This Blog is rated PG: Descriptions of Medical and Surgical conditions and procedures may not be suitable for some audiences. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Back in January of 2004, I was preparing for inventory with the rest of my associates where I work. I had had mild cold like symptoms that came and went for about a week. On Thursday, my symptoms turned to a mild sore throat, headache and mild dizziness. I went home from work in hopes to sleep it off over the next 24 hours and be back to help with inventory on Saturday. Over night, an inner ear infection developed with more dizziness and increased pain. By Friday evening the pain had reached a level beyond my tolerance and I went into urgent care. They diagnosed me with a severe inner ear infection (Duh), prescribed me Vicodin for the pain and set up an appointment with and Ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor for the next morning. Now I have had experience with Vicodin in the past and it always made me nauseous.
That night, my symptoms progressed to severe dizziness, vomiting and mild disorientation. The next morning, the E.N.T. put me through a battery of tests only to tell me that I had a bad infection (DUH x2). The infection in my ear was so severe that it had ruptured my eardrum and was visible in my ear canal. During the visit, the vomiting episodes increased in intensity and I started expelling a black oily like substance similar to the black substance from the TV show The X-Files. (Later I was to learn that was actual infection my body was trying to get rid of). During the day Saturday, all the symptoms continued to worsen. I had gotten very little quality sleep sa I was happy to have gotten a substantial nap in Saturday afternoon..When I woke up around 4:30 pm, I had no sensation in my left leg, below the knee. I presumed it had fallen asleep during my nap. Normally as you move around, the ‘asleep’ portion of your leg should regain sensation. Unfortunately, mine did not. I knew I was severely dehydrated, so I checked my pulse in my right wrist – nothing (not good). I checked it in my left – NOTHING (Crap!). Being a former paramedic, I knew my systolic blood pressure had fallen below 80 (that’s bad). I was rushed to the Central DuPage Hospital ER. As I waited to be seen, I began to experience progressive numbness and lost of function of my left hand and arm.
I was finally called in by the triage nurse and I was able to give her an accurate time line of symptoms. My blood pressure was 80 over 20, pulse 110, respirations around 18 and here’s the kicker – a temp of 97.6., a full degree BELOW normal. No fever! REALLY bad sign. If that wasn’t enough, the nurse gave me a look I had seen before when working with nursing staff as a paramedic. The look of “I have no idea what the hell is wrong with you.” Let me tell you and insert sarcasm here – that was comforting.
The next several hours I spent in the ER having numerous vials of blood being drawn, was sent for a CT scan and had to endure a lumbar puncture. By the time I came back to the ER from CT, I was experiencing inappropriate pain response in my left side – meaning if you touched me with your finger – it felt like a knife cutting into me. The ER doctor and I knew now there was something going on in my brain, but even he didn’t believe I had Meningitis.
They sent me up to ICU isolation in critical but stable condition and after that my memory of events is extremely blurred and disjointed. Lab results came back positive for Strep B Bacterial Meningitis. In my case, it was isolated to one region of the brain and coupled with the affects of the ear infection, I did not display typical meningitis symptoms and the other symptoms masked the severity of the infection. After 36 hours of antibiotic treatment, my three doctors decided to go in and surgically remove as much infection as possible. On Monday afternoon, I was wheeled to the operation room. The doctors made a long cut in the fold from the top to the bottom behind my right ear, folded my entire ear forward to give them a clear field and proceeded to scrap as much infection from the Mastoid Process (that bump on your skull behind your ear) as they could.
As soon as I was admitted to ICU, my parents were called and they said they would be leaving first thing in the morning. They drove the 460 miles from Omaha to be at my side and help my then wife with the kids. Before leaving, my dad sent an urgent prayer request out to everyone on his email list. Since my dad has been in Christian broadcasting his entire life, that list was pretty massive. Unbeknownst to me and my doctors, with my church included, I had hundreds of people praying for me.
I spent the next week in the hospital slowly improving, 4 days in ICU and 3 days in ICU step down. By the time I was discharged, all motor and sensory function in my arm and leg were back to normal. I was sent home with an IV PIC line in my arm so that I could administer antibiotics myself for the next 5 weeks. Those first weeks at home were nothing but miraculous. Even with my appetite affected by the minor brain damage and the antibiotics, I had my energy back with in a couple days. Even though I was forced to take time off, I had no desire to stay home. God was certainly lifting me up.
During my last appointment with my infectious disease doctor about 4 months later, I asked him how serious I was when I was first admitted. He told me that I was as serious as serious gets. Many people do not survive from infections as advanced as mine was. He told me that I survived the same bacteria that killed Jim Henson of the Muppets (he died of pneumonia caused by Strep B). Really, with all earthly things considered, there is no reason I am still alive. After talking with my one of my other doctors, if I had waited even a few more hours, I would have most likely have ended up on a slab in the morgue.
I see God’s hand through out this whole ordeal. Do I credit the doctors for helping me live? Certainly. Do I think that my paramedic knowledge influenced my decision to go to the hospital? Definitely. But above all else, do I think the power of prayer made a difference? There is NO doubt in my mind.