It's 8pm on Wednesday, 18th February 2004 and I've just gotten home from another week in hospital. On Sunday, 8th February I went to bed with a bit of a temperature. The day after I got up and started getting ready of college. As I was about to leave the house I came over all "wobbly" and had to rest on the sofa. I just thought I picked up a nasty cold and went back to bed. The next day, I still had a high temperature and my right knee, which I'd damaged a few years ago, started giving me a lot of pain. On Wednesday, 11th February we phoned my doctor who advised us to go to the hospital emergency room. I was expecting a course of antibiotics - instead they admitted me and put me in an isolation room with suspected tuberculosis. It frightened me half to death as I'm old enough to remember when being told that you had TB was the same as being told "you're going to die - and it's not going to be very pleasant." The first set of x-rays came back and showed my left lung about half filled with fluid. The next day a second set showed my right lung was infected too. A couple of days later and my temperature got back to normal and I was told that the TB tests were negative and it just looked like a bad case of pneumonia - but they were going to do a Bronchoscopy and take a piece of lung for a biopsy. Once again I heard those famous words "I'm just going to give you something to relax you", which of course meant I was about to lose consciousness for a few hours. A couple of days later they came back, and said that they couldn't find any tumours and my lungs were fine. A day or two after that and I'd stopped coughing up blood, they took me for a short run aroundthe ward to make sure my blood oxygen levels were good and let me go home. All in all it all turned out quite ordinary and boring, but the hospital did give me photographs they took of my lungs which I thought were pretty cool. I don't know if they were worth the several thousand dollars the stay in hospital cost though.
The images are of my Main Carina, Right Lower Lobe Bronchus and the Right Upper Lobe Bronchus
It was probably because I was so ill but one thing the stay in hospital did was to make me think my own mortality. Ever since I was a teenager I thought I was like Peter Pan, never really growing up. I have to admit I was beginning to get scared. I couldn't look after myself, I felt weak and tired and couldn't concentrate on anything for very long. I'd always thought that I'd sooner have my mind go before my body started to fall apart, now I'm sure of it. I think I'd sooner be a drooling vegetable, not knowing or caring about anything much, rather than being so physically feeble as not to be able to do anything.
When they discharged me from hospital I thought I'd be up and running around and back to my old self. The pneumonia certainly knocked me back a bit and it was weeks before I felt anything like normal. One thing that bothered me for a while was that now and then I'd get a tingling feeling in my left hand and fingers. When I was back at the doctor's one day I said about it, he didn't seem particularly worried, and didn't prescribe anything for me. After a couple of weeks the tingling stopped. I did a little reading about it and it seems that some people after a bout of illness get this sensation. There seems to be several causes for this, including some sort of viral infection and inflammation.
In April 2004, I went to see the lung specialist who had seen me in hospital for a follow-up examination. Although nothing had shown up in a set of lung x-rays I had at the doctor's in March he did tell me something about the biopsy the hospital did in February. It seems I DO have TB. It's a mild viral form and non-contagious. It seems TB is more common than I thought. The doctor said that very often no treatment is needed, but as I've probably got Crohn's Disease my immune system may be not what it should be and they'll need to keep an eye on the situation. The Crohn's or whatever it is, is being kept under control, but only because I'm taking 4,000mg of Pentasa a day. That's 4 x 250mg tablets 4 times a day (a total of 16 tablets daily). Every now and then I try and cut down on the number of tablets I take, either on purpose or because I forget to take them, but I start to get stomach aches when I do this.
Poor Patty, she worries more about my health than I do, one evening during April 2004, she burst into tears whilst we were in a restaurant. She says I don't seem to realize how ill I've been over the two years or so, she thinks I may have been close to death a couple of times. I know I've been ill, but the thing is when I've been really ill I don't care, all I want to do is sleep and as soon as I start to feel better I forget all about it. I suppose it's a man thing.
In May 2004, I went back to the doctor's. I just happened to have an x-ray from July 2001 that was taken as part of the immigration process for entry to the United States. The doctor used this as a comparison to my new x-rays and he once again assured me there was no change and nothing to worry about.
Lung x-ray from July 2001
It's 13th September 2004 and I still can't believe I managed to hurt myself so seriously again. On 16th August a friend and I were using his scuba gear to look for and repair holes in our swimming pool liner. After we'd finished I grabbed his scuba gear to get it away from the poolside. I forgot how much it weighed out of the water (about 50 - 60lbs) and so just grabbed it. I knew I'd sprained my back straight away but didn't think much of it. I thought a couple of days rest and it would be alright, unfortunately it wasn't. A week later Patty took me to the Regional hospital Emergency Room for treatment. I'd been unable to do anything except lie down for the last couple of weeks. Despite using muscle rub ointment, massage and a TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator) unit even trying to sit up was excruciatingly painful. Patty said she could see a ridge from my right shoulder that went down the right side of my spine ending up going to my side at the waist. The hospital took x-rays and sent me home. Our doctor examined me and gave me a prescription for Vicodin (actually the generic Hydrocodn/Apap) and Cyclobenzaprine - a muscle relaxant. Last Saturday (11th September) I also had a MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan. It was very painful, not because of the imaging but because of the way I had to lie. After the scan I asked if I could see the images. They are unbelievable, I had no idea of what these machines are capable of. See HowStuffWorks for more information on this technology. To give some idea of what has been happening to me. I'd go and clean my teeth then have to lie on the bathroom floor before feeling strong enough to shave, another rest then I'd shower then spend the day lying on the sofa. Today has been the first day I've been able to spend any time at all at a computer and even writing this short piece has been very painful.
