Monday, January 18, 2016

Disabled, Yet Able. The Dangers of Living Alone.

I awoke at 2 AM Sunday morning and I'm gasping for breath. No, my cat isn't lying on my chest with her twenty pound bulk. It was a pretty frightening feeling. The fact that I'm alone in the middle of the night, and having what might be a serious problem slammed home with me. Being past medically trained, I started evaluating my symptoms and possible causes. A physician heal thyself type of things.

I grabbed a pulse/oxygen monitor out of the bed side table. That's a good thing about my beloved dying as he did six months ago. I have plenty of diagnostic equipment that I had bought over the years of his care. Both were fine. I took my blood pressure, again the numbers were picture perfect. "Okay, Jo. You're fine. Get up and make this trip to the bathroom and try to get some more sleep,"I said as much trying to convince myself and reassure myself at the same time.

I was huffing and puffing pretty hard by the time I got on my AFO and shoes to make the trip to the bathroom. I started with a dry, hacking cough with the exertion. Gaining the floor and making my way to the bathroom, I noticed I'd picked up a wheeze in my breathing and that I felt like as if someone was pushing on my left shoulder blade and rib cage. Grabbing my steroid inhaler out of the office as I made my way to the bathroom was only a matter of four extra steps. Was my allergies messing with my breathing? I did a double puff of my inhaler as the directions instructed while I emptied my bladder. I sat there waiting for the inhaler to loosen my bronchial tubes. That where the wheezing was coming from. It always did in the past.

I was hit by waves of profuse nausea and the room began a dangerous circular movement. I actually grabbed the vanity to steady myself. Something was definitely off. I grabbed the digital thermometer from the basket on the back of the commode. A hot flash from hell had engulfed me and I was sweating enough for it to puddle in the abundant creases and rolls in my aging body. No fever. In fact my temperature was a degree below normal for me.

I'm on the commode feeling like crap. Cool washcloth on the back of my neck, wastebasket standing by, my affected elbow balancing me with the back of the commode. I'm sitting there in my Wonder Woman nightgown which is now damp knowing there is something going on with me with no empirical proof that there is something physically wrong with me. Could it be a panic attack? It was six months to the day of my husband dying. No, I was actually okay with that. Well, honestly not okay, but you know what I mean. It didn't make sense to me. Boy, did I ever pick the wrong nightshirt to wear. It should have been a "Super Wimp"nightgown.

So where was my cell phone? On my nightstand, of course. I don't have pockets in my nightgown, Silly. I waited almost an hour waiting for whatever was going on to stop. It didn't. I'm still trying to run down a list of possible things it could be. As I passed the front door, I opened it. I knew outside was in the 30s, but I kept thinking that if the nausea would go away then everything else would stop too. Sitting on the wicker patio chair, I took in big gulps of cold, rainy air. Maybe some toxic gas was leaking in my house like carbon monoxide. It can cause those symptoms too. But I didn't even have my little space heater running.

Outside felt good. I wasn't cold. In fact I could feel heat pouring from the back of my neck with my cool hand. What in the devil was going on???? Were the symptoms vanishing? Easing up? Remaining the same? Getting worse? It wasn't worse, but it wasn't better either. The cold weather wasn't helping with everything, but I was no longer sweating. I thought about making the dozen steps to my cell phone and calling 9-1-1. This had been going on for three hours at this point. It wasn't a life threatening emergency. A funny thing about emergency personnel, me included, we don't call unless it's absolutely necessary. We know what are emergencies too. This wasn't one. Whatever THIS was, it wasn't killing least not quickly.

The sun had started its morning trek across this part of the globe. I decided to spare the neighbors the sight of a older woman in her pajamas sitting on her front porch. As I rose, gravity loosen a particular sphincter and my drawers were filled with warm morning muck. Great! As if I didn't feel bad enough!

I waddled into the bathroom for a clean up and a shower. It's a good thing that I have a sprayer head on my shower and a seat. With the vertigo, I never would have made it through a regular shower. The nice thing about my walk-in tub is that I'm surrounded on all sides. I can't fall anywhere. I opted to not fill the tub but let it drain freely just in case my bowels decided to unloose again. A smart decision on my part.

The steam from the shower increase my chest pressure and my coughing came in full fits now. I dried off, and donned a t-shirt and a pair of shorts. The idea of putting on anything more was just too much work.

I texted my daughter, two towns over, stating I didn't feel well. In case she was asleep, a text message wouldn't wake her. She answered me back within a half hour. By now my shortness of breath had worsened until my words were now back to when I first started recovering from aphasia. It took a while to explain what was going on. She decided to come over and take me to the ER.

While I waited the hour it took for her to drive to my house a thought struck me. I could be going into congestive heart failure again. No obvious symptomatic swelling of the hands or feet, but I'm Abby normal like that. By the time my feet or hands swell, I'm in serious trouble. I can hold upwards of 13 lbs of harmful fluids in my torso before my extremities swell. That's a whole lot of pressure on my already damaged heart. I hopped on the scale for a quick weight check. Only a five pound gain of fluids overnight. Not really unusual for me and nothing 40 mg of Lasix wouldn't fix in short order. So another logical, medical reason for my distress was shot down. Now, I'd officially ruled out any life threatening conditions.

My cough worsened to match my now upright sitting labored breath. With the coughing spells had more trips to the bathroom with me seated and hugging the waste bin. I kept telling myself if I'd just vomit, I'd feel better. My daughter arrive and she checked me out. She works for Hospice. I gave her the benefit of doubt in mama's training and experience which is five times greater. She was as stumped as I was. We loaded into my van and drove to the hospital.

