I can hardly believe it’s Monday; last week just feels like a huge blur after Eric and I both got sick.
At the beginning of May, I noticed my lower abdominal muscles felt sore, like I had done a tough ab workout. It didn’t always coincide with when I actually worked out, but I brushed it off, thinking it was delayed-onset muscle soreness. It was unpleasant, but sporadic enough. Then it started to happen more frequently, and not really in conjunction with workouts at all. Two weeks ago, it got worse each day, to the point where I was just coming home from work and heading straight to the couch. It still felt like muscle soreness, which is sort of an unusual symptom, so I couldn’t really figure out what might be causing it. Finally I got concerned something might be up with my IUD, so I went to the gynecologist on Friday afternoon. He did an exam and checked the IUD and said it was still in place and everything seemed fine. He said it could be something GI-related, but he said that since the IUD was the biggest change in my body in the past six months, he might need to remove it if my symptoms didn’t go away soon.
I got home that night and just felt even worse, and felt that way all weekend. I was lethargic, sore, nauseous, and had zero appetite. Meanwhile, Eric had bad allergies and wasn’t feeling so hot either, so we just spent most of the weekend on the couch.
By last Monday I still felt crappy, and I was really upset that there was no apparent cause for my symptoms. And I was really upset about the thought of having the IUD removed because we didn’t know it was the cause of my pain and because I really really love it.
Tuesday morning, Eric and I were getting ready for work and he said that he felt really crappy too. It had started the night before.
“I feel like you’ve been describing it…just everything feels really sore,” he said. “I feel like I got hit in the stomach with a sledgehammer.”
“Where is your pain?” I said. “Mine is really noticeable on the left side.” I pushed on my abdomen below my belly button like I had been doing a lot lately.
He felt around on his stomach with his fingers. “Mine is actually really noticeable on the right side,” he said. “That’s weird. I wouldn’t have even noticed it was there if you hadn’t said anything.”
But off we went to work.
By 9:30, an hour into my day, I could barely focus. I felt weak, feverish, and extremely nauseous. I texted Eric to ask him how he was feeling and to let him know I might have to go home from work early.
He texted me back to say he had already told his boss he might need to leave because he was feeling so bad.
That’s when I started to freak out. Well, not freak out, exactly, but get concerned that we had contracted the same mysterious illness. Since this felt a lot worse than my sore abs in May, I thought maybe the two were unrelated, and I’d now contracted some sort of virus and passed it to Eric. Or maybe there was a toxin in our apartment, like mold. Or maybe our dogs had given us something. They had just been to the vet on Monday and got a clean bill of health, but I called to ask if there was any possibility that they could have given us a virus or infection.
I described the symptoms to the person at the animal hospital. She told me to hold and then came back and said that obviously they couldn’t diagnose anything but to go to the doctor and mention it could be tapeworm.
After a stressed-out 20 minutes of texting Eric and combing the Internet to learn all about tapeworm, mold, and food poisoning outbreaks in Houston, I took myself home from work. Eric came home a couple hours later and we headed straight back out to urgent care together. We figured our symptoms were so similar that it made sense that we had just contracted the same thing. The same terrible, horrible thing.
After going through the whole check-in routine at urgent care, we described our symptoms to the doctor. I said that my pain was more noticeable on my left side, and he seemed to just dismiss me — as everyone did this whole week — because he clearly just thought I was pregnant. He seemed disinterested in what he perceived as my gynecological issues, even though I explained that my gynecologist did an exam and wasn’t concerned with my IUD or the possibility of a cyst or anything like that. But his ears really perked up when Eric mentioned that his pain was on his right side.
“That sounds like it could be appendicitis.”
Two blood tests and a urine test later, we had a sort-of diagnosis.
“You’re not pregnant,” he said. He seemed annoyed about this, as though I’d ruined his streak of guessing correctly that every female who comes to urgent care is there because she’s actually pregnant. “You have a urine infection.” Then he turned to Eric, “And you –”
“Wait,” I interrupted. Because…I know I’m not fucking pregnant. And also…what the fuck is a urine infection????
“What is a urine infection?”
He looked at me.
“Is it like…a BLADDER infection?” I said. I just couldn’t quite grasp this concept of a urine infection.
“Sure, yeah,” he said, turning back to Eric.
He went on to explain that it was hard to tell if Eric had appendicitis or not at this point, but that all signs pointed to yes. He said that Eric would know within the next few hours because his pain would get considerably worse, and if that happened, he just needed to go to the emergency room.
