Community Magazine

Personal Health Update

By Douggosling @douggosling
Rather than posting on a special topic today, I wanted to bring you up to speed on a major health issue I'm now facing.  Since it's related to my terminal condition it's important for you to see what can happen and how it effects me.
This past weekend, Dianne and I visited the home of a relative of some dear friends which was located on a beautiful lake.  It was a chance to get out of the house and into the country which I dearly love to do and a chance to see how I handled a two hour car ride.  As the weekend went on, I started to feel kind of off and, in retrospect, there had been signs that something was happening for a couple of days leading up to the weekend.
As we headed home on Sunday, I started to develop a fever, headache and nausea and by the time we reached home I could barely climb into bed.  I was semi-delirious and was having trouble understanding what was going on.  There seemed to be people coming in and out and apparently my face had blown up like a big red balloon, my eyes were slits and I could hardly form words to comminicate.  My fever had escalated to more than 103F and we just couldn't get it to stop or drop so I spent the night in a delirious state, in and out of sleep and feeling like I could die.  Yes, terminal patients have times when they feel like they could die and I think I was very close!
Dianne called the Palliative care team emergency line and was able to speak to a doctor who diagnosed an infection of some sort and prescribed antibiotics and a sub-cutaneous saline dip to re-hydrate me.  Nurses and equipment arrived and turned my bedroom into a hospital room.
My fever finally broke the next morning and, while i'm still feeling week and very ill, the worst of it was over for the time-being.  Later that day, my doctor came to visit and advised us that I had Sepsis which was a real shock because that is one serious disease.  He said if they couldn't get it under control and I was in pain or had other serious symptoms, they would have called it a day!  Well, we told him we wanted honesty and he certainly was.
I encourage you to look Sepsis up on-line.  It has an average fatality rate of 40% and is  considered so serious that standard treatment is the Intensive Care Unit where they pump you through with IV antibiotics and fluids to try to stop the progression.  It's a blood disease with a high rate of recurrence.  It starts with an infection elsewhere, probably in the urinary tract in my case, and spreads from there throughout your system and can cause damage to all of your major organs.  If it's not caught and treated fast, you can die.  Unfortunately, the signs and symptoms are hard to read so luck plays a large part in diagnosing it IMHO.  My underlying disease - my cancer - and my highly compromised immune system are what makes me susceptible to begin with and means I have to be ultra vigilent to avoid getting any kind of infection from here on in.  Any signs will mean a trip to the ER.  As a side note, I take a drug called Haloperidol for nausea but that drug can mask the signs of infection and Sepsis so it's something to be aware of.
I've learned several new things so far through this experience.  I learned about a very real, very uncomfortable way to die that I wasn't aware of.  If that's the way I'm going to go, I'm not too happy about it, but perhaps they could give me something like morphine to make it easier.  This is the way the cancer gets you indirectly while you're cruising along under palliative care.  I've also learned that I can have times when I think I could die but won't.  They say you often know when you're going to die but circumstances can dictate differently.  I was so sick I could easily see myself saying, "Okay, make this stop!"  Some would, I'm sure.
The biggest lesson in this was that, even though I have a DNR, I would go to the hospital to have this treated, partly because it can (thereby prolonging my life) and partly because I'm just not ready yet.  I hadn't really thought through this completely so I need to do that.  And I had better get an idea of what and when I've done all I need to do to be able to say "Okay".  It's consistent with everything I talk about but maybe you need a crisis like my Sepsis attack to really make it real.
Something to think about.  A lot!

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