The hospital wasn't taking any chances. I didn't even make it to the triage room before I was whisked to the acute care section and put on a cardiac monitor. I was relieved to see my "normal" semi-sinus rhythm appear on the screen. An IV was started, multiple tubes of blood drawn, and a chest x-ray was completed in short order. I did two rounds of breathing treatments with respiratory which didn't help a bit. Well, maybe a little bit. We sat an waited on the blood cultures.

Eventually, three hours after I arrived at their doors I was released. The doctor said all of my numbers were good. In fact, my test results were better than his. I have a viral infection of unknown composition. It can take up to three days to grow the bacterial cultures. I was released with a new inhaler to use in conjunction with my steroid one and a heavy duty Z Pack (Zithromax) prescription. I wasn't running a fever because my body wasn't fighting the infection yet. The Z Pack is just in case any bacteria grows in the cultures.

Am I satisfied with my care? I dunno. I didn't get an answer to what is exactly wrong with me. In the mean time, I still feel like crap. Immodium has done its job once again. I had my daughter open a full box of the little suckers and place them in a small pill bottle for me. The nausea comes and goes but I've got some Phenagren if it becomes too problematic. The pressure in my left side of my chest is still present. The doctor did say that it may be a case of walking pneumonia in the early stages. My coughing fits have lessened somewhat for the time being.

Right now, I'm feeling a bit like a stroke survivor feels when they start or continue to ask questions about their stroke. It is all up to you. I know that feeling all too well. Nobody has the answer and I'm playing stump the doctors.

I'm relieved and terrified by the fact that I'm alone in this house. If I'm ever without my cell phone, it could be disastrous or deadly. I'm going to be sewing pockets in ALL of my nightgowns just for my cell phone. This whole scenario could have been worse. It all goes back to what I was saying a couple of posts ago. Being independent/able and being disabled is not a good place to be. Living alone, with the nearest neighbor half an acre away, is not a position I want to be in anymore. Too many things could/can happen.


  1. Hi Jo - well I'm glad you were considered to be in no apparent danger .. but living on your own with those sorts of things going on - must be unsettling - to say the least. Take care - get better, and all the best for the coming week - Hilary

  2. I hope it doesn't happen again. I was nauseous one early morning and ended up having what could only be a panic attack - I couldn't breathe and was sure I was going to die. Walking to the car for my husband to drive me to the ER, all my symptoms went away. Just walking fixed it.

  3. So sorry this happened. Closer neighbors is definitely a good idea. At least you have some medicine now to help.

  4. I live alone and my family lives 13 hours away so I've envied you for having your extended family so close. Maybe this health scare is a sign to think about moving 6 hours away from your family.

  5. Rebecca,
    Yes, have considered that also. Next summer the daughter that came to my "rescue" is moving clear out to South Dakota. (her husband has been transferred) I will be 3 hours away from my youngest daughter instead of 6 by moving making her closer. (all my other children are in Alaska, NC, and AL right now with the fourth moving to SD)But having someone in the house with me will make a big difference. Even if I build a smaller house on her property, they will be very close to each other (shouting distance) because the garden and animals have to have their space too. I won't have my sisters or brother around (which they all live within 100 miles of me now.

  6. Hello,
    I hope you're feeling better, what a scary deal. As I read your post I was thinking yikes sounds a bit "heart attacky". Glad to know it wasn't!
    My hubby, Mom, and I are also "Abby normal"...or unique is the word I often use to describe us. That old saying of looking for horses and it turns out to be a zebra describes us perfectly.

    I've followed your blog for almost a year and finally decided it's time to stop lurking and comment.
    I'll try to keep it short. My hubby was diagnosed with Addisons disease and hypothyroidism in 2008. In 2010 along came MS. In 2014 he had his 1st fall ever. Never even a stumble prior. He broke his femur and had 2 surgeries over the course of 10 months for the fracture. Six days after the 2nd surgery he had a cerebellar stroke. I work in the medical field, and can say I know we got a miracle that he doesn't have severe deficits from the stroke. He has left side weakness, numbness, and tingling; but not numb enough to NOT hurt. His right leg is weak from the femur fracture and the progression of his MS. He currently walks with a cane or a walker if needed. He has other assorted issues that we're not sure if they're MS or stroke related....or a combo. And at least once a year he has an adrenal crisis, usually out of the blue. Let's just say the EMTs know our house layout pretty well.

    My Mom has lived with us for 14 years. She's a lung cancer survivor of 12 years. We have a few acres of land and we built an addition to our house so she has her own area. We do share the kitchen, as she likes to cook. And who am I to deny her that pleasure?? :-).

    Lastly I have Lupus with secondary Sjogrens, IC, RTA, and more kidney stones than should be legal.

    I guess I'm writing this to say thank you for sharing your story, and the idea of you building on the same property as your daughter sounds like an excellent plan. It's absolutely worked out well for us. There have certainly been adjustments through the years, but we all just kind of pull together and look out for each other.

    I'll end by saying my brother has jokingly asked if we have ever wondered if we're living on indian burial ground? Sometimes I've wondered that myself. I try to keep a sense of humor...sometimes laughing whilst crying.


  7. Jo, what a terrifying ordeal. My heart was pounding reading it. As I read it, though, I recognized so many symptoms that I have been having, my doctor (a shrink) is calling it "generalized anxiety disorder" and these symptoms include nausea, vomiting, sweating, shortness of breath, dizziness, muscle pains -- and oh, I cough a lot but, I think, that's more smoking related! yikes.

    Glad you are OK. Hope the Z-pack etc. works. Hang in there. And yes, living with someone is a good idea.


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