Just because I'm used to it doesn't mean it hurts any less... - Unknown
November 16th, 2012. Four years (and one month) have passed since I had a feeding tube shoved up my nose for the very first time. I've spent the last four years of my life fighting a civil war, in which I will never be able to win. As the 1,490 days have piled on so have the diagnoses or battles in the war. Who knew something we thought was so simple could be so much more. To this day I still question how I got here. I didn't expect things to get this bad, but I don't think anyone can imagine "this bad." Most humans don't believe the worst would ever happen to them. I certainly didn't imagine being an 18-year-old who is fighting for her most basic human right: the right to her life. I was supposed to get better, but I never did and I can't tell you how upsetting that has been for me.
All I know is one morning I woke up thinking I had gotten a virus or infection and thought I would be better in twenty-four hours, but I never got better. The pain and sickness never went away. I have come to find my new normal and how to cope with the pain. I have learned to adapt to the life of a teenager with a chronic illness, but keeping up with everything that role demands is exhausting. There are countless medications I must remember to take, I prepare and begin IV nutrition and IV fluids nightly, and I must take the time to get extra sleep to help my body recover from everyday tasks most normal people wouldn't consider being high energy tasks, but to me feels like a marathon. The pain is still here and it is still just as hard to deal with it today as it was to deal with it on the very first day my symptoms came about. Yes, I may have been through these situations a million times before but they still hurt and it doesn't get easier. Often times, I feel like maybe it is even worse. I'm exhausted, I haven't had a day without feeling sick in more than five years. I have knowledge of what's coming, how much it hurts, how I felt last time this situation happened and how I know I never want to feel that way again. This knowledge makes me dread going through treatments once a month and dread the symptoms I get when my body starts to crash again. I have to push through because if I don't then I don't get to see all of the beautiful things in life and I won't get to accomplish all of the goals I have set for myself.
I've modified my life each time a blow to my health has come along. I've found what works better and that makes each day just a little bit more survivable, yet that doesn't mean it's not as hard as it once was. Often times, it seems as though I expect things to go wrong. Those things don't surprise me anymore, I always know they are coming just not exactly when they will hit. As I said, I never expected things would get this bad and each time things started to go right I have held out hope thinking I was going to get better until another blow would come along. It's sad to think that I now have to expect something to go wrong in order to better prepare myself for what is ahead.
Here's the updates:
Since August there were one too many blows that I didn't expect. First, it started out with a freak reaction to IV Venofer (IV iron) two weeks before my first semester of college started. This caused fluid retention that no one knows how exactly it occurred but even four months later it is still causing problems and I am unable to get my IV nutrition because I can't receive large amounts of fluid without having retention issues. This means I've had to try to increase my ability to eat orally and that was working out at first. I was doing okay for a while minus the increase of nausea and symptoms related to my Dysautonomia due to the lack of fluids.
The next blow came in the middle of October. Over my fall break, we had a wonderful weekend at the Mitochondrial Disease walk in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was our first year driving up to the walk and we had such a great time! That was on Saturday. Monday I woke up with a rash on my leg. Turns out I had shingles. That was not a fun experience. I was on oral antibiotics for two weeks and IV antivirals for two and a half weeks. For those who don't know antibiotics often slow down gut motility (How well the digestive tract functions.) As we all know my gut function is quite limited so this put a huge damper on the trying to eat all my needed calories orally (or by jejunal tube feeds) side of things. Although, the shingles went away all of the drugs combined with not getting any nutrition made me feel absolutely miserable. I didn't even have a week to recover before my body decided to take an even steeper decline...
Upon arriving at Hem/Onc I had a fever over 101 and was taken back to isolation. I was so sick and knew something was wrong. I was admitted to the hospital. That was the 2nd of November. Turns out I was in septic shock. Cultures grew in less than twenty-four hours. Which is extremely bad because it typically takes 36-72 hours for cultures to grow bacteria. One of the amazing ICU nurses from the PICC team came by to deaccess and then reaccess my port. The insertion points from where my needles had been leaking pus. She refused to reaccess, (this was the right call) which was probably the best thing. They were able to start an IV and I went back downhill again. Things started moving pretty fast and the doctors came in and said they thought I would need my port removed. Which I already knew my port would have to come out, they didn't have to tell me. I was happy that they made that decision early because if not I would have been in the hospital for several extra days. Thereafter, they got me in for emergency surgery to get my port out. When the surgeon pulled my port there had apparently been a lot of pus and infection surrounding my line that they had to scrape out. They had to leave the incision open to let all the infection get out and it was quite painful. The meds they gave me ended up causing all my labs to be off and caused my blood numbers to drop to half of what's normal. So I got two units of blood (Inserts shameless plug to tell you to donate blood because less than 7% of the world donates blood and if you ask me something is wrong with that!) After that is when things started to turn around for me! By Monday my blood cultures had been negative for over 72 hours and I was able to go into surgery again to get a new central line placed.