Sunday, 19th September 2004. Yesterday was a barrel of laughs. I was making one of my now rare forays off of the sofa to feed the cats when I fell down the cellar stairs. My forehead looks like it's been bashed against a wall. This isn't that surprising, as that's exactly what happened as my head hit a wall at the bottom of the stairs. A good thing my head is now used to such mistreatment but needless to say, it didn't do my back much good either. Taking of which, the results of the MRI came back last week and it seems I've got tendonitis and a torn muscle. These are going to take weeks of rest and physiotherapy to put right again. The funniest thing about the fall was that I ended up with my head covered in cat food. For an awful second I thought my brains had started to come out - funny what a good blow on the head can do.
On 21st September I went to a chiropractor. Things are a bit worse than I thought. It seems I've managed to damage C3 and C5 vertebrae in my neck and he also found evidence of "tennis elbow" and carpel tunnel injury in my right arm, some of which may have happened when I fell down those bloody stairs a couple of days ago. The chiropractor says that treatment may take around three months which I found very disappointing. To be fair to him, he also said that people rarely died because of injuries like mine (I hope he was joking). The good news is that I'm managing without the Vicodin, but my back and right arm are still very painful, and I'm now able to spend a bit more time on my feet - but only for half an hour or so before I have to lie down again.
The examination at the chiropractor was fascinating. He wanted to find out the extent of my injuries and by pressing hard on certain areas of my spine was able to test my hands and feet. One place he pressed on and I'd lose the ability to turn my ankle, in another and I couldn't control the muscles in my hand - very weird.
This isn't one of my injuries but I was there and I think this incident deserves a mention. My car, a 1999 Suzuki V6 Grand Vitara, was starting to make some engine noise and so on July 23, 2005 my friend Andy and I started taking it apart. Whilst getting the water pump pulley off the wrench slipped and he gashed his hand to the bone. Right or wrong, using a lot of antiseptics, we got the cut sewn up.
I woke up on May 31, 2006, with a sore left foot. First of all it just itched between the toes and I assumed that I had some form of athletes foot and so after washing and drying it spread the toes with Desenex which is an antifungal ointment. It itched most of the day but I carried on as normal. That evening I took my socks off and found my toes had started to swell and was starting to get very painful. The next morning, they hurt like hell and the swelling had gotten worse so I took some pain killers and started using anti-itch ointment. Patty and I took a look and saw that it looked nothing like athletes foot but there was a blister on my middle toe. During the day my entire foot swelled up and I started bathing it in ice water with a little hydrogen peroxide which helped a lot. It appears I got bitten some time during that first night by some kind of insect, probably a spider. Although the Black Widow is mostly confined to California a dangerous spider found around here is the Brown Recluse. We don't think it was one of those though as the wound, although painful, isn't as bad as one of those things can produce.
Not the nicest things to look at in normal circumstances here's some photo's of my feet. Don't worry about the scratch on my right foot that was done a few days previously and not very important.
After a couple of days I went to a doctor to get the bite looked at. I ended up on a course of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and pain killers. I was also told that soaking my feet in cold water was not the best thing to do, but he never said why.
On July 7, 2006, I got bitten again, this time on the toe next to the one I had previously got bitten on or maybe it's a reoccurrence of the original bite in May? The swelling isn't so bad this time, neither is it as painful but it's just as itchy. Patty, my wife, is worried as she's heard of people having things amputated after a spider bite but I don't think this is anywhere that serious. I used lots of anti-itch ointment and after the blister burst, Neosporin antibiotic ointment.
Sometime in late November / early December 2007, I started getting an ache in my lower back that spread around my left side just under my ribs. First of all I thought it was muscular but soon realised it was deeper than that. It came and went so, as usual, I ignored it. It got progressively more painful and so on 26 December, 2007, I went to see my doctor. A couple of days later I had an ultrasound scan and it was found that I had a gallstone and a hospital appointment was made.
I was admitted to Regional Hospital, Terre Haute, about midday on Wednesday, 9 January 2008. I was back home by 6pm the same evening - minus my gall bladder following an operation called a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. An open cholecystectomy is the old way of removing the gall bladder and involves an 8" incision but using laparoscopy all that is needed is four small holes in your abdomen. They gave me a series of photos they took during the operation and these are reproduced below.
The operation lasted about an hour and then I spent another couple of hours recovering from the anesthetic. As usual, I was apparently very funny whilst returning to consciousness and Patty said the operating team were laughing when they wheeled me back into the recovery room. About an hour later I was able to walk around and they released me from hospital with a prescription of Vicodin - one of my favourite painkillers.
Dr Lim, who did the operation, showed Patty my gall bladder whilst I was still unconscious, the gall stone inside it was about the size of a marble - around 1/2" in diameter.
After the operation the orginal pain was completely gone and the only incision that gave me any discomfort is the one down near my belly button which makes moving around a bit painful, but the Vicodin takes care of that. On Friday, just two days after the operation, the doctor removed the original dressings and replaced them with steristrips.