Living in Sin: The Road to Recovery

by Rachel on June 21, 2011

[Just joining us? Catch up on Part 1: The Dual Diagnosis first.]

When I arrived at the hospital on Thursday morning, Eric was doing pretty well. His pain had increased overnight, but he was hanging in there. I’m glad I got there when I did because just a few minutes later, they came to take him to pre-op. I kept him company while he talked to the anesthesiologist and met his surgeon. Finally, they took him away and I went to the waiting room.

Besides my fear of dying/Eric dying, I was stressed about missing work, so I distracted myself during his surgery by getting some work done. Before I knew it, the surgeon was telling me that he was fine and that he’d stay in recovery for an hour and then they would take him back to his room. I stayed in the waiting room, working, fighting off my nausea, ignoring my cramping stomach and back, for another 45 minutes, and then headed up to his room.

I felt so weak and nauseous and I had to pause and take a lot of deep breaths as I headed to his room, They wheeled him in and he didn’t look too worse for the wear — he was sleeping, as I expected. But as soon as he opened his eyes and groggily responded to my greeting before falling asleep again, my own situation fully hit me. I felt so sick, I couldn’t think straight. I decided I’d stay with him until his lunch arrived and I could help him eat it, and then I’d head home to let the dogs out and maybe see about that Tylenol. His lunch was supposed to arrive within 45 minutes, and I hoped it would come fast.

Eric was actually pretty awake when his lunch came 40 minutes later, and he didn’t really need my help at all. I reached for the cranberry juice I had added to his order for myself and took a sip. And when my stomach lurched after one sip of juice, I knew I was done.

“Eric…um…” I started. I was so sick and just really upset so I was taking a lot of deep breaths. “I think I need to go home…I don’t feel OK at all and I’m really worried…that I have a kidney infection…and I don’t know if it needs different treatment than a bladder infection…but the doctor said I’d feel better after my second dose and that was last night and I…don’t…”

As Eric waited for me to finish, his faced started to look upset and then all of a sudden guilty, which I did not want, so I barreled on.

“I think…I think I just need to go home and let the dogs out while I still have the energy to do that…”

“Awww, baby,” he started, with so much kindness and apology in his voice. Have you ever had one of those moments when you’re holding it together until someone asks you if you’re OK and then you just fall apart? For some reason, it’s the overt displays of pity that break me when I’m trying to hold it together.

“It just hurts SO much,” I choked out, bending over and putting my hands on my knees, both because it hurt a lot and because I didn’t want him to see me crying.

There wasn’t much need for further discussion. I was on my way home a few minutes later.

After I tended to the dogs, I headed back to the hospital. Instead of going back to Eric’s room, I went back to the ER — this time for myself. It was embarassing to have to tell many of the doctors and nurses, “Uh, yes, I was just here yesterday, not as a patient…oh yeah, he’s fine, in recovery upstairs…” And once I got that out of the way, I spent the majority of the next few hours telling everyone I met that no, I was not, in fact, pregnant.

OK…I understand why they have to ask women that, but I just wish that they’d acknowledge that someone has probably asked me that already. Because, let’s face it, if you are a woman between the ages of 12 and, well, death, everyone asks you that at the first hint of malaise. Actually, if you’re under the age of 13, adults will still just turn to each other and say, “Well, at least we know she’s not pregnant!” and then chuckle at their own hilarity. Because…that’s really funny. It’s a hilarious joke. And it’s definitely appropriate to kinda wink-wink say loudly to a woman, “Are you SURE YOU’RE NOT PREGNANT?!?!”

When I’m married, actively trying to get pregnant, and throwing up every morning at the smell of my co-worker’s lotion, then perhaps it will be appropriate to get all wink-wink, What have you been up to?!?! It will surely be annoying, because again, I’ll HAVE THOUGHT OF THAT ALREADY, but it won’t be as offensive. But being asked over and over not just last week, but any time I so much as sniffle, it seems, is insulting. If I were describing a set of symptoms that in rare cases are linked to pregnancy, it would be appropriate to assume that perhaps I hadn’t realized I could be pregnant. But when my biggest problem is severe nausea and abdominal and back pain, please don’t think you’re going to keep me from being in the next episode of “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant.”

