Based on an excruciating headache Wednesday afternoon, October 12, that did not go away, Jon and I headed to West Penn Hospital Emergency Room at 10:30pm. A friend came to the house to watch Jonathan while he slept. Here is an aside - it was so good for Jonathan that he did not come, he would have been tired and cranky and I would have not had any resources left to support Jon.
After waiting an hour in the ER (this is also an abbreviated post, many more details can be found in my diary and someday I might type it all up...) they called him in, asked him questions, and decided he probably had meningitis. (Symptoms: extreme headache, extreme sensitivity to light, fever, stiff neck.)

THey did a spinal tap which was a most horrible procedure, but they let me stay in to support him, which was nice. Inital results were, yes, definitely meningitis, pretty sure viral, but can't rule out bacterial until the cultures come back in 24 hours.

THey admitted him to the hospital at 6am. He got all sorts of drugs through his IV line - pain med, anti-nausea med, antibiotics, steroids. They had to treat him as if he had bacterial, which involved masks and an isolated room.

The Kuhnses came to our house for all of Thursday and played with Jonathan while I went back and forth to the hospital. Our dsl was broken, so we checked email by dialup at the hospital. I also read to Jon from Winter Holiday, which is the fourth book in the Swallows and Amazons series.

In the evening after they Kuhns left, I was suddenly hit by my exhaustion, mostly emotional. It was really hard to have my husband in the hospital.

We thought checkout was at 11am, but found out Friday morning that it was not until 4pm. So I called Jackie W from church and she came to watch Jonathan for a couple of hours while I went to the hospital. While I was there, they said he could leave - cultures were negative and Jon could come home! What a joyful relief to walk home with him. He had a lot more recovery to go, but just being home was a million times better.

All throughout this, Jonathan was a trooper. I tried to spend my home time with him as much as possible. He really grew in his ability to play by himself. The only concern that presented himself was a fear of "lion get you." The first couple of days, he would run up to me and try to climb up, truly afraid of a lion (or giraffe) that was going to get him. As per Grandma's suggestion, I played it up, turning it into his advantage (you turn around and get the lion) and eventually over the next few days, the game had morphed and was less frequent. At some point the lion and giraffe went swimming together and that was the end of it. Now when he says "lion get you" he has a smile on his face and it is a game again.

We went to Lancaster, PA with some friends for a mini-conference that weekend, and the effort (especially the car ride) was more than Jon was expecting, and he spent a lot of it in the hotel bed.

He took the whole next week off work, but by Thursday and Friday was actually doing a full day's work on the laptop in our bed. He has made much improvement, but the doctor says he won't be 100% until about mid-November.
Posted by Heather Daley on October 24, 2005, 4:37 pm | Read 3373 times
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A couple additions:
When we got to the ER, there wasn't anyone around, other than some other patients also waiting to be seen. After a couple minutes, a nurse came by, looked at me, presumably decided I wasn't going to die, and left again. Later, she came back for the regular questions and measurements.
The senior doctor in the ER was great - his job was to look after the junior doctor, and be a support for me, holding my back and hand, etc. I did later hear from Heather that the junior doctor was shaking with nervousness as he prepared the spinal tap, which I am glad I didn't hear that until it was over. I understand that a spinal tap is the same procedure as an epidural, except that they are drawing out fluid instead of putting it in. Not a whole lot of fun, but I suppose also similar to menegitis, if you are in a lot of pain with labor, the extra pain of the spinal tap might not make that much difference.
The spinal tap does generally result in a headache, which I could tell was a different sort of headache than the menegitis; I don't think it had occurred to me before to think about headaches, and the different locations a headache might be in, but that night I could distinguish between the two headaches.
The guy who wheeled me up to my room was quite joyful, and remarked that he wasn't wearing a mask or afraid to touch me because he didn't think that "evil" was something to be afraid of. On the other side of the spectrum, the junior nurse who was in charge of taking my blood pressure upon admittance to the hospital, triple checked that the guy wasn't going to allow me to take off my mask before she was out of there. He irritably said that, yes, they had already talked about it. As he went into my room, muttered something about young nurses...
The doctors were all quite nice, and ignoring the plague sign on my door, were much more willing to be close to me and shake my hand, etc. which was nice, as most of the nurses made me feel like I really was going to keel over at any moment, and if they saw me keel over, it might happen to them too.
A coworker said that she didn't think that (the doctors being so personal) was a good thing - that she would rather not catch anything transmitted via the doctor from some other patient. I suppose that is a concern, though they were quite good at always washing their hands. It was nice to have the personal contact - and I was only in the hospital for two days, it must be hard on people who are there for longer periods of time.
When I woke up the morning I was admitted, I didn't have any pain, and the light didn't bother my eyes at all. I assumed that the pain killers were still working, and expected the pain to come back, but it never did. It surprised the doctors that I recovered so quickly, although Ben said that they probably don't realize I could be dying and still look perfectly fine - (growing up I rarely got sick or missed school, and my usual remedy is to sleep it off and then be fine).
The chaplain came by on Friday, and staying as far as possible away from me but still staying in the room, gruffly said that he wanted to inform me that West Penn had a chaplaincy service, and if there was ever anything I needed to just call them, as he backed out the door. I figured there wouldn't be much use in talking to him. Reverend John Paul Chaney stopped by (his wife was the one who stayed with Jonathan the first night) and we had a nice chat - hadn't seen each other in a while anyway.
Lots of people have asked how I knew to go to the hospital with just a headache. Menegitis is not nearly so serious if it is caught early, though there isn't any treatment for the viral kind anyway, so it probably didn't matter quite so much, other than relief from the pain, in this case. It was the biggest headache and probably the worst pain I have ever felt, so it wasn't just a little thing. I also didn't know previously that pain can make you nauseous, I don't remember ever having enough pain to have that happen before.
As Heather said, I have made a lot of improvement, praise God, and each day is better than the previous one.
Posted by jondaley on October 25, 2005, 10:11 am

About knowing to go to the hospital with meningitis symptoms: The problem as I understand it is that you can't tell the viral kind from the bacterial kind by symptoms alone, and as you said, the bacterial kind is very serious and it's important to catch it as soon as possible.

Even though they can't do anything to help you get over the viral kind, they can at least help with the pain, and too much pain inhibits healing -- for one thing, you can't sleep.

Of course you know I was also praying that you would not get anything worse from the hospital....
Posted by SursumCorda on October 25, 2005, 2:26 pm
Remember, Remember, The Fifth of November
Excerpt: We began the day learning about Guy Fawkes Day (Jonathan says now if we ever visit England he wants to visit at the beginning of November so he can participate in the festivities.)  We ended the day by taking Daddy to the ER.  Jon's notes in ...
Weblog: Daley Ponderings
Date: November 8, 2009, 7:23 pm
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