Where have I been? How do I even begin to answer that question?
Let’s go back to March 10th, 2017. I woke up feeling a bit off. Not sick, just off. I lied in bed for a while. After spending some more time feeling off I decided to go take a shower, and then went back to bed to take a nap. A few hours later I woke up to a horrible feeling. The feeling like my heart was running off of jet fuel, going a million miles an hour. I checked my heart rate using my fitbit, but my fitbit was reading normally. Something still didn’t feel right. So I checked it manually and my heart rate was in the 160s. I had been there before, so I checked my temperature, which was 101. I knew what it was. I knew I had bacteria in my blood again. But I was in denial. I waited a bit longer and texted my mom. I told her I wanted to wait a bit longer to make sure it wasn’t the flu, she convinced me otherwise. I called my fantastic case manager, who was audible upset and worried about me, and informed me to go to the hospital. I’ll spare you all the details, and stick with the important facts. When arrival at the ER my blood pressure was dangerously low, and my heart rate was irregular and dangerously high. It was decided that medical intervention needed to be taken to slow my heart rate down. I was given one dose of a medication known as adenosine. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this drug, it’s entire purpose is to stop and restart your heart (hopefully restarting it at a safer more appropriate rhythm and rate). The next 10 minutes were the 10 most terrifying moments of my life, by far. The first dose was given, but did not bring my heart rate down. In fact increased it to 180s. The doctor asked the nurse to bring another dose in, and a crash cart. I asked him if I should be worried, but he informed me it was just protocol. The second dose was given, and I felt my heart rate drop, however, within 5 seconds it was back to 170s. I don’t remember much of what happened before or after that to be honest, but eventually they were able to control my heart rate with other meds.
So lets fast forward: As expected my blood cultures were positive. I was diagnosed with my 3rd episode of sepsis (basically a life threatening immune response to severe infections) caused by bacteremia (bacteria in the blood), and sent for a routine echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart), to make sure the bacteria wasn’t growing in my heart. Which leads us to the second most terrifying moment of my life. The moment the hospitalist walked into my room and told me due to the TPN, my central line, and repeated episodes of bacteremia that I had a vegetation of bacteria growing on the tricuspid valve of my heart. I had endocarditis (an infection of the inside part of the heart, that can be fatal). I was sent from my smaller, local hospital, to a bigger more specialized hospital for evaluation for a valve repair or replacement.
Now lets talk about how the worst week of my life, turned into the best week of my life. Things were difficult for me initially at the bigger hospital. I was treated like I was crazy because no one knew about my diagnosis. In fact, despite the fact that in total I have lost approximately 100lbs in a year (the first 4 months I lost 70 of it), I was told I was too fat to be TPN dependent and clearly I was eating on my own. Normally, I can deal with that crap, but I was in a bad place mentally, and couldn’t deal with it. Thankfully though, I had an amazing team of physicians at home advocating for me, and despite still being treated terribly by the physicians at the hospital, I was given a nasal jejunal tube (which we had been planning on putting in that week anyway after I had asked my GI if we could give it a shot), which I was amazingly able to tolerate feedings through. After a lengthy stay, and a lot of mental and physical strength, I was finally sent home OFF OF TPN. OFF OF THE STUFF THAT FOR 7 MONTHS KEPT ME ALIVE, WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY TRYING TO KILL ME. I wont bore you with the details of the recovery. To be honest, here we are 3 months later and I still feel like I’m recovering. I’m more exhausted, have less strength, etc. I have a new echo on Tuesday to see if there is lasting damage. For 7 months, I had no hopes, no dreams, no aspirations. For 7 months, I was waiting to die. Now I am dreaming again. Hoping. Waiting to get back to school, and go to medical school. I am alive. But here is the ultimate “side effect” of the endocarditis: I am happier than I have ever been. I am more grateful for life, and everyone around me. Don’t get me wrong, everyday is a battle, but it’s a battle that I am fortunate enough to be around to fight. I am also lucky enough to have some amazing people fighting my battles by my side.
For now I will leave it at that. I have hundreds of other things to say and update on. But I cannot gather my thoughts enough to put everything thats in my mind into words.