Every time someone else asked me if I could be pregnant, I just wanted to scream at them.

Over the next few hours I was given more tests, another pelvic exam, an iodine cocktail that it took all my strength not to throw up, and, eventually, a CAT scan of my abdomen. I sat in the ER room all alone the whole time, wishing Eric was with me, or was at least alert enough to keep a text conversation going for more than five minutes at a time before he’d stop responding because he had fallen back to sleep again.

After a long, stressful afternoon with my intravenous nausea medication doing little to help me, I was basically told that while I had all the symptoms of a kidney infection and was feeling like crap, another urine test showed that my problems were on the mend. All my internal organs were fine and the antibiotics had already wiped out a lot of the infection, so I didn’t need more serious meds and I could stop worrying I was going to die. I needed to keep taking my antibiotic, take a prescription nausea medicine and a prescription painkiller if necessary, and probably stop running around town trying to take care of a sick boyfriend and two puppies.

The fact that I let a bladder infection go on unnoticed for six weeks and then — once it had decided to go start shit with my kidneys — refused to let it sideline me even when I really, really needed to be sidelined was probably why that whole “you’ll feel better after the second dose” thing didn’t work out. My body was healing, fortunately, but it was probably going to take 3-4 days for me to actually feel better, not 24 hours.

I stayed with Eric for much of the rest of the day Thursday — there was a possibility he’d go home — but eventually called it a day. I finally went and got my nausea medication and my Tylenol, but I didn’t feel much better the next morning. Eric wasn’t feeling so hot either, so we spent most of the day Friday just recovering in his hospital room. I went home to check on the dogs at lunchtime, and was happy to realize I had a bit of an appetite again finally! Things were looking up!!!!

It became apparent later that day that Eric’s nurses had forgotten about him, or at least forgotten that he might want to be discharged, so we were there until nearly 7:00 on Thursday night. But finally we were able to get home to our poor puppies and both relax comfortably on our couch. I was even feeling well enough to venture out and pick up Eric’s pain meds. Life didn’t feel normal again yet, but it felt so much better.

And we survived despite our identical symptoms, but I really do think we were somewhat better off because we had the same symptoms at the same time. I know if we hadn’t, both of us would have ignored our problems for a lot longer before going to a doctor. But even without anyone to drive us around, pick up our meds, buy us soup, look after our puppies, or do all those things that families do that you just take for granted…we survived!

It was one of those relationship moments like the time I barfed all over myself in the car in Galveston when you realize you’re with someone that you can really trust and depend on when you’re in pain or incapacitated or when things seem horrible. And so I guess in that sense, given the fact that we’re both OK now, it really wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened to us. Not by a long shot.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Laura Georgina June 21, 2011 at 10:11 am

Whew. Relieved it wasn’t your kidneys… And that you’re on the up again! That’ s both your sick allowances taken care of for, oh, the next ten years or so, so think of it as good health karma now in the bank.


2 Jessica June 21, 2011 at 10:35 am

I’m so glad you’re on the road to recovery. You’re so much braver than I would have been in that situation!

Also, can totally relate about the “Are your pregnant?” question. It’s worse when you’re married. I can’t complain about feeling sick, feeling hungry, or actually NOT wanting a drink without someone asking me that.


3 Michelle Liggett June 21, 2011 at 10:52 am

Happy to hear that you are both doing better!! Talk about testing your coping skills!! Give the two boys a hug from me, and you and Eric work on getting this behind you!! Take care of yourselves!


4 Dori June 21, 2011 at 10:59 am

What a story. First let me say how impressed I am that you were able to do work in the hospital while feeling this badly! You are a strong person and a hard worker. I can’t do anything at much less serious maladies than that. I am so happy you are both OK. What a crazy story.


5 Dori June 21, 2011 at 11:01 am

Also — female doctors are much better about the pregnancy thing than males. They tend to ask once because they have to and it’s over. It’s the guy doctors that go on and on, not believing you.