He was all set to send us on our way when I asked if I’d be getting an antibiotic for my “urine infection” and when I’d start feeling better.
“After you take the second dose,” he said.
He wrote me the prescription, and then asked if Eric needed anything for nausea.
“Actually, no, I’m not nauseous at all,” Eric said. Meanwhile, I felt like I was on a boat caught in a storm.
“I’m actually really, really nauseous,” I said.
He looked at me, then looked back at Eric.
“Yeah, actually, I think she’s a lot more nauseous than I am,” Eric said pointedly.
The doctor looked at us blankly.
“OK, great, well, thanks for everything!” I said, grabbing my prescription.
By the time we had gotten my prescription filled and gotten back to our apartment with some chicken soup, Eric’s pain had increased and then increased some more. He wasn’t sure it was necessary to go to the hospital, saying he could still sit comfortably in one position, he just couldn’t really walk. I obviously focus way too much on the worst-case scenario to just sit idly by while my boyfriend’s appendix bursts, so I told him to get his things and prayed that my antibiotic would start clearing out my infection ASAP so I’d feel like a functioning human being again.
After three hours spent in the ER waiting room/having more blood tests/drinking an iodine cocktail, Eric finally had a CAT scan. I spent most of that time trying to make myself comfortable in the ER chairs, a task that was damn near impossible due to my sore and cramped lower back and abdomen. Finally, he had a diagnosis: his appendix was, in fact, breaking up with him.
The ER doctor said he would finally be transferred to a real room and he could wait there until eight hours had passed since his last meal. He said they’d do surgery around 11:00 that night.
Eric’s room was so much nicer than the ER room and had an actual couch. I forgot that hospital rooms are a bit more comfortable than the jail cell where we had been hanging out all evening and was so thrilled that I could now provide moral support from a reclining position. But before I could do that, I needed to head home to check on our poor puppies.
I got home, wishing desperately that between us Eric and I had just one family member nearby to turn to in times like these. At this point, my medicine hadn’t done anything, and the pain was just awful. I couldn’t take ibuprofen with the antibiotic unless I wanted to have a seizure, so I had to grit my teeth until I could find the time and energy to go to Walgreens for some Tylenol.
I rescued our poor puppies from their gated area and spent some time with them, hoping they’d get tired out soon. Even though I was able to lay comfortably on the couch, I was stressed about Eric’s situation and mine, and was just eager to get back.
An hour and a half later, I headed back to the hospital, readying myself for Eric’s surgery. Around 10:30 the nurse came in and told us that his surgery would “probably” happen tomorrow. She wasn’t really sure.
It had been a really long day and it’s not that we were looking forward to the surgery, exactly..we just wanted it to be over so Eric could be on his way to recovery. But the surgeon wanted to check Eric himself and the surgeon wasn’t coming in that night. It was a very strange disappointment.
As we discussed, I half-lay on Eric’s hospital bed for a few minutes before he told me to go home. I protested.
“Baby, you’re exhausted,” he said. “I can tell. Go home. I’ll be fine. Go home to our puppies.”
I would have stayed longer but I’m SO glad he wouldn’t let me. I was so tired and in pain and nauseous when I got home, I could barely think. My lower back and middle back near my ribs hurt a lot, even more than my abs at this point. I didn’t sleep well at all; I just tossed and turned, trying to get comfortable.
The next morning I woke up feeling not much better…and by about 8 AM, I felt considerably worse than I had the day before. I figured I better learn all the horrible things I should be worried about during Eric’s surgery, so I Googled “appendicitis”…and was surprised to see that the first thing WebMD said was that the symptoms could mimic that of a bladder infection.
Bladder infection was hyperlinked, so I decided to learn more about my sort-of diagnosis. But when I clicked to that page, I realized…I had none of the symptoms of a bladder infection. I actually had all the symptoms of a kidney infection, symptoms that described and then followed by IF YOU HAVE ANY OF THESE SYMPTOMS, DO NOT DELAY IN GOING TO THE DOCTOR.
I started to freak out that my urgent care doctor had clearly missed the obvious and that the infection was spreading and I was going to die. But I also didn’t want to sit around whining while Eric had an appendix on the fritz, so I got all Scarlett O’Hara and told myself, “I’ll think about that tomorrow” and headed back to the hospital to be with him.