super awesome. They gave me some, and asked if I felt anything. No change, so they gave me some more and then didn't ask again. The puncture is painless and goes quickly. My wife said it's very similar to watching it on TV. The procedure is over as quickly as it started and I'm back on my back keeping my eyes closed.

Some time later the doctor comes back in, confirmed meningitis, and a slightly elevated white blood cell count. So we'll do a quick round of antibiotics to get rid of any infection and an anti-inflammatory medicine to help with the meningitis pain. At this point I mention that whatever medicine they have been giving me is not effective and to please take note. They give me something a little stronger, and a much stronger prescription than the day before. The instructions are "take these new pills and not the old ones, lay off the Advil as it's probably messing up your tummy, you should be fine in a couple of days based on what the estimated timeline of your illness is"

We head home, another day down. I take one pill (of the suggested dose of two.) These pills make me quite sleepy.


The next two days I am self regulating on half doses of the new prescription. Pain management is fine, though I do feel pretty run down. I kind of tool around the house not doing much. Thanks to the extended holiday weekend I am feeling pretty decent when it comes time to head back to work. Because of work I stop taking the opiates, as that is unsafe for driving, and I'm sure against company policy. I take a couple of Advil the first day, and then just take it easy for the rest of the week. A light headache stuck around for a few more days, and food wasn't that appealing for a couple of days, but this week has been good, and I'm about 100% now. A full week later and maybe two weeks after all this started.


Thanks to everyone who dropped me a note with their thoughts and prayers. I appreciate everyone's concern. Also thanks to our neighbors who watched our kids when we were at the doctor and hospital, my sister-in-law who came over two days in a row to watch our kids at night. Of course to my wife who took care of me when I was feeling the worst, and kept the kids away when I would sleep for basically days on end.

1 comment:

Amy said...

This has been a banner year for you and I getting sick and heading to the hospital. Not something we've previously been known for outside of the annual summertime rusty nail tetnus shots of our childhoods. Yours much scarier than mine I think. Although I think I take the drama prize for public fainting plus barfing. Hopefully this phase of our sibling-lives is over and we can just get regular colds from now on.