6 Robyn June 21, 2011 at 11:07 am

What an ordeal! Glad you’re both feeling better. :)


7 [SMASH] at Sweat. Style. Swoon. June 21, 2011 at 11:07 am

I usually tell the doctor… “Well I’m about 99% sure I’m NOT pregnant” but I’ll usually take the pee test just in case. ;) But I hate being asked over and over again. Glad you two are on the mend!


8 Kelly June 21, 2011 at 11:21 am

This is an INSANE story! You must have been so scared being in that much pain and not really knowing what was going on. I’ve lots of medical stuff and doctors and hospitals in the past few years, and the pregnant question drives me bananas. I’ve taken to providing way too many details on why I am certainly not pregnant, unless it is via immaculate conception. Sometimes that shuts them up.

Been reading & loving your blog for a while and wanted to finally comment and say hi!


9 melissa (fitnessnyc) June 21, 2011 at 11:32 am

Wow, that’s a crazy story. I hope you’re feeling a lot better. I can’t believe you were doing all that running around while being so nauseous!


10 Val @ Balancing Val June 21, 2011 at 11:32 am

I really enjoyed this story!

You know how to play the suspense game well, my friend :)

Glad your both ok and now your even stronger for doing it all on your own!


11 Beth June 21, 2011 at 11:47 am

Every time you mentioned the doctors asking if you were pregnant, I couldn’t help but laugh my butt off. It reminds of the on-campus clinic at Texas A&M (and I’m pretty sure every other on-campus clinic at any university is the same way): Every time a female walked in, they assumed she was either a) pregnant or b) had some terrible STD. You basically had to go in twice just for them to take you seriously!


12 Eirinn June 21, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Wow, I’m happy you guys are feeling better now!

A few years ago I had identical symptoms to you and NO ONE asked me if I was pregnant. I didn’t even think about it until I read your story.

I did the same thing you did and let it get really bad before deciding it was something I needed to address and almost checked myself into the ER. I decided to wait until morning to call my GYN.. she was busy so I had to see a different Dr. but they addressed it as a kidney infection almost immediately and were so much more helpful than your 1st Dr. seemed to be.

That being said I have since moved and HATE looking for new Dr.’s. Good ones are so hard to find!


13 Natalie June 21, 2011 at 9:03 pm

I was in the hospital with the same symptoms when I was 18. It was basically me defending myself while doctors and nurses alike all accused me of being prego (even AFTER the test). It turned out to be an ovarian cyst. Oh, and they made me drink that iodine cocktail and it SUCKED. I totally feel for you and am glad you’re on the mend!!


14 Anon June 21, 2011 at 9:42 pm

Yeah, you probably shouldn’t have gone to the ED (repeatedly) for a (VERY COMMON) urinary tract infection. Your bf was treated seriously because what he had was a true emergency. What you had was not.

Abusing the emergency room is one of the causes of horribly expensive healthcare.


15 Rachel June 21, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Repeatedly? I went once after going to urgent care (not ER) and after seeing my doctor. When my symptoms dramatically increased after I was treated in urgent care and everything I read online/learned from people who had had kidney infections, I made the decision to go to the ER. Had the urgent care doctor taken me seriously — and UTIs may be common but kidney infections are no joke — I probably would have been more confident that I had been treated properly.

Believe me, I debated going for that reason, but ultimately decided guilt over America’s health care crisis was not a good reason to take a chance with my health.


16 Liz @ iheartvegetables June 21, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Oh my gosh that’s SO crazy and that totally sucks that you guys were sick at the same time! How awful! I hope you’re both feeling better now!


17 Bridget June 22, 2011 at 8:14 am

I had a terrible kidney infection when I moved to Texas awhile ago. I didn’t have any friends or a car so I had to bike to the ER (worst decision ever). The doctors didn’t listen to me at all and told me I was just there for pain killers (WHAT). I ended up breaking down in front of the doctor and he took me seriously. Your health is not something to eff around with.


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