Catching up & slowing down

It may have been unusually quiet over here on the blog but it’s been rather turbulent offline.

About a month ago Chris started telling me he was getting “floaters” in his vision & some occasional numbness in his hands & feet. The ER nurse in me wasn’t all that concerned given how much stress he’s under & how much time he’s at a computer. The symptoms would come & go as would my level of concern. He went & got checked out one day after work, blood work & head CT later the ER chalked it up to dehydration and anxiety. Well unbeknownst to anyone he was developing viral encephalitis.

About week later he woke me up early in the morning to tell me his headache was back. A few hours later I found myself in the ER I’ve spent the last seven years working in. I held our nearly one year old & watched as my coworkers rapidly called a stroke alert on my husband who at this point could no longer identify me. An hour later he was intubated. I waited for the battery of tests to start resulting. Finally after masses & brain bleeds & thyroid storms were ruled out, they tested his spinal fluid, which finally provided answers as to what made my healthy, young husband literally lose his mind. Viral Encephalitis / aseptic menegitis. I couldn’t believe it. And honestly I still can’t.

We spent 3 days in the ICU. Looking back it all blurs together. I think I got maybe an hour of sleep the first night, carefully watching as the nurses titrated his drips, making sure his antivirals were being administered at the right times. I felt like I was tightrope walking this line of advocating for Chris while not micromanaging my colleagues. Being in the medical field, especially critical care, you find yourself wielding a double edged sword of knowledge & knowing too much. I knew they needed to intubate him because of how altered he was, but I also knew all that comes along with it. Having spent my entire nursing career in the ER & taking care of my fair share of intubated patients, I know that everyone’s sedation needs are unique. And at the end of the day you want your patients to be as calm as possible & quite frankly knocked out! There’s an arsenal of sedation & pain medication combinations available to patients so if one isn’t working it’s the nurse’s obligation to advocate for something else. Chris is a big guy & was requiring a lot of sedation to keep him comfortable, I was so thankful that I got to stay at his bedside & advocate for him when I thought he was being undermedicated.  I was terrified of how much of this experience he would remember, & mostly what he’d be like once they extubated him. The prognosis for viral encephalitis is variable. People make full recoveries, others require occupational and physical therapy to regain balance & motor skills. When we went to the ER he had already been exhibiting motor weakness, memory loss, & difficulty speaking, so needless to say I was terrified I would get a partial version of my husband back.

Chris spent about 3 weeks at home, recovering. We are extraordinarily lucky he was diagnosed so quickly & began receiving antiviral drugs rapidly because that is likely what has effected his outcome.

The last seven years in the ER have shown me shit happens. Aneurysms burst, cancers invade, hearts fail & no one gets out alive. Life is fragile, you never know when your world will be turned upside down. For me it was a typical Monday morning. I can’t help but think that life gives us certain situations to change us & challenge us. I’m enveloped with gratitude after this experience. Unmeasurable gratitude that my husband is laying in bed beside me as I type this,a new found appreciation for the medications that allowed Chris to remember very little of this whole ordeal, and the antiviral medication that allowed Chris to make a remarkable recovery. I’m eternally grateful for my out of this world co-workers who not only took exceptional care of my husband but lifted me up, caffeinated me, fed me & kept me company at all hours. They were there for me more than I could have ever imagined.  When I left the house that morning I had no idea I’d be calling Chris’ mom telling her she needed to get on a flight asap. I had no idea the first night I’d ever spend away from my son would be because my husband was intubated & in the ICU. Sometimes situations can seem so dark, but the dawn always comes.

Needless to say the last month, we’ve laid pretty low, enjoyed time together as a family. Things are slowly getting back to normal, and we have some fun things coming up in the next few months that I’m excited to post about. Tomorrow we are headed to a wedding in the city & Sunday is Easter! I can’t believe next weekend we’ll be celebrating William’s first birthday!

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